April 21, 2022 Jan van Riebeeck, Humphry Repton, Charlotte Brontë, John Muir, Royal Gardens of the World by Mark Lane, and National Day of Sa’di


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Historical Events

1619 Birth of Jan van Riebeeck, Dutch navigator and colonial administrator of the Dutch East India Company.

In 1660, Jan planted a hedge, now known as Van Riebeeck's Hedge, to mark the border of the Dutch East India Company settlement in Cape Town, South Africa. The hedge was made up of native wild almond trees (Brabejum stellatifolium). Today, parts of the hedge still live in the Kirstenbosch National Botanical Garden and Bishopscourt. The Van Riebeeck Hedge is not considered a National Monument in South Africa.


1752 Birth of Humphry Repton (no ‘e’ in Humphry!), English landscape designer.

Humphry was trained and molded by the great Capability Brown. Yet as he matured, Humphry began to forge his own path in his approach to design and led a transformation of English gardens that was all his own. He designed over 400 gardens, and his picturesque landscapes are known for their gently rolling vistas, attractive clumps of trees, terraces, and homes nestled in amongst shrubs and foliage. Humphry wanted landscapes to bring out “the natural beauty” and minimize “the natural defects.” 

Like many successful modern landscape designers, Humphry put a great deal of energy into planning his designs. He painstakingly created these gorgeous red leather portfolios for his clients.  His red books, as he called them, showcased his design ideas. Humphry’s clients could see his pastoral watercolors depicting the current state of their property. Then they would lift a flap of paper and see what their property would look like after Humphry improved it. It was a kind of popup book for their property.

Today Humphry’s red books are regarded as impressive works of art - and many have been preserved in public and private collections. 

Humphry Repton coined the term landscape gardener.  He had the term carved into his pinebark business cards.

In 1818, Humphry died, and per his request, he was buried in a rose garden. Humphry used these words for his epitaph:

Unmixed with others shall my dust remain;
But moldering, blended, melting into earth,
Mine shall give form and color to the rose.
And while its vivid blossoms cheer mankind,
Its perfumed odor shall ascend to Heaven.


1816 Birth of Charlotte Brontë, English novelist, and poet.

Charlotte was the oldest of the three Brontë sisters (Charlotte, Emily, and Anne Brontë) who survived into adulthood. Their novels became classics of English literature.

The sisters published their first collaborative work called Poems under the pseudonym of Currer, Ellis, and Acton Bell. 
They wanted to hide their gender to help sales, so the sisters kept the first letter of their first names: Charlotte was Currer, Emily was Ellis, and Anne was Acton. Still, only two copies of Poems were sold.

Emma Emmerson wrote a piece called The Brontë Garden. In it, she revealed:

The Brontës were not ardent gardeners, although… Emily and Anne treasured their currant bushes as ‘their own bit of fruit garden’.

While they may not have been avid gardeners, they knew enough about growing flowers for Charlotte to write:

Emily wishes to know if the Sicilian Pea (Pisum sativum)and the Crimson cornflower are hardy flowers, or if they are delicate and should be sown in warm and sheltered situations.

In her writing, Charlotte could be a little glum about flowers. In Villette (1853), Charlotte wrote,

I like to see flowers growing, but when they are gathered, they cease to please. I look on them as things rootless and perishable; their likeness to life makes me sad. I never offer flowers to those I love; I never wish to receive them from hands dear to me.

In The Professor (1857), Charlotte wrote,

In sunshine, in prosperity, the flowers are very well; but how many wet days are there in life—November seasons of disaster, when a man's hearth and home would be cold indeed, without the clear, cheering gleam of intellect.


1838 Birth of John Muir, Scottish-American naturalist, conservationist, and author.

John Muir was known by many names: "John of the Mountains,” “Father of Yosemite,” and "Father of the National Parks.” John’s work to preserve Yosemite resulted in a famous picture of himself posing with President Teddy Roosevelt on Overhanging Rock at the top of Glacier Point in Yosemite in 1903.

There's a fun little story about John and Charles Sprague Sargent, the director of the Arnold Arboretum at Harvard, that was featured in a 1915 article. The two men had gone on a fall trip to hike the mountains in North Carolina. John found the scenery so inspiring that when they got to the top of Grandfather Mountain, he began to sing and dance and jump around, while Charles just stood there. 

This must have been a common trait among the botanists and academics John knew because he once wrote,

In drying plants, botanists often dry themselves. Dry words and dry facts will not fire hearts.

John is remembered with these words.

The mountains are calling, and I must go.

Everybody needs beauty as well as bread, places to play in and pray in, where nature may heal and give strength to body and soul.

Between every two pines is a doorway to a new world.


Grow That Garden Library™ Book Recommendation

Royal Gardens of the World by Mark Lane

This book came out in 2020, and the subtitle is 21 Celebrated Gardens from the Alhambra to Highgrove and Beyond, and the illustrated cover is spectacular.

This book is a celebration of Royal Gardens, and Mark does a brilliant job of sharing the history, the plantings, and the evolution of each garden.

And in addition to all of that, he highlights some of the key plant or signature plants of these spaces and then shares all the behind-the-scenes details about how these gardens were designed and laid out. Now the gardens that are profiled are located primarily in Europe and Asia.

But as Mark points out in his introduction,

Many more Royal Gardens are waiting to be visited and researched, and each tells its own story.


Mark says,

I am simply the interpreter and the messenger.

Sometimes the story focuses on restoration, others follow the lives of the main protagonists and other still simply chart the course of history.

It's also worth noting that history is not isolated. These gardens are a response to events occurring throughout Europe, Russia, the Far East, and elsewhere

And Marriages between members of Royal households in turn introduced different ideas and creative passions which were reflected in their gardens.


Now, as you can imagine, entire books have been written about each of these gardens individually, but Mark's intention here is to celebrate the art of gardening through some of the finest garden jewels that have ever been created.

This book is 240 pages of a five-star book on Amazon about Royal Gardens, their history, their fantastic designs, and their signature plants.

You can get a copy of Royal Gardens of the World by Mark Lane and support the show using the Amazon link in today's show notes for around $25.


Botanic Spark

Today, April 21, is the National Day of Sa'di ("SAH-dee"), the Master of Persian prose and poetry who was born in 1210.

Sa'di lived in Shiraz ("SHE-raz"). In his lifetime, and through the 19th century, Shiraz was a center for growing grapes and great wines. (Shiraz wine is from Shiraz.) 

Shiraz was also a center for learning, literature, gardens, and poetry. The poet, Hafez, was also from Shiraz.

Now, although he was born and raised in Shiraz, Sa’di spent much of his life traveling. And over three decades, he met and interacted with people from different places, with different customs, traditions, and languages.

And his constant traveling led Sa’di to a place of acceptance and love for all humanity. Sa’di once wrote these poignant words of understanding:

Sa'di once wrote these poignant words of understanding, 

I bemoaned the fact I had no shoes
Until I saw the man who had no feet.


And there was a common Persian saying that goes,

Each word of Sa’di has 72 meanings.


Today, Persian scholars believe that Sa’di is Shakespeare-like in terms of his understanding of the human condition, and in various literary ways, he shared his insights.

Now you might be surprised to learn that Ralph Waldo Emerson was a Sa’di fan. Emerson felt that study's work was biblical in terms of the wisdom that he was trying to impart.

In fact, Emerson wrote about Sa’di, and one of his verses went like this.

The forest waves, the morning breaks,
The pastures sleep, ripple the lakes,
Leaves twinkle, flowers like persons be,
And life pulsates in rock or tree.
Saadi! so far thy words shall reach;
Suns rise and set in Saadi's speech.


In terms of a legacy, Sa’di's best-known works are Bustan ("Boo-ston") (The Orchard) and Gulistan ("Goo-luh-ston") (The Rose Garden).

Now there's a very old copy of the Gulistan that features a beautiful painting of Sa’di in a rose garden, and I shared it in the Facebook Group for the show. 

Now I wanted to end the show today with a little something from The Rose Garden or The Gulistan because, in that book, Sa’di is led to a garden by a friend on this day, April 21st, back in 1258. And that's why today is National Sa’di Day. It's the day he was brought to a garden.

And so there is a verse that is a favorite among gardeners from The Gulistan or The Rose Garden, and it goes like this.

If... thou art bereft,
And ...Two loaves alone to thee are left,
Sell one, and with the dole
Buy hyacinths to feed thy soul.


Thanks for listening to The Daily Gardener

And remember: For a happy, healthy life, garden every day.

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