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1684 Death of Jan Davidsz. de Heem, Dutch ornate still-life painter. He is remembered as the most influential flower painter of his day.
Jan's flowers were known for their vibrancy and realism. But gardeners would catch that Jan's bouquets were just a beautiful fantasy since the individual flowers bloom at different seasons of the year.
1785 Birth of John James Audubon, American self-trained artist, naturalist, and ornithologist.
He once wrote,
A true conservationist…knows the world is not given by his fathers but borrowed from his children.
John J. Audobon, the naturalist, and bird lover, is buried in Trinity, cemetery. There has been erected over his grave an Iona cross; the arms of which are connected by a circular band of stone, making apertures of the four corners at the intersection. In one of these, (apertures) robins built a nest last month. This fell under the eye of a caretaker, who got a pole and dislodged the nest. The birds flew about disconsolately for a time, then went away. So far as anyone knows, Audubon did not turn over in his grave, and neither did any of the carved birds on the [cross] cry out.
1798 Birth of Eugene Delacroix, French Romantic artist. He is remembered as the leader of the French Romantic school and one of the last great historical painters.
Eugene received his artistic training in Paris. His striking piece called A Vase of Flowers (1833) shows a crystal vase filled mostly with dahlias. It is Eugene Delacroix's earliest-surviving flower painting.
1822 Birth of Frederick Law Olmsted, American landscape architect, journalist, social critic, and public administrator.
Regarded as the father of landscape architecture, Frederick is remembered for designing many popular urban parks with his partner Calvert Vaux. Their first project was Central Park, followed quickly by Prospect Park in Brooklyn and Cadwalader Park in Trenton. Frederick wrote,
The root of all my good work is early respect for, regard, and enjoyment of scenery.
Frederick's firm was passed onto his sons who expanded the business under the name Olmsted Brothers.
Aside from his legacy as a landscape architect, Frederick dedicated his entire life to social reform. In many ways, his designs for public spaces played an important role in his social work. His vision for Central Park was an ordered oasis for all of the city’s social classes, where everyone could come together and enjoy nature.
It was Frederick Law Olmsted who said,
The enjoyment of scenery employs the mind without fatigue and yet exercises it; tranquilizes it and yet enlivens it.
Grow That Garden Library™ Book Recommendation
Augustus is better known as the plantsman Jenks Farmer.
This book came out in 2021 - right at the very end of December - and the subtitle is Unearthing the History and the Cultivation of the World's Biggest Bulb.
Well, Crinums are a passion for Jenks. What he's done in this book is he has collected every possible story and nugget of information about the Crinum species and hybrids that flourish in our gardens. Crinums are classic plants. They're also heirlooms and pass-down plants - and because of that sentimental quality, there are an endless number of stories about Crinums.
Now I have to share what Jenks wrote about Crinums in the introduction to this book. He wrote,
Plants that hunker down below ground reveal only a small part of themselves to people. Called geophytes or earth lovers, the below-ground bulbs are the heart of the being.
Down there, a Medusa's tangle of bony, basel plates, armlong roots, and crisp bud tips explode from mother bulbs. Once you see the underground being, you understand why in some cultures Crinums represent connections to the underworld and the dead.
You also understand why people carry them continent to continent and share them friend to friend.
If you've ever had a sourdough starter or overplanted zucchini, then you understand the urge to share a passion, to give parts away. I'm compelled to give Crinums away. I give little bulbs to farm visitors, take them as house gifts, pass them on at conferences, offer them to strangers, or plant them guerrilla-style in parking lots.
Based on my experience, growing and planting hundreds of thousands of Crinum, this book becomes comprehensive with the advice of generous Crinum professionals and enthusiasts.
You'll fall for the hidden stories, the hidden plant parts in a few years you'll share too. Then you'll leave a happy trail of Crinum lilies marking your travels, telling your stories, and sharing your passion too.
This book is 100 pages of a passion for Crinums by one of our modern plantsmen.
1951 On this day, the American physicist Charles Townes sat on a park bench and came up with a theory that would lead to the development of the laser.
I woke up early in the morning and sat in the park. It was a beautiful day and the flowers were blooming.
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And remember: For a happy, healthy life, garden every day.