May 3, 2022 Garden Meditation Day, Thomas Tusser, Martha Crone, Japanese Internment Gardens, Frida Kahlo, Understanding Orchids by William Cullina, and May Sarton


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Historical Events

Happy National Garden Meditation Day!

1580 Thomas Tusser (English poet and farmer) died. In 1573, Thomas wrote his Five Hundred Points of Good Husbandry, where he advised:

In January, the housewife should be busy planting peas and beans and setting young rose roots.
During March and April, she will work 'from morning to night, sowing and setting her garden or plot,' to produce the crops of parsnip, beans, and melons which will 'winnest the heart of a laboring man for her later in the year.
Her strawberry plants will be obtained from the best roots which she has gathered from the woods, and these are to be set in a plot in the garden.
Berries from these plants will be harvested later the same year, perhaps a useful back-up if the parsnips have failed to win the man of her dreams.


1941 During this week, Martha Crone, American botanist and horticulturist, wrote some entries in her Minneapolis diary that reflect the wild swings in temperatures that can be so frustrating to gardeners in the shoulder seasons.

At the start of May: [The weather is] still very warm (81 hi 59 lo) and flowers coming out everywhere, everything at least 2 weeks in advance, like midsummer, many insects and flies out. Violets - never so beautiful - as well as Trillium and other flowers.

On the 3rd of May: Bitter cold all day [49-41] stove going continuously... but no mosquitoes.

On the 8th: Heat unbearable [88-60] 

On the 19th: Hottest so far...


1942 On this day, Charles Kikuchi wrote in his Japanese Tanforan Internment camp journal:

These industrious Japanese!
They just don't seem to know how to take it easy. They've worked so hard all their lives that they just can't stand idleness or waste .

Two months after the attack on Pearl Harbor, Japanese Americans were mandated to relocate to one of the ten relocation camps in the “exclusion zone” of Oregon, California, western Washington, and southern Arizona by order of the president. 

Ken Helphand's fantastic 2006 book, Defiant Gardens: Making Gardens in Wartime, tells the story of the gardens that were created in the camps.

The gardens were part of the effort to make the camps more bearable. In addition to gardens, there were orchards, parks, baseball diamonds, playgrounds, and farms.

In Defiant Gardens, Ken wrote,

Entry gardens were part of the Japanese tradition of dooryard gardens, linking household to community, and functioning as entry and marker, displaying the craft and skill of the resident and embellishing both the barracks and the community space....Many persons inscribed their names in cement at the doorstep.

Barracks gardens displayed great variety, using gathered cacti and rocks, transplanted plants, and plants propagated in the camp nursery.

While people waited daily for the communally served meals, they enjoyed the elaborate displays of great artistry and effort that characterized the mess-hall gardens. Created with rocks and water as well as plants, these gardens were most closely identified with the Japanese American garden tradition.

All these gardens brought beauty to the camps and reinforced the internees’ sense of cultural identity…


1946 On this day, Frida Kahlo (books about this person) gave a painting called Weeping Coconuts to her friends Lina and Arcady Boitler as a wedding gift.

Frida used two weeping coconuts to represent her pain and deteriorating health in the painting.  Frida was mixing prescription painkillers and alcohol by this point in her life. The coconuts were one of fifty-five self-portraits. Her best-known self-portrait is ‘Self-Portrait with Thorn Necklace and Hummingbird.’

Kahlo said,

I paint myself because I am so often alone and because I am the subject I know best.


Four years later, Frida's pain became unmanageable. In 1953, her right foot - and later right leg - were amputated. 

Frida died shortly after her 47th birthday in the summer of 1954.

Before she died, she wrote in her journal:

I hope the exit is joyful — and I hope never to return — Frida.


Coconuts are an ancient plant that initially hailed from the South Pacific, and because of their buoyancy, coconuts can travel the world on the ocean's waves.

Plant Explorers found the coconut growingng throughout the Pacific, the Indian Ocean regions, and Africa.

Like mangoes, cashews, and cherries, the coconut is actually a drupe and not a nut. The drupe is an item that has a fleshy outer around a pit.

Coconuts are anti-viral, fungal, bacterial, and anti-parasite.

There are more than twenty billion coconuts produced each year.

The coconut palm is actually the national tree of The Maldives.

Before the dominance of soybean oil in the 1960s, Coconut oil was the world's leading vegetable oil.

May 8th is National Coconut Creme Pie Day.

Falling coconuts kill 150 people every year – 10 times the number of people killed by sharks.


Grow That Garden Library™ Book Recommendation

Understanding Orchids by William Cullina
This book came out in 2004, and the subtitle is An Uncomplicated Guide to Growing the World's Most Exotic Plants.

Well, I myself have become an orchid lover and an orchid fan.

They're my favorite plant to send to a family member for a birthday or an anniversary because they last so long, and now because orchids cost as much as the bouquet. I often opt to send an orchid instead of a bouquet of fresh-cut flowers.

As a little bonus for me, some of my family members will actually bring me the orchid after it's bloomed. And then I get the honor of taking care of repotting it and getting it healthy and ready to go again so that it will bloom again - hopefully on their next birthday or anniversary.

And so that's what I love to do - take care of orchids after they've bloomed.

But you know, orchids are a little bit of a mystery to many, many gardeners. So if you haven't gone down the orchid path yet, but you're on the edge, and you want to become more skilled in the area of orchids will, then William Cullina's book is the perfect guide for you.

William knows what it's like to be in your shoes. He writes at the end of his introduction,

I still get that spine-tingling toe-tickling feeling of, wow that hooked me at the beginning.

And if you're just starting out with orchids, you are in for quite an adventure.

Learning to grow orchids and understand their idiosyncrasies is a true journey.

The sheer number of orchid species estimates range between 25 and 40,000, including hybrids means that there will always be something new to learn something new to explore.


And then he writes this incredible fact.

You could start acquiring an orchid a day when you were 20 years old and still not have grown them all when you turned 80 and there is no other family of plants that offers such incredible diversity.


Before I close out this review, I'll just say that the first part of William's book covers all the basics of orchids. Next, William gives an excellent overview of an area that people often struggle with:  how to care for orchids. How do they like to be watered? What should you do about fertilization? How should you pot them? If you're going to Mount them? How does that happen?

Then William talks about what to do if you have a pest or disease issue with your orchid.

Then, if you are getting into next-level orchid growing, William will be your guy to introduce you to reproduction. He'll tell you how to hand-pollinate and propagate and hybridize orchids. And there will be no mystery to any of this. William is very clear through every page of his book.

Finally, William wraps things up with a look at over a hundred of the most popular orchids to get you on your way and to get you thinking about what you want on your orchid wishlist.

This book is 272 pages of orchids by an orchid lover - for orchid lovers - or for people thinking about becoming orchid lovers.

You can get a copy of Understanding Orchids by William Cullina and support the show using the Amazon link in today's show notes for around $20.


Botanic Spark

1912 Birth of May Sarton (books by this author), Belgian-American writer and poet. 

In Nelson, New Hampshire, May's tiny home was her happy place. She had a garden that she loved and cared for many houseplants. She once wrote these relatable garden witticisms:

I am not a greedy person except about flowers and plants, and then I become fanatically greedy.


In her seventies, May reflected,

A garden is always a series of losses set against a few triumphs, like life itself.


Still, May could not help striving for the glory of success when it came to her garden. Living a mostly simple life, May’s garden was the one place she dreamed big.

What a relief it was to me when I read that Vita Sackville-West kept a pile of metal labels in a shack at Sissinghurst as proof of all the experiments that had failed!


Finally, some of May's thoughts on gardening are prayerlike:

Help us to be ever faithful gardeners of the spirit, who know that without darkness nothing comes to birth, and without light nothing flowers.


Everything that slows us down and forces patience, everything that sets us back into the slow circles of nature, is a help.
Gardening is an instrument of grace.


Thanks for listening to The Daily Gardener

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

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