May 5, 2022 Thomas Edward Brown, Richard Watson Dixon, Christopher Morley, Mavis Batey, The Magical World of Moss Gardening by Annie Martin, and Napoleon Bonaparte


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Historical Events


1830 Birth of Thomas Edward Brown, late-Victorian scholar, schoolmaster, poet, and theologian from the Isle of Man.

Thomas was published under T.E. Brown, and here's a little excerpt from his poem called My Garden. 

A GARDEN is a lovesome thing, God wot!
Rose plot,
Fringed pool,
Fern'd grot—

The veriest school
Of peace; and yet the fool

Contends that God is not—
Not God! in gardens! when the eve is cool?
Nay, but I have a sign;
'Tis very sure God walks in mine.


1833 Birth of Richard Watson Dixon, English poet, and clergyman.

Richard was the son of the clergyman, Dr. James Dixon.

He's most remembered for that lyrical poem that begins.

The feathers of the willow
Are half of them grown yellow
Above the swelling stream; And ragged are the bushes,
And rusty now the rushes,
And wild the clouded gleam.


But today, I thought I would share an excerpt from his little-known poem called The Judgement Of The May.

Come to the judgement, golden threads
upon golden hair in rich array;
Many a chestnut shakes its heads,
Many a lupine at this day,
Many a white rose in our beds
Waits the judgement of the May.


1890 Birth of Christopher Morley, American journalist, novelist, essayist, and poet.

Christopher also produced plays and gave college lectures. And in addition to all of that, He wrote little sayings, like

The trouble with wedlock is that there's not enough wed and too much lock.


And he also wrote

Heavy hearts, like heavy clouds in the sky, are best relieved by the letting of a little water.


And then finally, here's a Christopher Marley quote on spring.

April prepares her green traffic light, and the world thinks: Go.


1921 Birth of Mavis Lilian Batey, English Codebreaker and garden historian.

Mavis served as an English Codebreaker during World War II, and her unique skillset broke the German enigma code, which allowed the allied forces to stage their D-Day invasion.

Mavis became a champion for forgotten, yet historically significant, English gardens. She also helped establish garden history as an academic specialty.

In 1955, Mavis and her Codebreaker husband, Keith, settled on a farm in Surrey. It was this property that sparked Mavis's passion for landscape history.

After moving to Oxford, Mavis and her family lived in a fantastic park designed by Capability Brown. The park was also home to a garden designed by William Mason in 1775.

Mavis recalled,

We lived in the agent's house right in the middle of Capability Brown Park. But it was William Mason's garden that really got me.

We had to cut our way into it.

It was all overgrown and garden ornaments were buried in the grass.

I knew at once it wasn't just an ordinary derelict garden. Someone had tried to say something there.


Mavis Batey used her wit and determination to become a force in numerous conservation organizations and missions.

In 1985, Mavis was honored with the RHS Veitch Memorial Medal for her invaluable work, preserving gardens that would otherwise have been lost to time.


Grow That Garden Library™ Book Recommendation

The Magical World of Moss Gardening by Annie Martin
This book came out in 2015, and Pacific Northwest magazine said this about Annie's book:

Instead of eradicating this deer-resistant, pest-resistant, rootless, stemless, wonder of a plant, Annni Martin tells us how to encourage and cultivate it.


Well, mosses are near and dear to many gardeners' hearts, and there have been many gardeners who try to grow and cultivate moss to no avail.

And that's because moss has some special requirements.

Annie writes,

In my own garden, I feel angst when mosses is dry out and I obsessively respond to my compelling desire to give them a rejuvenating drink.

And as they begin the saturation process, I regain my own glowing state. As I watch leaves swiftly unfold and colors, magically intensify.


In addition to being mesmerizing, there are many reasons to pursue moss gardening. There are also many environmental benefits. Moss can be a lawn substitute - depending on where you live and your garden set up. If you have a shady property, you should definitely look into mosses as an option. 

Mosses are super carbon sequesters. They're great at erosion control and flood mitigation - and they have a built-in filtration system, which means that moss can help reclaim land in locations where cleanup is needed.

Now, if Annie's name sounds familiar, it's because she is a moss expert. Her nickname is Mossin' Annie, and she's the proud owner of Mountain Moss Enterprises.

I appreciate books like this because you have a true subject matter expert acting as your guide. Annie will help you identify dozens of Moss species, and she'll teach you how to propagate moss successfully. (This is something most gardeners want to know how to do). 

Finally, Annie is a master when designing and installing moss gardens.

This book is 240 pages of down-to-earth advice on mosses in the garden. Whether you're an experienced gardener or a newbie, you will feel extra confident about utilizing moss - the tremendous green ground cover - with Annie as your guide.


You can get a copy of The Magical World of Moss Gardening by Annie Martin and support the show using the Amazon link in today's show notes for around $13.


Botanic Spark

1821 Napoleon Bonaparte, French military and political leader who ended up ruling over much of continental Europe

Last year was the 200th anniversary of his death.

One account of Napoleon's final moments reported that, 

[He died during a terrible thunderstorm that] shook the house to its foundations and would have alarmed everyone but for the all-absorbing tragedy of Napolean's departure.


In 1815 after his stunning defeat in the battle of Waterloo, Napoleon was forced into exile in the south Atlantic on a little island called St. Helena.

A few years before his death, Napoleon became convinced that he was dying of stomach cancer. His doctor Francoise Antommarchi ("Ahn-toe-MAR-she"), the man that would take his death mask, prescribed, among other pursuits, gardening - specifically digging in the garden.

And so, on the island of St. Helena, Napoleon briefly took up gardening — and he loved it.

Naturally, Napoleon wanted everyone around him - except the ladies - to join him in the garden at Longwood. There, he grew every type of vegetable that thrived on the island. Napoleon installed grottoes, alleys, and paths. And he transplanted trees and improved the soil with manure.

When he worked in the garden, history tells us that Napoleon wore a loose-fitting dress and a straw hat. And at one point, Napoleon actually shot Count Bertrand's goat because it was eating his plants.

In 2021, the historian Ruth Scurr wrote a short but delightful biography of Napoleon told through the lens of his interest in gardening and naturalism, and it's called Napoleon: A Life Told in Gardens and Shadows.

Ruth believes that gardens were important to Napoleon all through his life. But at St. Helena in particular, he was especially motivated to garden after his doctor pointed out that he could create sunken paths to avoid the watchful gaze of his guards: British soldiers.

Naturally, it was mostly Napoleon's people who did most of the digging. And although Napoleon's experiment with gardening was fleeting, Longwood House still grows a variety of plants planted by the emperor himself.

Now in her book, Ruth also tells a touching story about Napoleon's brief return to Malmaison after his defeat at Waterloo. Malmaison was soothing to the emperor, and it was a place full of memories of his beloved Josephine. Her gardens were filled with fragrant roses and colorful blossoms like Dahlia's long after her death. The painter Pierre Joseph Redouté was a favorite of Josephine Bonaparte and Marie Antoinette. Still, Redouté's paintings of Josephine's flowers at Malmaison are among his most beautiful works.

In Ruth Scurr's garden biography of Napoleon, she wrote:

The 26th of June [1815] was a very hot day. Napoleon spent it at Malmaison reminiscing about the past.

He walked up and down with his hands behind his back in what had once been his personal garden, just outside the library.

He also lingers among exotic trees that Josephine has always insisted on planting herself.

There were honey locusts, cedars of Lebanon, apple trees, and tulip trees.

He visited Josephine’s grand greenhouse and remembered there how she checked her tropical flowers every day.

It was indeed a grand greenhouse. 


Thanks for listening to The Daily Gardener

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

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