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Compost Awareness Week
1742 Birth of Jean Senebier, a Swiss pastor and botanist.
Where would we be without Senebier?
We'd still be breathing, but we'd lack the knowledge that carbon dioxide is consumed by plants and, in turn, that plants produce oxygen as part of the process of photosynthesis.
In a nutshell, Senebier’s work is crucial because he had learned the function of leaves: capturing carbon for food.
Before Senebier, the purpose of leaves and what they did for plants and people was unknown.
It was Jean Senebier who said,
Observation and experiment are two sisters who help each other.
1754 Birth of Joseph Joubert, French moralist and essayist.
Remembered mainly for his Pensées ("Pon-see") or (Thoughts), which were published posthumously, he once wrote,
All gardeners live in beautiful places because they make them so.
1856 Birth of Sigmund Freud (books about this person), Austrian neurologist and the founder of psychoanalysis.
Freud once offered this humorous insight:
Common sense is a rare flower and does not grow in everyone's garden.
Freud offered up a few dispassionate observations regarding the natural world.
He once wrote,
Beauty has no obvious use, nor is there any clear cultural necessity for it. Yet civilization could not do without it.
And he also wrote,
Flowers are restful to look at. They have neither emotions nor conflicts.
Online there are many photos of Freud and his family in the garden of their home in London. The Freuds left their home in Austria to escape the Nazis with the help of Princess Marie Bonaparte (books about this person), known as Princess George of Greece and Denmark.
In 1938, there was a photo of Sigmund with his daughter Anna and Martha in the garden of Marie Bonaparte's house in Paris after arriving on the Orient Express from Vienna. Anna looks happy, Martha looks at a flower, and Sigmund has a little snooze in his garden bed.
The Freud home in London was much larger and nicer, and there was a large backyard with a garden.
The property still boasts Freud's rose garden and is now the Freud Museum at 20 Maresfield Gardens in Hampstead, London NW3, England.
In 2008, the French botanist and biologist Francis Hallé wrote,
Everyone knows that going to the garden does not solve the problems of everyday life, yet it relativizes them and makes them more bearable.
Sigmund Freud had this late regret: 'I lost my time; the only important thing in life is gardening.'
1925 On this day, at the age of 29, the great twentieth-century reformer of Japanese gardens, Mirei Shigemori (books about this person), changed his name from Kazuo ("Kah-zoh") to Mirei (“me-RAY”).
The name change was a tribute to the 19th-century French painter of pastoral landscapes and daily life, Jean Francois Millet (books about this person), who once said,
It is the treating of the commonplace with the feeling of the sublime that gives to art its true power.
In 1932, Mirei founded the Kyoto Garden Society.
Mirei practiced the art of tea - Chado ("Cha-doe") and the art of flower arranging - Ikebana ("ick-aye-bah-na").
Mirei once advised,
People who try to do research on the garden have to very seriously study the way of tea.
Mirei wrote eighty-one books, including the Illustrated Book on the History of the Japanese Garden in 26-volumes, released in 1938.
Mother Nature played an important role in shaping Mirei's life when the Muroto Typhoon destroyed much of Kyoto in 1934. Many sacred temples, shrines, and gardens were wiped out in the life-altering storm. In response, Mirei took action.
He used his own money and became one of the first designers to survey every garden in Japan - creating records for restoration if they were ever damaged or destroyed. The tour provided a valuable service to his country and was also a means for Mirei to learn garden design - with a particular focus on incorporating rocks and stone. As a garden designer, Mirei was entirely self-taught.
Throughout his fifty-year career, Mirei designed over two hundred gardens, including the checkerboard North Garden/Moss Garden at Tofukuji ("Tofu-kah-gee") Temple, Kyoto (1939), the dry landscape at Zuiho-in ("zwee-ho een" (1961), and the garden at the oldest shrine in Kyoto City, the Matsuo Taisha ("maht-sue-oh Ty-sha"(1975). The shrine is dedicated to the gods of water in western Kyoto and was an important place for sake-brewing families to worship over the centuries.
In 2020, the second edition of landscape architect Christian Tschumi's book, Mirei Shigemori - Rebel in the Garden, was released. In it, Christian breaks down the profound influences and meanings behind Mirei's most iconic gardens.
Christian once wrote,
Shigemori's body of work is a compelling manifesto for continuous cultural renewal.
Grow That Garden Library™ Book Recommendation
The Layered Garden by David Culp
This book came out in 2012, and the subtitle is Design Lessons for Year-Round Beauty from Brandywine Cottage.
Well, I'm a huge David Culp fan, and I feel like I'm telling you about this book just in time for summer because this book can help you set the stage for how you want your garden to look all year long. And since the summer lays entirely before us, this book is just in time for you. If you're planning a new garden or a garden redesign, you could do a lot worse than having David Culp be your guide.
Laura Springer Ogden wrote a review that's right on the cover of the book, And it says,
Garden-making in its finest form is a celebration of life and love - and David and this book epitomize this.
I couldn't agree more.
And by the way, you'll probably recognize the photographer's name for David's book as well - it's Rob Cardillo. Rob always does such a fantastic job photographing gardens, so this book's photos are top-notch.
Now David kicks things off in this book with a quote from Francis Bacon, it's from Of Gardens (1625) - and it's one of my favorite garden quotes:
There ought to be gardens for all the months in the year, in which severally things of beauty may be then in season.
Of course, this sets the stage for what David is trying to teach us: how to have a garden that looks good all year long.
Now I thought I would share this quick little sweet story that David shares at the beginning of his book. It gives all of us some great ideas - especially if you have young gardeners in your life.
One fall, when I was about nine years old, my grandmother Thorpe gave me a bag of bulbs and said,
"you go out and plant them."
I felt more than a little trepidation. I had never planted anything without her supervision. But she reassured me.
"You can do it. You won't go wrong."
Her generosity could have been ruinous to her flower border. But I got the bulbs planted with no mishaps.
The next spring, when they bloomed, I almost burst with pride. When she told all her friends, "David did that."
And from that moment, I knew I was a gardener.
And after all these years, it remains the core of how I define myself.
I love that story for a couple of different reasons.
Number one, it really does tee up what David is talking about here in The Layered Garden because as a gardener, if you dismiss specific categories of plants out of hand, like the flowers that you get with spring bulbs, then you'll likely miss one of the layers that can help make your garden beautiful all through the year.
Now the other reason I like this story is for practical purposes. I hear all the time from new gardeners who are so anxious about planting bulbs, And now I'm going to say, "Hey, if David Culp - as a nine-year-old - can do it, you can too.
And then last but not least, I hope this plants a tiny seed with all of us that if we are interacting with kids in the garden, we definitely need to introduce them to planting spring-flowering bulbs because the result in the spring is just so impressive and unique. It also instills that sense of pride that you can get when your garden work goes to plan, and you experience that first flush of color. It's so wonderful.
Throughout David's book, he reinforces this concept of the layered garden, but I will give you just a little snippet of how he introduces it here. He goes into much more detail and offers many more tips - wonderful little nuggets and tiny ideas - for making this look work for you. Here's how he introduces the concept in his book.
Garden layers are made up of a variety of plants- some with complimentary or contrasting colors, others with interesting shapes or textures. Layers are more than just perennials or annuals or bulbs or ground covers. They're more than just the ground layer of plants. That's the sole focus of many gardens.
Beautiful combinations are certainly possible, even in the tiniest scale. Think of dwarf Solomon's Seal underplanted with moss - that makes a precious six-inch-high picture. But to get the most interest from any garden, all the layers need to be considered from the ground level to the middle level of shrubs and small trees up to the canopy trees. Growing plants on vertical surfaces, walls, fences, trellises, arbors, and other supports even climbing up trees, when we can be sure that they will do no harm, adds to the picture by bringing flowers and foliage to eye level and above.
So there you go. An introduction to what David is talking about when he says The Layered Garden.
You might be intuitively doing some layering already in your garden as you look for more ways to garden - looking for different plants - or finding and curating other ideas that you can put in your garden.
But I think what David adds is his mastery because he knows how to make all of this work in a very cohesive way that's pleasing to the eye.
David's book talks about how to do a layered garden and design it - which is probably the key for most of us because we often don't think about that. If we layer the garden, it can just happen organically. But then, sometimes, we can end up with a little bit of a confused look. Next, David talks about maintaining the layered garden, which is very important.
Now there are two other aspects of this book that I want to share with you.
So the first chapter talks about the layered garden, and it walks you all through that. But The second chapter introduces you to his garden at Brandywine Cottage. This is important because you get a garden tour here, and David shows you how he's put this layered garden technique to work right on his property. By the way, this is not David's first at-bat gardening; he's designed many gardens. So, all of his work is coming together, culminating at Brandywine.
And then the last chapter, I think, is one of the most important chapters of the book. Here David shares his signature plants that he advises we consider incorporating into our gardens throughout the seasons. So, this is a great list. This is a list of plants from a garden designer - a garden lover - and someone who works in gardens every day. So right there, that's an invaluable part of this book.
This book is 312 pages of layered gardening, the beauty of the garden at Brandywine, and then some of David's most treasured garden design secrets and favorite plants.
1682 On this day, Louis XIV (books about this person) of France moved his court to the Palace of Versailles.
Originally, Versailles was built as a country house. Nine miles from Paris, Versailles was ideally situated near neighboring forests for hunting.
Today Versailles is known for its opulence - the Hall of Mirrors, stunning art, and lush gardens. The massive gardens at Versailles are the most famous in the world. The garden is home to over 1,000 statues, and in the Facebook group for the show, I shared a stunning photo of the garden sculptures at Versailles surrounded by sandbags for protection during WWII.
In 2006, Ian Thompson wrote a fantastic book called, The Sun King's Garden: Louis XIV, Andre le Notre and the Creation of the Gardens of Versailles. Ian believes that Louis XIV may also have been history's most passionate gardener. Louis, the absolute monarch, was known as the “Sun King,” specifically designed the central axis to be east-west to track the sun's path across the garden. Louis worked closely for forty years with the low-born gardener André Le Nôtre to devise the original design and geometrical layout.
Temperament-wise, André and Louis could not have been more different. Louis was driven and merciless. André was funny, thoughtful, insightful, and easy-going.
In 1979, Versailles, including the garden, was declared a World Heritage Site.
And in 2014, Alain Baraton wrote Gardener of Versailles: My Life in the World's Grandest Garden. As the gardener-in-chief, Alain lives on the grounds at Versailles.
Alain has worked in the gardens, orchards, and fields for four decades. This memoir reveals Alain's connection to the grandest garden in the world. And in case you're wondering, Alain believes fall is the best time to visit.
Alain oversaw the recovery from the worst natural disaster ever to hit Versailles. On Christmas night through the 26th of December in 1999, a monster winter storm with winds of up to 105 mph struck the grounds of Versailles. Alain watched in horror as century trees let go of the earth in response. In a little over an hour, the storm felled 10,000 trees at Versailles, including two tulip trees planted by Marie-Antoinette in 1783 in Trianon and a Corsican pine planted for Napoleon in 1810. Alain said,
It was like the apocalypse. In one hour, 200 years of trees were destroyed.
But, miraculously, all of the statues survived unharmed. Although, there was one account that I read of a tree falling on one of the great statues. And as it hit the ground, the branches parted as if to spare that statue. It gave me chills just reading that. It was quite the story.
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And remember: For a happy, healthy life, garden every day.