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1815 On this day, Mary Russell Mitford wrote about the changing times in a letter to her friend, Sir William Elford, English banker, politician, and amateur artist.
Our grandmothers, when about to make a beau-pot (A large ornamental vase for cut flowers.), proceeded, I fancy, much as their gardeners when clipping a yew hedge or laying out a parterre.
Every stalk and stem was in its place; tulip answered tulip, and peony stared at peony.
Even a rebellious leaf was reduced to order, and the huge bouquet spread its tremendous width as flat, as stiff, and almost as ugly as its fair framer's painted fan.
We, their granddaughters, throw our honeysuckles and posies into their vases with little other care than to produce the grace of nature by its carelessness and profusion.
And why should we not...?
1896 Death of Nora Perry, American poet, newspaper correspondent, and writer.
In her poem, What May Be, Nora wrote,
When the days are longer, longer,
And the sun shines stronger, stronger,
And the winds cease blowing, blowing,
And the winter’s chance of snowing
Is lost in springtime weather.
Here's an excerpt from her poem, The Coming of Spring.
All this changing tint,
This whispering stir and hint
Of bud and bloom and wing,
Is the coming of the spring.
So, silently but swift,
Above the wintry drift,
The long days gain and gain,
Until on hill and plain—
Once more, and yet once more,
Returning as before,
We see the bloom of birth
Make young again the earth
1906 Birth of Enid Annenberg Haupt, American publisher and philanthropist.
The president of the New York Botanical Garden called Enid,
The greatest patron American horticulture has ever known.
Enid was one of eight children; her parents, Sadie and Moses, had one son and seven daughters.
Her father was the founder of a large publishing empire. Enid followed in his footsteps and became an heiress to the large family fortune.
Enid's first marriage ended in divorce. Her second marriage to Ira Haupt launched her philanthropic activities and introduced her to the world of gardening.
When they got engaged, Ira gave Enid a cymbidium orchid.
Enid was immediately enthralled by it. She told Ira that for her wedding present from him, she would be very happy with a gift of 13 cymbidium orchids.
Enid's brother, Walter, put her in charge of the magazine Seventeen in 1953.
During her tenure, Seventeen magazine was more popular than Glamor and twice as popular as Mademoiselle. At one point, more than half of the teenage girls in the United States were reading Seventeen magazine. Enid ran the magazine until 1970.
When Enid died in 2005, she had donated more than $140 million to charities.
Her favorite charities involved gardening. This is how Enid became known as "the fairy godmother of American horticulture" and "the patron saint of public gardens."
One of Enid's most significant gifts was to the New York Botanical Garden. Over her lifetime, Enid gave them over $34 million – $5 million of which was dedicated to restoring the stunning Victorian glass greenhouse now called the Enid Haupt Conservancy. Without Enid, the greenhouse would have been demolished.
After she retired from Seventeen magazine, Enid learned that the Soviet Union was considering purchasing River Farm, the 27-acre property once owned by George Washington as part of his Mount Vernon estate. The news was abhorrent to Enid. In 1973, she donated a million dollars to the American Horticultural Society to buy the property with the stipulation that it would remain open to the public.
In November 2020, the American Horticultural Society attempted to sell River Farm for $32.9 million. AHS Board Chair Terry Hayes argued that selling River Farm was the only way to effectively carry out its national mission of “connecting people with plants and to help all Americans learn about sustainable gardening.” The move caused a rift on the board after five board members — Skipp Calvert, Tim Conlon, Holly Shimizu, Marcia Zech, and Laura Dowling — argued that it was "not only morally and ethically wrong, but... fraught with serious legal issues.”
A year later, in the fall of 2021, the AHS officially took River Farm off the market. The AHS board had shrunk to the five board members who had fought to keep the historic property. In a statement, they said River Farm would remain as the permanent headquarters of the AHS and as a green space open to the public in honor of Enid Annenberg Haupt.
1823 On this day, William Bartram, American botanist, ornithologist, natural historian, and explorer, wrote in his diary that there were,
numerous tribes of small birds, feeding on the aphids on the apple, pear trees - towhe buntings building their nests in the garden.
Sharon White summarizes William Bartram's May garden life in her book Vanished Gardens: Finding Nature in Philadelphia (2011).
May was misty sometimes with a morning wind and cruel with cold rains for a week "injurious to vegitation and to the farmers. Wheat just begining to ear appears to be blasted in many instances," and young birds drowned in their nests on the ground.Now and then Bartram's notations look different, smaller script, less detail.In the last year he kept the diary his writing scrawls across one page as if his hand slipped.The green twig whortleberry is in flower on May 6 in 1802, and the next May he records that a bullfrog swallowed: large mole instantly. That May there was hard frost on the seventh that killed the young shoots of trees and shrubs.
Grow That Garden Library™ Book Recommendation
The Multifarious Mr. Banks by Toby Musgrave
This book came out in 2020, and the subtitle is From Botany Bay to Kew, The Natural Historian Who Shaped the World.
Toby Musgrave is a plant and garden historian, independent scholar, and consultant. He is the author or coauthor of eighteen books.
By the way, a multifarious person has many sides or different qualities, and you can see for yourself that Banks was a tremendous personal force in Toby's introduction:
Sir Joseph Banks was only twenty-five years old when in 1768 he convinced both the prestigious Royal Society and the bureaucratic Admiralty that he should join HMS Endeavour as expedition natural historian. He personally paid a fortune toundertake the three-year voyage led by James Cook, and en route became the first European to make an extensive study of the natural history and anthropology of Tahiti,' New Zealand and Australia. He is said to have had an affair with the 'queen of Tahiti' and, upon his return, he jilted his fiancée. Later, as a close personal friend of King George III, he persuaded the monarch that he was the man to develop the Royal Botanic Garden at Kew. Under Banks's leadership it became the world's leading botanic garden, a position it still holds today.
This book is 386 pages of the biography of Joseph Banks and all he accomplished during his incredible life of adventure and botany.
1907 Birth of the English author and playwright Daphne du Maurier (“Mor-ee-aya”)(books by this author), who was born in London.
She was the middle daughter of a well-to-do family of creative bohemian artists and writers. Her father was a famous actor and a favorite of James Barrie - the author of Peter Pan.
Daphne’s writing inspired Alfred Hitchcock - especially her novels Rebecca, Jamaica Inn, and her short story, The Birds. In 1938 Daphne published her popular book, Rebecca. It has never gone out of print. During the pandemic in 2020, Netflix released their movie version of Rebecca starring Lily James, Armie Hammer, and Kristin Scott Thomas.
In Rebecca, Daphne writes about the beautiful azaleas that grow on the estate at Manderley. And she says that the blooms were used to make a perfume for its late mistress. Yet, most azalea growers know that this is likely an example of artistic license since most evergreen azaleas have little to no fragrance. That said, some native deciduous azaleas can be very fragrant.
In the opening pages of Rebecca, Daphne’s narrator vividly describes the wild and wooly garden of Manderley:
I saw that the garden had obeyed the jungle law, even as the woods had done. The rhododendrons stood fifty feet high, twisted and entwined with bracken, and they had entered into alien marriage with a host of nameless shrubs, poor, bastard thing that clung about their roots as though conscious of their spurious origin. A lilac had mated with a copper beech, and to bind them yet more closely to one another, the malevolent ivy, always an enemy to grace, had thrown her tendrils about the pair and made them prisoners.
Daphne du Maurier incorporated gardens into many of her books. Her daughters recall that their mother loved flowers and flower arranging. Their home was always filled with flowers.
Yet, in her book, The King’s General, as in Rebecca, the garden can feel like a dangerous place at times.
I was a tiny child again at Radford, my uncle’s home, and he was walking me through the glass houses in the gardens. There was one flower, an orchid, that grew alone; it was the color of pale ivory, with one little vein of crimson running through the petals. The scent filled the house, honeyed and sickly sweet. It was the loveliest flower I had ever seen. I stretched out my hand to stroke the soft velvet sheen, and swiftly my uncle pulled me by the shoulder. ‘Don’t touch it, child. The stem is poisonous.
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And remember: For a happy, healthy life, garden every day.