May 18, 2022 Tsar Nicholas II, Ralph Waldo Emerson, W. G. Sebald, Mary McLeod Bethune, The Medicinal Forest Garden Handbook by Anne Stobart, and Mount St. Helens



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Historical Events

1868 Birth of Tsar Nicholas II (books about this person), the last Emperor of Russia, King of Congress Poland, and Grand Duke of Finland, ruling from 1 November 1894 until his abdication on 15 March 1917.

On his fiftieth birthday on this day in 1918, he was essentially under house arrest by the Bolsheviks along with the rest of his family, the Romanovs (books about this family), in Yekaterinburg "Yek-ah-teerin- borg" (the fourth largest city in Russia) in a private home called Ipatiev ("ee-pah-tee-iv") or the "House of Special Purpose." It would be Nicholas's last birthday.

In June, he wrote in his diary

"It was unbearable to sit that way, locked up, and not be in a position to go out into the garden when you wanted and spend a fine evening outside."

That same month, his wife, Alexandra, wrote,

"Out in the garden, fearfully hot, sat under the bushes. They have given us. . . half an hour more for being out. Heat, airlessness in the rooms intense."

By the 23rd of June, Alexandra noted the wonder of breathing in the fresh summer air. She wrote,

Two of the soldiers came and took out one window in our room. Such joy, delicious air at last, and one window no longer whitewashed. The air in the room became clean and by evening, cool.

Nicholas observed,

The fragrance from all the town's gardens is amazing.

This moment would be one of the family's last happy times.   On July 17, 1918, the entire family, including their children and most faithful servants, were brought to the basement and executed. Today there is nothing left of the Ipatiev house. It was demolished in September of 1977, and the land was given to the Russian Orthodox Church. The altar inside a church called the Church on the Blood is on the very spot where the Romanovs died. The beautiful church honors Nicholas and his family, now regarded as saints in the Russian Orthodox Church.


1926 On this day, Ralph Waldo Emerson (books by this author) wrote in his journal:

My garden is an honest place.
Every tree and every vine are incapable of concealment and tell after two or three months exactly what sort of treatment they have had.
The sower may mistake and sow his peas crookedly: the peas make no mistake, but come up and show his line.


1944 Birth of Winfried Georg Sebald ("Say-bald") (books by this author), who went by Max and wrote as W. G. Sebald, German writer and academic.

When Max died at 57, he was regarded as one of the greatest authors of his time.

His 2001 novel Austerlitz was Sebald's final novel. The book was honored with the National Book Critics Circle Award. In 2019, it ranked 5th on The Guardian's list of the 100 best books of the 21st century.

Here's an excerpt:

In the warmer months of the year, one or other of those nocturnal insects quite often strays indoors from the small garden behind my house. When I get up early in the morning, I find them clinging to the wall, motionless.

I believe, said Austerlitz, they know they have lost their way since if you do not put them out again carefully, they will stay where they are, never moving, until the last breath is out of their bodies.
Indeed they will remain in the place where they came to grief even after death, held fast by the tiny claws that stiffened in their last agony until a draft of air detaches them and blows them into a dusty corner.

Sometimes, seeing one of these moths that have met their end in my house, I wonder what kind of fear and pain they feel while they are lost.


1955 Death of Mary McLeod Bethune (books about this person), American educator, philanthropist, humanitarian, womanist, and civil rights activist.

Mary was the fifteenth child - and the first baby born free - to her newly freed parents, who were enslaved before the Civil War and owned by a different master. Mary's father, Samuel, had worked to "buy" his bride. Most of Mary's older brothers and sisters were sold to other masters. Mary was also the first person in her family to go to school.

In 1904, Mary moved to Daytona, Florida. There, she created the Daytona Literary and Industrial School for Training Negro Girls, and within two years, she had 250 students. Without any means, Mary improvised and used sticks of charcoal for pencils, mashed elderberries for ink, and cardboard boxes for tables and chairs. 

Mary put fifteen dollars in pennies, nickels, and dimes down on a swampy piece of land that served as a garbage dump. It was called Hell's Hole. With the help of benefactors, Mary built a four-story building on the site. Over the main doors were the words "Enter to Learn," and looking up over the same doors upon leaving, students saw the words "Depart to Serve."

Mary's school continued to grow until it merged with an all-boys school and became Bethune-Cookman College (B-CC). As the school's first president, Mary reflected,

When I walk through the campus, with its stately palms and well-kept lawns, and think back to the dump-heap foundation, rub my eyes and pinch myself. And I remember my childish visions in the cotton fields.

Mary became a nationally known speaker, and she often spoke of a people garden, a place where people of all colors grew together in harmony.

Initially, Mary was disheartened that there was no black blossom to represent her race and make her people's garden complete. But that all changed when she discovered black flowers in gardens during a visit to Europe. During her visit to Holland, Mary received black tulip bulbs. And after she saw a garden with black roses In Switzerland,  she ordered 72 black roses for the grounds at B-CC. The gesture earned Mary a nickname: the black rose. In turn, Mary called her B-CC students her "Black Roses."

On this day in 1955, Mary died of a heart attack. Her will ended with this goodbye:

I leave you love. I leave you hope. I leave you racial dignity...


Grow That Garden Library™ Book Recommendation

The Medicinal Forest Garden Handbook by Anne Stobart
This book came out in 2020, and the subtitle is Growing, Harvesting, and Using Healing Trees and Shrubs in a Temperate Climate.

This book has tons of practical information on using medicinal trees and shrubs for your own self-sufficiency or for-profit - and it's a fantastic book.

Before I get into this review, you should know that Anne has tons of direct experience creating her own medicinal forest in England. And she regularly uses herbal medicine in her practice.

What's especially exciting about the way Anne has written this book is she is giving us advice for all kinds of spaces, whether you're looking at small gardens or small properties, all the way up to agroforestry. There is so much in this book.

Anne reviews her favorite medicinal trees and offers practical advice on incorporating those into your landscape. She shares the kind of shrubs you should consider if you're interested in medicinal plants. She also reveals how to combine woody and other layers of medicinal plants to look good and make sense with other projects that you may have on your property.

And Anne also takes us on a deep dive into some of the main medicinal constituents of woody plants and the latest research.

You don't always see this information together in one complete guide. Usually, there are drips and drabs in other books. But what I love about what Anne has done is she's put it all together here - All the information you need to make informed decisions about the medicinal trees and shrubs you want to plant on your property.

Now, Anne herself points out that many books on forest gardens focus primarily on food. So to have a book that talks about medicinal forest gardens is especially unique and valuable. And so, what Anne is doing here is sharing her wisdom when it comes to harvesting so that you can create your own herbal remedies.

And here's what Anne wrote in the foreword to her book.

I love herbs and am especially passionate about medicinal trees and shrubs. This book is not only about how you can cultivate and harvest them, but it is also intended to provide you with the basis for creating your own medicinal planting design and herbal preparations. The medicinal forest garden provides a way to grow and harvest healing plants that draw on natural and sustainable processes to make efficient use of resources of light, space, soil, and water. At a time when forests are regarded as key in combatting climate breakdown, what could be better than seizing the opportunity to promote health and biodiversity by planting more medicinal trees and shrubs!


And speaking for myself, I can say that I've had a few takeaways after reading Anne's book. I'm installing a mini orchard up at the cabin, and I'm also supplementing my old-growth forest all around the border of my property. And I definitely took some of Anne's tree and shrub recommendations, and I'm incorporating them into my garden plan for this summer.

Anyway, I love this whole field. I also appreciate this area of using plants, not only for their ornamental or food value but also for their medicinal value, which was a key driver for the early plant explorers. And so, I think it's excellent to reclaim some of that knowledge.

This book is 288 pages of a ton of information. It's broken into two parts.

Part One has detailed information on the medicinal applications you can get from trees and shrubs, including designing, growing, harvesting, and creating remedies.

And then Part Two gives you a fabulous directory of forty medicinal trees and shrubs.

And I bet there will at least be a handful that you'll want to add to your garden in the future. 

You can get a copy of The Medicinal Forest Garden Handbook by Anne Stobart and support the show using the Amazon link in today's show notes for around $20.


Botanic Spark

1980 On this day, Mount St. Helens erupted. 

The deadly eruption triggered the largest landslide ever recorded. 

The Honey Market News reported on the impact on bees and local apiaries:

The true impact on honeybees from volcanic ash fallout will take a long time to assess...
The Columbia Basin bees died within hours of ash fallout from the St. Helens' eruption on May 18.

The second eruption on May 25 caused great stress in the hives in Southwestern Washington. Brood was pushed out, and colonies with new queens introduced 1-2 days prior to the eruptions were killed.

Central Washington bees took 3-4 days to die or remove brood from the hives. Bees were affected by ash collecting in the respiratory system, resulting in suffocation or the abrasive action on the body and internal organs, causing loss of moisture and eventual death. Early estimates indicate approximately 12,000 colonies have been affected.

Beekeepers were moving colonies out of ash fallout areas. Growers and beekeepers were discussing the availability of bees to pollinate seed crops in the Columbia Basin. Nectar flow had stopped, and heavy syrup feeding was underway.

Beeswax cannot be used... because of the abrasive ash residue that can't be removed.

...Bees avoided foraging on anything that was covered by ash fallout. Yet they would go to blossom that had opened since May 19.

Demand was good, and the market was firm.


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

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