May 19, 2022 The Dark Day, Nathaniel Hawthorne, Tulips, Ruskin Bond, The Modern Cottage Garden by Greg Loades, Rainer Maria Rilke, and Leo Tolstoy


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Historical Events


1780 It was on this day that much of New England was shrouded in darkness.

In fact, many feared that Judgment Day had arrived And so this day became known as The Dark Day.

During this day, the sun rose as per usual. But around 10 o'clock in the morning, the sky grew dark. So dark that there were reports of candle-lit lunches, and people stopped what they were doing to pray.

The blackout spread from Portland, Maine, to New Jersey. Boston newspapers reported that chickens returned to their roosts after the darkness began, and animals returned to their places in the barn - even they knew that something odd was going on.

Even General George Washington wrote about the dark day in his diary.

The nature poet John Greenleaf Whittier (books about this person) wrote about the event in a poem.

Twas on a May-day of the
far-old years
Seventeen hundred eighty,
that there fell
Over the bloom and sweet life
of the spring,
Over the fresh earth, and the

heaven of noon,
A horror of great darkness.'
"Men prayed, and women
wept; all ears grew sharp
To hear the doom-blast of the
trumpet shatter
The black sky.


Instead of Judgment Day, it's now generally believed that the darkness stemmed from a fire out west.

And the following night, on May 19th in 1780, New England was treated to a full moon that was said to be as red as blood set against the night sky - a spring to remember.


1864 Death of Nathaniel Hawthorne (books about this person), American novelist, and short-story writer.

In May 1866, Nathaniel's sister Sophia was writing about The Wayside landscape in a letter to her friend, Annie Fields.

She wrote:

There is a beauty in May which there is not in July. After these latter rains, the glory of tender and deep greens surpasses all words . . . the
walks — the paths look so nice, and there is no knowing what enormity of sauciness the weeds will arrive at by July.


In 1843, Nathaniel Hawthorne wrote a crazy short story that not many people know about today. The story was about a mad scientist who becomes obsessed about removing his wife Georgiana's birthmark. And so the scientist, concocts a remedy for the blemish and creates a solution using the leaves of geraniums. As his wife drinks this potion, her birthmark does fade away, but in the process, the mixture also kills her. Thus, she dies a perfect unblemished woman. And that's the end of this little known and very bizarre short story by Nathaniel Hawthorne.


1906 On this day, Country Life gave an update on the season of tulips.

They wrote,

The writer regards the season of Tulips as one of the brightest and happiest of the year. Daffodils still flutter in the wind, the first of the Roses
are bursting their buds, and the whole air is filled with the scent of wayside of garden flowers. But it is the Tulip that gives the colour, splashes of crimson,scarlet, yellow, rose, white, and even black.

A black Tulip is a reality, and is known as The Sultan. It belongs to the race called Darwin, but we prefer the homely name of the May or Cottage Tulip. Dusky as the firm, short segments are, they have weird, strange beauty, which is as fascinating as the clear crimson of the greatest of all Tulips, Tulipa gesneriana major, which opens its big goblets to the sun and discloses a pool of inky blue at the base.

A few years ago the May Tulips were seldom seen, but persistent reference to them has brought about a revolution: so much so, that one greets the Tulip with much the same affection as the Daffodil which precedes it. We believe it was in the Royal Gardens, Kew, that the Gesner and other Tulips were first planted in large beds, and the effect of their glorious colour we shall ever remember, it was a novel sight...


So there you go—an update on tulip season from 1906.

And isn't it interesting to think about how tulips were perceived compared to the daffodil a little over a hundred years ago?


1934 Birth of Ruskin Bond (books about this person), Indian author of British descent.

Ruskin's novels, The Room on the Roof and Our Trees Still Grow in Dehra, received critical acclaim and he's written hundreds of short stories, essays, and books for children.

In The Room on the Roof, Ruskin wrote,

I don't want to rot like mangoes at the end of the season, or burnout like the sun at the and of the day.
I cannot live like the gardener, the cook and water-carrier, doing the same task everyday of my life...
I want to be either somebody or nobody.
I don't want to be anybody.

From Rain in the Mountains: Notes from the Himalayas, Ruskin wrote,

Yes, I'd love to have a garden of my own--spacious, and full of everything that is fragrant and flowering. But if I don't succeed, never mind--I've still got the dream.


Finally, in his book, A Book of Simple Living: Brief Notes from the Hills, Ruskin wrote,

Botanists have done their best to intimidate and confuse the nature lover. But we should not allow ourselves to be discouraged; we have as much right to the enjoyment of wild flowers as they. So I will disregard the botanist and I will go looking for the pretty flower that I have named Merry Heart. It is always nodding and dancing in the breeze. It is a happy flower, deserving of a happy, light name.


Grow That Garden Library™ Book Recommendation

The Modern Cottage Garden by Greg Loades
This book came out in 2020, and the subtitle is A Fresh Approach to a Classic Style.

This book is practical and inspirational - and if you are a fan of cottage gardens, then this is a book that you will want to have in your garden library.

I love Greg's approach here because what he has done is come up with a blend between the New Perennial Movement and Classic Cottage Style - and he's integrated both of those concepts Into the looks that you see in real life gardens in this book.

And so, as the reader, what you'll come away with are images of beautiful color in the garden, the use of grasses and native plants - in addition to Greg's thoughtful approach. Greg wants these gardens to be low maintenance and to offer many seasons of interest, which is the sweet spot for gardens nowadays.

I will walk you through the table of contents, and then I'll give you a little excerpt from Greg's book.

Greg starts with what he calls the roots of his book, which are both the traditional Cottage Garden and the New Perennial Garden. Greg takes you into a deep dive into both approaches.

Then in the next section of his book, he talks about how to create a Modern Cottage Gardenn which, as I just mentioned, is a blend of both Classic Cottage Gardening and the New Perennial Garden Movement.

So with Greg's help, you'll understand how to put together a gardener's garden - that's what he calls it - and how to maximize small spaces and incorporate Modern Cottage Gardening into your containers, which I think is such a hot topic this year.

Now the back half of Greg's book is devoted to the seasons - so he walks you through Modern Cottage Gardening season by season.

At the end of the book, there are fifty plant profiles, and these are Greg's go-to plants when it comes to garden design.

But, right at the beginning of Greg's book, he introduces you to the Modern Cottage Garden.

He writes,

It is difficult to stick to one style in the garden, isn't it?

Maybe this is because plants are alive, and as they grow, we get attached to them.

So we can't let go of the plant that has survived three house moves.

Or the large shrub that started life from a cutting taken from a friend's garden.


This sounds so familiar. Doesn't it?

He writes,

Plants are memories.

Plants can make us feel proud.

Plants tell stories.

And who can resist choosing new plants for the garden when they see them in flower in a nursery, even if they don't know where they will go or whether they are in keeping with what is there?


I just experienced this exact scenario this morning.


And then Greg writes,

Let's be honest, who has a scale map of their garden, showing all the gaps, each time they find themselves looking at plants for sale?

Then as we introduce unlikely plant partners to the border, we push the boundaries of traditional garden styles, whether by accident or design.


And here is where Greg helps us get on track.

He writes,

This is, in fact, a good thing. The mixing together of plants from older garden styles is creating something special indeed: a new style that combines the best of the Traditional Cottage Garden and of the gardens of the New Perennial Garden Movement.

For argument's sake, let's call it the Modern Cottage Garden.

This is a gardener's garden.

Its generous style is for gardeners who can't resist plants.


Can I get an Amen?

The spoke is 288 pages of the Modern Cottage Garden — encouraging you to grow plants that are new to you, try new combinations or new communities of plants, and enjoy the process of experimenting in your garden.

You can get a copy of The Modern Cottage Garden by Greg Loades and support the show using the Amazon link in today's show notes for around $9.


Botanic Spark

1899 On this day, Lou Andreas Salomé (books about this person), the first female psychoanalyst and writer, and Rainer Maria Rilke (books about this person), the Austrian poet and writer, visited Leo Tolstoy (books about this person) in Russia.

Now this entire trip was Lou's idea. She hoped that Tolstoy would be a mentor to her friend and lover, Rainer ("Rye-nur") Maria Rilke.

Lou Andreas Salomé was a bit of a muse to Rainer Maria Rilke. Early in their friendship, Lou was the one who encouraged him to change his first name from René to Rainer. She also encouraged him to learn Russian and to read Tolstoy.

And so that sets the stage for their meeting with Leo Tolstoy in his garden on this day, May 19th in, 1899.

One account of the meeting goes like this:

We no longer looked about us, but at him absorbing this landscape.

Bending down from time to time to pluck, forget me nots with a quick motion of his cup tanned as if to snatch up the odor from the stem.

He would then hold them close to his face and breathe them.

Intensely consume them as it were.

And then let them fall to the ground.


Well, it seems Leo was more interested in his garden than in becoming a mentor to Rainer Maria Rilke.

But the story doesn't end there. Rainer Maria Rilke fell in love with Russia - and for a brief period with Lou Andreas Salomé.

And it was during his time in Russia, Rainer wrote one of his masterpieces: a trilogy of timeless poetry called The Book of Hours.


Thanks for listening to The Daily Gardener

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

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