June 6, 2022 Elias Ashmole, The Year Without a Summer, John Beauchamp Jones, National Garden Exercise Day, The Sibley Guide to Trees by David Allen Sibley, and Maxine Kumin


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Historical Events

1648 On this day, Elias Ashmole (books about this person), the English antiquary, politician, astrologer, and alchemist, wrote in his diary,

Having entered upon a study this day about three o'clock was the first time I went a simpling; Dr: Carter of Reding and Mr. Watling an Apothecary there, accompanying me.

To go "a simpling" was an early term for botanizing. People would gather "simples" or medicinal plants, so Elias went out with a Dr. Carter and an Apothecary. They were no doubt looking for herbal remedies.


1816 During June, in New England, six inches of snow fell. The entire year of 1816 was freezing. Every month of the year 1816 had a hard frost. Temperatures dropped to 40 degrees in July and August as far south as Connecticut. This is known as 'The Year Without a Summer' in New England. The weather anomalies originated from the volcanic eruption of Mount Tambora the previous year. The enormous volcanic explosion in recorded history spewed small particles that were light enough to spread over the atmosphere the following year. The impact on the world's climate was profound. The earth's temperature dropped an average of three degrees Celsius across the globe.

On the bright side, the terrible summer of 1816 served as an inspiration to many writers. In Lake Geneva, Switzerland, Mary Shelley wrote Frankenstein while on vacation with her husband, the poet Percy Bysshe Shelley and the poet Lord Byron. Thanks to nonstop rain and gray skies, the three writers had been stuck inside for days. On the same trip, Lord Byron wrote Darkness, his poem that begins,

I had a dream, which was not all a dream.
The bright sun was extinguished.


1864 On this day, the famous American writer and political reporter, John Beauchamp Jones ("Bo-shamp"), wrote in his journal:

Clear and hot, but with a fine breeze-southwest.

Yesterday, I learn, both sides buried the dead...

What a war, and for what?


And then, after giving some updates from the battlefield, John wrote:

Small heads of early York cabbage sold in market to-day at $3, or $5 for two. At that rate, I got about $10 worth out of my garden.
Mine are excellent, and so far abundant, as well as the lettuce, which we have every day.
My snap beans and beets will soon come on.
The little garden is a little treasure.


John Beauchamp Jones was born in Maryland and served as a Confederate soldier during the Civil War.


2022 National Garden Exercise Day

Gardening is a workout. Gardening is therapeutic on so many levels. The physical aspect of gardening is quite demanding and is an excellent way to build muscle and burn calories. And for many garden podcast listeners, the brain is engaged as well - learning about new plants, techniques, or general garden info.

Today and every day in your garden, make sure to stay hydrated and make a point of gardening that promotes good health - take breaks, stretch, use garden chairs, add elevated beds, etc. Be careful living heavy items and tuck some bandaids, bee sting relief (like an epi-pen or Benedryl), and betadine in your garden tote. You never know when you might need a little first aid in the garden. Happy gardening!!
It's National Garden Exercise day!


Grow That Garden Library™ Book Recommendation

The Sibley Guide to Trees by David Allen Sibley
This book came out in 2009, but this is one of the best when it comes to tree-reference books.

This book has over 500 five-star reviews on Amazon, and it's easy to see why — this book is laid out in such an accessible way. It's effortless to use.

I keep one tucked in my garden bench in the garage because I love keeping this guide handy.

And I should mention that the reason it's called the Sibley Guide to Trees is that it's written by David Alan Sibley. If that name's familiar, it's because he is the bird guide, author, and illustrator. So you have those side-by-side skills of bird identification and tree identification — and they just go together.

David Sibley applies the same approach that he used with birds for the equally complex subject of tree identification.

And if trees are a challenge for you, you will definitely appreciate the over 4,000 illustrations in this guide.

And I had to chuckle just a little bit after reading an Amazon Q&A with David Alan Sibley about this book.

They asked him, Were there significant differences in writing this book vs. the Guide to Birds?

I got a kick out of David's answer:

The obvious difference is that trees are much easier to find. When I needed to study a particular species of tree I could just walk right up to it and spend as much time investigating it as I needed. Birds are more elusive. I had to spend years in the field in order to build up enough observation time to draw them well.


I thought David's response was such a clue to the rest of us regarding tree identification because David spends time with trees. I can't tell you how many people I've helped identify a tree over the years after they spent a mere one or two seconds looking at a single leaf.

Trees can offer us many more clues than just their leaf for identification.

And this leads to another question that Amazon asked David: What would you say to someone who is a beginner at tree identification? 

David said,

The first thing I suggest is to spend some time with the guide. Try to become familiar with the characteristics of certain trees. Then go through the book and mark all the species that occur in your area. This will help you become familiar with the range of species that could be present so when you see an odd leaf shape, fruit, flower, bark pattern, etc.--even if you can’t remember the name--you can remember seeing it in the guide. Since trees are so easy to approach, you can simply take a photo of the key parts of any tree, or pick up a leaf or other part that has fallen on the ground, and identify it at your leisure.

They key identifiers will always be the shape, color and size of leaves; the color and shape of twigs; the color and texture of bark; and the tree’s overall size and shape as well as habitat, any fruit or flowers, and the timing of seasonal changes. For example, in late May in the northeast, if you see a pale-barked tree with small silvery leaves just emerging (while other trees have well-developed green leaves) you can be virtually certain that is a Bigtooth Aspen. A multi-trunked, spreading tree in wetter soils, with clusters of straw-colored fruit hanging from the twigs all winter, is almost certainly a female Boxelder.


So a couple of great examples from David on tree identification and some great tips to keep in mind. Tree ID is often way more than just looking at a single leaf. Take your time. Look at all the different aspects of the tree and take tons of pictures.

And now, with the iPhone, you can take a picture of any plant or any part of a plant, any leaf, and then press a little info icon, and then it will ask you right there if you want help with plant identification. That particular part of the photos app for me has been beneficial — and, I have to say, surprisingly accurate. So be sure to give that a try if you haven't yet.

This book is 426 pages of tree identification highlighting over 600 tree species.

And it's one of my favorite guides.

You can get a copy of The Sibley Guide to Trees by David Allen Sibley and support the show using the Amazon link in today's show notes for around $17.


Botanic Spark

1925 Birth of Maxine Kumin ("Cue-men") (books by this author), America Pulitzer Prize-winning poet, novelist, children's author, and gardener.

Maxine often incorporated garden themes into her work. She once wrote these words in her poems History Lesson, 

That a man may be free of his ghosts he
must return to them like a garden.
He must put his hands in the sweet rot
uprooting the turnips, washing them
tying them into bundles
and shouldering the whole load to market.


Any gardener who has battled a woodchuck will appreciate Maxine's poem, Woodchucks.

This poem was written after Maxine had to battle a family of woodchucks that had invaded her vegetable garden. In the poem, Maxine examines how everyday people can find themselves in a murderous mindset.

Gassing the woodchucks didn't turn out right.
The knockout bomb from the Feed and Grain Exchange
was featured as merciful, quick at the bone
and the case we had against them was airtight,
both exits shoehorned shut with puddingstone,
but they had a sub-sub-basement out of range.

Next morning they turned up again, no worse
for the cyanide than we for our cigarettes
and state-store Scotch, all of us up to scratch.
They brought down the marigolds as a matter of course
and then took over the vegetable patch
nipping the broccoli shoots, beheading the carrots.

The food from our mouths, I said, righteously thrilling
to the feel of the .22, the bullets' neat noses.
I, a lapsed pacifist fallen from grace
puffed with Darwinian pieties for killing,
now drew a bead on the little woodchuck's face.
He died down in the everbearing roses.


In July 1998, Maxine was gravely injured when her horse bolted at a carriage-driving clinic. To the surprise of her doctors, Maxine managed to survive the ordeal and wrote a book about the time she spent "inside the halo," which kept her head immobilized as she endured weeks of recovery and rehab.

In her 2001 book called, Inside the Halo and Beyond: The Anatomy of a Recovery, Maxine wrote,

Keeping the garden going becomes for the family a way of keeping me going.

Every morning Judith climbs the hill above the farmhouse to where my fenced garden is situated, just below the pond. Everything here is grown organically. The plants thrive in a soil heavily amended with rotted horse manure and are mulched with spoiled hay. The walkways are papered with old grain bags and then covered with pine needles. It has taken years to achieve this orderly oasis, which somehow compensates for my disorderly desk drawers and the chaos of my closet.

In my suburban past, I had only a few self-seeding petunias and cosmos to deal with. The yard was shady; dandelions dotted the grass. To my indifferent eye, it looked adequately tidy.

But when we acquired the farm, I gradually began to see another landscape entirely. Wild asparagus appeared, waving their ferny fronds in unexpected places. In a small sunny clearing, rhubarb
emerged. Garlic chives sent up little white blossoms along the house foundation and great unkillable clumps of chives with fat purple blooms ran rampant around them. Clusters of what resembled sunflowers proved to be edible Jerusalem artichokes. The first time Victor mowed the area we were slowly restoring to lawn, the wonderful pungency of fresh thyme arose from the nubbly "grass."

This season, it is Judith who daily inspects my seven thirty-foot-long raised beds for insect depredation.

Whatever needs picking - broccoli, cauliflower, early green beans, lettuce, radishes, the last of the peas - she takes down to the house to be dealt with. The surplus is blanched and frozen for the winter ahead. The tomatoes are not quite ready; the corn, cucumbers, and summer squashes are still ripening, but soon there will be that gratifying mountain of veggies, the benevolent tyranny I always strive to stay abreast of, pickling, canning, and freezing.

A poem of mine in praise of gardens ends [with these words]:

O children, my wayward jungly dears
you are all to be celebrated
plucked, transplanted, tilled under, resurrected here
even the lowly despised
purslane, chickweed, burdock, poke, wild poppies.
For all of you, whether eaten or extirpated
I plan to spend the rest of my life on my knees.


Maxine died in February of 2014 at the age of 88.


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

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