July 8, 2022 John Berkenhout, William Herschel, Mrs. F. E. Griggs, Monty Don, Peonies by Jane Eastoe, and Anna Quindlen


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Historical Events

1726 Birth of John Berkenhout, English physician, naturalist, and writer.

While studying at Edinburgh, John published a botanical lexicon reference.

In it, he wrote,

Those who wish to remain ignorant of the Latin language have no business with the study of Botany.


1822 On this day, Caroline Herschel wrote in her diary about her brother, William Herschel, the German-English astronomer and composer.

Caroline Herschel assisted her brother in his astronomical work, and she became an accomplished astronomer and comet discoverer in her own right. She's remembered as a comet hunter. Two centuries ago, on this day, Caroline wrote,

I had a dawn of hope that my brother might regain once more a little strength; for I have a [note] in my almanac of his walking with a firmer step than usual -- above three or four times the distance from the... house to his library in his garden, for the purpose [of gathering and eating] Raspberries with me; but I never saw the like again.


William Herschel died about six weeks later, at the age of eighty-four. This year is the 200th anniversary of his death.

Forty-one years earlier, on the night of 13 March 1781, William, with his homemade 6.2-inch reflecting telescope, discovered a new planet: Uranus. He initially thought it was "either a Nebulous star or perhaps a comet," and he named it George - Georgium Sidus (the Georgian Planet) - in honor of his patron, King George III. But surprisingly, the name did not stick, and George was renamed Uranus after the Greek god of the sky. Uranus is the first and only planet (thus far) discovered from a backyard garden.

Today William and Caroline's Georgian townhouse and garden at 19 New King Street in Bath is the home of the lovely Herschel Museum. You can stand in the beautiful garden where William and Caroline spent so much time together gazing at the stars.

William's son, John, became an accomplished astronomer and a polymath. He was involved in many other sciences, including botany. 


1912 On this day, Mrs. F. E. Griggs of Raymond, Nebraska, began selling her surplus tomatoes.

She shared the story of her garden with nurseryman Henry Field for publication in his book, The Book of a Thousand Gardens.

Mrs. Griggs, who sold over $50 worth of tomatoes from 135 plants, wrote, 

I had worked very hard for four months, and my garden was a very nice one and I couldn't see it die, so I started in to carry water (a long distance up a 30-foot creek bank). But it did not rain until fall.
...[and] the fall rains washed the fertilier down and they again set the largest crop I ever saw.

I pruned my vines severely and also pinched off all tomatoes that would be gnarled or poor shape, as soon as could see them, and it paid well in the nice crop of smooth ones I got.

The first were ripe July 4th, and on July 8th we were already oversupplied and began selling the surplus to people who had no gardens at all this year. They were 15c per lb. at first, and people said, "Too dear to eat", so my first ones went at 3c.

Later, as they acquired a taste for them, I got 5c, then 7½c and 10c [per pound], but always 3c to 5c under the town retail price, although I had to deliver them.

On Aug. 26th they dropped to 5c, as people were just getting a few scattered ones of their own, and up to that date I had sold $50.00 worth. They were then coming so fast that I had to go on the jump almost to dispose of them, and in my haste one foot slipped from the buggy step and I fell, breaking and badly crushing [my leg] just above the ankle.

So that ended my garden. Not entirely [though], for my heart was [in the garden] and the following week with this fractured limb in plaster cast, I crawled down to [the garden] and gathered [tomatoes] ... I am still unable to walk much.

I then had to give the patch away, and there have been fully 40 bushels eaten, given away and wasted besides my $50.00 worth sold; and the frost has just caught the vines uncovered with an enormous crop of ripe ones and green ones in all stages, just bushels of them.

 I hope some day to see just what an acre of these Field's Early June tomatoes will do.


1955 Birth of Monty Don, English horticulturist and writer.
He once wrote,

I always see gardening as escape, as peace really. If you are angry or troubled, nothing provides the same solace as nurturing the soil.



Grow That Garden Library™ Book Recommendation

Peonies by Jane Eastoe
This book came out in 2018, and the subtitle is Beautiful Varieties for Home & Garden.

And I should mention that the magnificent romantic photographs are by Georgianna Lane.

The publisher wrote this about Jane's book.

From Shawnee Chief to Top Brass, this guide to over 60 varieties of peonies presents an eclectic selection of specimens—from those with the best visual appearance and the most fragrant perfume, to those that are easiest to grow and produce the best cutting flowers. With commentary on each bloom, easy-to-follow growing advice, and glorious photography, Peonies will appeal to anyone who appreciates the romance of the majestic peony.


As a garden plant, peonies are so long-lived. As a result, they are often heirloom flowers. They are a favorite bridal flower. Their color, fragrance, and large blossoms elevate the peony as a worthy rival of the queen of flowers - the rose.

Jane begins with a solid peony introduction. She wrote,

To aid identification, the American Peony Society has classified Six types of flowers: the single, the Japanese, the anemone, the semi-double, the double, and the bomb. Rather than providing wordy descriptions, these are illustrated opposite, where it is easy to see how one type of bloom differs from the other.

Jane covers the history of the peony and then divides peonies into categories: pure, dramatic, romantic, and fragrant. Then she wraps up her book with tips on peony growing and care.

Jane wrote,

This book is designed to inspire you to grow your own peonies. There are thousands of varieties to choose from, with more being released every year. Here we present a selection of personal favorites, a mix of the old, the new, and the cutting edge. As these stunning pictures by photographer Georgianna Lane illustrate, there are peony varieties to suit every taste and every garden color scheme. Garden centers tend to offer just a few limited varieties, so if you want a particular specimen it is best to seek out a specialist peony nursery on the Internet.
One plant will give you, and generations to come great pleasure. In our fast-paced world, there is nothing more therapeutic than a little peony gazing.


I love that Jane points out that you may need to reach out to specialty growers if you want a particular variety. There's no way a garden center could offer every kind of peony. 

You can get a copy of Peonies by Jane Eastoe and support the show using the Amazon link in today's show notes for around $13.


Botanic Spark

1953 Birth of Anna Quindlen, American author,  journalist, and gardener.

In October 1988, Anna wrote an article I love called, Pardon the Garden, Pass the Pumpkin. Here's an excerpt:

I planted a vegetable garden. It seemed like a good idea at the time. The time was early May, and I hadn't had a really good vegetable in months.

I got carried away.

Vegetables look pathetic when they are small, just like children. Four tomato plants, one pumpkin vine, single spray of zucchini or basil just don't seem like enough. Then they grow. (This is why some people have several children. When they are small they don't seem like so many. Then they grow, and pretty soon they are six feet tall and snacking on four fried eggs and a loaf of toast just before bed, and you know you overestimated the demand.)

One morning you go into the garden and the zucchini are the size of clubs. There's nothing you can do with zucchini like that except keep them next to the bed in case you hear noises downstairs in the middle of the night.

You can creep down the steps with one of those things and the right sort of burglar, the kind who knows his greens, will take one look at it, yell, "No! Not the zucchini!" and take off.

This was my first year with pumpkins. I thought it would be fun to have a few in October, when the zucchini plants would be yellowed, the tomatoes past their prime. I never really thought about how large they would become, and how dumb a person would look bringing one to a dinner party in lieu of a chardonnay, while friends peeked from behind the blinds and whispered, "They've brought pumpkins again, Judith."

Of course the denouement was predictable. Everything ripened at the same time. In one week, 1,212 tomatoes turned red, all the pumpkins turned orange and the zucchini disappeared. Oh, they didn't die; left them in mailboxes up and down the road. Naturally, I tried to give away some of the tomatoes, too, but it didn't work; everyone else has the same problem. At the end of one driveway is a sign that says "Don't even THINK of leaving produce here."

It occurs to me that as a child I was lied to when all the grown-ups told that grand story about how the Pilgrims invented Thanksgiving to share the largesse of their harvest with the Indians. The Pilgrims invented Thanksgiving to give
away pumpkins, and probably green tomatoes and enormous zucchini, too.


Thanks for listening to The Daily Gardener

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

The Daily Gardener
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