July 11, 2022 Horace Walpole, Dorothy Thompson, Oliver Sacks, India’s First Cryptogamic Garden, Botany for the Artist by Sarah Simblet, and Mary Russell Mitford
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1788 On this day, Horace Walpole wrote about the powerful impact of rain on the garden.
My verdure begins to recover its bloom.. in this country, nobody pays his debts like rain. It may destroy your flowers, but you cannot complain of want of fruit; cherries, apples, walnuts, are more exuberant than their leaves.
1893 Birth of Dorothy Thompson, American journalist and radio broadcaster.
She is remembered as the First Lady of American Journalism.
In 1934, Dorothy was the first American journalist to be expelled from Nazi Germany. In her final book, The Courage to Be Happy (1957), she wrote:
I am inclined to think that the flowers we must love are those we knew when we were very young, when our senses were most acute to color into smell, and our natures most lyrical.
1933 Birth of Oliver Sacks, British neurologist, naturalist, historian of science, and writer.
I once watched a video featuring Dr. Oliver Sacks, who practiced medicine in NYC across from the New York Botanical Garden (NYBG).
In the video, Oliver reflected on the garden and its meaning. I've cobbled together a few of his inspiring thoughts. Here's what he said:
I think of this garden as a treasure. First, it's a haven. In a noisy, crowded New York, we need a haven; we wander around, and time doesn't matter too much.
When I worked at the hospital opposite the garden, I used to come in every day. Specifically, I would come in after seeing my patients but before writing up my notes. And, I would walk around the garden and put everything out of consciousness except the plants and the air.
But, by the time I got back, the patient's story would have crystallized in my mind [and then] I could then write it straight away. But I needed this sort of incubation in the garden, and to go for a walk in the garden; that sort of thing is an essential thing for me in writing.
I think nature has a healing effect; the garden the closest one can come to nature.
The garden has affected me and does affect me in various ways; it's not just the pleasure of walking around but [also] the very special virtues of the library and the museum and the fact that, in some ways, this is a university as well as a garden.
I just feel very comfortable in the garden, and whenever people come to New York from out of town or out of the country, I say let's go to the garden. I would like to quote a couple of lines from a TS Eliot poem:
Oh, do not ask, 'What is it?'
Let us go and make our visit.
In his book, The River of Consciousness, Oliver wrote,
While most of the flowers in the garden had rich scents and colors, we also had two magnolia trees, with huge but pale and scentless flowers. The magnolia flowers, when ripe, would be crawling with tiny insects, little beetles. Magnolias, my mother explained, were among the most ancient of flowering plants and had appeared nearly a hundred million years ago, at a time when “modern” insects like bees had not yet evolved, so they had to rely on a more ancient insect, a beetle, for pollination. Bees and butterflies, flowers with colors and scents, were not preordained, waiting in the wings—and they might never have appeared. They would develop together, in infinitesimal stages, over millions of years. The idea of a world without bees or butterflies, without scent or color, affected me with a sense of awe.
2021 On this day, India's first cryptogamic garden, with nearly fifty different species, is opened.
Cryptogams are non-seed-bearing plants. These primitive plants do not reproduce through seeds, for example, algae, bryophytes (moss, liverworts), lichens, ferns, fungi, etc.
The garden is located in the Deoban area of Dehradun in Uttarakhand and is situated at 9000 feet and spread over three acres.
Grow That Garden Library™ Book Recommendation
Botany for the Artist by Sarah Simblet ("Sim-blit")
This book came out in 2020, and the subtitle is An Inspirational Guide to Drawing Plants.
In this book, Sarah Simblet takes you on an inspirational journey of creativity and botanical art as she demonstrates how to draw virtually every type of plant.
As Sarah writes in the forward,
This book was inspired by my love of gardening, a desire to know more about the structures, forms, and lives of plants, and an opportunity to spend a whole year exploring wild landscapes and the fabulous collections of the University of Oxford Botanic Garden and Oxford University Herbaria. These collections generously gave or lent me hundreds of pieces of plants to draw or have photographed for this book. Botany for the Artist features around 550 species, chosen to represent almost every kind of plant and habitat on Earth. Gorgeous, unfamiliar exotics are celebrated alongside more common plants, to show the beauty and wonder of the bird-of-paradise flower and the pavement milk thistle, tropical forest fruits and the orchard apple, giant pine cones, and tufts of city moss. Fungi, and some species of algae, are not scientifically classified as plants, but are featured here because they are
fabulous to draw and fascinating in themselves.
Then Sarah points out the exponential understanding of a plant that occurs when you draw it. She wrote,
Drawing is a... direct and universal language, as old as humankind.
If you spend just one hour drawing a plant, you will understand it far better than if you spent the same hour only looking at it. There is something in the physical act of drawing, the coordination of the hand and eye, and the translation of sensory experience into marks and lines that reveals an entirely new way of seeing.
Artists know this, but it is something we can all experience if we draw. And time spent drawing is a revelation, regardless of the results.
Finally, Sarah's book is written in a very friendly tone. She encourages artists to just get started and to use live specimens. She wrote,
Books of advice, classes, and looking at the works of other artists will help you greatly, but you can also learn how to draw simply by doing it. The first step is to simply have a go.
I always draw from real plants-never photographs -- because plants are three dimensional and were once alive, even if they are no longer. They are physically present, and can move, change, and challenge the person drawing them. An artist's relationship with their subject is always innately expressed in their work...
Throughout this book, Sam Scott-Hunter's photographs reveal subtle insights that could not be captured in drawing. They also magnify many details so we can look very closely Into them. I have drawn most plants life-size, for comparison, and also to convey the excitement of giant-sized objects. This diversity is just one characteristic of the vast kingdom of plants that surrounds us all, and it is always there, just outside our door, waiting to be explored.
This book is 256 pages of botanical drawings - from exotics to mosses to towering trees. Join Sarah on an illustrated tour of the plant kingdom and deepen your powers of botanical observation, understanding, and appreciation.
You can get a copy of Botany for the Artist by Sarah Simblet and support the show using the Amazon link in today's show notes for around $18.
1824 Mary Russell Mitford writes to Benjamin Robert Haydon to describe her garden:
My little garden is a perfect rosary - the greenest and most blossomy nook that ever the sun shone upon. It is almost shut in by buildings; one a long open shed, very pretty, a sort of rural arcade where we sit. All and every part is untrimmed, antique, weatherstained, and homely as can be imagined - gratifying the eye by its exceeding picturesqueness, and the mind by the certainty that no pictorial effect was intended - that it owes all its charms to "rare accident."
The previous day, Mary wrote to her dear friend, Emily Jephson (July 10, 1824), and shared her thoughts on the garden as a form of power and fulfillment for women. She wrote,
I am so glad you have a little demesne (dih-MAYN) of your own too;
It is a pretty thing to be queen over roses and lilies, is it not?
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And remember: For a happy, healthy life, garden every day.
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