July 13, 2022 Allan Cunningham, John Clare, Henry Arthur Bright, Alison Hawthorne Deming, The Grove by Ben Dark, and Mrs. James Hall


Apple | Google | Spotify | Stitcher | iHeart


Support The Daily Gardener

Buy Me A Coffee 


Connect for FREE!

The Friday Newsletter Daily Gardener Community


Historical Events

1791 Birth of Allan Cunningham, English botanist and explorer.

He is remembered for his travels in Australia to collect plants. In 1988, the author Margaret Steven called Allan, 

Perhaps the most widely traveled scientific explorer in the history of Australian exploration.

Despite his reputation as the prince of Australian explorers by botanists of his time and his incredible botanical work, which he mostly accomplished during a fifteen-year sprint, there was no biography written about Allan until 1970 when W.G. McMinn wrote Allan Cunningham, botanist, and explorer (1970).

Sir Joseph Banks recommended Allan to serve botanical collector for the Royal Botanic Gardens at Kew, and in short order, Allan was on a ship for Australia. Allan came to Australia with tuberculosis and happily discovered Australia's climate helped him feel better. He arrived in Sydney on December 20, 1816, and immediately joined expeditions to explore the country. He returned to England in 1830.

Allan's brother Richard was also a botanist. In 1835, he was killed during an Australian expedition on the Bogan River by native warriors. 

Allan returned to Australia in 1837 and served as the first Superintendent of the Royal Botanic Garden in Sydney. But Allan was not content with the administrative nature of the job. He left the position after one year and set off on a new adventure to explore the plants of New Zealand.

Today there is a memorial to the modest and earnest plantsman Allan Cunningham in the Royal Botanic Garden in Sydney. The Allan Cunningham Obelisk is located in the middle of a pond beside the Royal Botanic Gardens Restaurant. The pond is a favorite spot for ducks and other waterfowl to swim. And one of the Garden's most prized archival pieces is a collecting chest that Allan used in the field to gather specimens. 

Allan is also remembered in the naming of the Crotalaria cunninghamii, also known as Green birdflower or regal birdflower (for its resemblance to a hummingbird), which is a plant of the legume family Fabaceae. The plant is native to northern Australia and is pollinated by large bees and by honeyeaters. The profile of the flowers looks like a hummingbird.

In the summer of 2019, the BHL Australia digitized the first volumes of "Cunninghamia"  and uploaded them to the fantastic online Biodiversity Heritage Library. The journal was named in honor of Allan and is the Journal of the National Herbarium of NSW.

Allan was a plant collector in his heart to the very end. After his trip to New Zealand, he returned to Sydney in feeble health. As he lay dying in his bed on June 27, 1839, at the age of 48, he was read a happy letter from Sir Gordon Bremer about the new colony at Port Essington. And for a moment, Allan's attention and imagination were sparked. His final words were,

Well! Did they go inland?


1793 Birth of John Clare, English poet.

John delighted in gardens, the countryside, and nature. His poems often were a simple expression of his love for everything he saw around him - something beautifully captured in this couplet by John:

For everything I felt a love
The weeds below the birds above

Today at John's thatched cottage, Hollyhocksocks, apples, and Michaelmas daisies still flower in his garden. His memorial and gravestone at St Botolph's Church in the village reads,

A Poet is Born, not Made.

And each year on John's birthday, the children of his little village of Helpston, not far from Peterborough, make little flower posies, and then they lay them on his grave where they read poems they write in his honor.

Here's an excerpt from John's poem, July.

Loud is the summer's busy song
The smallest breeze can find a tongue,
While insects of each tiny size
Grow teasing with their melodies,
Till noon burns with its blistering breath
Around, and day lies still as death.


1874 On this day, the English merchant and author Henry Arthur Bright recorded an update on his summer garden after a trip to Switzerland in his famous book Year in a Lancashire Garden.

There is a longer interval than usual since my last notes; but I have been away among the Soldanellas and the Gentians of
Switzerland, and... have had to leave my garden to the gardener's care.

Now that I have returned, I find how much has gone on, and how much I must have missed. The Nemophila bed, I hear, gradually filled up and became a perfect sheet of brilliant blue. The Anemone bed was very good, and that of Ranunculus very fair; but best of all, as I knew it would be, was the bed of Brier Roses, with their trained branches laden with sweet little yellow blossoms. 

...There is nothing I am more sorry to have missed than the great shrub--almost tree--of Buddleia globosa, which grows in the centre of one of the herbaceous borders. It has been, as it always is, covered with its golden balls, smelling of honey, and recalling an old garden in Somersetshire which I knew years ago.

It is certainly true that nothing calls up associations of the past as does the sense of smell. A whiff of perfume stealing through the air, or entering into an open window, and one is reminded of some far-off place on some long-past day when the same perfume floated along, and for one single moment the past will seem more real than the present. The Buddleia, the Magnolia, and one or two other flowers always have this power over me.

...The mixed borders are almost past their best,--at least the hairy red Poppy, the day Lily, and the early purple Gladiolus are over, and, of course, the Irises and Pæonies. At present various Canterbury Bells, Valerian (which I saw bedded out the other day at Liége), and the white and orange Lily, are the gayest things we have. There is a Mullein, too, which is well worth a corner in any garden. Not long since I saw, in some book ...the spire of a cathedral ...compared to a spike of Mullein flower. 

But I hardly care to linger over other flowers, when the Rose-beds are in their fullest splendour. The summer Roses must have been better a fortnight back, but the perpetuals are as good as can be, and many of the summer Roses yet remain.

I sometimes fear that the passion for large, well-formed blossoms, and the desire of novelty, will make some of the dear old Roses of our childhood pass into entire neglect;

...When Herrick warns us--

"Gather ye Rosebuds while ye may,"

or when Hood tells us--

"It was the month of Roses,
We plucked them as we passed,"

-- their Roses were other than the favourite roses of today.

Perhaps they were the old Cabbage Rose, a great bush of which grows next to a bed of Lavender, and pleasantly scents the garden as you enter it.

Perhaps they were the Portland Rose, of which I have some three beds, and than which no Rose is better for... making... Pot Pourri.

Perhaps they were the Moss Rose, with its mossed buds and fragrant blossoms, of which I have another bed entirely for itself.

It is mentioned in the Baroness Bunsen's Life how Mrs. Delany loved to fill her china bowls with the pink buds of the Monthly Rose,
surrounded by sea-green shoots of the young Lavender.

Not of course that we are not grateful for the new Roses, with their brilliant colouring and their perfect form, but we are unwilling that
the old should be forgotten.

How the Rose twines itself around all history and all literature! 

But no nation ever loved the Rose as did the Greeks, and it was their legend that told us how the Rose sprang to birth.

Bion's "Lament for Adonis" has been translated by Mrs. Browning, and ...it appears to me, on the whole, perhaps the very best translation in the language.

Here are the lines which tell this part of the story:--

"Ah, ah, Cytherea! Adonis is dead;
She wept tear after tear with the blood which was shed,
And both turned into flowers for the earth's garden close,--
Her tears to the Windflower, his blood to the Rose."

No wonder the Greeks wove their wreaths of the Rose.

The weather has been hot, and rain will now be welcome.


1946 Birth of Alison Hawthorne Deming, American poet, essayist, and teacher.

She is a former Agnese Nelms Haury Chair in Environment and Social Justice and currently Regents Professor Emerita in Creative Writing at the University of Arizona. In 2015, she received a Guggenheim Fellowship.

Alison wrote about the caterpillar in her book The Monarchs: A Poem Sequence.

A caterpillar spits out a sac of silk
where it lies entombed while its genes
switch on and off like lights
on a pinball machine. If every cell
contains the entire sequence
constituting what or who the creature is,
how does a certain clump of cells
know to line up side by side
and turn into wings, then shut off
while another clump blinks on
spilling pigment into the creature's
emerald green blood, waves of color
flowing into wingscales - black, orange,
white - each zone receptive only to the color
it's destined to become. And then
the wings unfold, still wet from their making,
and for a dangerous moment hold steady
while they stiffen and dry, the double-
layered wing a proto-language - one side
warning enemies, the other luring mates.
And then the pattern-making cells go dormant,
and the butterfly has mastered flight.



Grow That Garden Library™ Book Recommendation

The Grove by Ben Dark
This book came out in 2022, and the subtitle is A History of Everything in 19 ½ Front Gardens.

Ben Dark is a head gardener, award-winning broadcaster, and landscape historian. Ben's been described as 'the millennial Monty' by Gardeners' World Magazine and 'the future of horticulture' by Horticulture Week.

The Telegraph called Ben's book the best gardening book of 2022.

The publisher writes,

In The Grove, award-winning writer and head gardener Ben Dark reveals the remarkable secrets of twenty commonly found species - including the rose, wisteria, buddleja, box and the tulip - encountered in the front gardens of one London street over the course of year.

As Ben writes, in those small front gardens 'are stories of ambition, envy, hope and failure' and The Grove is about so much more than a single street, or indeed the plants found in its 19 ½ front gardens. It's a beguiling blend of horticultural history and personal narrative and a lyrical exploration of why gardens and gardening matter.

Ben's stories cover Wisteria, Camellia, Privet, Grapevine, Buddleja, Tulip, Hollyhock, Flowering Cherry, Red Valerian, Magnolia, Pelargonium, Iris, Box, London Pride, Apple, Lawn, Verbena bonariensis, Rose, and London Plane.

Here's a sample of Ben's unique perspective on the plant world and his wonderful writing voice.

But that didn't matter. I recognized the shrubs and I could name them. The pavement had new meaning. It was no
longer 'the bit outside 67', it was the pavement by the variegated Euonymus fortunei.

My second day at horticultural college had finished an hour earlier with twelve plant sprigs set in milk bottles and the instruction: 'memorize them'. Genus (Euonymus), followed by species (fortunet), followed by cultivar ('Emerald 'n' Gold'). And now one of those plants was in front of me, carrying with its garish leaves the obvious but somehow overlooked realization that every plant on Norroy Road had a name and was learnable.

I awoke to plants with a convert's zeal.

I could speak new language.

My commute became circuitous. It took an extra forty minutes to reach our shared house, with detours to Fanthorpe Street, Erpingham Road and Clarendon Drive. My girlfriend waited while I scratched mahonia to show her wood the colour of turmeric, or crushed choisya to release the scent of vodka and basil. These were not rare plants, they grew on any street with gardens. Some I had certainly passed every day of my life, and yet I had let them remain undifferentiated. It was as if I had
unquestioningly inhabited a city where people had no face, just a smooth balloon of flesh; and then one day I'd changed my spectacles and seen smiles everywhere.

I had not been unaware of nature. I knew an ash tree and a horse chestnut and I had a recipe for sloe gin. But I was plant- blind. Anything that was not emblematic or edible melted into a leafy backdrop. Sometimes bits of hedgerow would produce greengage plums, but I never learned about them from their foliage or their naked stems. It was easier to wait for the fruit and be surprised each time.


Ben's writing is easy to get lost in.

This book is such a guilty pleasure for gardeners. 

This book is 336 pages of garden love from a fresh new voice - Ben Dark.

You can get a copy of The Grove by Ben Dark and support the show using the Amazon link in today's show notes for around $20.


Botanic Spark

1911 On this day, Mrs. James Hall of St. Paul, Nebraska, set out her late cabbage, which ultimately weighed six or seven pounds each when they were harvested.

She shared the story of her garden with Henry Field in his charming book called The Book of a Thousand Gardens.

This is the part of the country formerly known as the Great American Desert now by the name of the Sand Hills of Nebraska.
Our place is sixteen miles north of Grand Island.

We planted about an acre to early vegetables.
It gave great promise of an excellent yield, but about the 22d of April we had a severe sand storm lasting about four days, and on the 18th of May a genuine blizzard finished our early prospect.

We at once replanted and set and reset both cabbage and tomato plants, as it was very dry and unfavorable.
Some places we set five times.

On August 22d, we telephoned to a dealer in Grand Island what he was paying for large cucumbers and sweet corn.
He said he had not bought any for a year but to be sure and see
him first.

I sent thirteen dozen slicers and forty dozen ears of corn and nine dozen muskmelon.
Cucumbers brought 50c per dozen, corn 15c, and melons 80c and $1.00 per dozen.
That was our first load.

The dealer offered to send after the produce if we would sell exclusively to him.

The next load was fifty dozen slicers, 80 dozen corn and 1,700 pickles and 16 dozen melons.
The distance is so great we don't go every day - but go every other day.

If we had been as wise as we are now, we could have sold some of your Princess watermelons, as they were ripe at this time, but we did not look for them to ripen so early and came near losing them by the oversight.

We cut pickles until two weeks ago and could not supply the orders.

We have the greatest yield of tomatoes. We pick about four or five bushel at a picking.

Our late cabbage we set out on July 13th and some of the heads at the present time will weigh six or seven pounds. We thought it was too late to set very many.

I sold several hundred cabbage plants and about 4,000 tomato plants.

Mrs. James Hall, St. Paul, Nebraska.


Thanks for listening to The Daily Gardener

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

The Daily Gardener
Friday Newsletter

Something went wrong. Please check your entries and try again.

Featured Book

Grow That Garden Library™ Seal of Approval 100x100 (1)

Leave a Comment