July 20, 2022 William Byrd II, Gregor Mendel, Anna Plischke, Native vs NonNative, The Artisan Herbalist by Bevin Cohen, and the 1935 Garden Contest in Guymon, Oklahoma


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Historical Events

1720 On this day, William Byrd II visited John Custis of Williamsburg.

William and John had marked sisters - Lucy and Frances Park. William founded the city of Richmond, Virginia. John's only surviving son, Daniel Parke Custis, became the first husband of Martha Washington. The two colonial men of means shared a love of gardening. 

William wrote in his diary for this day in 1720, that John Custis had just put gravel in his garden - likely for the garden paths.

Many years later, America's first botanist John Bartram visited William's garden at Westover. Bartram noted that William also had gravel paths in his garden when he wrote to the English botanist Peter Collinson on July 18, 1740.

John wrote, 

Colonel Byrd is very prodigalle [with his garden]...new gates, gravel walks, hedges, cedars finely twined, and a little greenhouse with two or three orange trees...
he hath the finest seat in Virginia.

William Byrd's beautiful tombstone stands in his beloved garden at Westover Plantation in Charles City, Virginia.


1822 Birth of Gregor Mendel, Czech scientist, Augustinian friar, and abbot of St. Thomas' Abbey in Brno.

Gregor experimented with peas to establish the modern science of genetics. During seven years in the mid-1800s, Gregor grew nearly 30,000 pea plants, and he took note of everything: their height, shape, and color. And it was Gregor Mendel who came up with all of the genetic terms and terminology that we still use today, like dominant and recessive genes. 

Peas are easy to grow. They tolerate the cold weather in the shoulder seasons of spring and fall. 
Ripe peas are yellow, and historically, the French preferred a yellow pea. But since the 1600s, peas are mostly harvested when they are still immature ad green. And in China, it's the pea leaves that are considered a delicacy.

Now the significance of Mendel's work was not realized until the turn of the 20th century - over three decades after Mendel's death. But Gareth Williams, the author of Unravelling the Double Helix: The Lost Heroes of DNA, pointed out that Mendel made another significant discovery about plant reproduction - the power of a single grain of pollen. Gareth wrote,

Mendel’s last forays into botany included the satisfying demonstration that even the greatest living scientists could be wrong. Armed with a fine paintbrush and a microscope, the poor-sighted abbot proved that a single grain of pollen was enough to fertilize an ovum – something that Charles Darwin had insisted was impossible.


1895 Birth of Anna Plischke, Austrian garden designer.

In the 1920s, Anna began her professional career working as a gardener and then a garden architect. During her career, Anna designed around twenty private gardens in Austria and New Zealand. She received steady work by partnering with her architect husband, Ernst Plischke, in Brooklyn, Wellington. Because she was Jewish, Anna was denied membership in an Austrian landscape architects association. After their home was searched by the Gestapo, Earnst and Anna Plischke fled to New Zealand to seek haven with one of Anna's sons. But even in New Zealand, the couple had to overcome discrimination. Ernst recalled a neighbor who had fought in WWI and was convinced the Plischkes were German spies. 

In the beginning, Anna worked as a gardener doing manual labor. She planted flower beds and trimmed hedges. She sold produce from the family garden. After WWII, Anna began working as a garden designer. A pioneer of New Zealand landscapes, Anna believed that the garden was an extension of the house. Traditional New Zealand gardens consisted of kitchen gardens in the backyard and a small ornamental garden in the front yard.

Anna wrote an essay about her own garden called 'A garden for pleasure' and in 1951 she featured her garden and the plans for it in an illustrated article for Design Review.

Anna let the location and unique topography of each site dictate her plans and plant placement. She wrote, 

With every plant, I... try to find ... [where each plant] looked best...

Tidiness should not be overdone... I prefer a much wilder effect [which is] quite a contrast with the prevailing "short back and sides" approach to the husbandry of suburban lawns and gardens in New Zealand.


During her twenty-five years in New Zealand, Anna's work grew through referrals and her husband's residential architecture work. In 1962, the Plischke's returned to Austria after Ernst was offered a position leading an Architecture Academy. Anna died in 1983 and remains a largely unsung hero in the history of garden design.


1997 On this day, an article about native vs. nonnative plants called Purists Take on Pragmatists was featured in The News and Observer (Raleigh, North Carolina).

The article began this way.

Thank you, thank you, thank you for the glorious wildflowers along 1-95!" reads a small handwritten note from a Lakehurst, N.J., woman, sent after a road trip through the Tar Heel state.

The effusive letter is tucked inside a Manila folder at the Department of Transportation with 2,000 others like it.

They lifted our spirits," says a Cape Cod couple of the roadside wonders.

"Wow!" says Mrs. Davenport's second grade class.

But mention the state's widely acclaimed wildflower program to certain botanists, and they are not so complimentary.

"Horticultural manipulation." says Ken Moore, assistant director of the North Carolina Botanical Garden,

"Invasive aliens," exclaims Bob Tuggle of the state's Wildflower Preservation Society.

"They're misleading the general publie," asserts Kim Hawks, owner of Niche Gardens, a Chapel Hill mail-order nursery.

Why the squabble? Because fewer than one third of the 26 wildflowers in North Carolina's $800,000-a-year wildflower program are
actually native to the state. Most are non-native vegetation from places such as Mexico, Morocco and Texas. And a handful are
European flowers that were only "naturalized" here after settiers began to plant them in their back yards in the 1600s.

Take the hugely popular electric-orange poppy that sprouted this spring near Cape Carteret: It's from California.

The golden cosmos planted near Waynesville along I-40: It's from Brazil.

The pink catenfly: It was shipped here with pioneers from the Old World.

The alien status of these floral beauties might not matter to awestruck motorists. But the issue is creating a rift in the state's horticultural community, pitting wildflower purists against well-meaning gardeners, and advocates of the all-natural, shaggy-grass look against fans of the neatly groomed lawn.

Glaring at a state map with a photo of California poppies and toadflaxes at the foot of Pilot Mountain, Moore of the N.C. Botanical Garden cringes
"This is not North Carolina," he says, looking; like an art lover faced with a forged Impressionist painting.

"The people who travel our roadways don't have a clue what's native and what's not, and they don't care,' says Bill Johnson, who runs North
Carolina's 3,000-acre wildflower program. *What they like is beauty and bursts of color along the highway. The bottum line is the California poppies and the cosmos cause the letters to be written.'

Ever since its birth in 1965 as a 12-acre experiment, North Carolina's program, paid for from the sale of vanity plates and federal highway
beautification funds, has received praise from around the country.

Dottie Martin, North Carolina's first lady at the time, andi tourism promoter Hugh Morton, who owns Grandfather Mountain, began the
effort, which was prompted by an increased interest in dressing up the 77,000 miles of state-maintained roadways, the most in the nation.

Lady Bird Johnson, the former first lady who intensified her zealous lobbying for American wildflowers in the 1980s, also was an inspiration.

The program, although controversial, has made North Carolina a shining star on the horticultural map.

"You all have the best [program] in the nation.' says a sheepish-sounding Jerry Wall, who helps run Georgia's 23-year-old, 300-acre program.
Even Texas, the founder of the oldest - and biggest - program in the nation, is getting nervous. Texas' $1.6 million, 800,000-acre program was founded in the 1930s and features the state's native blue-bonnet. For years, the program was considered the country's model.

"North Carolina is gaining on us." says Flo Oxley, a botanist at the National Wildflower Research Center in Austin.

Such compliments do not appease purists here, who insist our program is not doing enough to honor North Carolina's natural heritage. After all,
they point out, "natural" is what Lady Bird Johnson always advocated.
"Be sure your plants are native ..." she is often quoted as saying. "Something that speaks of your part of the land."

The article ended with a list of native plants

The department began its wildflower program in 1985 when it
bought a commercially available mix of wildflower seed containing a
number of different species and used it on 12 acres of land. The pro-
gram now covers 3,500 acres and costs $800,000, money that comes
from the sale of vanity plates and from federal highway beautification
funds. Here are the flowers that were planted in the 1996-97 season.
There is some dispute over which are native.

Native: was here before settlers arrived
Non-native: grows naturally in other parts of the world
Naturalized: non-native, but has begun to grow here naturally
Horticultural derivation: a flower that has been bred

The Department of Transportation and botanist Ken Moore
agree on how to classify the following flowers:

New England aster
Bur marigold
Tall lance-leaved coreopsis
Purple coneflower
Narrow-leaf sunflower
Black-eyed Susan

Wall flower (from Canary Islands)
Cosmos (from Mexico)
Golden cosmos (from Mexico and Brazil)
Sweet William (from Russia and China)
California poppy
Common sunflower
Tall toadflax (from Morocco)
White nodding catchfly
Mixed corn poppy (from Europe)
Gloriosa daisy (horticultural derivation)
Red corn poppy (from Europe)

Ox-eye daisy (from Europe)
Calliopsis, tall plains coreopsis
Purple dame's rocket (Europe)
Red drummond phlox (Texas)
Tall pink catchfly (from Europe)

The DOT and Moore do not agree on whether
the following are native, naturalized or non-native:
Clasping coneflower
Maximilian sunflower
Shasta daisy


Grow That Garden Library™ Book Recommendation

The Artisan Herbalist by Bevin Cohen
This book came out in 2020, and the subtitle is Simple Ideas For Small Outdoor Spaces.

You can get a copy of The Artisan Herbalist by Bevin Cohen and support the show using the Amazon link in today's show notes for around $ 


Botanic Spark

1935 On this day, the Guymon Daily Herald Guymon, Oklahoma shared an update on the local Chamber of Commerce County Garden Contest.

All of the gardens entered in the contest were paid a visit.

Those farmers' wives who battle the elements and cultivate gardens in Texas county this year are about the pluckiest healthiest and most Intelligent lot of women the writer has had the pleasure of meeting for a long time and they were all pretty good lookers too.

That was the estimate put on them by Chairman E W Sharpe of the Guymon Chamber of Commerce Garden Contest Committee, Jack Mayfield, and the editor who visited thirteen of the gardens Friday and talked with the ladies who had planted and cultivated them. And most all of them were mothers of good-looking bright and clean boys and girls who helped to bring out all the good points of the plants, vegetables, and fruits produced.

Successfully growing vegetables this year has been even more of a task than it was last year when there were 19 participants in the Chamber of Commerce contest. This year there are 27 entries and dry periods, accidents to windmills, and hail and hot and electrical winds have made their efforts almost unavailing In some Instances.

But every one of the gardens we visited were almost Immaculate In cultivation and there were no weeds to share the valued moisture. There was little variance In the varieties of the vegetables in the different gardens.

Some had windbreaks, that ranged from good-sized trees to tamarack hedges, grape vines on posts and wire fences covered with gunny sacking, board fences, picket fences, rows of thickly planted corn, and some had no protection other than barb wire fences, and of course, they ranged from good to better and much better gardens. But thank you, we were not judging or scoring, just looking, and SO we hope to keep in the good graces of all the contestants. The vegetables we noted were principally tomatoes, sweet corn, potatoes, and sweet potatoes, cucumbers, onions, garlic, cabbage, rhubarb, chard, peppers, peas, black-eyed peas, beans, lettuce, radishes, celery, cauliflower, cantaloupes, watermelons, peanuts, horse radish, spinach, beets, Orach greens, pöke, pimentos, collards, parsley, asparagus, okra, mustard, eggplant, Parsifal, mint, and some we couldn't name; and in growing fruits, there were gooseberries, strawberries, blackberries, wonder berries, young berries, grapes, mulberries, cherries, plums, peaches, and black currents, and there were black walnuts, also.

Mrs. Ernest H. Fischer, northwest of Optima, was found in her garden, replanting a number of rows of vegetables that had perished while Mr. Fischer was endeavoring to make repairs on a windmill. She had already canned and used a goodly supply of the products of her garden, and believes it will be in good condition again by the time the scorer gets around if she just does not come too soon. Only 4½ inches of rain, and then trouble with the well and windmill have not kept her from having a very productive garden.

Mrs. Esther Mouser up west of Hooker, led us to an immaculately clean garden, but while she was away from home, the day before a flock of forty ducks had found an opening, and what they had done to the green things there was a sight. All the tenderest stems had been nibbled off down almost to the ground, and replanting was in order. Her garden this year is on a new lot, as bindweed had made her old garden plot untenable. She is hoping to have a good showing for the scorer, notwithstanding the destruction by the ducks.

Mrs. George Dysinger, northwest of Hooker, who was the winner last year, again has a most creditable garden, with good production, but trouble with a windmill has been a serious handicap, she states. Her garden plot is tiled.

Mrs. L. H. Hatfield, east of Hooker, has a beautiful and productive garden, with many varieties of vegetables, and flowers also, and this is partially shaded by a wonderful seven-year-old, bearing black walnut tree. The garden rows are on a slight incline and pipes from a water reservoir make possible a continuous flow of moisture as needed. Mr. Hatfield lays claim to the credit for about a dozen small black walnut trees, from which he says he gathered 20 bushels of nuts one year.

Mrs. Kay Thompson, northeast of Hooker, has a large, beautifully arranged garden that is bordered with trumpet vines and foliage and Verdant with production. A part of this garden is tiled, and she hopes to have it all tiled another season.

Mrs. Ernest Montandon east of Hooker, has a productive and well-arranged garden, in which she has inserted a few rows of flowers that add to its attractiveness. Several rows of thickly planted corn form a fine windbreak that is doing effective service.

Mrs. Robert Freeman, east of Hooker, has 31 varieties of vegetables in her spacious garden, and they all seem to be doing fine, and Mr. Freeman has a large patch of
potatoes. Last year he produced 90 bushels of Ane potatoes and he has a number of peach trees that are bearing.

Mrs. John Elmore, northeast of Hooker, has a beautiful, well-protected, and productive garden.

Mrs. Arthur Hutchinson, southeast of Hooker, has a pretty garden partially irrigated with a tiling system, and a pool with large, beautiful goldfish, some of them large
enough to make a good meal for two, we would think.

Mrs. Ernest Koehler and Mrs. S. D. Wall were not at their homes east of Adams. Both were attending a club picnic we were informed, and so We could only admire their gardens.

Mrs. W. P. Mayfleld was another who had experienced misfortune with her garden this year, but was endeavoring to overcome the bad weather conditions and the ravages of the sun during a three-day period when the windmill got out of repair. Mr. Mayfield called us over to see four baby skunks he had captured, and Jack, who couldn't scrape up any relationship there, wanted to bring one of the baby skunks home with him, but Mr. Sharpe preferred that he carry the pet in some other car.

Mrs. Gertrude Hill, northeast of Adams, has a small but productive garden lot, that is quite attractive.


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