July 21, 2022 Matthew Prior, Simon Verelst, Alice Pegler, Wendy Cope, Michael Pollen, Spirit of Place by Bill Noble, and Ernest Hemingway


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Historical Events

1664 Birth of Matthew Prior, English poet and diplomat.

Matthew was also a contributor to The Examiner.

In his poem, A Flower Painted By Simon Verelst "Vur-rilst", Matthew pays homage to the Flemish painter Simon Verelst who was born in Antwerp and settled in England with his brother Herman who was also a flower painter. In addition to flowers, Simon painted royal portraits.

Matthew Prior's poem imagines one of Simon's flower paintings being completed by the goddess of flowers, Flora. Matthew used a little-known word, vouchsafed, in his poem. Vouchsafed means deign or to do something beneath one's station - as in this case, the goddess of Flowers, paying attention to a work of art created by a mere mortal.

Here's Matthew's brief poem about Simon Verelst.

When fam'd Verelst this little wonder drew,
Flora vouchsaf'd the growing work to view:
Finding the painter's science at a stand,
The goddess snatch'd the pencil from his hand;
And finishing the piece, she smiling said, ("sayed")
Behold one work of mine, that ne'er shall fade.


Simon Verelst incorporated flowers into most of his paintings. In 1669, when Samuel Pepys, the English diarist and navy administrator, visited Simon's studio, he was so blown away by the realistic 
moved by one of the paintings, that he later wrote in his diary,

[the] little flower-pot of his drawing, the finest thing that... I [ever] saw in my life; the drops of dew hanging on the leaves, so as I was forced again and again, to put my finger to it, to feel whether my eyes were deceived or [not].

He [asked] 70 for it: I had the vanity to bid... 20, but a better picture I never saw in my whole life; and it is worth going twenty miles to see it.


1861 Birth of Alice Pegler, South African teacher and botanical collector.

Alice suffered from many health ailments which at times inhibited her ability to go plant hunging. She eventually settled in Kentani where she helped to raise and educate her neices. Alice thoroughly investigated and documented the flora of Kentani, in addition to the flora of larger cities like Johannesburg and Rustenberg. In 1916 she published a paper called, "On the flora of Kentani." A second part was published two years later.

Alice's personal herbarium grew to house over 2,000 specimens. Alice also exchanged correspondence with the top South African botanists of her time, like Harry Bolus and Henry Harold Pearson. 

Later in life, as her health declined, Alice turned her attention to algae and fungi.

The South African botanist, IB Pole-Evans once wrote,

Amongst the many enthusiastic collectors who have also assisted very materially in this work, must mention Miss Alice Pegler, of Kentani, who has probably made a more exhaustive collection of the flora of her district than has in any other part of South Africa. yet been attempted

Alice also studied and collected insects - including spiders and scorpions. In The Agricultural Journal of the Union of South Africa (1914), Alice wrote about the bagworm - a pest of Acacias.

One bleak morning in early September I had the good fortune to see the little Bagworms leave the maternal home, where they had been so carefully protected from cold and damp. Yet the little creatures seemed happy enough and soon adjusted themselves to their new environment.

One by one each came out of the bag by the lower opening and swinging. spider-like. on a delicate thread waited the moment when the breeze should bear it to a favourable spot. Here it clung and immediately set to work making a covering out of the tender leaflets which the Acacia horrida puts forth at this time.

In about half an hour, so far as I could judge, it had encased itself, thus forming the rudiments of the somewhat elaborate " bag residence. It is years since that September morning, but I have never again seen them actually leave the bag, although this season visited the trees where they hang in hundreds and observed them every consecutive day for weeks.

Sometimes this pest attacks Acacia melanoxylon. Now and again an occasional one may be found on Loranthus dregei or on an undershrub, but Acacia horrida may fairly be considered its true host, at least in this district.


1945 Birth of Wendy Cope, English poet.

Her husband is the poet Lachlan Mackinnon. 

Here's Wendy's poem called, He Tells Her. 

He tells her that the earth is flat
He knows the facts, and that is that.
In altercations fierce and long
She tries her best to prove him wrong.
But he has learned to argue well.
He calls her arguments unsound
And often asks her not to yell.
She cannot win. He stands his ground.

The planet goes on being round.


And here's a lovely poem that gardeners will especially enjoy - Flowers.

Some men never think of it.
You did. You'd come along
And say you'd nearly brought me flowers
But something had gone wrong.

The shop was closed. Or you had doubts
The sort that minds like ours
Dream up incessantly. You thought
I might not want your flowers.

It made me smile and hug you then.
Now I can only smile.
But, look, the flowers you nearly brought
Have lasted all this while.


1991 On this day, in The New York Times Michael Pollen wrote an article called, A Gardener’s Guide to Sex, Politics and Class War.

He wrote,

Garden writers are essentially comic writers, but we are always going to be more impressed by the heroic and the sublime. Yet in our dealings with nature at Least, heroism and sublimity have probably run their course. To know when to laugh at nature, which will always be pulling the rug out from under us—will always after all have the last laugh—is part of wisdom.


Grow That Garden Library™ Book Recommendation

Spirit of Place by Bill Noble
This book came out in 2020, and the subtitle is Simple Ideas For Small Outdoor Spaces.

You can get a copy of Spirit of Place by Bill Noble and support the show using the Amazon link in today's show notes for around $


Botanic Spark

1899 Birth of Ernest Hemingway, American novelist, short-story writer, and journalist.

He called his economical and subtle writing style the iceberg technique, which had a great impact on 20th-century fiction.

Born in Illinois, Ernest spent a great deal of time outdoors as a child. Nature figures prominently in many of his literary works; the Upper Peninsula of Michigan, the ocean surrounding Cuba, the nature reserves in Eastern Africa, the landscape of Spain, and the sagebrush of Idaho.

In Teaching Hemingway and the Natural World (2017), author Kevin Maier wrote, 

From the trout Nick Adams carefully releases to Santiago’s marlin and Robert Jordan’s “heart beating against the pine needle floor of the forest” to Colonel Cantwell’s beloved Italian duck marshes, and from African savannahs to the Gulf Stream, animals and environments are central to Hemingway’s work and life.


The words inscribed on Ernest Heminway's memorial are from his eulogy for a fast friendship with a kindred spirit; the writer, artist, and sportsman, Gene Van Guilder.

Hemingway's memorial reads,

Best of all he loved the fall,
the leaves yellow on the cottonwoods.
Leaves floating on the trout streams and above the hills.
The high blue windless skies,
now he will be a part of them forever.

Ernest had gone pheasant and duck hunting with Gene the week before he died from an accidental gun discharge during another hunting trip in 1939. Ernest commited suicide in 1961. The two men are buried in the same cemetery in Ketchum, Idaho.

In his moving tribute to Gene, Ernest wrote,

He loved the hills in the spring when the snows go off and the first flowers come.
He loved the warm sun of summer and the high mountain meadows, the trails through the timber and the sudden clear blue of the lakes.
He loved the hills in the winter when the snow comes.


Ernest never embraced his celebrity. He once wrote,

There is nothing noble in being superior to your fellow man; true nobility is being superior to your former self.

A humble adventurer, Gertrude Stein once famously quipped about Ernest Hemmingway,

He looks like a modern and he smells of the museums.


In A Moveable Feast, Ernest wrote,

With so many trees in the city, you could see the spring coming each day until a night of warm wind would bring it suddenly in one morning. Sometimes the heavy cold rains would beat it back so that it would seem that it would never come and that you were losing a season out of your life. This was the only truly sad time in Paris because it was unnatural. You expected to be sad in the fall. Part of you died each year when the leaves fell from the trees, and their branches were bare against the wind and the cold, wintry light. But you knew there would always be the spring, as you knew the river would flow again after it was frozen. When the cold rains kept on and killed the spring, it was as though a young person had died for no reason.

In those days, though, the spring always came finally, but it was frightening that it had nearly failed.


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