July 25, 2022 William Forsyth, Louisa Yeomans King, Elias Canetti, Grace Hight Kirkwood, The Edible Garden by Michael Judd, and St. James Day


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Historical Events

1804 Death of William Forsyth, Scottish botanist.

William trained as a gardener at the Oxford Physic Garden. In 1771, William became the backfill to Philip Miller, the royal head gardener.

Three years later, Willaim built one of the very first rock gardens with over forty tons of stone collected from around the Tower of London. He also incorporated pieces of lava imported from Iceland. Despite his efforts, the garden was a bust.

William Forsyth was also a founding member of the Royal Horticultural Society.

And the genus, Forsythia, was named in his honor by Carl Peter Thunberg. There are several different varieties of Forsythia, which is also known by the common name golden bell. A member of the olive family, Forsythias are related to the Ash tree. Forsythia is a vernal shrub. Vernal shrubs bloom in the spring.

In Alison Brackenbury's poem Schemes, she writes,

Who plants forsythia now? It is not tasteful;
Too ragged, tall, and dull when leaves are out.
But see the sparrows rush into its heart,
Eyes stroke it, raw and golden as a shout.

1905 On this day, Louisa Yeomans King wrote in her book The Flower Garden Day by Day.

JULY 25. Sow mignonette to-day for autumn flowering, also the evening stock, Matthiola bicornis, not for its flower, but for its delicious fragrance in the dews of evening

Matthiola longipetala is known as night-scented stock or evening stock and is an ornamental. As the common names imply, night-scented stock is primarily grown for the evening scent. Matthiola longipetala can handle very cold temps and as a hardy annual it actually prefers cool conditions and full sun. Sounds like Minnesota or Siberia to me.


1905 Birth of Elias Canetti, Bulgarian-English author who wrote in German.

Elias won the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1981 and is most remembered for his book, Crowds and Power.

In Die gerettete Zunge: Geschichte einer Jugend, Elias wrote,

Border crossings in the Balkans, where bitter wars have been waged, were not regarded as pleasurable; in many places, they weren't even possible, and one avoided them.

But, while riding in the droshky and later, when we dismounted, we saw the most luxuriant orchards and vegetable gardens, dark-violet eggplants, peppers, tomatoes, cucumbers, gigantic pumpkins and melons; I couldn't get over my amazement at all the different things that grew here.

"That's what it's like here", said Mother, "a blessed land. And it's a civilized land, no one should be ashamed of being born here."

1906 Birth of Grace Hight Kirkwood, American landscape architect.

She went by Sunny. Her son said,

It was her childhood spent in the woods and mountains of New Hampshire and her father's interest in nature that provided the foundation for her unique perception of the forms and lines in nature and how they might be used to enhance daily activities.

Sunny's interest in gardens and landscapes was piqued after she helped a neighbor design a garden.

After graduating from Wellesley, Sunny went to the old Cambridge School at the Graduate School of Smith College to get her MLA. Sunny served as president of the Winchester Garden Club.

In 1935 Sunny designed and installed an Aunt Helen's Herb Garden behind the historic Gilbert House circa 1794 in Storrowton Village in West Springfield, Massachusetts. The garden was designed to show visitors how herbs were used in the 18th and 19th centuries. The four sections of the garden are based on herbal uses: medicinal, culinary, textile, and household.

Today, Master gardeners and volunteers lead tours at Helen's Herb Garden to show visitors how soapwort can be steeped in a bucket of water to create a lather that can be used as soap or shampoo.

The garden features common herbs like sage, echinacea, mint, calendula, and lavender.

In an article about her husband's appointment to the Massachusetts Commissioner of Public Health, the community also learned a little bit more about the Kirkwood family and about Sunny. 

The Kirkwoods live in a "modern house". They built it in 1940 on three acres of land that was part of the land that belonged to her grandmother... 

Sam and [Sunny] Kirkwood and Carol Fulkerson drew the plans for the house and supervised the construction of the flat-roofed off-white structure of concrete blocks and wood. The 18 by 40-foot living room on the upper floor looks out across the Mystic Lakes and there is a 50-foot drop below the terrace outside the great window. The bedrooms and Sunny's office are on the lower floor.

Sunny designed the "Garden for the Blind" at Radcliffe College, the Kitchen Garden at Mt. Vernon, gardens at Harvard Business School, and the Serpentine Wall at the corner of Brattle Street and Fresh Pond Parkway, Cambridge.

When Sunny's husband worked as president of American University in Beirut, Sunny designed gardens at the American embassies in Tehran, Beirut, Bahrain; and Amman. She designed gardens for the Shah of Iran and also had other commercial projects throughout the middle east. After her husband was targeted for kidnapping by Islamic terrorists, Sunny and Sam returned home. But, Sunny continued to work on projects in the region. 

In 1995, Sunny designed the Sunny Kirkwood gardens at the Squam Lake Science Center, which were named in her honor.  In the middle of the project, Sunny got a call from the Tehran Hilton asking where exactly the palm trees should be placed in the courtyard.

Sunny's health was declining as she designed her namesake gardens. The garden website wrote that,

Sunny Kirkwood designed the gardens meticulously.

...Sunny would specify exactly how many of each plant she wanted and where she wanted them planted.

In order to get the plants for the upper garden, lists of what were needed were sent out to the full membership and most were donated.

Sunny would be brought to the gardens by her nurse where she would sit and direct volunteers and staff.

It was harder to get materials for the lower garden, because those working on the project had already asked everyone they knew for the plants used in the upper garden.

The gardens’ stonework was put in by AmeriCorps volunteers. Swenson Granite also donated a lot of it and some of it was purchased by the Science Center.

The pergola, steps, and benches were paid for individually by donors. George Carr, a Science Center trustee, wrote a grant to the New Hampshire Landscape Gardeners Association, a group that takes on one non-profit project each year. ...They were thrilled to help.

Hayden McLaughlin of Belknap Landscape Company took charge at that point and organized many other landscapers and nurseries around the state. They all came one day in 1996 and planted the majority of the plants in the lower garden.

When the dedication ceremony took place, late in the summer of 1996, Sunny was in such poor health that she had to be brought to the ceremony by ambulance, but it was very important to her that she attend, and she did. That was when she expressed her enthusiastic approval of the fountain in the upper garden.

According to a speech by trustee Carol Thompson in 1997, Diana Horton, Sunny’s daughter, gave a funny speech about her mother at the event and Sunny loved it. The speech also describes Sunny as someone who was “everyone’s picture of an ideal grandmother” and was kind, patient, and had a great sense of humor.


Grow That Garden Library™ Book Recommendation

The Edible Garden by Michael Judd
This book came out in 2020, and the subtitle is Simple Ideas For Small Outdoor Spaces.

You can get a copy of The Edible Garden by Michael Judd and support the show using the Amazon link in today's show notesfor around $ 


Botanic Spark

Every July 25th is St. James Day.
St. James is honored with St. James' Wort or ragwort, staggerwort, or stammerwort, which blossoms during this time of the year. 

In Eastern Prussia, St. James' Night is considered unlucky. Folklore has it that people need to avoid climbing a cherry tree to avoid death by falling.

In England, it was customary for children to make caves and grottoes with seashells for St James. The scallop shell is a symbol of St. James.

In other plant lore, if Chicory was cut with a golden blade and gathered in total silence at either noon or midnight on St James' Day, then you could become invisible and would have the power to open any lock and could access doors and boxes previously unavailable to you.

Right about now, you may find yourself driving down the road and spying a little electric blue blossom by the side of the road, chances are, you are looking at chicory.

Back in 2019, listener Danny Perkins shared a post at the end of August sharing beautiful photos of chicory.

A few years ago, I used to drive the boys into St. Paul for basketball camp, and when I pulled off the freeway, there it was - Chicory - impossibly growing in between cracks in the cement along the sidewalk.

I went straight to my Mac when I got home and ordered seeds on the spot.

The blue color of chicory petals is positively luminescent. Chicory is a distant cousin to the dandelion.

Chicory coffee and tea are made from Chicory root. It has a similar flavor profile as coffee but offers additional woodiness without any caffeine.

Daily Gardener Listener Diane Lydic posted in the Facebook group for listeners of the show:

My father used to pick it on his way home from work. He made a map of all the patches so he could remember for next year. Delicious with olive oil and vinegar with hard-boiled eggs. Always a treat!

Diane's father is a man after my own heart. Anyone who makes a map of roadside patches of precious plants is a friend in my book!


Thanks for listening to The Daily Gardener

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

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