July 28, 2022 Abraham Cowley, Andrew Jackson Downing, Gerard Manley Hopkins, Helen Beatrix Potter, Plants from Pits by Holly Farrell, and Fabre d’Églantine


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Historical Events

1667 Death of Abraham Cowley, English poet.

Abraham is remembered as one of the leading English poets of the 17th century.

He once wrote,

I never had any other desire so strong, and so like... covetousness, as that one which I have... always [had], that I might be master at last of a small house and a large garden.

Abraham once wrote a poem called The Garden about how lucky a man was if he had a wife that loved gardens and books. In one verse, he wrote,

In thy virtuous wife, where thou again dost meet
Both pleasures more refined and sweet;
The fairest garden in her looks,
And in her mind the wisest books.
Oh, who would change these soft, yet solid joys,
For empty shows, and senseless noise!
And all which rank ambition breeds,
Which seem such beauteous flowers, and are such poisonous weeds?


1815   Today is the anniversary of the tragic death of the horticulturist and writer Andrew Jackson Downing.

Andrew was the author of The Fruits and Fruit Trees of America, which debuted in 1845. He also served as the editor of a magazine called The Horticulturist.

Regarded as one of the founders of American Landscape Architecture, Andrew used The Horticulturist as a platform for advancing his pet causes - of which he had many.

It was Andrew who first came up with the idea for a New York park. Andrew's dream became the park we know today: Central Park. Andrew also wanted individual states to create agriculture schools - and that hope became reality as well.

In 1846, when the National Mall in Washington, DC, was run down and neglected, it fell to Andrew to make plans to revive the space.

In 1791 when the Frenchman Pierre Charles L'Enfant designed the mall, he envisioned a grand avenue. After sixty years the grandeur was gone.

In contrast, Andrew's vision for the dilapidated space was far simpler. Andrew wanted to create what he called a public museum of living trees and shrubs. He was not a fan of formal European gardens and so instead of a grand avenue, Andrew designed four separate parks that were connected by curving walkways with many different trees. Sadly, Andrew's plans never materialized.

In the summer of 1852, Andrew boarded a steamship called The Henry Clay. At some point, the steamship got into a race with another boat called The Armenia. When The Henry Clay began to overheat, a fire broke out in the engine room. As passengers escaped the flames to jump into the water, some began to drown.

A former girlfriend of Andrew's also happened to be on board that fateful day.  When Andrew jumped in the water to save his old flame, her panic caused them both to drown

But before Andrew jumped in, he was one of the men who quickly threw some deck chairs off the boat to serve as flotation devices. As fate would have it, Andrew's wife Carolyn survived the disaster by holding on to one of those deck chairs. Later, many family friends tried to comfort Carolyn by insinuating that Andrew had saved her with one of the chairs.  But was small consolation, given that she lost her husband because he tried to save an old love.

Andrew Jackson Downing was just 36 when he died on this day two hundred and seven years ago.


1844 Birth of Gerard Manley Hopkins, English poet and Jesuit priest.

His poems were religious and often included an appreciation for nature.

His poem Pied Beauty famously begins in praise of nature, 

Glory be to God for dappled things


And his poem, God's Grandeur, praises,

The world is charged with the grandeur of God.

"And for all this, nature is never spent;
There lives the dearest freshness deep down things

Because the Holy Ghost over the bent
World broods with warm breast and with ah! bright wings.


When Gerard died, few people, outside of a few close friends, knew he was a poet. But Gerard Manley Hopkins became famous after his death when his Oxford friend and mentor Robert Bridges, the future poet laureate of England, published his work thirty years after his death.

Gerard once wrote to Robert,

I always knew in my heart Walt Whitman's mind to be more like my own than any other man's living.
As he is a very great scoundrel this is not a pleasant confession.


One spring, Gerard wrote in his diary,

The birds are singing, and the garden is full of clumps of snowdrops.
I meant to enclose some but I find they look wretched against white paper. 


And in his poem Spring, Gerard wrote,

Nothing is so beautiful as Spring –
When weeds, in wheels, shoot long and lovely and lush;

What is all this juice and all this joy?
A strain of the earth’s sweet being in the beginning
In Eden garden. 


Gerard wrote,

Let me be to Thee as the circling bird,
Or bat with tender and air-crisping wings

I have found my music in a common word,
Trying each pleasurable throat that sings

And know infallibly which I preferred.


Gerard suffered from constant health problems.

He died of typhoid fever a few weeks before reaching his 45th birthday. And despite his melancholy, which plagued him most of his adult life, Gerard's final words before he died were,

I am so happy, I am so happy. I loved my life.


Gerard Manley Hopkins was buried in the Jesuit Plot at Glasnevin cemetery in Dublin.


1866 Birth of Helen Beatrix Potter, English writer, illustrator, natural scientist and conservationist.

Beatrix was best known for her children's books like The Tale of Peter Rabbit.

Beatrix once reflected on her childhood home. She wrote,

The place is changed now, and many familiar faces are gone, but the greatest change is myself.

I was a child then, I had no idea what the world would be like. I wished to trust myself on the waters and the sea.

Everything was romantic in my imagination. The woods were peopled by the mysterious good folk.

The Lords and Ladies of the last century walked with me along the overgrown paths, and picked the old fashioned flowers among the box and rose hedges of the garden.


These words are made even more incredible with the realization that Beatrice had such a solitary childhood.

Dale Debakcsy wrote of Beatrice,

Potter's childhood was the desperate product of Victorianism gone mad. Born in 1866 to parents who inherited their wealth from textile magnates ...Beatrix Potter was kept on the third floor of the dreary family home with only her governess for companionship until her brother was born some six years later. Prohibited from interaction with other children, young Beatrix threw herself into a series of solitary passions that saved her from the fate of so many other closeted daughters of inherited Victorian wealth.

Beatrix developed first a love of fossil collecting and categorizing, and finally a decade-long fixation on mushrooms over the course of the 1890s that was to be the reigning preoccupation of her twenties.


In 1893, Beatrix Potter wrote an illustrated letter to Noel Moore, the five-year-old son of her friend and former governess. The letter began,

My dear Noel, I don’t know what to write to you, so I shall tell you a story about four little rabbits whose names were – Flopsy, Mopsy, Cottontail and Peter. They lived with their mother in a sand bank under the root of a big fir tree.


The letter was the beginning of her 1902 self-published children's book, The Tale of Peter Rabbit. She went on to write and illustrate 23 children's books.

In 1924, Beatrix Potter wrote another letter to a little girl named Dulcie and in it, she described her garden.
She wrote,

... [The garden has] a box hedge around the flower bed, and moss roses and pansies and black currants and strawberries and peas —and big sage bushes for Jemima, but the onions always do badly.
I have tall white bell flowers I am fond of — they are just going over, next there will be Phlox; and last come to the Michaelmas Daisies and Chrysanthemums. Then soon after Christmas, we have Snowdrops. They grow wild and come up all over the garden and orchard, and some in the woods. 


Beatrix had spent so much time in nature, that she'd developed something called the seeing eye and she could conjure a total image of her garden or a garden walk on demand.

Beatrix wrote,

Thank God I have the seeing eye, that is to say, as I lie in bed I can walk step by step on the fells and rough land seeing every stone and flower and patch of bog and cotton pass where my old legs will never take me again.


Grow That Garden Library™ Book Recommendation

Plants from Pits by Holly Farrell
This book came out in 2020, and the subtitle is Simple Ideas For Small Outdoor Spaces.

You can get a copy of Plants from Pits by Holly Farrell and support the show using the Amazon link in today's show notes for around $


Botanic Spark

1750 Birth of Fabre d'Églantine ("Fabra Deg-lahn-teen"), French poet, playwright, and politician.

As an adult, he changed his name to Eglantine after the wild rose

In 1783 he wrote his poem Étude de la nature.

Ten years later, during the French Revolution, Fabre d'Églantine helped create the new French Republican Calendar.

The Calendar was a product of the revolution. The goal was to move away from everything before the revolution and one of the ways they did that was by removing all religion from the calendar. So no more days for Saints and no more religious holidays.

Instead, they had twelve months that were made up of three 10-day-long weeks, and then there were five days over at the end of the year for a holiday. D'Églantine renamed all the months to reflect nature, celebrating agriculture, and the rural economy. 

The calendar started with Autumn and the months were Vendémiaire, Brumaire, Frimaire. Winter months were Nivôse, Pluviôse, and Ventôse.

Spring months were Germinal - the month when grain began to grow in the spring, Floréal, and Prairial. Summer months were Messidor, Thermidor -

when it was hottest in Paris, and Fructidor.

So, all the names of the months were changed and then to make up for the fact that there were no more Saint's Days or Holidays, every day celebrated an aspect of nature or agriculture. They called these new celebrations real treasures as opposed to days for charletons under the old system. In the early days after the revolution, the French republic valued the elements (like gold and iron), plants and fruits, meat, animals, and tools used by peasants. 

The first day of the year was the First of Vendémiaire which corresponded to the 22 of September. And the first of Vendémiaire celebrated the raisin.

April fools day, the day the show started in 2019, is the 12th of Germinal and that day honored the Hornbeam.

Today's date, July 28th translates to 10th of Thermidor which celebrates the watering can.

So you can see how translating the days was very difficult. Today you can use ann online French Republic Calendar converter to figure calculate any date. 

In the spring of 1794, Fabre d'Eglantine and fourteen others were guillotined in Paris. France continued to follow the new calendar until Napolean reverted back to the old system in 1805. 


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