October 4, 2022 Henry David Thoreau, Mary Hiester Reid, the Dahlia, Kerry Mousetail Fern, Amish Friends 4 Seasons Cookbook by Wanda Brunstetter, and Dorothy Frances Blomfield Gurney


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Historical Events

1852 On this day, Henry David Thoreau writes in his journal.

The maples are reddening, and birches yellowing.
The mouse-ear in the shade in the
middle of the day... looks as if the frost still lay on it. 
Bumblebees are on the Aster... and gnats are dancing in the air.


The Mouse Ears that Thoreau mentions in this excerpt is actually a species of forget-me-not (Myosotis laxa) known as the tufted forget-me-not, bay forget-me-not, or just the small-flower forget-me-not.

Mouse Ears like to grow in wet areas, so I can believe there was still frost on this forget-me-not when Thoreau looked at it - especially since it was probably in a low-lying or damp area.

Now Thoreau himself went into a little more detail about the Mouse Ears forget-me-not.

He wrote.

It is one of the most interesting minute flowers.
It is the more beautiful for being small and unpretending; even flowers must be modest.


Thoreau underscores this point of agreement that I have with longtime gardeners: the longer we garden, we come to appreciate some of the more subtle, more minor details in a much bigger way than we did when we were first starting out. We mature in our perspective on our garden - or on different plants or species of plants in our gardens. Our thinking evolves and changes - and what we love about our garden grows as we mature as gardeners.


1921 Death of Mary Hiester Reid (books about this person), American-born Canadian painter, and teacher.

A painter of floral still lifes, Mary was a tonalist - passionate, poetic, and subtle - and her works have been called "devastatingly expressive." In her career, Mary was both an impressionist and a realist. Mary produced over 300 oil paintings. In her prime in 1890, Mary was regarded as the most critical flower painter in Canada. 

Mary often painted trios - so her paintings would feature three flowers or three trees, for example.

The author, Molly Peacock, offers additional insight into Mary's work with trios and triangulation as a reflection of what was going on in her own life. Molly points out that,

Mary and her husband lived in a loose menage with a talented younger artist named Mary Evelyn Wrinch...


Mary Evelyn Wrinch was both Mary Hiester Reid's friend and rival and 24 years her junior. When Mary died, in her will, she specified that her husband should be given to Mary Evelyn Wrinch.

Mary's death so moved the Canadian newspaperman Duncan Sutherland Macorquodale that he felt compelled to write a memorial poem in her honor. The verse refers to Mary's Wychwood home. (Wychwood was an artist's enclave of sixty homes tucked in the rolling wooded hills of the Davenport Ridge in Toronto.)

Here's an excerpt of Duncan's tribute to Mary.

Free from the thrall called life,
Palette and brush laid down;
Off with achievement’s strife,
Donned the immortal’s crown;
Yet hovers she near ’neath the Wychwoodtree,
This, the roses she painted, tell to me.


In September of last year, Molly Peacock's fabulous book on Mary Hiester Reid was published. It's called Flower Diary: In Which Mary Hiester Reid Paints, Travels, Marries & Opens a Door.


1926 On this day, the Dahlia was officially designated as San Francisco's city flower.

The Dahlia Society of California had been founded almost a decade earlier, and the club was responsible for getting the city to embrace the beautiful Dahlia as its own. A newspaper account of their efforts to persuade city leaders was shared in a local newspaper:

The... desks in the headquarters of the Board of Supervisors burst into bloom yesterday, when the Dahlia Society of California ... presented a petition asking for the dahlia's "appointment" as the official flower of San Francisco. The petition...pointed out that... nowhere else in the world is such favorable soil for the Dahlia found.

As the city's official flower, [the Dahlia] will win worldwide notice for San Francisco in the same manner [that the rose has for] Portland. [As the petition was read, women], armed with great bouquets of giant dahlias, distributed the colorful blossoms among the listening Supervisors. Supervisor James B. McSheehy, presiding over the meeting, was surrounded by a bower of enormous blooms. 


So that is how the Dahlia became San Francisco's official flower.

Since 1926, Dahlias are generally in peak bloom at the Dahlia Dell in Golden Gate Park in early August - a month known as the foggiest, grayest month of the year in San Francisco.

The Dahlia Dell just inside Golden Gate Park. To get to the Dahlia Dell, head east past the Conservatory of Flowers.  Volunteers from the Dahlia Society of California still maintain the garden - and hold an annual Dahlia & Tuber Sale and an annual two-day Dahlia show.

As for the beautiful Dahlia, it's the official flower of Seattle, the city of destiny and goodwill.

And it may surprise you to learn that the Dahlia was initially grown as a food. Both the tubers and the roots are edible and taste a little like other root vegetables: the potato and the carrot.

The Dahlia was named to honor the Swedish botanist Anders Dahl. Dahlias are in the same family as Common Daisies and Sunflowers. Dahlia blossoms come in all shapes and sizes; some are as large as dinner plates.

This time of year, gardeners are preparing for cold weather. Once you've had your first frost, that's the signal to gardeners to dig up their dahlia and canna tubers and get them stored for next spring.

Once your Dahlia tubers are out of the ground, brush them off, removing any extra soil, and then put them in a basket or a container with plenty of perlite and keep them on a cool, dark shelf in the basement storage room. The perlite keeps the tubers dry and allows them to breathe.

The Empress of Dirt, Melissa Will, advises that,

Every enthusiastic dahlia grower will tell you their storage method works like a charm. And - they are right - for their specific conditions. The point is, it's the health of the tuber and the overall environment that counts.
The optimum storage temperature is 40-45°F (4-7°C). We run into problems when the heating systems in our homes make the humidity level too low for the tubers.
Consider using the plastic food wrap method where each tuber is wrapped individually to keep moisture in. Growers who use this method report a higher number of viable tubers each spring.
Exposure to some cold is necessary for their development each year so we wait until early frosts have blackened the foliage before digging up the tubers and storing them for the winter.
Come spring, a handy rule is, if it's the right time to plant tomatoes, it's the right time to plant dahlias.
On a brighter note, while not entirely deer-proof, dahlias are not their first food choice when other plants are available.


Now, if you're looking for a good book on Dahlias, consider Dahlias by Naomi Slade.

This book came out in 2018, and the subtitle is Beautiful Varieties for Home & Garden.

Naomi Slade is a biologist by training, Naomi is a naturalist by inclination, and she has a lifelong love of plants.

Georgianna Lane took the photos for the book. And she is a leading garden photographer and is one of my favorites.

This book is 240 pages of delicious dahlias - a gorgeous gift from Naomi and Georgianna.

You can get a copy of Dahlias by Naomi Slade and support the show using the Amazon Link in today's Show Notes for around $10


2020 The rarest Fern in Europe is discovered in Ireland.

The little Fern was found in Killarney and was only known to grow in the Caribbean.

So they were accustomed to seeing this neotropical Fern in the cloud forest of Jamaica in Cuba. And the Dominican Republic, but scientists could not figure out how this particular little tiny Fern could be
growing in Ireland.

Named the Kerry Mousetail Fern (what an adorable little name!), scientists now believe that the tiny spores of this Fern were carried on the wind thanks to a Caribbean hurricane and ended up in Ireland. Isn't that something? It's hard to believe those tiny little spores could travel that far. They say the spores traveled something like 6,000 kilometers.

And coincidentally, speaking of tiny little Fern spores, there is a fun little piece of Irish folklore that says that if you're able to collect Fern seeds (spores), then you would be able to have the power of invisibility. 


Grow That Garden Library™ Book Recommendation

Amish Friends 4 Seasons Cookbook by Wanda Brunstetter 

This book came out in April of this year.

I remember looking through Amazon at the latest cookbook releases and stumbling on Wanda's sweet little cookbook.

Here's how Wanda introduces her cookbook:

Do you strive to eat what is local, fresh, and in season?

Then this is the cookbook for you.

Organized by the winter, spring, summer, and fall seasons, there are a bounty of recipes for various ways to use up seasonal fruits and vegetables. Sprinkled with tips for growing and harvesting, too, the well-organized book boasts contributions from Amish and Mennonites from across the United States who are fans of author of Amish fiction.


So very intriguing.

And Wanda is a gardener! It's worth noting that she writes that she and her husband have a mid-sized garden - so she's got some gardening chops - but she also recommends leveraging your local farmer's market or farm stands, especially if you're unable to grow all of your own produce (and many of us fall into that category, even as gardeners.)

Wanda's cookbook is one that I feel would get passed down in my family. This is precisely the kind of cookbook that would be put together for a family reunion, and then all of us would pitch in twenty bucks and get a copy of it.

Wanda also includes all of these sweet little images and Bible verses. And the recipes are clearly family-friendly; they're family favorites - so it's hard not to fall in love with them.

I thought I'd read this little snippet from Midwest Book Review to give you an idea of what's in this cookbook.

James writes,

Very highly recommended for personal and community library cookbook collections, and published in a lay-flat spiral binding with recipes that range from Coconut Peach Dessert; Green Tomato Relish; Chicken Dumplings; and Fruit Parfait; to Peanut Butter Popcorn; BBQ Meatballs; Buttery Onion Soup; and Home Made Tater Tots.

Wanda E. Brunstetter's Amish Friends 4 Seasons Cookbook" is a palate pleasing and appetite satisfying delight to a plan menus with for anyone who gardens, participates in a CSA, or enjoys farmers' markets.


Sounds fantastic. Doesn't it?

I also think that this cookbook would be the perfect hostess gift for the holidays. You could bring it to your Thanksgiving celebration or use it as a Christmas gift.

This book is 224 pages of over 200 recipes for eating with the seasons.

Sweet little cookbook.

You can get a copy of Amish Friends 4 Seasons Cookbook by Wanda Brunstetter and support the show using the Amazon link in today's show notes for around $13.


Botanic Spark

1858 Birth of Dorothy Frances Blomfield Gurney, English hymn-writer and poet. Many gardeners have forgotten that she wrote this charming garden verse:

The kiss of the sun for pardon,
The song of the birds for mirth,
One is nearer God’s heart in a garden
Than anywhere else on earth.


Thanks for listening to The Daily Gardener

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

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