November 17, 2022 Solway Moss, Henry Muhlenberg, Ethel Zoe Bailey, Shelby Foote, Rosa by Peter Kukielski, and Archibald Lampman
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1771 On this day, heavy rains caused the ancient raised peat bog known as the Solway Moss to burst over its earthen banks and flowed down into a valley covering four hundred acres of farmland.
The next day, Solway Moss covered the surrounding land with 15 feet of thick feculent mud. Solway Moss was a one-by-two-mile-long moss land growing since the end of the last Ice Age. The raised bog was an estimated 50 feet higher than the surrounding farmland. The living surface of the Solway Moss was a unique mix of bog cotton, sphagnum, and heather. The porous soupy surface hosted a few shrubs and standing pools of water. But the rotting vegetation created a dangerous predicament that no man or cattle would dare traverse throughout the year.
Over two hundred years before the Solway Moss burst, the English and the Scots fought over the land surrounding the bog in the Battle of Solway Moss. After the English victory, hundreds of Scots drowned in the bog as they tried to return home by crossing the moss hillside. Like a sponge, peat expands to absorb moisture when it gets wet. And, during wet months like November of 1771, the peat swells; in this case, the peat swelled until it bursts.
The incredible event was recorded in a journal:
A farmer who lived nearest the moss was alarmed with an unusual noise.
The crust had at once given way, and the black deluge was rolling toward his house.
He gave notice to his neighbors with all expedition;
others received no other advice but... by its noise,
many by its entrance into their houses....
some were surprised with it even in their beds.
[while some] remaining totally ignorant…until the morning
when their neighbors with difficulty got them out through the roof.
The eruption burst… like a cataract of thick ink...
intermixed with great fragments of peat...
filling the whole valley... leaving... tremendous heaps of turf.
1785 Birth of Henry Ernst Muhlenberg, American Lutheran Pastor and botanist.
He was always referred to by his second name Heinrich. The Muhlenberg family was a founding family of the United States, and Heinrich came from a long line of pastors. His father, Pastor Heinrich Melchior Mühlenberg, was known as the patriarch of the Lutheran Church in America. His brother was a major in the Revolutionary War, and his other brother was a Congressman.
Muhlenberg's journals are a treasure trove of his thoughts on botanical self-improvement. He would write:
How may I best advance myself in the knowledge of plants?
And Muhlenberg would set goals and reminders to challenge himself, writing:
It is winter, and there is little to do . . . Toward spring I should go out and [put together] a chronology of the trees; how they come out, the flowers, how they appear,. . . . I should especially [take not of] the flowers and fruit.
The grass Muhlenbergia was named for Heinrich Muhlenberg.
Muhly grasses are beautiful native grasses with two critical strengths in their plant profile: drought tolerance and visual punch. In addition, Muhly grasses are easy-going, growing equally well in harsh conditions and perfectly manicured gardens.
The Muhly cultivar 'White Cloud' offers gorgeous white plumes. When the coveted Pink Muhly blooms, people often stop and ask the name of the beautiful pink grass. Lindheimer's Muhly makes a fantastic screen, and Bamboo Muhly commands attention when it
is featured in containers.
All Muhly grasses like well-drained soil and full sun. If you plant them in the fall, be sure to get them situated and in the ground at least a month before the first frost.
And here's an interesting side note: Muhlenberg also discovered the bog turtle. In 1801, the turtle was named Clemmys muhlenbergii in his honor.
1889 Birth of Ethel Zoe Bailey, American botanist.
Ethel graduated from Smith College in 1911 after majoring in zoology.
Ethel was the daughter of the American horticulturist Liberty Hyde Bailey. Her father instilled in her a love for botany, adventure, and archiving. Liberty brought Ethel along on his travels to Latin America and Asia in his quest for new plant discoveries.
One of her obituaries shared a story from one of their more daring trips:
One of the pair's most daring expeditions was to the wild jungle island of Barro Colorado in the Panama Canal Zone. Disregarding
warnings about disease and boa constrictors, Miss Bailey her father, then 73, and a few other botanists trekked through hip-deep water of the Mohinja Swamp in search of a rare palm.
They found it growing in the swamp, as Bailey had predicted, and photographed it in the pouring rain with the camera tripod almost
submerged in water.
In turn, Ethel became the curator of the Bailey herbarium above the Mann Library at Cornell University - a position she held for over two decades until 1957. For Ethel, maintaining the collection was her personal mission. She was essentially the steward of her father's work after he donated his private plant collection to Cornell University.
For Ethel, Cornell was home. In fact, she was one of the few people to have the honor of being born on the Cornell campus on the spot where Phillips Hall now stands.
One biography of Ethel noted that
She continued to volunteer on a daily basis at the Hortorium, until her death in 1983. Still driving herself to and from work, Miss Bailey had reached the auspicious age of 93. Driving had always been an important part of Miss Bailey's life. She was the first woman in Ithaca to receive a chauffeur's (driver's) license.
Ethel's remarkable ability to organize and catalog large amounts of information led to an impressive notecard filing system of every single plant that had been listed in most of the published plant catalogs during Ethel's lifetime. This massive indexing project on simple 3" x 5" cards helped Ethel's father with his research and became an invaluable resource to other researchers and plant experts worldwide. The catalog was later named the Ethel Z. Bailey Horticultural Catalogue in her honor.
Ethel received much well-deserved recognition for her work during her lifetime, including the George Robert White Medal in 1967 from the Massachusetts Historical Society and the Smith College Medal in 1970.
1916 Birth of Shelby Foote, American writer, historian, and journalist.
He is remembered for his massive, three-volume, 3,000-page history of the Civil War - a project he completed in 1974.
Shelby lived in Memphis and loved to spend days in his pajamas. He did most of his writing in his home study with a view of his small and tidy garden. Shelby was old-fashioned. He took to writing with hand-dipped pens, which slowed the pace of his writing - a practice he felt made him a better writer.
One of his favorite books was The Black Flower by Howard Bahr, an acclaimed historical fiction book set during the Civil War.
Grow That Garden Library™ Book Recommendation
Rosa by Peter Kukielski ("Kooh-KEL-ski")
This book came out in 2021, and the subtitle is The Story of the Rose.
Peter is a world-renowned rosarian or rose expert. He has written many popular books on roses, including Roses Without Chemicals. He spent twelve years as the curator of the Peggy Rockefeller Rose Garden at the New York Botanical Garden. During that time, he oversaw a $2.5 million redesign of a massive rose collection in a garden designed by Beatrix Farrand. He helped lead the launch of the Royal Botanical Gardens in Ontario. He also promotes disease-resistant roses as a leader on the National EarthKind team.
A review in Maine Gardener by Tom Atwell raved that this book is a beauty with lavish illustrations and the long, fascinating history of the rose.
In chapter one, Kukielski lists all the plants other than roses in the Rosacea family (surprising ones include mountain ash, apples, raspberries and strawberries.) He also shows, with pictures (the book has 256 color illustrations in total), the many different classes of roses. Modern roses, defined as those introduced since 1867, get their own section.
Tom Atwell's review also revealed the origin story of this book.
Three or four times, editors and publishers at Yale University Press asked Portland resident and rose expert Peter E Kukielski to please write a
history of the rose. Kukielski kept saying no. The last time they asked, he responded, "Perhaps you should ask why I am saying no."
When they did, he told them he'd had read many rose histories, and they all said the same thing. The world didn't need another one, he said.
What Kukielsk wanted to do was tell stories about roses. Yes, include some history, but also encompasses the rose's role in religion, literature, art, music and movies. He wanted to offer true plant geeks a bit about the rose's botany, too. In the end, that's the book he was able to write.
In Rosa, Peter takes us on a chronological journey through the history of the rose, including a close look at the fascinating topic of the rose water or rose oil industry. These rose-based products were an essential part of life in the middle east and Asia, with entire population centers springing up around the craft.
In a 2007 article in the Richmond Times-Dispatch, Peter shared that,
the only way to know a rose is to grow roses. [Peter] grew up watching his grandmother tend her rose garden in Stone Mountain, Ga. Little did she know that she was planting the seed for her grandson's future career.
And in a 2008 article featured in the Red Deer Advocate, Peter shared great insights into why roses reign supreme in the fall.
It turns out, as many gardeners will attest, roses often save their best blooms for fall. All year long, roses store energy, which is ultimately released at the end of their season, resulting in gorgeous showy blossoms in autumn.
"In my opinion, late September into October is a very close second to June as far as beauty. The days are nicer, the nights are cooler and the sunlight is better, coating everything with a golden glow."
Summer is hard on roses, which require a lot of energy to flower.
"It's hot, humid and exhausting. Roses have their fabulous spring, shut down a bit in summer and then display another burst of glorious colour in the fall when they're less stressed."
And in a 2021 interview with Margaret Roach, Peter shared his tip regarding what rose to plant.
Talk to the local rose society, Kukielski suggests, and neighbours who garden: "If the person down the street is growing Queen Elizabeth and it looks great, take that as a cue.
And that passion and pragmatism made Peter Kukielski the perfect author for this book on roses.
This book is 256 of the story of the rose, the Queen of flowers, and her long reign through human history.
You can get a copy of Rosa by Peter Kukielski and support the show using the Amazon link in today's show notes for around $7.
1861 Birth of Archibald Lampman, Canadian poet, and naturalist.
Archibald loved camping and the countryside. The natural world inspired his verse, and he became known as "The Canadian Keats."
As a result of contracting rheumatic fever in his childhood, Archibald's life was cut short, and he died at 37.
Archibald's poem Knowledge compares our quest for wisdom to a garden.
What is more large than knowledge and more sweet;
Knowledge of thoughts and deeds, of rights and wrongs,
Of passions and of beauties and of songs;
Knowledge of life; to feel its great heart beat
Through all the soul upon her crystal seat;
To see, to feel, and evermore to know;
To till the old world's wisdom till it grow
A garden for the wandering of our feet.
Oh for a life of leisure and broad hours,
To think and dream, to put away small things,
This world's perpetual leaguer of dull naughts;
To wander like the bee among the flowers
Till old age find us weary, feet and wings
Grown heavy with the gold of many thoughts.
Archibald is buried at Beechwood Cemetery in Ottawa, and a plaque near his grave is inscribed with his poem "In November," which ends with these words:
The hills grow wintery white, and bleak winds moan
About the naked uplands. I alone
Am neither sad, nor shelterless, nor grey,
Wrapped round with thought, content to watch and dream.
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And remember: For a happy, healthy life, garden every day.
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