December 1, 2022 John Gerard, Sereno Watson, Ellsworth Hill, Bette Midler, Punk Ikebana by Louesa Roebuck, and Rosa Parks


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Historical Events

1597 On this day, The Herbal, by the English herbalist John Gerard, was first published.

Today the book is considered a plagiarization of Rembert Dodoens's herbal published over forty years earlier.

In his book, John shared over 800 species of plants and gorgeous woodcut illustrations. His descriptions were simple and informative.

For instance, in his description of Self-heal or Brownwort (Prunella Vulgaris), he wrote,

There is not a better wound herb to be found.


In other instances, his descriptions gave us a glimpse into life in the 17th century. Regarding Borage blossoms, which he called Boragewort, he wrote,

Those of our time use the flowers in salads to exhilerate and make the mind glad.


During his life, John was allowed to garden on land at Somerset House, and for a time, he served as the herbalist to King James. In 1578, John was the first person to record and describe the Snakeshead fritillary (Fritillaria meleagris "mel-ee-aye-gris") thought to be native to parts of Britain but not Scotland. 

Today John is remembered in the botanical genus Gerardia.

Today, the Shakespeare Birthplace Trust sells Christmas cards featuring John Gerard's woodcuts of Holly, Pears, and Mistletoe. The Shakespeare Birthplace Trust cares for Shakespeare's family homes and shares the love of Shakespeare from his hometown of

Anyway, if you'd like to support a great organization and enjoy the John Gerard Christmas cards and gift wrap, head on over to


1826 Birth of Sereno Watson, American botanist & curator of the Gray Herbarium at Harvard University in Boston.

He's remembered for succeeding Asa Gray at the herbarium and continuing much of his work from 1873 until his death. A great master of botany in the American west, he also wrote Botany of California. Modern botany students easily identify Sereno for his extremely impressive beard.

Sereno was admired and respected by his peers for his great attention to detail. For instance, in 1871, Sereno named a new plant genus Hesperochiron for two little wildflowers only found in the western part of the United States. Hespero means west, and Chiron is a nod to the Centaur and the first herbalist who taught humanity about the healing powers of plants. When Sereno named this genus, he rejected the classification of these plants as members of the snapdragon family. But, after dissecting them, Sereno was convinced they belonged with the gentians. This type of due diligence and careful study made Sereno Watson a great botanist.

Today, Sereno is remembered with a very cool plant: the saw palmetto or the Serenoa repens palm. This small palm which only grows to 8-10 feet tall, is the only species in the genus Serenoa.


1833 Birth of Ellsworth Jerome Hill, Presbyterian minister, writer, and American botanist.

When Ellsworth was only 20 years old, one of his knees stopped working. A doctor attempted to help him figure out a way to make a living and suggested he study botany. Ellsworth pursued the suggestion and crawled from his house to the orchard, where he would pick a few flowers and then crawl back to the house to identify them.

The following year, Ellsworth was using canes to walk, and he moved to Mississippi, where the climate was warmer.

After Ellsworth met and married a young woman named Milancy Leach, she became his daily helpmate. When Ellsworth felt especially lame or lacked strength, Milancy would step in and finish the work for him.

When Ellsworth was 40, he somehow put his lameness behind him. In the back half of his life, he seemed to be better able to manage his physical challenges and cope with the symptoms.

In a touching tribute to Ellsworth after his death, the great botanist and grass expert Agnes Chase wrote:

Most of these collections were made while Ellsworth walked on crutches or with two canes. Ellsworth told me that he carried his vasculum over his shoulder and a camp stool with his crutch or cane in one hand. To secure a plant, he would drop the camp stool, which opened of
itself, then he would lower himself to the stool and dig the plant.

Ellsworth recovered from his lameness but often suffered acute pain from cold or wetness or overexertion. But this did not deter him from making botanical trips that would have taxed a more robust man. In the Dunes, I have seen him tire out more than one able-bodied man.


Ellsworth recognized the value in revisiting places that had been previously botanized.

It was Ellsworth Jerome Hill who said,

In studying the flora of a restricted region, no matter how carefully it seems to have been explored, one is frequently surprised by new things...

No region can be regarded as thoroughly explored until every acre of its wild areas at least has been examined. Some plants are SO rare or local or grow under such peculiar conditions that a few square rods or even feet may comprise their range.


1945 Birth of Bette Midler, American singer, songwriter, actress,
comedian, and film producer.

She was born in Honolulu.

In 1979, Bette starred in her first movie called The Rose. She didn't win an academy award for her Rose performance; that award went to Sally Field for Norma Rae. But forty years later, in 2019, Bette was honored by the New York Botanical Garden (NYBG) with a rose named in honor of her stage persona: The Divine Miss M.

On June 19th, 2019, the NYBG introduced Bette's white-yellow rose with a fragrance of mint and lime at the New York Restoration Project Spring Picnic at the Botanical Garden in New York City.

After receiving the honor, Bette commented,

I didn't win the Oscar for The Rose. Of course, I never think about it. But I do want to say right now, and there's no Norma Rae rose.


In 1995, Bette started the New York Restoration Project, a nonprofit that renovates and restores neglected NYC parks to ensure green
space for all New Yorkers.

By the end of the event, Bette led the crowd in a rose song sing-a-long: Lyn Anderson's "Rose Garden," Bette's "The Rose," and "Everything's Coming Up Roses."


Grow That Garden Library™ Book Recommendation

Punk Ikebana by Louesa Roebuck
This book came out in 2022, and the subtitle is Reimagining the Art of Floral Design.

The great American naturalist, writer, and illustrator, Obi Kaufmann wrote the forward and he clearly is a huge fan of this book.

He wrote,

I will gush. When asked by Louesa to write the foreword to this dangerous and monumentally beautiful book, I howled a perfectly contradictory mix of terror and delight. I've been bewitched by the magic that is Louesa and her art for years. I identified her long ago as the very best kind of revolutionary, and I signed up. As an intrepid peace punk, Louesa presents a world to her audience that heals as it wounds. In her writing, in her ikebana, and through her punk ethos, she reverses the polarity of so many expectations, and the effect is effortless, aesthetic alchemy in which the silent is transformed into the loud, the ugly is made to be beautiful, and the empty is found to be surprisingly full.


Ikebana is simply the art of Japanese flower arrangement. Louesa's take on Ikebana is unique and extraordinary - and people have described her work as punk for over a decade. Louesa wrote in the introduction,

When I'm asked what punk ikebana means to me, my gut response is I'm not completely sure yet. I do recall friends and colleagues casually referring to my work as "punk ikebana" as far back as 2008. They perhaps saw something new and iconoclastic in my work before I did.


Now you may be wondering, "What is punk ikebana?"  Louesa shares her musings on some key precepts like silence, minimalism, harmonious forms and lines, names, humanity, and composing in situ.

She writes,

Silence: In ikebana, this particularly refers to a quiet appreciation of nature, free of noise or idle talk.

Minimalism: Here's where my punk aesthetic comes in. I'm a bit of a rebel and a maximalist more often than not. I do strive for harmony and balance in my compositions always, but I also love the glam, the sexy, the louche, even.

Harmonious form and line: When you gather and glean seasonal and local flora and compose naturally, you will find that harmony comes effortlessly. The longer, deeper, more studied, or more expansive your search becomes, the more treasures you find just outside your doors. Mother Earth contains all of the multitudes where they need to be; there's no need to fly flora in from anywhere else.

Names: One traditional precept of ikebana is to know the names of the flora you use, as naming is a form of respect. For me, this is complicated. I absolutely acknowledge the power of naming something, the inherent respect of saying, "T see you; I know your name and some of who you are." However, naming is also charged and complex. 

I often speak of flora in inconsistent terms, because that's how I've come to know them. Sometimes the common name rolls more easily off the tongue. This is art and, in the way of art, often an inexact science. Sometimes it's as simple as, say, preferring the word Nepenthes to describe any one of this genus of over 170 species. Which one should you use in your arrangement? With most choices I lean toward a less literal interpretation. I could prescribe you use only Nepenthes rafflesiana, the Malaysian pitcher plant, but why? Instead, I offer you thoughts on my flora friends under the names by which I have come to love them and encourage you to call them what makes sense to you, always with respect.

Composed in situ: When we bring our newfound or long-loved flora friends into our homes or otherwise carry these gifts inside, the dialogue with place continues. It evolves each time I arrange scented geraniums with the recently discovered wild peonies on our land; or datura and passionflower with an outlier of, say, cactus flower. Each time I compose, I am in dialogue with the room (or any other space): the color story; the textiles; the vessel; the totems; books; art; furniture, even. The arrangement does not exist in a vacuum; it lives, breathes, and communicates with the space as a whole. This is in keeping with the idea of animism: each object, stone, feather, and vessel has a life force. Energy is porous, interconnected, animated, and never static. When we begin to see, feel, and live this way, time and space expand.


Louesa sees her beautiful work and this incredible book as a source of inspiration for you in your work with arranging flowers. She does not want her readers to approach her work rigidly. She writes,

Punk rejects human hierarchies, so reject the mantle of "expert" or "sensei." Adhering to "the heart of the novice" as a guiding principle requires it. We are all learning, and learning is most fruitful when we do it together. I would add that in our increasingly beleaguered world, my learning doesn't solely come from other humans but from our nonhuman relatives and ancestors. Every time I engage in this medium of floral arranging or let us say, punk ikebana I hope to learn, not to teach or instruct. Teaching is only a byproduct of learning; they are one and the same, are they not?

This book is 256 pages of the way of flowers and the rules you need to master in order to bend them and make your own punk ikebana wonders and enjoy them in your home.

You can get a copy of Punk Ikebana by Louesa Roebuck and support the show using the Amazon link in today's show notes for around $40.


Botanic Spark

1955 On this day, Rosa Parks was arrested in Montgomery, Alabama, after a bus driver ordered her to give up her bus seat to
another passenger, and she refused. 

That Thursday had started pretty uneventfully for Rosa. She was a seamstress for a department store and in her bag was a yellow floral Sunday dress that she was sewing for her mom. Rosa had learned to sew from the women in her family. Both her mother and grandmother sewed. Her grandmother made quilts.

Rosa had attended the Montgomery Industrial School for Girls. She subsidized her income as a tailor's assistant and seamstress, with sewing work for private clients, friends, and family members.

Rosa's yellow dress was a wrap dress with a small shawl collar and a v-neck made of fabric featuring brown and yellow flowers and leaves. The flared skirt had six gores, three pleats, and full-length sleeves. The dress also had a fabric belt. 

Today that floral dress is on display at the National Museum of African American History and Culture.


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