April 24, 2023 Jakob Böhme, Robert Bailey Thomas, Paul George Russell, Charles Sprague Sargent, Purple Mustard, Pansies, Kurume Azaleas, Tiny and Wild by Graham Laird Gardner, and Solar System Garden


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Historical Events

1575 Birth of Jakob Böhme, German original thinker.

Jakob Böhme did a great deal of thinking and writing, not only about theology and Christianity but also about the natural world.


Here's what Mary Oliver wrote about Böhme.

I read Jacob Boehme and am caught in his shining web.

Here are Desire and Will that should be (he says) as two arms at one task; in my life they are less cooperative.

Will keeps sliding away down the hill to play when work is called for and Desire piously wants to labor when the best season of merriment is around me.

Troublemakers both of them them.


Another writer, Elizabeth Gilbert, wrote about Jakob Böhme in her book, The Signature of All Things. The title of her book is from something that Jakob Böhme had written. 

Jacob Boehme was a sixteenth-century cobbler from Germany who had mystical visions about plants.

Many people considered him an early botanist. Alma's mother, on the other hand, had considered him a cesspool of residual medieval superstition. So there was considerable conflict of opinion surrounding Jacob Boehme.

The old cobbler had believed in something he called the signature of all things"- namely, that God had hidden clues for humanity's betterment inside the design of every flower, leaf, fruit, and tree on earth.

All the natural world was a divine code, Boehme claimed, containing proof of our Creator's love.


1766 Robert Bailey Thomas, founder, editor, and publisher of The Old Farmer's Almanac, is born.

Robert made his first edition - his very first copy of The Old Farmer's Almanac -back in 1792. 


1889 Paul George Russell, American botanist, is born.

Paul George Russell was born in Liverpool, New York. He worked as a botanist for the United States government for over five decades.

Paul George Russell went on collecting trips in Northern Mexico. He's remembered in the names of several different plants, including the Verbena russellii, a woody flowering plant that is very pretty.

And he's also remembered for naming the Opuntia russellii, a prickly pear cactus.

During his career, Paul George Russell could identify plants based on what their seeds looked like. One of the ways that he developed this skill is he compiled a seed bank of over 40,000 different types of sources.

Today, Paul George is most remembered for his work with cherry trees. He was a vital part of the team that was created to install the living architecture of Japanese cherry trees around the Washington Tidal Basin. Paul George Russell put together a little bulletin, a little USDA circular called Oriental Flowering Cherries, in March 1934. It was his most impressive work. His guide provided all kinds of facts and detailed information about the trees just when it was needed most. People were curious about the cherry trees and fell utterly in love with them once they saw them blooming in springtime.

Paul George Russell passed away at the age of 73 after having a heart attack. On a poignant note, he was supposed to see his beloved cherry trees in bloom with his daughter. They had planned a trip to go to the tidal basin together. But unfortunately, that last visit never happened.

So this year, when you see the cherry trees bloom, raise a trowel to Paul, George Russell, and remember him and his fine work. And if you can get your hands on a copy of that 72-page circular he created in 1934, that's a find. It's all still good information.


1841 Charles Sprague Sargent, American botanist, is born.

He was the first director of Harvard University's Arnold Arboretum. 

Charles was known for being a little curmudgeonly. He was pretty stoic.

One of my favorite stories about Charles was the day he went on an exploration of mountains. The botanist accompanying him could hardly contain himself when they stopped at a spot of singular beauty. The botanist was jumping around and shouting for joy, and he looked over at Charles Sprague Sargent and said something to the effect of

"How can you stand there and say and do nothing amidst this incredible beauty?"

That's one of my favorite stories and a glimpse into the personality of Charles Sprague Sargent.


1914 James M. Bates observed a deep violet patch of blooming flowers in an alfalfa field in Arcadia Valley County in Nebraska.

James wrote about the experience in a publication called The American Botanist.

The plant that James was writing about was Chorispora tenella, which is in the mustard family. It is known by several common names, including purple mustard, Musk mustard, or the cross flower - because it's a crucifer, meaning the flowers are in a cross shape.


Now, the name Musk flower has to do with the fragrance and smell; on a website for Colorado wildflowers, the author wrote,

I think they smell of Crayola crayons, warmed and melting in the sun. And so I called this plant, the crayon plant.


So purple mustard or Muskflower, however you call it, is edible, in case you were wondering.

The backyard forger writes that

You can snip the top four to six inches off of each plant. Including the flowers, which are not only edible, but pretty, now you might be asking yourself, how could I use purple mustard And feast magazine says this purple mustard can be used much the same way as you would. Other mustards Spread some on your next arugala sandwich. Serve it alongside pickles and crusty bread with charcuterie. Whisk a teaspoon into your vinaigrettes instead of Dijon.

So, there are some uses for your purple mustard.


1916 Today, Vassar College honored Shakespeare on the 300th anniversary of his death by planting pansies.

Students from Winifred Smith's Shakespeare class and Emmeline Moore's botany class planted the pansies in a garden on the school grounds. And, of course, Shakespeare referred to pansies as the flower for thoughts.

A flower that can withstand the cold, pansies have a chemical, essentially nature's antifreeze, that allows it to fight those cold temperatures.

The Canadian naturalist Charles Joseph Sariol once said that pansies should be grown from seed.

Beatrix Potter liked Pansies.

And the happy poet Edgar Albert Guest wrote about pansies in verse from his poem To Plant a Garden

If you'd get away from boredom,

And find new delights to look for,

Learn the joy of budding pansies,

Which you've kept a special nook for.


Pansies are a happy flower and a great way to honor Shakespeare.


1919 Ernest H. Wilson worked at the Arnold Arboretum of Harvard University and received a shipment of Kurume azaleas from Japan.

Ernest wrote,

"104 azaleas were unpacked at the Arnold Arboretum at Harvard, and all were found alive.
Considering the length of their journey. They were in good condition."

Ernest also alludes to the fact that he had to work on nurturing his relationship with his growers and gardeners. The Kurume azaleas were grown by a Japanese gardener who had "a reluctance to part with them."

And so the fact that these azaleas made it to America was in no small measure due to the relationship building and people skills of Ernest Henry Wilson - something that doesn't often get enough attention when we think about plant explorers.



Grow That Garden Library™ Book Recommendation

Tiny and Wild by Graham Laird Gardner

Graham has the perfect last name for a garden author - Gardner. I mean, how'd that happen?

In any case, this is a beautiful book. It's one of the prettiest books for gardeners this year. And the subtitle is Build a Small-Scale Meadow Anywhere.

So, of course, we're talking about creating tiny Meadows on your property.


The cover of this book had to be appealing; there are a lot of attractive purple flowers in the meadows, of course.

The cover illustrates how you can integrate wildflowers - flowers you will find in Meadows that you can use in your outdoor living spaces and garden designs- and how those flowers play an essential role in our ecosystems.


Graham kicks things off in this book by asking, "Why a mini meadow?"

(After Graham's appeal, I will share my thoughts on why a mini meadow might be just the ticket for your garden.)

Graham writes,

You've heard the calling for a more resilient biodiverse garden, full of flowers and movement that's inspired by natural plant communities and the wild spaces around you.

Perhaps you feel a sense of nostalgia for the wilderness of your childhood?

Or need to invite wild places home.

Do you have a balcony or an underperforming section of yard?

Maybe you have an area of lawn you'd like to convert or a section of your veggie plot you'd like to devote to attracting more pollinators and other beneficial insects; however, you're not quite sure where to begin.


And so, of course, many Meadows might be the solution that you've been looking for.

Now, when I think about answering the question, "Why mini-meadows?" I think the timing is correct in terms of design trends and acceptance. We've all been exposed to Piet Oudolf's gardens, and he's been incorporating plants like grasses and wildflowers for so long. He's been painting our public spaces with his version of Meadows - beautiful, beautiful Meadows - that are handpicked and planted to maximize beauty.

So I think gardeners are ready for this book.

The other day, I talked to my neighbor across the street, and she shares a common pond area with other neighbors. And for most of the year, it can be rather unsightly, especially if we're going through a drought. And so she was wondering what they could do, what they should be planting, and I think the answer is found in this book with many of the plants that would go in a meadow. Think of all kinds of grasses, wildflowers, and, of course, incorporating lots of native plants - embracing the wildness that you find along so many of our waterways, whether it's a river, a brook, or a pond.

Now, the chapters in this book are as follows:

First, find inspiration in your parks and the plant communities that are around you.

The second chapter talks about the importance of site selection. Don't underestimate this because, as the saying goes for real estate and houses, when you're going to home your plants, you need to think about location, location, location.

Then, the third chapter talks about design tips for your mini meadow -how to combine a field's beauty and function in your garden.

The next couple of chapters get into the nitty-gritty of installing a meadow, which isn't as complicated as it sounds, but it's great to have a detailed guide like this to help you remember all the little details.

Chapter Six talks about how to maintain your meadow, which is Probably the most crucial chapter in the book, and it's where the bulk of your annual laborers will come into play.

And then, chapter seven is the fun chapter - What to Plant. Here, Graham shares many different plant lists and charts so you can pick the perfect plants for your tiny metal. I love that.

So, in the past couple of years, you've heard me talk about planting mini orchards and reforesting with mini forests - and now we are here, building Tiny and Wild Meadows In our gardens.

You can get a copy of Tiny and Wild by Graham Laird Gardner and support the show using the Amazon link in today's show notes for around $17.


Botanic Spark

1916 On this day, a small garden known as Foundation Stone was installed at Farm Leigh house in Phoenix Park.

A man named Patrick Pearse helped christen the garden with a commemorative speech.

This unique garden was a reflection of the solar system on that very day. So the planets and their alignment were perfectly represented by nine lichen-covered boulders positioned to orbit a granite bowl, representing the sun. This simple garden with nine boulders and a granite bowl also incorporated circular ripples of grass around the boulders, accentuating their perfect placement in the garden, which mirrored the night sky.

To me, this garden perfectly illustrates that there is no end to the amount of creativity we can use when it comes to garden design.


Thanks for listening to The Daily Gardener

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

The Daily Gardener
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