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1766 John Mulso writes to his friend English naturalist, Gilbert White, in Selborne
Gilbert White was born in 1720, So he was 46 when he received this letter from John.
At the time. Gilbert had been keeping a journal about the goings on in his garden. Gilbert kept a journal for about three decades, and it was eventually published to the delight of readers everywhere. Today people still love reading through Gilbert White's notations, drawings, and comments.
Gilbert had a knack for observing the natural world and describing in a relatable way all the goings on outdoors. Gilbert was very curious. He was also really personable.
When John Mulso begins his letter with a comment on the garden, he finds a point of agreement.
Vegetation thrives apace now, and I suppose you are quite intent on your new study.
You will not perhaps relish a Prospect the worse when we force you to look up, as presume you will go with your eyes fixed on the ground most part of the summer.
You will pass with country folks as a man always making sermons, while you are only considering a Weed.
John makes a very astute observation - Gilbert liked gardening more than anything else on Earth. Gilbert was like many pastors or reverends of his time who also pursued their hobbies as naturalists or gardeners. During the growing season, it was coming for a naturalist parson to get distracted by their gardens.
1809 A retired Thomas Jefferson enjoyed spending most of his time in his garden. (Finally!)
In the spring of this year. Thomas was no longer consumed with the duties of being president. We know that in the last year of his presidency, he spent many hours pining for his garden and accumulating plants from his friend Bernard McMahon and other plantsmen.
So in April of 1809, Thomas Jefferson was living his dream and his best life as a gardener. He wrote to his friend, Etienne Lemaire, on this day,
I am constantly in my garden or farms. And am exclusively employed out of doors as I was within doors when I was at Washington.
I find myself infinitely happier in my new mode of life.
Isn't that an interesting observation? Comments like that may pass unnoticed, but this change in seasons, the warmer weather, and getting outdoors is powerful medicine. Spending time outdoors plays a role in our attitudes and our moods. We get more vitamin D, and we feel more energy.
This time of year, we eat the fresh green offerings from our gardens, whether microgreens or asparagus. The rhubarb is popping. You can even eat some hosta leaves, little tiny rolled-up cigars, as they emerge from the Earth. You can cut and fry them up in a pan the same way you would asparagus. (If they're good enough for the deer, they're good enough for us.) They're pretty tasty. The key is to harvest them early - just like you would the fiddleheads. The joys of spring...
1851 George Herbert Engleheart, English pastor and plant breeder, was born.
Like Gilbert White, George Herbert Engleheart was a gardener and a pastor.
In 1889, George began breeding daffodils - some 700 varieties in his lifetime. Sadly many of them have been lost to time, but we know that some survived.
Fans of 'Beersheba,' 'Lucifer,' or 'White Lady' owe a debt of gratitude to Reverend Engleheart. Engleheart spent every spare minute breeding, and his parishioners would often find a note tacked to the church door saying, "No service today, working with daffodils."
Engleheart's charming note reminds me of the little notes that gardeners hang on their porches or somewhere on their front door saying something sweet, like, "in the garden." And if you don't have one of those signs, you can grab a little chalkboard and a little twine and make your own.
1905 On this day, David Fairchild, the great botanist, married Marian Graham Bell, the daughter of Alexander Graham Bell.
Marian and David Fairchild had a long and happy marriage.
When David went on his plant explorations, Marian would often accompany him. Together the couple had three children.
David Fairchild is considered American botanical royalty for all his collecting and the sheer quantity of his plant introductions, including items like pistachios, mangoes, dates, soybeans, flowering cherries, and nectarines. Without David Fairchild, we would not have cherry trees blooming in Washington, DC. We also might not have kale at Trader Joe's. (David Fairchild is the man who brought kale to the United States.) David also got the avocado here as well.
David Fairchild had a fair amount of luck in his life. He had a generous benefactor in a wealthy woman named Barbara Latham, who funded many of his adventures.
Of course, by marrying Marian, David had access to the connections of his famous father-in-law.
Today you can continue to learn about David Fairchild and see his legacy at the Fairchild Tropical Botanic Garden in Coral Gables, Florida. It is filled with many of the plants that David himself collected. And, of course, it's named in his honor.
1911 Harry Radlund, a gardener from Kilborne, Wisconsin, shared his garden successes with a plantsman named Henry Field.
In 1911, Henry announced a garden contest for his customers to encourage good gardening. Later, he put their stories together in The Book of a Thousand Gardens.
In the forward, Henry wrote,
I requested them to send in the stories of their gardens, true unvarnish- ed stories telling what they grew, how they grew it, what paid best, how big the garden was, what troubles they had, and how they overcame them. Also asked them to send in some pictures if possible.
These letters are the result. And they are the most interesting batch of letters I ever read.
They are real heart to heart talks, told in their own language and in their own way. And the pictures, well you can look at them for yourself. Every garden was a real garden not a paper garden. The people were real people like you and I and our neighbors. There were men and women and boys and little girls and old bachelors.
They were all garden cranks and garden lovers.
You can learn more by a study of these letters than by reading all the text books in creation. You get the real stuff here. Real experience.
The only trouble was, I run short of room in the book. It would have taken a book as big as Webster's Unabridged to hold them all in full.
Here's Harry's garden story from 1911:
On April 23d, I planted some kale seed from you. We tried to raise kale for ten years but never had any success. This year, the best is about 3 1/2 feet high and about three feet wide without spreading the leaves.
On the same day planted some dill, parsley, onion seed and onion sets. The dill grew good and went to seed, the parsley didn't grow very good. My early cabbage grew good and all the heads were used.
The first planting of radishes was on April 25th, and I have had radishes all summer. The Shenandoah tomatoes in the garden are dandies, the best we ever had. So are the cucumbers. My cauliflower didn't grow very well in the warm weather, but is growing fine now.
1948 Leslie Young Carrethers, American poet & artist, died.
So much about Leslie has been lost to time. But one of his accomplishments is little garden poetry books that are very challenging to find nowadays. I got my copies on eBay, and I love them. I think they're so precious and filled with little poetry about various garden plants, trees, and nature.
Now, these books are tiny little pamphlets. Leslie produced about half a dozen or so. They've got adorable little titles, like These Shady Friends (about trees), blooming Friends, and More Blooming Friends. Now Leslie's friends called him Reggie. I didn't realize this until recently when I stumbled on some more research about him. But this clue leads me to think that one of the little books I bought on eBay was one of Reggie's copies because he signed it, making it even more precious to me.
But I thought I would share a few little snippets from Leslie to give you a taste. He's whimsical when he writes and coves the garden and plants.
Here's a little poem that he wrote about Lemon Verbena.
If I were allowed only to grow
One fragrant herb I know I'd choose
Lemon Verbena. Oh yes, my views
Are prejudiced, I'll admit it is so.
But I love the way
She scents my garden
At close of day
On a silver plate,
In a crystal bowl.
A spray of her leaves
Delights my soul.
And then here's a poem that he wrote about the Foxglove.
The fox-glove in the garden
Is very, very sly.
She always looks at the earth below -
Not at the passer-by.
But I will tell her secret,
Known only to birds and trees.
When no one is near
With her spotted lips
She eats the bumble-bees.
Finally, here's his poem about Monkshood.
Beware of the Monkshood-
His deep purple cowl
Is a tricky disguise-
He's as wise as an owl.
You may think that he bends his head over to pray -
He doesn't - he brews fearful poisons all day.
He's a wicked magician, by evil obsessed
Don't be tricked by his acting nor how he is dressed.
I hope this gives you a tiny sampling of the charming poetry of Leslie Young Carrethers.
Grow That Garden Library™ Book Recommendation
This book came out this year. It's another brand-new book for gardeners and an invaluable reference for Prairie plants.
So, if you are working with native plants, putting together a tiny meadow, as we discussed with yesterday's book, Tiny and Wild, or if you want to add to your garden reference collection, then this book is truly a gem.
Here's what Doug Tallamy wrote about this book.
If you are looking for the complete- and I do mean complete - guide to than this much-needed book. Diboll and Cox cover not only what prairie species look prairie ecosystems, you will not do better like each of their growth stages (a first!), they also dive deep into their historical and ecological roles in prairie ecosystems.
So overall, this book is an excellent book and reference guide.
Now, one feature I love about this book is the way they produced the cover. Even though it's a paperback, it's a little more firm plastic-coated cover, making it wipable. So I imagine having this book in the car with me or in the garden and handling the use and abuse.
Now I want to take a second and say, have you ever seen Neil Diboll? (Maybe you are lucky enough to have attended one of his workshops or presentations.) But I want to say he is the friendliest-looking guy, and he is so approachable in how he shares information. I've watched some videos of him on YouTube, and he is frank and genuinely passionate about plants. In short, He is an excellent, very generous speaker and expert in the area of native plants, Prairie plants. Meadows wildflowers and the like, so the minute I saw that he was one of the authors of this book, I immediately put a little heart by it, and I was like, yes, I need to see this copy so that I can see what he did - And now I can also tell you about it.
Now I will walk you through how the book is structured, But I won't get too deep in the weeds here. No pun intended.
I will walk you through each of the chapters.
So the book starts with the history and ecology of the Prairie.
They also talk about understanding your soil, which is essential for growing anything, much less Prairie plants.
Then they discuss how to design, plant, and maintain Prairie gardens.
Chapter five is significant because it talks about all the different types of plants; it's a Prairie species field guide. They go into great detail about monocots and dichotomy. Grasses and sedges. This is about 300-plus pages worth of data here.
Chapter Six is all about establishing a flourishing Prairie meadow. And so that dovetails nicely with yesterday's book, Tiny and Wild. So this would be a great companion piece to that book. I would say that book is more artistic and design oriented. This book is more of a reference.
Chapter Seven talks about burning your Prairie safely.
Chapter eight is about propagating Prairie plants from seed, which is pretty easy to do, and also a great way to save money because if you're creating a Prairie, you need to have plants in mass.
Chapter Nine is about propagating plants vegetatively.
So two excellent chapters on propagation there.
Then Chapter 10 is an excellent addition to this book;l It's the Prairie food web. So there's a deep dive into that.
And then there is a superb Chapter 11 at the back of the book that goes through the various Prairie seed mixes you might be intrigued by. So, if you are considering growing a Prairie - I had a friend do this a couple of years ago, and they did a beautiful job - but anyone who's raised a Prairie will tell you there is a science of growing a Prairie, which is precisely what is covered in this book - And then there is the art of developing a Prairie and maintaining a Prairie. So it's a little bit of both. It's the yin and yang of Prairie's,
but this book will be an indispensable guide. If you are serious and curious about Prairie plants and native plants, especially if you're doing some restoration work, Maybe you are a landscaper, and you need to work with a lot of native plants; maybe you're just a gardener who has a passion for Prairie's Meadows, wildflowers and that type of thing, whatever your scenario, this is a great guide.
It's also a heavy book - but it's not so heavy that it's cumbersome or unusable.
This book is 636 pages- although it doesn't feel like it - of Prairie plants. Everything you need to know and A truly definitive guide. "A one-stop compendium" is what they say about this book on Amazon.
It is a worthy investment.
1917 On this day, Maurice Baring writes about flying over the Fourth Army among some nature entries in his WWI diary.
Maurice was a soldier with the Royal Flying Corps, and I think Maurice would be surprised and delighted to know that his diary is part of a gardening podcast here in 2023.
I found an adorable little review of his diary, which became a book called A War Diary by Maurice Baring.
The reviewer wrote:
The remarkable thing about his book is that although it has an objective quality, it is also extraordinarily personal.
It is far from being a history of the work of the R.F.C. during the war. It attempts nothing of the kind. It is rather an account of the author during the war, and by noting down whatever interested him at the moment, whether it was the book he happened to be reading or a talk he had had, he conveys to us what the war was in reality to him. His irrelevancies are relevant to that. An enormous number of these entries might have been made in his diary if there had been no war going on. Yet their inclusion is precisely what conveys to us the sense of actuality.
He has endless details to attend to, news and odd rumours pour in from all sides, men are fighting and being killed (often he stops to record the death of a friend), yet his other interests persist. He is not always thinking about the war he copies out passages from the books he reads, quotes the poets, translates Horace; speculates about this and that, trusting that if he puts down all these things without emphasis, picture of what the war was actually like IS an experience to live through at H.Q. will be left in the reader's mind.
Entries follow each other pell-mell.
These are typical pages. Dip in anywhere and you will find the same drift of unconnected observations and unaccentuated records, noted down simply and quickly, by a man sensitive to many sides of life. Read the whole book and a curious ineffaceable impression remains of a confused process of human activity and emotion rushing on, on, on, in a definite direction, like a train which carries its passengers, now looking out of the windows, now talking together, now occupied with their own memories, on to a terminus.
Such is Mr. Baring's record of the war.
As a gardener, I am delighted by the number of times Maurice mentions some plant or something that's happening in nature. The natural world was an anchor for him amid wartime chaos and heartbreak.
Here's what Maurice wrote:
On April 25th, 1917: We heard two shots in the air on the way there on the way back, just as we were this side of the Somme, a kite balloon was shot down and floated down into the river. We were looking at this; at that moment a scout appeared in the sky, and came swooping towards us. I thought it was a German, and that
we were going to land looking down at the shelled condition of the ground. I was terrified. It turned out to be an
It was bitterly cold : the earth looked like was a photograph : a war photograph.
April 26th. I cannot read any more, not another line of the Golden Bowl by Henry James.
April 28th. The garden full of oxlips and cowslips. The trees are red with sap. The hedges are budding.
April 20th. We went to Vert Galant to see Harvey Kelly, who commands No. 19 Squadron...
He always took a potato and a reel of cotton with him when he went over the lines. The Germans, he said, would be sure to treat him well if he had to land on the other side, and they found him provided with such useful and scarce commodities. He was the first pilot to land in France.
A little look back at WWI through the eyes of a nature lover, a gardener, and a pilot.
Thanks for listening to The Daily Gardener
And remember: For a happy, healthy life, garden every day.