May 2, 2023 John Cabot, Leonardo da Vinci, Meriwether Lewis, John Abercrombie, Thomas Hanbury, Hulda Klager, A Gardener’s Guide to Botany by Scott Zona, and Novalis


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Historical Events

1497 John Cabot, the Canadian Explorer, set sail from Bristol, England, on his ship, Matthew.

He was looking for a route to the west, and he found it. He discovered parts of North America on behalf of Henry VII of England.

And in case you're wondering why we're talking about John Cabot today, it's because of the climbing rose named in his honor. And it's also the rose that got me good. I got a thorn from a John Cabot rose in my knuckle and ended up having surgery to clean out the infection about three days later. It was quite an ordeal. I think my recovery took about eight months. So the John Cabot Rose - any rose - is not to be trifled with.


1519 Leonardo da Vinci, the mathematician, scientist, painter, and botanist, died.

Leonardo once said,

We know more about the movement of celestial bodies than about the soil underfoot.


He also wrote,

The wisest and noblest teacher is nature itself.


And if you're spending any time outdoors, we are learning new lessons in spring. Isn't that the truth? There's always some new development we've never encountered - and, of course, a few delights.

Leonardo continued to study the flower of life, the Fibonacci sequence, which has fascinated them for centuries. You can see it in flowers. You can also see it in cell division.

And if you've never seen Leonardo's drawings and sketches of flowers, you are missing a real treat, and I think they would make for an awesome wallpaper.

Leonardo once wrote about how to make your own perfume.

He wrote,

To make a perfume, take some rose water and wash your hands in it, then take a lavender flower and rub it with your palms, and you will
achieve the desired effect.

That timeless rose-lavender combination is still a good one.


I think about Leonardo every spring when I turn on my sprinkler system because of consistent watering. Gives such a massive boost to the garden. All of a sudden, it just comes alive. Leonardo said,

Water is the driving force in nature.


The power of water is incredible, and of course, we know that life on Earth is inextricably bound to water. Nothing grows; nothing lives without water.

Leonardo was also a cat fan. He wrote,

The smallest feline is a masterpiece.


In 1517 Leonardo made a mechanical lion for the King of France. This lion was designed to walk toward the king and then drop flowers at his feet.

Today you can grow a rose named after Leonardo da Vinci in your garden. It's a beautiful pink rose, very lush, very pleasing, with lots of lovely big green leaves to go with those gorgeous blooms.

It was Leonardo da Vinci who wrote,

Human subtlety will never devise an invention more beautiful, more simple or more direct than does nature because in her inventions nothing is lacking, and nothing is superfluous.


1803 On this day, Napoleon and the United States inked a deal for the Louisiana Purchase and added 828,000 square miles of French territory to the United States for $27 million.

This purchase impacted the Louis and Clark Expedition because they had to explore the area that was bought in addition to the entire Pacific Northwest.

To get ready for this trip, Meriwether Lewis was sent to Philadelphia. While there, he worked with a botanist, a naturalist, and a physician named Benjamin Smith Barton.

He was the expert in Philadelphia, so he tutored Meriwether Lewis to get him ready because Lewis did not know natural history or plants. So he needed to cram all this information to maximize what he saw and collected.

Now, in addition to all of this homework, all of this studying about horticulture and botany and the natural world, Meriwether made one other purchase for $20. He bought himself a big, beautiful Newfoundland dog, and he named him Seaman. It's always nice to have a little dog with you while exploring.


1806 The garden writer John Abercrombie died. 

The previous day, John had fallen down some steps. He had broken his hip a few weeks earlier, and so this last fall is what did him in.

John was a true character. He loved to drink tea. He was a vegetarian. He was Scottish, and he was a lifelong gardener. His most significant success was his book, Every Man His Own Garden.

John would go on to write other books on gardening like The Garden Mushroom, The Complete Wall and Tree Pruner (1783), and The Gardener's Daily Assistant (1786), but none of them rose to the level of popularity as Every Man His Own Garden.

John and his wife had 17 children, and they all died before him - with his last child dying about ten years before he died on this day in 1806.


1867 Thomas Hanbury bought a property in the French Riviera that he called La Mortola.

In 1913, The Botanical Journal shared the story of Thomas and his brother Daniel, and it also described the moment that Thomas saw his property for the first time.

It had been the dream of Thomas Hanbury from his early youth to make a garden in a southern climate and to share its pleasures and botanical interests with his favorite brother.

While staying on the Riviera, in the spring of 1867, after many years of strenuous work in the East, he decided to carry out his plan.

He was first inclined to buy Cap Martin, near Mentone, but gave up the idea as soon as he became acquainted with the little cape of La Mortola.

As he first approached it by sea, he was struck by the marvelous beauty of this spot. A house, once the mansion of a noble Genoese family, and at that time, though almost a ruin, known as the Palazzo Orego, stood on a high commanding position.

Above it was the little village, and beyond all rose the mountains.

To the east of the Palazzo were vineyards and olive terraces; to the west, a ravine whose declivities were here and there scantily clothed by Aleppo pines; while on the rocky point, washed by the sea waves, grew the myrtle, to which La Punta della Murtola probably owed its name.


So Thomas purchased this incredible property in May of 1867, and by July, he returned with his brother, and together the two of them started to transform both the home and the garden.

The article says that Thomas's first goal was to get planting because the property had been destroyed by goats and the local villagers who had come in and taken what they wanted from the property during all the years that it was left unoccupied now Thomas and Daniel went all out when it came to selecting plants for this property, and by 1913 there were over. Five thousand different species of plants, including the opuntia or the prickly pear cactus, along with incredible succulents (so they were way ahead of their time).

Thomas loved collecting rare and valuable plants and found a home for all of them on this beautiful estate.

Now, for the most part, Thomas and his brother Daniel did the bulk of the installations, but a year later, they managed to find a gardener to help them. His name was Ludwig Winter, and he stayed there for about six years. Almost a year after they hired him, Thomas's brother Daniel died.

This was a significant loss to Thomas, but he found solace in his family, friends, and gorgeous estate at La Mortola - where Thomas spent the last 28 years of his life.

Thomas knew almost every plant in his garden, and he loved the plants that reminded him of his brother.

Thomas went on to found the Botanical Institute at the University of Genoa. The herbarium there was named in his honor; it was called the Institute Hanbury and was commemorated in 1892.

As Thomas grew older, the Riviera grew more popular, and soon his property was opened to the public five days a week.

The garden is practically never without flowers. The end of September may be considered the dullest time. Still, as soon as the autumnal rains set in, the flowering begins and continues on an ever-increasing scale until the middle of April or the beginning of May. Then almost every plant is in flower, the most marked features being the graceful branches of the single yellow Banksian rose, Fortune's yellow rose, the sweet-scented Pittosporum, the wonderful crimson Cantua buxifolia, and the blue spikes of the Canarian Echium.\\


But Thomas knew that there were limitations, frustrations, and challenges even in that lovely growing zone.

It was Thomas Hanberry who said,

Never go against nature.


Thomas used that as his philosophy when planning gardens,  working with plants, and trying to figure out what worked and what didn't - Proving that even in the French Riviera, never go against nature.


1928 On this day, folks were lined up to see the lilacs in bloom at Hulda Klagers in Woodland, Washington.

Here's an excerpt from a book by Jane Kirkpatrick called Where Lilacs Still Bloom. In it, she quotes Hulda

Beauty matters… it does. God gave us flowers for a reason. Flowers remind us to put away fear, to stop our rushing and running and worrying about this and that, and for a moment, have a piece of paradise right here on earth.


Jane wrote,

The following year there were two articles: one in Better Homes and Gardens and yet another on May 2, 1928, in the Lewis River News. The latter article appeared just in time for my Lilac Days and helped promote Planter's Day, following in June. They were covering the news, and we had made it!

In the afternoon, a count showed four hundred cars parked at Hulda Klager's Lilac Garden in one hour, the road being lined for a quarter of a mile. It is estimated that at least twenty-five hundred people were there for the day, coming from points all the way from Seattle. In addition there were several hundred cars during the week to avoid the rush.

Today you can go and visit the Hulda Klager Lilac Gardens. It's a nonprofit garden, and of course, it specializes in lilacs.

The gardens are open from 10 to 4 pm daily. There's a $4 admission fee - except during lilac season when the admission fee is $5.


Grow That Garden Library™ Book Recommendation

A Gardener's Guide to Botany by Scott Zona

This book came out in December of 2022, and the subtitle is The Biology Behind the Plants You Love, How They Grow, and What They Need.

I think it's that last part - what they need - that most gardeners are intrigued by.

If you're a true botany geek, you'll love every page of Scott's book.

I wanted to share a little bit from the preface of Scott's book. Scott, by the way, is truly an expert. He's a research botanist by training, and his undergraduate degree is in horticulture, so he's a lifelong gardener and a trained expert. He's a conscious-competent. He knows exactly what he is writing about,

Here's what he wrote in the preface of his book.

As I sit down to write, I gaze at the windowsill near my desk. On it sits a dwarf sansevieria forming little rosettes of deep green leaves above. It hangs a slab of cork on which is mounted a tiny air plant that is pushing out oversized violet flowers, one at a time.

Nearby are two plants, an agave, and an aloe, that have similar forms, but one evolved from Mexico and the other in South America. Above them, a furry-leaved and a hybrid philodendron both grow contently in the diffuse light that reaches the shelf next to the window. My most curious visitors might ask a question about a plant or two, and when that happens, I can barely contain my delight. There is so much to tell.

Well, this book starts out with a chapter called Being a Plant, and if you are a bit of an empath, you may feel that you understand what it's like to be a plant, but Scott is going to tell you scientifically what does it mean to be a plant.


He writes in chapter one,

For most people, the plant kingdom is a foreign land.

It's inscrutable. Inhabitants are all around us, but they communicate in a language that seems unintelligible and untranslatable. Their social interactions are different. Their currency doesn't fit in our wallet and their cuisine. Well, it's nothing like what we eat at home in the plant kingdom.

We are tourists.


So I would say this book is for the very serious and curious gardener- and maybe you. This book was a 2023 American Horticulture Society Award winner. I love the cover.

It's beautiful, and of course, I love the title, A Gardener's Guide to Botany.

This is the perfect book to round out your collection. If you have the Botany in a Day book, it looks like a big botany workbook. I love that book. This book is a great companion to that.

There's also a book called Botany for Gardeners, and when I think about Scott's book here, I will be putting it on the shelf beside both books.

This book is 256 pages that will amp up your understanding of plants - No more mystery -and provide all of the answers you've been looking for.

You can get a copy of A Gardener's Guide to Botany by Scott Zona and support the show using the Amazon link in today's show notes for around $20.


Botanic Spark

1772 Georg Philipp Friedrich Freiherr von Hardenberg, better known by his pen name Novalis, is born.

He was an 18th-century German poet and writer, mystic, and philosopher of early German romanticism.

All last week I was watching videos about Novalis. He led such an exciting but short life. He had a tragic romance after falling in love with a girl who tragically died of tuberculosis, and then Novalis himself died young. He died at 28 of tuberculosis as well.

But in his concise life, he accomplished so much, including the fact that during his life, he had three moments of mystical revelation, which led to a deeper understanding of the world and time, and humanity. This is partly what makes him such a fascinating person to examine.

One of the things that we remember Novalis for is his fascination with blue flowers. He made the blue flower a symbol of German romanticism. To Novalis, the blue flower represented romantic yearning. It also meant a point of unification between humanity and nature. It represented life, but it also described death.

And if you are a gardener who the blue flower bug has bitten (and who hasn't? I mean, who does not love a blue flower?), you know what I'm talking about. Blue blossoms are so rare. They're so captivating. Most people can relate to Novalis' love of Blue Flowers and why it became so significant in his writing.

Now the book where Novalis wrote about the Blue flower is a book called Henry of Ofterdingen, and it's here where we get these marvelous quotes about the blue blossom, which some believe was a heliotrope and which others believe was a cornflower,

But whatever the case, the symbolism of the blue flower became very important.

Novalis wrote,

It is not the treasures that have stirred in me such an unspeakable longing; I care not for wealth and riches. But that blue flower I do long to see; it haunts me and I can think and dream of nothing else.


And that reminds me of what it was like to be a new gardener 30 years ago. A friend got me onto growing Delphinium, and I felt just like Novalis; I could not stop thinking about the Delphinium and imagining them at maturity around the 4th of July, standing about five to six feet tall, those beautiful blue spikes.

And, of course, my dream of the Delphinium always surpassed what the actual Delphinium looked like, and yet, I still grew them. I loved them. And I did that for about ten years. So there you go, the call and the power of the blue flower.

Novalis writes later in the book,

He saw nothing but the blue flower, and gazed at it for a long time with indescribable tenderness.


Those blue flowers command our attention. Well, I'll end with this last quote. It's a flower quote from Novalis, and it'll get you thinking. Novalis was a very insightful philosopher and a lover of nature, and he believed in the answers that could be found in nature. And so what he does here in this quote is he asks a series of questions, and like all good philosophers, Novalis knows that the answer is in the questions and that the questions are more powerful than the answers. Novalis writes,

What if you slept?
And what if, in your sleep, you dreamed?
And what if, in your dream, you went to heaven and plucked a strange and beautiful flower?
And what if, when you awoke, you had the flower in your hand?
Ah, what then?


Thanks for listening to The Daily Gardener

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

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