April 5, 2019 Garden Dreams, Birkenhead Park, Lord Viscount Morpeth, Matthias Schleiden, Algernon Swinburne, Joseph Paxton, Garden Picture Day, and Edward Kemp

It's decision time in the garden.

What will your projects be this year?

We often have no idea if our garden dreams will come true.


Gardeners may dream bigger dreams than emperors, but we can often get stuck.

We put plants in the wrong spot.

We buy the wrong thing.

We buy the wrong plant.

We overdo it.

But, every now and then, we get it completely right.


I waited for years to put paths around my front garden.

Why did I wait so long?

No reason, really.

But, once they were in, I knew it was the perfect thing my garden had been missing.


Whatever you're dreaming of and planning for your garden this season, I hope you get it completely right.






On this day in 1847, Birkenhead Park opened to

"great rejoicing and festivity, and in the evening there was a gorgeous display of fire-works. The day at Birkenhead, and indeed partly at Liverpool, was observed as a holiday; and the workmen at the Birkenhead Docks, 2,000 in number, each received a day's wage. Later in the evening a ball and supper took place in the Dock warehouse”


Birkenhead was the first publicly funded civic park designed by Joseph Paxton and inspired New York's Central Park.

Clippings from the Liverpool Mercury during April that year show that Birkenhead was quickly becoming a bustling port city and, mindful that the people of the community who were the "source of all wealth and power" would appreciate the "accommodation and recreation," the commons area, "overgrown with fern, and rough with prickly gorse [had] been converted into a magnificent park, beautifully laid out, and planted with every variety of shrubs and flowers." The prickly gorse mentioned in that clip, now considered toxic, is a yellow-flowered shrub and pea family member.

On the day of the grand opening, Lord Viscount Morpeth gave the commemorating speech, gushing,

“We have seen something this day beyond even the dreams of Venice. For instance, such an array of steamers as has today graced the Mersey, never could have been witnessed in Venice; and though perhaps a steamer may not be so picturesque an object as a gondola, I may yet remind you that… Venice never could have sent forth a message which in ten days might reach those harbors and roadsteads of the new world."


In the first four days following the grand opening, the paper reported that Mr. Cooper had crossed the river and visited Birkenhead Park, and 58,000 persons had done the same.

On April 23rd of this year, a presentation will be hosted in conjunction with the Friends at Birkenhead Park. For over two years, plans have been developed to secure Birkenhead Park's listing as a World Heritage Site. The evening's presentations are intended to provide an opportunity to learn more about this process. Presenters include Professor Robert Lee of the University of Liverpool's Department of History.





Happy Birthday today to the German botanist and early evolutionist Matthias Jakob Schleiden (born April 5, 1804, Hamburg[Germany]—died June 23, 1881, Frankfurt am Main, Germany)

Schleiden was also the co-founder (with Theodor Schwann) of the cell theory; Schleiden was the first person to recognize the importance of cells in plants.

Later, speculated on the role of the nucleus in cell division. Matthias Schleiden who said,

"Youthful fancy lends to the rock, the tree, the flower, an animating genius, and in the thunder hears the voice of God. Then comes earnest science stripping Nature of that inspiring charm, and substituting the unvarying law of blind necessity."



Unearthed Words

The poet Algernon Swinburne was born on this day in 1837.

In his poem, A Forsaken Garden, he describes a garden - or rather, "the ghost of a garden."

At the show's beginning, we talked about our dreams for our gardens. In this poem, the dreamer of the garden has left, and the garden has become a nightmare. Although the sun still shines and the rain still falls, the beds in the garden are blossomless. Now, there is only brushwood and thorn. Branches and briars cover the paths. Even the weeds are dead. The only thing left is one gaunt, bleak blossom of scentless breath.

Here are the first five verses of A Forsaken Garden:

In a coign of the cliff between lowland and highland,
At the sea-down's edge between windward and lee,
Walled round with rocks as an inland island,
The ghost of a garden fronts the sea.
A girdle of brushwood and thorn encloses
The steep square slope of the blossomless bed
Where the weeds that grew green from the graves of its roses
Now lie dead.

The fields fall southward, abrupt and broken,
To the low last edge of the long lone land.
If a step should sound or a word be spoken,
Would a ghost not rise at the strange guest's hand?
So long have the grey bare walks lain guestless,
Through branches and briars, if a man makes way,
He shall find no life but the sea-wind's, restless
Night and day.

The dense hard passage is blind and stifled
That crawls by a track none turn to climb
To the strait waste place that the years have rifled
Of all but the thorns that are touched not of time.
The thorns he spares when the rose is taken;
The rocks are left when he wastes the plain.
The wind that wanders, the weeds wind-shaken,
These remain.

Not a flower to be pressed of the foot that falls not;
As the heart of a dead man, the seed-plots are dry;
From the thicket of thorns whence the nightingale calls not,
Could she call? There were never a rose to reply.
Over the meadows that blossom and wither
Rings but the note of a sea-bird's song;
Only the sun and the rain come hither
All year long.

The sun burns sere and the rain dishevels
One gaunt bleak blossom of scentless breath.
Only the wind here hovers and revels
In a round where life seems barren as death.
Here there was laughing of old, there was weeping,
Haply, of lovers none ever will know,
Whose eyes went seaward a hundred sleeping
Years ago.




Today's book recommendation: The Busiest Man in England by Kate Colquhoun

In honor of the anniversary of the opening of Birkenhead Park, Today's book recommendation is all about Joseph Paxton.

Paxton was, by all accounts, a genius. Charles Dickens dubbed him "The Busiest Man in England."



Today's Garden Chore

It's another Photo Friday in the Garden.

Today, take wide-angle shots of your garden.

Get the vistas from the windows of your house, from the approach from the street, your neighbor's house, and the corners of your property.




Something Sweet

Reviving the little botanic spark in your heart

Edward Kemp, the landscape gardener, and architect at Birkenhead, placed an ad in the Liverpool Mercury after the opening of Birkenhead; he was out of work and was offering his services,

“[Edward Kemp] begs to offer his services to the Noblemen and Gentlemen in the vicinity of Birkenhead and Liverpool…The fluttering testimonials which he has received from numberless visitors to the Birkenhead park, induce him to believe that a simple reference to the past and present condition of the park …. will be sufficient to ensure for him a large and liberal patronage.”


He must have found something - because Edward Kemp became a leading Victorian Landscape Gardener and successful gardener.





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