April 17, 2019 William Cullen Bryant, Double Take Plants, John Tradescant the Elder, Graham Stuart Thomas, James McBride, Adolph Daniel Edward Elmer, Gilbert White, Mignonette, Sam Postlethwait, and the Celery Bog Nature Area

William Cullen Bryant wrote,

“There is no glory in star or blossom
till looked upon by a loving eye;
There is no fragrance in April breezes
till breathed with joy as they wander by.”

That pretty much sums up what happens with the plants I’ve dubbed "double-takes".

A double-take plant is the one you first ignore or blow off - but them something about them causes you to take another look; to appreciate what you didn’t see the first time around.

Until the first spring I saw Lungwort in bloom, I never looked at it with a loving eye. But then, that very first time I saw it in bloom,

it about knocked me over.


Bluey-purpley-pinky little delicate thing.

It took my breath away; Pulmonaria making me need a Pulmonologist.

I suddenly didn’t mind the speckled foliage.

And now?

Now, I love it.

It’s a classic double-take plant kind of story.





#OTD Buried on this day, 381 years ago, in the churchyard of St Mary at Lambeth, alongside his son; the gardener John Tradescant the elder.

Today, the churchyard is the Garden Museum.



#OTD in 2003 Horticulturist Graham Stuart Thomas (Books By This Author) died. He was 94. (3 April 1909 – 17 April 2003).

GST was fundamentally a nurseryman and he lived a life fully immersed in the garden. His passion was sparked at a young age by a special birthday present he was given when he turned six: a beautiful potted fuchsia.

In 2003. his gardening outfit - including his pants, vest, and shoes - as well as a variety of his tools (including plant markers and a watering can) were donated to the Garden Museum.

GST was best known for his work with garden roses and his leadership of over 100 National Trust gardens. He wrote 19 books on gardening. Ever the purposeful perfectionist, he never wasted a moment.

What do folks have to say about GST on social media? Here’s a sampling:

  • Pachysandra ground cover - A GST classic!
  • My mom gave me a Graham Stuart Thomas for my first gardening book, so very special
  • Our best selling plant of 2015? At number 1 (drum roll) - Eryngium Graham Stuart Thomas.
  • Flower spike on yucca in border. GST used them as punctuation marks in design.
  • Love being married to someone who knows what I mean when I say, “Bring me Graham Stuart Thomas"



#OTD Physician and botanist James McBride was born in Williamsburg County, South Carolina, in 1784.

As a babe, he was abandoned and became an orphan. With nothing to his name, he managed to get an education through what his Yale biography called "indefatigable industry and perseverance”.

Trained as a doctor, he spent his free time pursuing his passion: botany. He wrote papers to the Linnean Society and other scientific journals. His personal friend, Dr. Stephen Elliott, named the Macbridia pulcra for McBride. He also dedicated the second volume of his Sketch of the Botany of South Carolina and Georgia to McBride’s memory:

"[James was] a gentleman who, uniting great sagacity to extensive and accurate botanical knowledge, has made the medical properties of our plants a subject of careful investigation. Profoundly skilled in his profession… he fell victim to the fatigues and exposure of an extensive [medical] practice. In the midst of a brilliant career, with prospects of increasing usefulness and extended reputation”

James McBride died at the age of 33 trying to help stop an epidemic of yellow fever in Charleston, South Carolina on September 21, 1817.




#OTD American botanist and plant collector Adolph Daniel Edward Elmer died. He was born in 1870 in Van Dyne, Wisconsin.

Elmer got degrees from the Washington Agricultural College, and Stanford University. He collected plants in the Philippines from 1904 to 1927. Kew Gardens shared that in 1919 Elmer’s notes stated

“ I ... collected [plant specimens] on the Bulusan (“Bah-loo-sahn”) volcano which has recently become active and..may cause the total destruction of its vegetation.”

Elmer was the editor of "Leaflets of Philippine Botany”. In that publication, he documented more than 1,500 new species.

After the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor, Adolph Elmer and his wife, Emma, ignored the pleas from their extended family to leave American-controlled Manila.

Elmer was killed on April 17, 1942, after being captured by Japanese forces in the Battle of Bataan. His wife, Emma, survived both the battle and the Death March. She returned to the United States after the war.








Unearthed Words

#OTD Naturalist Gilbert White wrote in his Journal in Selborne, England on April 17, 1789 :

Five gallons of french brandy from London. Cucumbers show fruit in bloom. Cuculus cuculat: the voice of the cuckoo is heard in Blackmoor woods. Sowed hollyhocks, columbines, snapdragons, stocks, mignonette, all from S. Lambeth, in a bed in the garden: also Sweet Williams, & Canterbury bells.





Today's book recommendation: Three Gardens by Graham Stuart Thomas

In this reprint of a 1983 book, venerable English horticulturist, painter, and writer Graham Stuart Thomas recounts his journey from his first garden to the present day, charmingly describing the three gardens he has owned and the plants he has tended in each. Includes some 750 plant profiles, eight plant portraits painted by the author, and (poorly reproduced) color and b&w photographs, also by the author. Distributed by Timber Press.





Today's Garden Chore

Try growing the annual mignonette (“Meen-no-net”).

In "The Favorites of the Flower Garden”, Linnean Society Fellow George William Francis and first director of the Adelaide Botanic Garden wrote

“This simple and attractive weed, which is the envy of the [...] glittering throng that surrounds it in a garden, and which has no rivalry [...] except [...] the Rose and Violet, is one of the first flowers that we learn to gather, and the very last that we cease to value.”

Floret's description of mignonette seeds says that:

Napoleon sent mignonette seeds from Egypt to France for his darling Empress Josephine in the early 1800’s. Long wispy stems are capped with creamy white flowers with a delicate orange center that smells like vanilla. Flowers fade, leaving behind green, lantern-like pods. A great textural ingredient for bouquets and a favorite with pollinators, mignonette is suited for the border as well as containers.

Mignonette means “little darling” in French.





Something Sweet

Reviving the little botanic spark in your heart

#OTD in 2018 Sam Postlethwait, a retired Purdue University botany professor, turned 100 years old.

His apartment overlooks the Celery Bog Nature Area. Every morning, Sam wakes up and looks out his window at the three different ecosystems before him: the prairie, the woods, and the celery bog. On his walks, he documents what he sees with a Nikon camera; creating booklets filled with photos collected through the years.

He says,

"It is incredible that we have this right here in our city, and the only way you can understand this treasure is by a routine walk. And then you see life. You see life starting and you see life continuing and you see life ending, and you begin to understand living things interacting in nature.”

Sam taught freshman botany for 35 years at Purdue. He was married to his wife Sara for 69 years. When she died in 2010, they had lived by the Celery Bog for almost a decade. Sam reflected on his life there, saying,

"to have had eight years here with my Sara has just been wonderful. A spider's life is not much different than ours, If I live, something has to die. We cannot live without things dying."




Thanks for listening to the daily gardener,
and remember:
"For a happy, healthy life, garden every day."

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