April 19, 2019 Signature Plant, National Garlic Day, Gilroy Garlic Festival, E. Lucy Braun, Gilbert White, Primrose Day, Nancy Cardozo, Fiona Davison, Photo Friday, and Prime Minister Benjamin Disraeli 

Does your garden have a signature plant?

If you can't decide, maybe it's time to let your garden do the talking.

Complete the following sentence: My garden has the perfect spot to grow.... (fill in the blank).

For instance, you may have the perfect spot to grow anemone. I remember going to my friend Carmen’s house in the spring. I came around the corner and stopped in my tracks when I saw her happy anemones - so cheerful, so vibrant,... and so demanding. Not everyone can grow anemones, but Carmen‘s garden had the perfect spot for them. And even though anemones are pretty ephemeral, I always think of them as her signature plant.





#OTD Today is National Garlic Day - it is observed every year on April 19.

Garlic, or stinking rose, is a member of the lily family. Onions, leeks, and shallots are also in the family. This time of year, wild garlic or ransoms, are returning to the woodlands, hedgerows, and riverbanks. Wild garlic is also called a bear's garlic. Folklore says that bears eat it after hibernation. If cows graze on wild garlic, it will taint the milk with garlic flavor. Garlic is a favorite foraged seasonal ingredient of top chefs.

And it's not just a foundational ingredient for cooking - garlic is also used for medicinal purposes.

Garlic has antibiotic properties, and it also helps reduce blood pressure and cholesterol. Herbalists recommend garlic as a remedy for colds.

Gilroy, California, is known as the Garlic Capital of the World.

Will Rogers said this about Gilroy:

“…the only place in America where you can marinate a steak just by hanging it out on a clothesline.”

Atlas Obscura wrote an article last year about Gilroy. They featured Gilroy's unique recipes for garlic ice cream saying,

"The dessert divides ice-cream lovers."

An online reviewer mediated the matter with this comment,

"Actually the garlic ice cream is pretty good. But a little does go a long way."

The Gilroy Garlic Festival is held every year in July.





#OTD It's the birthday of E. Lucy Braun was born on April 19, 1889, in Cincinnati. The E stood for Emma, but she went by Lucy. In 1950, Braun was the first woman elected president of the Ecological Society of America. A quiet, bright, and dedicated field scientist, she worked as a botanist at the University of Cincinnati.

Braun became interested in the outdoors as a child. Growing up on May Street in Cincinnati, her parents would take Lucy and her older sister, Annette, by horse-drawn streetcar to the woods in Rose Hill so they could spend time in the woods. The girls were taught to identify wildflowers. In turn, the girls helped gather specimens for their mother's herbarium. The girls both got Ph.D.'s - Lucy in botany, Annette in Zoology - and they never married. However, they lived together with their entire lives, leaving their childhood May street for a home in Mount Washington. The sisters turned the upstairs into a laboratory and the gardens around the house into an outside laboratory. At the age of 80, Braun was still leading people on field trips in Ohio.

Friends of Braun have recounted,

"To be with her in the field was something. She made everything so real, so exciting she was just so knowledgeable."

"She loved to be out in the field rain wouldn't stop her. She could walk forever."

Lucy Braun said,

"Only through close and reverent examination of nature can humans understand and protect its beauties and wonders."

By the time she died, Emma had collected some 11,891 specimens for her own personal herbarium. This was the result of tremendous personal dedication; Braun drove over 65,000 miles during a 25-year quest throughout the eastern United States. Her heart belonged to the forests, and her book, Deciduous Forests of Eastern North America, is still regarded as a definitive text. When asked about her time in the field, Braun would happily recount how she had managed to dodge moonshiners' stills in the hills of Kentucky, gathering up plant samples unseen by the botanists of her time.

When she died of heart failure in March 1971, at the age of 81, she was one of the top three ecologists In the United States. Her herbarium was acquired by the Smithsonian National Museum in Washington, D.C.





OTD In 1792, Naturalist Gilbert White wrote in his journal in Selborne, England:

Redstart appears. Daffodils are gone: mountain-snow-drops, & hyacinths in bloom; the latter very fine: fritillaries going. Vast flood at Whitney in Oxfordshire, on the Windrush.

Then, four years later in 1796: Sowed holly-hocks, columbines, & sweet Williams




Unearthed Words

#OTD It's Primrose Day.

Primrose Day commemorates the death date of Queen Victoria’s favorite Prime Minister Benjamin Disraeli. His favorite flower was the Primrose. The name comes from the Latin primus, meaning first rose.

In 1889, London newspapers reported that,

"They received, no fewer than 811 sets of verses from 'poets' who have attempted to carry off the small prize awarded for a Primrose poem. In 1884, when the competition started, only 77 poems were sent in. In 1886 the number rose to 557. Next year there will probably be 1,000 competitors."

On April 30, 1947, a little primrose verse was printed in the Chicago Tribune,

A primrose by a river's brim
Is not a rose nor Is it prim.

American writer, Nancy Cardozo wrote a poem called Primroses and Prayers. Here it is:

This is a primrose morning,
The wind has put up her hair;<
The bells, hung in my cherry tree,
are still – No birds feast there.
I walked up the noon hill,
Saddest of prim things.
I met a fair child selling
bunches of butterfly wings.
I gave him a painted ball
For a mist bouquet,
Now flitter ghosts put wings on
all I do or say.





Today's book recommendation: The Hidden Horticulturalists by Fiona Davison

Davison worked at the Royal Horticultural Society's library, and she unearthed a collection of handwritten letters that dated back to 1822. The letters had been written by young gardeners including one from a young Joseph Paxton, who would go on to become one of our best-known gardeners and architects. Using their letters, Fiona Davison traces the stories of a handful of these forgotten gardeners whose lives would take divergent paths to create a unique history of gardening.

The trail took her from Chiswick to Bolivia and uncovered tales of fraud, scandal and madness - and, of course, a large number of fabulous plants and gardens. This is a celebration of the unsung heroes of horticulture whose achievements reflect a golden moment in British gardening, and continue to influence how we garden today.





Today's Garden Chore

It's another Photo Friday in the Garden.

Today take pictures of all the stuff in your garden. Skip the plants, focus on the statuary. The fountains. The signage. When you review your photos, look at them with discernment. Evaluate each piece. Over time, our gardens can become repositories. Just because something says Garden - doesn't mean it has to go in YOUR garden.




Something Sweet

Reviving the little botanic spark in your heart

Prime Minister Benjamin Disraeli was also dubbed the Earl of Beaconsfield. After he died, there was a little story that made the rounds in the papers called The Beaconsfield and the Primrose. I'll paraphrase it here:

Disraeli's fondness for the primrose originated from the time when he was living in Highbury, London.

Here, he was much attached to a young lady.

A ball was held and the young lady in question wore a wreath of primroses.

A bet was made between Mr. Disraeli and another gentleman as to whether the primroses were real or not.

The bet was for a pair of gloves. Turns out, the primroses were REAL primroses.

Disraeli got the gloves; and the lady? She gave a few primroses to the future prime minister, who put them in his buttonhole.

Thereafter, he had a fondness for the primrose.





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"For a happy, healthy life, garden every day."

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