April 29, 2019 Perennial Defined, Agnes Chase, Cornelia Vanderbilt’s Wedding, Alfred Hitchcock, Ron McBain, #AmericanSpringLive, Botany Bay, Mary Gilmore, Garden-Pedia, Composting, and the Significance of Grass

Merriam-Webster gives the following synonyms for the word perennial:

abiding, enduring, perpetual, undying

Those terms can give gardeners unrealistic expectations for their perennials. They're not eternal. They will eventually part ways with your garden. But, for as long as they can, your perennials will make a go of it. Returning to the garden after their season of dieback and rest. Ready to grow.

Ready for you to see them and love them all over again.




#OTD It's the birthday of a botanist who was a petite, fearless, and indefatigable person: Agnes Chase, born on this day in 1869.

Chase was an agrostologist—a studier of grass. A self-taught botanist, her first position was as an illustrator at the USDA’s Bureau of Plant Industry in Washington, D.C. In this position, Chase worked as an assistant to the botanist Albert Spear Hitchcock. When Hitchcock applied for funding to go on expeditions, authorities approved the assignment for Hitchcock, but would not support Chase - saying the job should belong to "real research men."

Undeterred, Chase raised her own funding to go on the expeditions. She cleverly partnered with missionaries in Latin America to arrange for accommodations with host families. She shrewdly observed,

“The missionaries travel everywhere, and like botanists do it on as little money as possible. They gave me information that saved me much time and trouble.”

During a climb of one of the highest Mountains in Brazil, Chase returned to camp with a "skirt filled with plant specimens." One of her major works, the "First Book of Grasses," was translated into Spanish and Portuguese. It taught generations of Latin American botanists who recognized Chase's contributions long before their American counterparts.

When Hitchcock retired, Chase was his backfill. When Chase reached retirement age, she ignored the rite of passage altogether and refused to be put out to pasture. She kept going to work - six days a week - overseeing the largest collection of grasses in the world in her office under the red towers at her beloved Smithsonian Institution. When Chase was 89, she became the eighth person to become an honorary fellow of the Smithsonian. A reporter covering the event said,

Dr. Chase looked impatient, as if she were muttering to her self, "This may be well and good, but it isn't getting any grass classified, sonny."



#OTD On this day in 1924, it was Cornelia Vanderbilt's wedding day.

When the Vanderbilt heiress married British nobility, the diplomat John Cecil, the wedding flowers had been ordered from a florist in New York. However, the train to Asheville, North Carolina, had been delayed and would not arrive in time.

Biltmore's Floral Displays Manager Lizzie Borchers said that,

"Biltmore’s gardeners came to the rescue, clipping forsythia, tulips, dogwood, quince, and other flowers and wiring them together. They were quite large compositions, twiggy, open, and very beautiful.”

If you look up this lavish, classic roaring 20's wedding on social media, the pictures show that the bouquets held by the wedding party were indeed very large - they look to be about two feet in diameter! I'll share the images in our Facebook Group, The Daily Gardener Community.

In 2001, the Biltmore commemorated the 75th anniversary of the wedding with a month-long celebration among 2,500 blooming roses during the month of June.



#OTD On this day in 1980, Alfred Hitchcock died.

On social media, you can see images of a very young Alfred Hitchcock in Italy on the set of what many believed to be his first feature-length silent film, The Pleasure Garden (1925).

He filmed an extravagant “Garden Party" scene in his 1950 film Stage Fright starring Jane Wyman and Alastair Sim.

Then in 1989, the first three reels of Alfred Hitchcock's 1923 silent film "The White Shadow" were discovered in Jack Murtagh's garden shed in Hastings, New Zealand. The film was long thought to be lost.

It was Alfred Hitchcock who said,

"Places' are the real stars of my films: the Psycho house, the house in Rebecca, the Covent Garden market in Frenzy"




#OTD On this day in 2017, The New YorkTimes tweeted that the Brooklyn Botanic Garden cherry blossom festival was set for today and tomorrow, regardless of when nature [decided] to push play.




#OTD On this day in 2017, Ron MacBain owner of The Plantsman floral shop in Tucson, died - just a few days short of his 90th birthday.

MacBain was a floral force majeure. One article I read about MacBain began simply,

"Ron McBain did the flowers. It's a refrain heard more and more frequently in Tucson. Whether the event is an elegant party or a posh charity ball; whether the bouquet cost $25 and was sent to grandma on Mother's Day or cost $100..."

After selling his shop of 25 years in 1999, MacBain turned his to Winterhaven - a home he shared with his longtime partner Gustavo Carrasco, who died in 2011. The garden at Winterhaven was a destination spot for photographers, painters, and garden lovers.

In a charming twist, when he could no longer garden, MacBain picked up painting. He said,

“I [imagine] I’m in the flower shop... and arrange on canvas the way I would in a vase... The joy [I get] fills me so much, I wouldn’t want to do anything else.”




Finally, tonight at 7 pm CT the world is reborn on PBS with their presentation of “Nature: American Spring LIVE," the Emmy- and Peabody-award winning series, and it will air three nights starting tonight (April 29) through May 1.

Spring is one of nature’s greatest performances – a time of rebirth, renewed energy, and dramatic transformations. I'm so looking forward to this. In the three-night event, you can join scientists as they make real-time observations in the field from iconic locations from across America - in ecosystems ranging from the Rockies to the Everglades, from inner-city parks to remote wilderness preserves. The series will include a mix of live and pre-taped footage highlighting some of the most pivotal events in nature’s calendar.

Nature executive producer Fred Kaufman says,

“Nature throws a party every year, and it’s called spring. It is the most active time in the natural world for plants and animals, from birth and rebirth to migrations to pollination... In addition to witnessing incredible wonders, the goal... is to inspire people to go outside and get involved with science. Everyone can play a part in our natural world.”




Unearthed Words

Here's a beloved poem about Botany Bay from Australian Mary Gilmore (1865 – 1962).

#OTD On this day in 1770, Captain James Cook sailed into a large harbor on the coast of what would become known as Sydney, Australia; he named it Botany Bay.

In Mary's poem, you'll hear the words ‘knotted hands’ – meaning the imprisoned hands of convicts who were made to work for Australia.

Old Botany Bay

“I’m old
Botany Bay;
stiff in the joints,
little to say.

I am he
who paved the way,
that you might walk
at your ease to-day;

I was the conscript
sent to hell
to make in the desert
the living well;

I bore the heat,
I blazed the track-
furrowed and bloody
upon my back.

I split the rock;
I felled the tree:
The nation was-
Because of me!

Old Botany Bay
Taking the sun
from day to day…
shame on the mouth
that would deny
the knotted hands
that set us high!

And, here's another poem from Gilmore about the founders of Australia:

Even the old, long roads will remember and say,
“Hither came they!”
And the rain shall run in the ruts like tears;
And the sun shine on them all the years,
Saying, “These are the roads they trod” —
They who are away with God.

Last year, the Australian government announced they were budgeting $50 million to redevelop Cook’s 1770 landing place. The plans include turning the area into a major tourist attraction and include the addition of a $3 million statue of Cook himself.

Australia Treasurer Scott Morrison said it would be "a place of commemoration, recognition, and understanding of two cultures and the incredible Captain Cook."

The redevelopment is slated to be built by 2020, in time to mark the 250th anniversary of the landing.




Today's book recommendation

Here's a lovely conversational style gardener's dictionary - Garden-pedia: An A-to-Z Guide to Gardening Terms by Pamela Bennett and Maria Zampini.

With more than 200 garden and landscape terms, Garden-pedia is meant to teach, to provide perspectives on terms, and to answer commonly-asked questions. The idea for the book started with Maria Zampini needing to explain basic terms and practices to new hires in the nursery industry and was expanded by Master Gardener Pam Bennett’s experiences with teaching home gardeners.




Today's Garden Chore

I'll never forget talking to Peggy Anne Montgomery (The Still Growing Podcast Episode 553). One of her personal garden sayings that she shared with me later is, "Nothing green or brown leaves the property." I've since adopted the same mantra - using all green or brown matter for compost. You don't need to export your nutrient-rich leaves and brush to the curb for pickup. Start simply with a chop and drop approach to winter cleanup.

Something Sweet

Reviving the little botanic spark in your heart


While I was researching Agnes Chase, I came across this little article in The St. Louis Star and Times.

Chase gave one of her books on grass a biblical title, The Meek That Inherit the Earth.

The article pointed out that,

"Mrs. Chase began her study of grass by reading about it in the Bible.

In the very first chapter of Genesis, ...the first living thing the Creator made was grass.

...In order to understand grass one needs an outlook as broad as all creation, for grass is fundamental to life, from Abraham, the herdsman, to the Western cattleman; from drought in Egypt to the dust bowl of Colorado; from corn, a grass given to Hiawatha because in time of famine he prayed not for renown but for the good of his people, to the tall corn of Iowa.

And to [Chase], as she said, "Grass is what holds the, earth together. Grass made it possible for the human race to abandon his cave life and follow herds. Civilization was based on grass, everywhere in the world." This significance, says this rare scientist... still holds."



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and remember:

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

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