April 30, 2019 Raisin Day, George Washington, William Starling Sullivant, Bertha Stoneman, Samuel Mills Tracy, David Douglas, Matt Mattus, Tulip Turkestanica, and Washington’s Botanical Garden

I realize you are very excited to get going in your own garden.

But don't forget to schedule some time this spring to visit other gardens.

The gardens of friends, neighbors, or public gardens can provide you with inspiration

and teach you something new - even when you didn't think you'd learn anything.

#BTW This entire week, April 27-May 4, is Historic Garden Week at Monticello ("MontiCHELLo”) in Virginia.

If you visit today, April 30, you can learn more about their flower and vegetable gardens.





It's National Raisin Day.

California is the biggest supplier of the sun-dried grapes. The California Associated Raisin Company (later known as Sun-Maid) was created with the idea for an ingenious co-op, and the credit for this novel approach went to vineyardist, oilman, and attorney Henry H. Welsh. Welsh came up with the idea for a three-year grower contract, subject to a two-year renewal, binding the raisin grower to deliver all of his crops for a guaranteed price.

Naturally low in fat, raisins contain healthy nutrients... unless you're eating the yogurt- or chocolate-covered raisins.

In their natural state, they are good for humans, but not for dogs. Small quantities of grapes and raisins can cause renal failure in dogs.



#OTD On this day in 1789, Washington was sworn in as the first president of the United States.

A gardening President, George Washington, oversaw all aspects of the land at Mount Vernon.

Washington had a personal copy of Batty Langley's New Principles of Gardening. Inspired by the 18th-century author, Washington adopted a less formal, more naturalistic style for his gardens, and he supervised a complete and total redesign of his Mount Vernon.

On Mount Vernon's website, they review in detail the four gardens that makeup Washington's landscape: the upper (formal) garden, the lower (kitchen) garden, the botanical (personal or experimental) garden, and the fruit garden and nursery.




#OTD On this day in 1873, bryologist William Starling Sullivant died.

Sullivant was born to the founding family of Franklinton, Ohio. His father, Lucas, was a surveyor and had named the town in honor of the recently deceased Benjamin Franklin. The settlement would become Columbus. In 1823, William Sullivant graduated from Yale College. His father would die in August of that same year. Sullivant took over his father's surveying business, and at the age of thirty, he began to study and catalog the plant life in Central Ohio. In 1840, he published his flora, and then he started to hone in on his calling: mosses. Bryology is the study of mosses. The root, bryōs, is a Greek verb meaning to swell. It's the etymology of the word embryo. Bryology will be easier to remember if you think of the ability of moss to swell as it takes on water. As a distinguished bryologist, Sullivant not only studied and cataloged various mosses from across the United States, but also from as far away as Central America, South America, and from various islands in the Pacific Ocean. Mosses suited Sullivant's strengths, requiring patience and close observation, scrupulous accuracy, and discrimination. His first work, Musci Alleghanienses, was:

"exquisitely prepared and mounted, and with letterpress of great perfection; ... It was not put on sale, but fifty copies were distributed with a free hand among bryologists and others who would appreciate it."

In 1864, Sullivant published his magnum opus, Icones Muscorum. With 129 truly excellent illustrations and descriptions of the mosses indigenous to eastern North America, Icones Muscorum fixed Sulivant's reputation as the pre-eminent American bryologist of his time.

In 1873, Sullivant contracted pneumonia - ironically, an illness where your lungs fill or swell with fluid - and he died on April 30, 1873.

During the last four decades of his life, Sullivant exchanged letters with Asa Gray. It's no wonder, then, that he left his herbarium of some 18,000 moss specimens to Gray's beloved Harvard University.

When Gray summoned his curator at Cambridge, Leo Lesquereux, to help Sullivant, he wrote to botanist John Torrey:

"They will do up bryology at a great rate. Lesquereux says that the collection and library of Sullivant in muscology are magnifique, superbe, and the best he ever saw.'"

On December 6, 1857, Gray wrote to Hooker,

"A noble fellow is [William Starling] Sullivant, and deserves all you say of him and his works. The more you get to know of him, the better you will like him."

In 1877, four years after Sullivant's death, Asa Gray wrote to Charles Darwin. Gray shared that Sullivant was his "dear old friend" and that,

"[Sullivant] did for muscology in this country more than one man is likely ever to do again."

The Sullivant Moss Society, which became the American Bryological and Lichenological Society, was founded in 1898 and was named for William Starling Sullivant.




#OTD On this day in 1943, the noted botanist who became president of Huguenot College in South Africa and founder of the South African Association of University Women; Bertha Stoneman died.

Born on a farm near Jamestown, New York, the Stoneman family had many notable achievements. Her aunt, Kate Stoneman, was the first woman admitted to the New York State bar, another aunt became the first policewoman in Buffalo, and her uncle George Stoneman, who was a general in the American Civil War, became the 15th governor of California. (Ronald Reagan being the 33rd, and Arnold Schwarzenegger is the 38th.)

Bertha Stoneman completed her undergraduate and doctorate degrees in botany at Cornell University in 1894 and 1896, respectively. She jumped at the chance to lead the botany department at Huguenot College, a women's college in Wellington, South Africa. More precisely, Huguenot College was the only woman's college on the African continent. Later she would recall,

"It was the courtesy, culture and hospitality of certain Africans that held me... there."

The college called on Stoneman to not only teach botany; but also zoology, mathematics, logic, ethics, and psychology.

Stoneman's textbook, Plants and their Ways in South Africa (1906), an instant classic, was widely assigned as a textbook in South African schools for several decades.

Surrounded by the new and exciting flora of South Africa, Stoneman set about building a herbarium for Huguenot. She either went out herself to collect specimens, or she sent others to add to the collection.

When talking to Americans during visits home, Stoneman praised South African plant life, saying:

"South Africa provides 42 species of native asparagus. Why should it not be cultivated as a vegetable?

...There are fine citrus fruits, avocado, pears, figs, mangoes, and paw-paws...

You need not seek employment.

Employ yourself.

Come soon, and you will be warmly and courteously welcomed."

Stoneman was a wonderfully engaging teacher. As Carolize Jansen wrote in her blog,

If Bertha Stoneman were my biology teacher at school,

maybe I would've considered choosing the subject for the final three years.

In the opening chapter of Plants and their ways in South Africa, a 1906 textbook for school biology,

her introduction ranges from the baking of bread to the Wonderboom in Pretoria,

with a final encouragement regarding Latin names:

‘‘...the reader may skip any name in this book longer than Hermanuspetrusfontein.”

Stoneman was good at many endeavors. Her Cornell Delta Gamma biography noted,

"She entered with enthusiasm into all phases of [college] life, seeming equally at home on the hockey-field, as captain of a team, or in dramatics, writing, and coaching plays... We... are not surprised to learn that she has written many a song for Huguenot College, including its "Alma Mater."

Thanks to Google, I was able to track down the lyrics to the song - although one word had a transcription failure. I edited the text as best I could.

[Tune—“ Sweet and Low."]

Joyfully, joyfully, ever of thee we'll sing,
Loyally, loyally, honor to thee we’ll bring :

“ Earnest for truth " shall our life’s effort be.
Time shall unite us still closer to thee,

[Wisdom] from thee shall come.

Lend thy beams afar.
Shine, thou brilliant Star,

Shine. Thou our Queen, pure, serene.

Ever our hearts wilt cheer.
While with thee never we
Danger or care shall fear.

Knowing our sorrows, thou’lt help us to bear.
And widen rejoicing, our joys thou wilt share.

Thou, our noble Queen.

As we honor thee, we shall sing of thee.


Stoneman was tremendously proud of her scholars. Among her notable students was South African botanical illustrator, Olive Coates Palgrave (noted for her richly illustrated 1956 book Trees of Central Africa) and British born, South African mycologist and bacteriologist, Ethel Doidge.

Twenty-four years after arriving in South Africa, Stoneman became president of Huguenot University College. She retired twelve years later. She requested that her ashes be returned to the United States upon her death.





#OTD It's the birthday of botanist and USDA agronomist Samuel Mills Tracy, born in 1847.

Born in Hartford, Vermont, Tracy's family eventually settled in Wisconsin. At the start of the Civil War, he enlisted with the Union Army, served with a branch of the Wisconsin Volunteers. After the war, he started farming, but then a year later, he decided to go to college. Tracy wound up getting a Master's from Michigan State Agricultural College.

By 1877, Tracy secured a Professor of Botany spot at the University of Missouri.

A decade later, he was hired as the first Director of the Mississippi Experiment Station.

Tracy is perhaps best known for his two works Flora of Missouri and The Flora of Southern United States.

Today, Tracy Herbarium, at Texas A&M, is a special part of the department of ecosystem science and management. A research plant collection with close to 325,000 specimens, it hosts the largest grass collection in Texas and across much of the southern U.S.




Unearthed Words

#OTD On this day in 1827, Scottish botanist David Douglas (Sponsored by Sir William Hooker), took a break from collecting for the Royal Botanic Institution of Glasgow.

He was lagging behind the others in his party as he was making his way through the Athabasca Pass west of present-day Jasper, Alberta, Canada. On a whim, he decided to abandon the trail and ascend the northern peak of Mount Brown in deep snow.

Here's what he recorded in his journal:

After breakfast at one o’clock... I became desirous of ascending one of the peaks, and accordingly I set out alone on snowshoes ... The labour of ascending the lower part, which is covered with pines, is great beyond description, sinking on many occasions to the middle.

Halfway up vegetation ceases entirely, not so much a vestige of moss or lichen on the stones.

Here I found it less laborious as I walked on the hard crust.

One-third from the summit it becomes a mountain of pure ice, sealed far over by Nature’s hand ...

...The ascent took me five hours; ... This peak, the highest yet known in the northern continent of America, I feel a sincere pleasure in naming Mount Brown, in honor of Robert Brown, the illustrious botanist... A little to the southward is one nearly the same height, rising into a sharper point. This I named Mount Hooker [after his sponsor, William Hooker] ..."

Douglas' trip was a success; he collected over 200 new plants.

Douglas was the first Englishman to bring back cones of the Sugar Pine, the Lodgepole Pine, the Ponderosa Pine, and, of course, the Douglas-fir. Within a year of his return in 1827, they would all be growing in English gardens and on Scottish estates.

Special Note: The Douglas-fir is not a true fir, which is why it is spelled with a hyphen. Anytime you see a hyphen in the common name, you know it's not a true member of the genus.




Book Recommendation

Mastering the Art of Vegetable Gardening: Rare Varieties - Unusual Options - Plant Lore & Guidance – by Matt Mattus

Mastering the Art of Vegetable Gardening is your "201" level course in cultivating produce. Expand your knowledge base and discover options that go beyond the ordinary!

Prepare to encounter new varieties of common plant species, learn their history and benefits, and, most of all, identify fascinating new edibles to grow in your own gardens. Written by gardening expert Matt Mattus, Mastering the Art of Vegetable Gardening offers a wealth of new and exciting opportunities, alongside beautiful photography, lore, insight, and humor that can only come from someone who has grown each vegetable himself and truly loves gardening.




Today's Garden Chore

Diversify your tulip plantings for next Spring: If your garden south of zone 7, try Tulip Turkestanica.

You'll find a sudden soft spot for the early blooming, sweet little-faced tulips. Not your typical tulip, this is a species tulip. Species tulips are the most perennial of all tulips. They are petite, long-lived beauties, ideal for rock gardens, or the front of borders. They are adorable in containers and must be protected from freezing north of zone 7. Like daffs, they look amazing planted right in the grass. Such pretty little blooms!




Something Sweet

Reviving the little botanic spark in your heart

When I was researching Mount Vernon, I was struck by Washington's intentions and methods.

He was naturally curious and wanted to see what plants would be able to survive in the harsh climate of Virginia.

Of his four gardens, Washington often referred to his favorite of the four gardens, the botanical garden, during his lifetime. He called it "the little garden by the salt house," or rather fondly, his "little garden." Washington used the botanical garden as his trial garden; testing alfalfa and oats, which, he happily surmised correctly, would increase the productivity of his fields.




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

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