May 2, 2019 Plant Sales, May Fools Day, Rivdan, The White House Gardens Symposium, Jimi Hendrix, Stonewall Jackson, Didier Decoin, Dividing Iris, and The Enid A. Haupt Garden

Ah May... the Month of Plant Sales.

When I started gardening, I would Plant Sale away my Saturdays in May with my dear friend Judy.

We would plan our way to a successful sale day, waking up while it was still dark out.

Then we'd arrive at the church or the building where the sale was to be held, we'd set up our lawn chairs at the door, and we'd pat ourselves on the back for being first and second in line. Then, we'd wait another hour or two for the doors to open. All the while, sharing our dreams for our gardens, checking our wishlists for the unusual plants we might find at the sale, and figuring out which plants we'd discovered the previous year that we wanted more of and which we deemed not worthy of getting again.





#OTD Today May 2, maybe the original April Fools Day.

In Geoffrey Chaucer's The Nun's Priest's Tale, a fox tricks a rooster on a day 32 days after March - which would be May 2, but many took it to mean March 32 or April 1.

Many scholars now think Chaucer actually did mean May 2 as the foolish day. I guess you could say the joke's on us!




#OTD Today is the last day of Ridvan.


The Ridvan ("Rez-vän") Festival is a holiday celebrated by those of the Baha'i faith, commemorating the 12 days when their prophet and founder resided in a garden outside of Baghdad. He called the garden Ridvan, which translates to paradise.

Today, Ridvan is a festival of renewal and peace. It celebrates the beginnings of the Baha’i Faith, and the first law of the religion was an admonition to humanity to cease all warfare.



#OTD Today is the Annual White House Gardens Symposium.

It's an all-day event that focuses on the history and the role of the White House Gardens. There are expert speakers and panelists, as well as a lunch program - and a surprise take away.

This year's symposium highlights the gardens of Beatrix Jones Farrand and Rachel “Bunny” Lambert Mellon, as well as the present-day White House Gardens.




#OTD On this day in 1969, Jimi Hendrix performed at the Cobo Center in Detroit.

It reminded me of a story about a succulent that ended up being named for Hendrix.

In 1995, Mark Dodero was listening to Jimi Hendrix’s “Voodoo Child” while on a little botanizing trip in Mexico with fellow students Kim Marsden, and Scott and Brenda McMillan.

They had stopped to investigate a mesa in the Colonel Peninsula, about 70 miles south of Ensenada.

The group had made a new succulent discovery years earlier. Dodero thought he saw something about the terrain that made him think he might find another.

He hiked up the mesa and came upon a little plant - a succulent - that he suspected was new.

Years later, the University of California, Santa Cruz professor Stephen McCabe, “rediscovered” the plant in the same area described by Dodero during his original discovery.

In 2016, the plant, Dudleya hendrixii, or “Hendrix’s live forever,” in honor of Jimi Hendrix, was recognized in the California Botanical Society’s publication, Madrono.





Unearthed Words

#OTD Today, in 1863, Stonewall Jackson was shot by his own men, and I thought his life story contained many moving passages.

In an article in the Washington Post called Stonewall Jackson had a soft side, it was revealed that just before the start of the civil war, Jackson had developed a love for gardening.

If you read any biographies on Jackson, his life was one tragedy after another. His father and sister died of typhoid when Jackson was two years old. His mother died when he was seven.

By the age of seventeen, he had only one sister left from his immediate family. His first wife died after giving birth to his stillborn son. His first daughter with his second wife, Anna, died within a month of her birth.

After all this personal loss and battling life-long mental and physical health problems, Jackson fell in love with gardening. It was, no doubt, a reprieve for Jackson.

Jackson, who once wrote in a schoolbook, "A man of words and not of deeds is like a garden full of weeds," used botanist Robert Buist's book for guidance. It was Buist's “The Family Kitchen Gardener: Containing Plain and Accurate Descriptions of All the Different Species and Varieties of Culinary Vegetables, that became Jackson's gardening bible and he wrote little notes in the margins as he worked his way through the guide.

In the WaPo article, it noted that

After tomatoes, asparagus, watermelon, spinach and turnips was the one-word notation “plant.”

Jackson dearly loved his wife, Anna. In his garden, he planted and picked flowers for her. Ever the military man, his garden was ordered and neat.

In the Spring and Summer of 1859, Jackson wrote letters to Anna, who was sick and in New York for treatment. He loved to refer to her with romantic names, and he often wrote about the garden...

Here's an example:

“I was mistaken about [our] large garden fruit being peaches... It turns out to be apricots and I enclose one which I found on the ground today... just think, my little Dove has a tree full of them.”

In another letter, he wrote:

“Our potatoes are coming up and I shall send you a sample of a leaf. . . . [our] garden has been thirsting for water until last evening.”

And in another, Jackson wrote,

“I watered [our] flowers this morning, and hoed another row of turnips, and expect to hill some celery this evening.”

That fall, Jackson responded to the request from the governor to help maintain order in Virginia.

Four years later, on this day in 1863 in the evening, Jackson and his men were returning from an attack. They were fired on by Confederate soldiers who incorrectly thought Jackson’s group was Union soldiers.

Jackson was aware of the dangers of friendly fire, and he once suggested, "I recommend that we should strip ourselves perfectly naked," in order to avoid being shot at. Nonetheless, that fated evening, Jackson (in full uniform) was hit by two bullets in his left arm, which was then amputated at nearby Wilderness tavern. Jackson's chaplain, Beverly Tucker Lacy, was so moved by the trauma of this event that he personally carried Jackson's arm across the fields to his brother's nearby family home called Ellwood. There, behind the herb garden, was a family cemetery. Today, Ellwood's cemetery has much civil war dead, but the most famous interment is the only marked grave in the cemetery: "Stonewall" Jackson's left arm.

As Jackson tried to recover, General Lee wrote that Stonewall might have "lost his left arm, but I have lost my right.” Eight days after being shot, Jackson died of complications from pneumonia. He was 39. His last words were, "Let us cross over the river and rest under the shade of trees."




Today's book recommendation: The Office of Gardens and Ponds by Didier Decoin

Didier Decoin's poetic, sensual novel The Office of Gardens and Ponds - out May 2 (translated from the French by Euan Cameron).

That’s a stunning cover - with a foiled carp fish. Gorgeously gilded hardback copies of The Office of Gardens and Ponds are released to go swimming into the world today! Just look at these beauties! Are you ready to travel back to Japan 1000 years ago and relive this beautiful fable where an impoverished heroine Miyuki embarks on a hazardous mountain trek to the Imperial Palace - along with scheming monks, rampaging pirates, dancing storks and an unusual perfume contest. This is a book of historical fiction, "a string of enchantments, transforming mud into gold."




Today's Garden Chore

You've put it off long enough; this is the year you divide your iris.

Iris are doing their thing right now and fighting the tulips for the best in the show. Iris were once commonly called flags. While anyone can grow iris - not everyone does right by them. If you want them to maintain their vigor, vow to divide them late this summer when it starts to cool down, you can divide them the same way you divide other rhizomatics like dahlias and lily of the valley. Just dig them up, break them apart, wash them in a 10-percent bleach bath, and replant so that the rhizome is visible on the surface of the soil.




Something Sweet

Reviving the little botanic spark in your heart

#OTD On this day in 1987, the Enid A. Haupt Garden was formally dedicated.

It took three years to complete and was named for Haupt after she insisted on funding the entire project with $1.5 million and an equal gift to ensure their continued maintenance.

As the garden was nearing completion, the Landscape Architect, Paul Lindell, had prepared for the 81-year-old Haupt to preview it.

"We had arranged for several means of conveyance... including a golf-cart-like surrey. Despite the four to six inches of dust, Mrs. Haupt insisted on walking through the site, dressed to the nines and in her patent leather shoes."






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


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