Gardeners love to fall in love with plants.
We can fall so hard that we tune out other possibilities for our gardens. Then, in a fascinating twist, our deep dives can suddenly stop, and often, they are followed by a pivot. I started out like a shrub gardener. Then, I made a pivot to annuals and ornamentals and had nary a shrub in my garden. Then I was anti-annual. Then I moved into herbs and edibles. Now I'm a little bit of everything. Deep dives and pivots. Part of the process of growing a gardener.
#OTD It's the birthday of the Dutch botanist Gerard van Swieten, born on this day in 1700.
As Swieten turned 40 years old, Empress Maria Theresa inherited the Habsburg Empire. She had much to do to get her kingdom in shape.
When it came to medicine, Austria was about 200 years behind its European neighbors.
The Empress acted quickly, recruiting the best medical experts she could find; Gerard van Swieten was one of the most important people she brought on board. By May 1745, Swieten moved his family to Vienna and began to set the stage for world-class medical training in Austria.
Swieten totally reorganized medicine at the University of Vienna; adding a botanical garden and a chemical laboratory, each headed by a professor.
A student of the great Boerhaave, the father of physiology, and clinical teaching. Swieten published, in Latin, five volumes on his teachings; those volumes influenced medical practice throughout Europe. It also contained the first description of episodic cluster headache.
Swieten exchanged letters with Linnaeus on botanical matters for over a decade.
He named his youngest daughter, Maria Theresia, after the Empress, who was also her godmother. His son Godfried would become famous in his own right as an Austrian ambassador and patron of great classical composers such as Haydn, Mozart, and Beethoven.
One fascinating story about Swieten was his role in fighting superstition during the enlightenment, specifically with regard to vampires.
In 1755 the Empress sent Swieten to Serbia to investigate. Swieten viewed the vampire myth as a "barbarism of ignorance," and his aim was to crush it completely.
In 1768 "that all the fuss .... [comes from] vain fear, a superstitious credulity, a dark and eventful imagination, simplicity and ignorance among the people."
Based on Swieten's report, Maria Theresa issued a decree that banned all traditional defenses to vampires being put to the stakes, beheaded, and burned.
The genus of mahogany, Swietenia, was named after Swieten.
#OTD in 1888, the first organizational meeting of the Rochester Parks Commission was held in Rochester, New York.
They decided to invite the great American landscape architect, Frederick Law Olmsted to design a park system for the city. In fact, Rochester was the last municipal park system designed by the renowned Olmsted.
Charles Sprague Sargent, the first director of Harvard University's Arnold Arboretum, called Rochester "a city in a forest."
Trees have been a vital part of Rochester since the city's founding. It was essentially an impenetrable forest when the first settlers arrived.
In early Rochester, trees were so plentiful that early settlers built roads from them. Rochester's Plank Road, now paved, is a nod to the road's original construction.
#OTD On this day in 1901, the Fruit and Vegetable Committee reviewed 16 stocks of radish in Drill Hall as part of the Royal Horticultural Society's trial of salad plants at Chiswick.
All of the radishes were sown in a cold frame on March 7. Except on cold nights, the lights were not put on the frames.
1. Early Gem ''. Veitch).-Ready for use April 29. Roots longish oval, scarlet, tipped with white. Foliage moderate. A very crisp and pleasant-flavored variety.
2. Ever Tender (R. Veitch).-Same as No. 3.
3. Gem (Barr).-Distinct from No. 1, being rounder, paler scarlet, but ready for use at the same time, and similar in foliage and flavor.
4. Krewson's Oblong Black (Masters).-Not True. Roots white.
5. Lily White (R. Veitch).-Ready for use April 30. Roots long, white. Foliage short and distinct. Crisp, and of very good flavor.
6. Mortlake Gem (Carter).-Ready for use April 29. Roots turnip-shaped, white, beautifully speckled, and mottled with scarlet. Foliage is very short. Crisp, and of good flavor. A very pretty variety.
7. Olive-shaped Extra Early Scarlet (J. Veitch). Ready for use on April 26. Roots deep round or olive-shaped. Foliage short. Excellent in all respects, and one of the earliest and best. This variety is the same as “Deep Scarlet Olive-shaped,” which received a F.C.C. April 21, 1897.
8. Olive-shaped Extra Early White (J. Veitch).-Ready for use April 26. A white form of No. 7, and equally good and early. (Syn.) “Forcing White Olive-shaped" and “ First of All White,” which received A.M. May 10, 1898.
9. Olive-shaped Jewel for use. April 29. , Roots oblong, deep scarlet. Foliage is remarkably short. Crisp and of good flavor. (Syn.) “Olive-shaped Bright Red,” which received A.M. May 5, 1896. This variety is also known as “Leafless,” probably from the exceeding smallness of the foliage.
10. Scarlet Queen (Barr).-Ready for use April 30. Roots long, scarlet tipped with white. Foliage is rather large. Crisp and sweet in flavor.
11. Triumph (J. Veitch).-Same as No. 6.
12. Turnip-shaped Extra Early Scarlet (J. Veitch).-Ready for use April 26. Roots scarlet. Foliage is very short. Crisp and of excellent flavor; one of the best and earliest.
13. Turnip-shaped Extra Early White (J. Veitch).-Ready for use April 29. A white form of No. 12, but three days later, in coming into use.
14. Turnip-shaped Early White (Barr). Same as No. 13.
15. Turnip-shaped (Barr).-Ready for use April 26. Roots deep, round, scarlet. Foliage is very short. Crisp and excellent. Very similar to No. 7.
16. Wood's Frame White (R. Veitch). Ready for use April 30. A white form of the well-known Wood's Frame.
#OTD On this day in 1936, Henry Teuscher broke ground for the Montreal Botanical Garden.
Teuscher had been appointed a superintendent and chief horticulturalist of the future Montreal Botanical Garden. A visionary, Teuscher began dreaming of an ideal botanical garden. By fall, Teuscher had hired 2,000 unemployed men through the Quebec government's unemployment assistance program to get building underway. By 1939, the administration building, production greenhouses, roads, and two lakes had been installed.
WWII brought challenges for Teuscher outside of the garden. A German, Teuscher, was accused of being a spy for the Nazis. Although he was declared innocent, the accusations took a toll. In 1956, Teuscher was there to see the opening of his greenhouses, the realization of his dream for the garden. He died in 1984.
Since 1999, the Henry Teuscher Award has been given to a person whose work has contributed in a meaningful way to the advancement of horticulture in Québec. The 2018 winner was horticulturist and trained biologist André Poliquin, an enthusiastic communicator about clematises, roses, and orchids for close to 40 years.
#OTD On this day in 2015, Bartram’s Garden, in Philadelphia, was designated an American Society for Horticultural Science (ASHS) Horticultural Landmark.
The prestigious award commemorates sites of horticultural accomplishments selected for historical, scientific, environmental, and aesthetic value. Bartram’s joins an elite group of ASHS Horticultural Landmarks. The award was first presented to Monticello, home of President Thomas Jefferson. Other recipients include Longwood Gardens, Missouri Botanical Garden, New York Botanical Garden, Arnold Arboretum, and Fairchild Botanical Garden.
How were Bartram’s Gardens preserved?
Andrew McCalla Eastwick (1806-1879), an engineer and the inventor of the steam shovel, made sure the historic garden was kept intact. Eastwick had banked a personal mint after building railroads for Czar Nicholas I of Russia. In 1850, he bought the 46-acre Bartram estate from John Bartram’s granddaughter, Ann Bartram Carr.
Unlike the fate of many old homes, Eastwick decided not to tear down the existing house. Instead, he kept the Bartram family homestead as a memorial, building his own mansion beside Bartrams. He vowed not to harm “one bush” planted by the Bartrams.
"Trees are the earth's endless effort to speak to the listening heaven."
~ Rabindranath Tagore, born on this day in 1861
Penelope Lively takes up her key themes of time and memory, and her lifelong passions for art, literature, and gardening in this philosophical and poetic memoir. From the courtyards of her childhood home in Cairo to a family cottage in Somerset to her own gardens in Oxford and London, Lively conducts an expert tour, taking us from Eden to Sissinghurst and into her own backyard, traversing the lives of writers like Virginia Woolf and Philip Larkin while imparting her own sly and spare wisdom. "Her body of work proves that certain themes never go out of fashion," writes the New York Times Book Review, as true of this beautiful volume as of the rest of the Lively canon.
Now in her eighty-fourth year, Lively muses, "To garden is to elide past, present, and future; it is a defiance of time."
Today's Garden Chore
Trial something this year. Experiment with a few new varieties. Notice the differences.
If you've ever seen the movie Runaway Bride, with Julia Roberts, there's a scene where she (Maggie) and Richard Gere (Ike) are arguing about eggs.
Throughout the movie, Ike has been interviewing her former fiancés. He'd ask them how Maggie liked her eggs cooked.
Maggie never formulated her own opinion. She just ordered whatever her fiancé ordered.
Take basil. How can you know if you prefer Mammoth or Purple Ruffles until you've grown or cooked with both?
Whatever plants you think you love, the odds are good you'll love a variation of it even more.
Reviving the little botanic spark in your heart
In 1855, Darwin wrote to William Darwin Fox:
"I am rather low today about all my experiments,—everything has been going wrong—the fan-tails have picked the feathers out of the Pouters in their Journey home—the fish at the Zoological Gardens after eating seeds would spit them all out again—Seeds will sink in salt-water—all nature is perverse & will not do as I wish it, & just at present I wish I had the old Barnacles to work at & nothing new."
It was just a bad day. 23 years later - on this day - in 1878, he wrote to Thomas Henry Farrer, 1st Baron Farrer:
"At present, I care for nothing in this wide world except the biology of seedling plants."
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"For a happy, healthy life, garden every day."
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