May 10, 2019 Botanical Intuition, Leonard Mascall, John Hope, Alan Grimmel, Canada’s Compost Week, The Friends School Plant Sale, Cecelia Payne, Botanical Sketchbook, Helen and William Bynum, Photo Friday, and Mascall on Tree Placement

Have you ever intuited the name of a plant?

A few years ago, I traveled to San Diego. I was sitting on a bench outside the hotel, and I spied the most amazing blossom - three bright orange petals and three blue petals - it looked like the head of a bird.

My mind latched onto "bird of paradise," I looked it up on my phone, and sure enough, it was just that.

These are the moments that scientist Celia Page would call "White Stone" moments; White Stone is referenced in Revelation 2:17 and in new age teachings: it stands for your divine nature.





#OTD English author, translator, and Clerk to the Kitchen of the Archbishop of Canterbury, Leonard Mascall was buried at Buckinghamshire, in 1589.

Mascall published a number of books; all were aimed at household management. 

In 1572 Mascall published, "A book of the Arte and Maner Howe to Plante and Graffe All Sortes of Trees." Along with cultivating fruit trees, this book was the first to refer to the secateurs or pruning knife. The word secateurs is taken from the Latin secare ‘to cut.’ 

Mascall's last book was published a year after he died. Called "The Booke of Engines and Traps." In it, Mascall shared 34 traps and 9 Recipes for poison bates, most of which were dedicated to trapping mice. Mascall wrote about how to control slugs and snails - he described picking them off by hand early in the morning.




#OTD It's the birthday of John Hope, who lived during the Scottish enlightenment; he was a botanist, a famous professor, and founder of one of the leading botanical gardens in Europe, born on this day in 1725.

Hope produced considerable work on plant classification and physiology. He was appointed to positions of the King's botanist for Scotland and superintendent of the Royal Garden in Edinburgh.

At the time, Edinburgh was THE place to study medicine, and all medical students had to take botany courses. Hope created a school for botanists after spinning off the materia medica (pharmacy) department of the school, which allowed him to specialize exclusively on botany. Hope was a captivating instructor. He was one of the first two people to teach the Linnean system. He also taught the natural system.

He was one of the first instructors to use big teaching diagrams or visual aids to teach his lectures. His students traveled from all over the world, Europe, America, and India. Hope taught over 1,700 students during his tenure, and they included the likes of James Edward Smith, founder and first President of the Linnaean Society, Charles Drayton, and Benjamin Rush. A field botanist, Hope encouraged his students to go out and investigate the Flora of Scotland, and he awarded a medal every year to the student who collected the best herbarium.

With Hope's impressive resume came impressive wealth. By the time Hope died, he had amassed more than £12,000, which he had left for his wife.





#OTD It's the birthday of Alan Robertson Gemmell born today in 1913.

In 1950, Gemmell was a Professor of Biology, and he was invited to appear on the Gardeners Question Time, Keele University allowed it provided the school would be mentioned in the credits and as long as Gemmell appeared during University time. Gemmell spoke with a calm, Scottish voice. In his obituary, it was said he could persuade followers of Gardeners Question Time to plant, "the most vicious weed." An academic, Gemmel often disagreed with fellow panelists like Fred Loads or Bill Sowerbutts, who offered more off-the-cuff or hearsay advice. Gemmell co-hosted for 30 years.

It was Alan Gemmell who wrote in one of his columns, 

"One of the major loves of my life is the potato. In fact my colleagues on Gardener's Question Time sometimes referred to me as spud Gemmel, since not only do I enjoy devouring that delectable vegetable, I also enjoy devouring anything which has been written about it.




#OTD This entire week, May 5 - May 11, is International Compost Awareness Week (ICAW).

(ICAW) is the largest and most comprehensive education initiative of the compost industry. It is celebrated nationwide in Canada and in other countries each year during the first full week of May. Started in Canada in 1995, ICAW has continued to grow as the importance of composting and the long-term benefits from organics recycling.

Each year, a theme is chosen. The theme for this year is Cool the Climate - Compost! 




#OTD This weekend is the 30th Anniversary of the Friend's School Plant Sale in Minneapolis/St. Paul.


With more than 2,450 plant varieties — may be the largest plant sale in the U.S. It’s a fund-raising event sponsored by the Friends School of Minnesota, a small Quaker K – 8 school in the Hamline-Midway area in Saint Paul.

New Plants for 2019 include:

Peony, Sweet Marjory: Neat and sweet pink cactus-style flowers with streaks of cream, green, and deep rose pink. Yellow fluff of stamens in the center. Slightly fragrant. Early to mid-season.

French Hollyhock, Bibor Felho: Fuchsia with dark purple veins and halo surrounding a white center star. Blooms June–September. "Bibor Felho" is Hungarian for ‘Purple Cloud.’

Considered a biennial to short-lived perennial, but can be treated as a self-seeding annual. Drought-tolerant.




Unearthed Words

It's the birthday of scientist Cecelia Page who discovered while still in graduate school that stars are made largely of the two lightest chemical elements – hydrogen and helium; she was born in 1900.

When Celia was eight, she decided to become a scientist. She had been walking in an orchard when she suddenly recognized a plant she had heard her mother describe – the plant that looks like a bumble: the bee orchid.

Later she recalled her excitement at seeing the plant the first time:

“For the first time I knew the leaping of the heart, the sudden enlightenment, that were to become my passion… These moments are rare, and they come without warning, on ‘days to be marked with a white stone’.”

And it is Cecelia Page who said these wonderful quotes:

“An admission of ignorance may well be a step to a new discovery.”

and then this one (which harkened back to Page's discovery of the bee orchid).

“The reward of the young scientist is the emotional thrill of being the first person in the history of the world to see something or understand something.”




Today's book recommendation: Botanical Sketchbooks by Helen and William Bynum

Botanical Sketchbooks is a compendium of the diverse ways plants have been observed, studied, and immortalized in centuries of art. Botanical Sketchbooks features 275 illustrations of flora from around the world, dating from the 15th to the 20th century. In addition, the book highlights some rare works and lesser-known botanical artists.




Today's Garden Chore

It's another Photo Friday in the Garden.

Today go to a spot in your garden and take as multiple shots of one thing from a number of different vantage points. One of the ways we get better at taking pictures of our garden is by experimenting with perspective. The wonderful thing about digital is that you can take as many pictures as you want. Challenge yourself with a number: 20 shots, 50 shots, or more of the same thing. Then, see how many capture what you wanted exactly right.




Something Sweet

Reviving the little botanic spark in your heart

While I was researching Leonard Mascall, I came across a bit of his advice regarding the placement of tender trees and shrubs.

What I especially loved about this is the notion that even in the 1600s, gardeners would push zones a bit. This is from The Guardian (, Dec 9, 1891:

"Mascall said, "Commonly, the most part of trees do love the sun at noon, and yet the south wind is very contrary against their nature, and specially the almond tree, the apricot, the mulberry, the fig tree, the pomegranate tree."

A gardener remarked: I am sure there is much in this. It is quite certain that all Japanese trees like shade and a north aspect; and the finest most fruitful old mulberry tree that I have ever seen is at Rochester, growing in a corner where it looks to the north and east, and is thoroughly protected from the south and west."




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