May 15, 2019 Plant Height, Isaac Newton, President Lincoln, the USDA, Charles Sprague Sargent, the Adirondack and Catskill Forest Preserve, Ettie C. Alexander, the NOLA Museum of Art, Emily Dickinson, Ina Coolbrith, Top-dressing, and Elizabeth Cady Stanton
Plant height is one of the factors often indicated on plant tags.
But mature height often takes ten years - especially if you're talking about trees and shrubs.
Most plants benefit from some amount of pruning - in which case their height can be controlled.
BTW, Bamboo is the fastest growing plant on the planet. It can grow 3 feet in just 24 hours.
#OTD President Abraham Lincoln created the U.S. Department of Agriculture today in 1862.
When Lincoln signed the bill, he was bombarded with advice about who should be the first Commissioner of Agriculture.
Perhaps he should choose the editor of a Farm magazine?
Perhaps a scientist would be best?
Maybe a simple pragmatist?
A man named Isaac Newton - a direct descendant of Sir Isaac Newton - got the job.
Newton was born in Burlington County, New Jersey, on March 31, 1800. He had set up an impeccable farm in Delaware County, Pennsylvania, near Philadelphia.
Newton's farm was a model for others; efficient, orderly, and productive.
After advocating for farmers for over two decades, Newton was picked to be the chief of the agricultural section of the Patent Office.
A master relationship builder; every week, Newton sent butter from his dairy farm to the White House. It wasn't long before Newton, and his entire family became friends with the Lincolns.
That's why when it came time for Lincoln to make the appointment for commissioner of the USDA, Newton had a firm lock on the job in Lincoln's mind.
When he was appointed, Isaac Newton, quoted Jonathan Swift saying,
"It should be the aim of every young farmer to do not only as well as his father, but to do his best: to make two blades of grass grow where but only one grew before."
Newton brought the same high standards and efficiency he had cultivated for his farm to the USDA.
Three years after his appointment, on the evening of April 15, 1865, around 10:30 PM, it was Isaac Newton who had rushed over to the White House and informed the doorkeeper, Thomas Pendall, that President Lincoln had been shot.
In his account of the incident, the doorkeeper said Newton was a bosom friend, the president.
Sadly, Newton experienced a severe case of sunstroke while surveying the experimental farm in Washington, D.C.
The incident debilitated him for a year before he passed away. He died in office at the age of 67 in 1867 after serving for four years.
#OTD On this day, Governor David B. Hill signed a law creating the Adirondack and Catskill Forest Preserve, ensuring the land "be forever kept as wild forest lands."
The previous year, Charles Sprague Sargent had been appointed to lead a three-member committee to investigate the Adirondack wilderness.
Thanks to the Sargent commission, the area was preserved, and Sargent's team created two historically important maps of the Adirondacks. On the 1890 map, Forest areas were outlined in red, and the park was outlined in blue. Today, the "blue line" is a term used to mean boundaries of the Adirondack and Catskill Parks. And, if you get a chance to check out the original map, you'll see that the blue ink has turned almost black -after a century of aging.
The parkland around the Adirondack and Catskill has expanded over the years. Today, the two parks combined comprise more than 6,000,000 acres, larger than Yellowstone, Yosemite, Glacier, Grand Canyon, and Great Smoky Mountains National Parks combined.
#OTD An article called “The Prettiest Wild Flowers.” by Ettie C. Alexander was featured in the San Francisco Call, May 15, 1898.
In the article, Ettie shared her magnificent experiences collecting wildflowers around San Francisco before the turn-of-the-century.
In the span of a decade, Ettie had noticed a remarkable decline in the quantity and quality of wildflowers in the area. Here's her comment about the California Cream Cups - an Annual herb in the poppy family found mainly in California.
"Nine years ago, cream cups grew in great profusion all around San Francisco. The most beautiful ones that I have ever seen were near Holy Cross Cemetery. I have picked dozens of them in former years as large as a dollar. But now you can scarcely find a plant, and the blossoms are small and of an inferior quality. A great many other varieties of flowers that once were plentiful have disappeared entirely."
In the article, it said that Alexander's wildflower collection was the best in the state of California.
And Alexander had teamed up with a chemist, and had worked to refine a process – a preservative – that would help the wildflowers retain their fresh-picked, original color.
Alexander's process worked remarkably well. Yet, sadly, she never disclosed her formula to the public.
Two side comments about Alexander are worth sharing;
First, Alexander was never able to find a process to preserve the brilliant color of the poppy for more than two years.
Second, in all of her works, she's known simply as E C Alexander. I had to do a great deal of sleuthing just to discover that her first name was Ettie. Unfortunately, there's next to nothing written about her. It seems, for now, the rest of her story is lost to the ages.
#OTD Today, the New Orleans Museum of Art will unveil its 6.5-acre Sculpture Garden expansion.
The beloved Sydney and Walda Besthoff Sculpture Garden has earned awards from both the American Society of Landscape Architects, as well as the American Institute of Architects.
It's home to dozens of primarily 19th and 20th-century sculptures from around the world, valued at more than $25 Million.
The new expansion includes an installation of 26 new pieces of art, 65 new trees, 475 shrubs, 1.7 acres of groundcovers, 1.13 acres of open lawn, and 9.35 acres of aquatic planting; as well as the creation of an indoor sculpture pavilion and an outdoor amphitheater with beautiful, grass-stepped seating. Sounds amazing!
The world lost the poet Emily Dickinson on this day in 1886.
Every year, the Emily Dickinson Museum in Amherst hosts A poetry walk to mark the anniversary of the poet's death.
This year the walk takes place on Saturday, May 18 From 10:30 AM to 12 PM.
The walk begins on the homestead lawn and proceeds through Amherst - stopping at Important historic sites that were significant to Dickinson. The walk ends at her grave in West Cemetery.
At the cemetery, you can join in the traditional light-hearted lemonade toast to the poet and also read a favorite Dickinson poem or memory of Emily Dickinson.
Here's one of Emily's poems - we'll take a second to toast her...
Perhaps you'd like to buy a flower?
But I could never sell.
If you would like to borrow
Until the daffodil
Unties her yellow bonnet
Beneath the village door,
Until the bees, from clover rows
Their hock and sherry draw,
Why, I will lend until just then,
But not an hour more!
Emily grew up gardening. She would help her mother with their large edible and ornamental garden.
The flower garden became Emily's responsibility when she got older. She planted in a carefree cottage garden style.
After Emily died, her sister Lavinia took over the garden. Emily's niece and editor Martha Dickinson Bianchi recalls:
"All [Lavinia’s] flowers did as they liked: tyrannized over her, hopped out of their own beds and into each other’s beds, were never reproved or removed as long as they bloomed; for a live flower to Aunt Lavinia was more than any dead horticultural principle."
Today's book recommendation: Ina Coolbrith: The Bittersweet Song of California’s First Poet Laureate by Aleta George
I discovered Ina Coolbrith when I was researching Ettie Alexander.
Ettie's book on wildflowers included some poems by Coolbrith.
Coolbrith was the niece of THE Joseph Smith of the Mormon Church.
She became California's poet laureate. In post-Gold Rush San Francisco, she was known as the pearl of her tribe, a tribe that included Bret Harte, Mark Twain, and John Muir. Jack London and Isadora Duncan considered her their literary godmother, and John Greenleaf Whittier knew more of her poems by heart than she did his.
Today's Garden Chore
Top-dress your raised beds with a couple of inches of organic compost.
After a season of rest, I start planting season off by adding nutrients back into my beds where I grow my edibles.
When I harvest my spring crops, I'll add even more compost to keep the soil nutrient-rich throughout the summer.
Reviving the little botanic spark in your heart
#OTD Today in 1869 Susan B. Anthony and Elizabeth Cady Stanton founded the National Woman Suffrage Association in New York.
As part of her rhetoric to fight for the right to vote, Elizabeth Cady Staton used the metaphor of the original garden when she said,
"Eve tasted the apple in the Garden of Eden in order to slake that intense thirst for knowledge that the simple pleasure of picking flowers and talking to Adam could not satisfy."
Thanks for listening to the daily gardener,
"For a happy, healthy life, garden every day."
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