May 20, 2019 Knives in the Garden, National Pick Strawberries Day, Horatio Hollis Hunnewell, Chelsea Flower Show, Paul Martin’s Lazy Salad Days, John Milton’s Song on a May Morning, Wild Fruits by Thoreau, Edge Gardening, and Ludwig Leichhardt

Have you ever used a knife as a garden tool?

Serrated knives are my favorite to use in the garden.

The word serrated has Latin origins meaning “saw shaped”; think of the serrated edges of Maple leaves.

If you are a thrift shopper, at Goodwill, they keep most of the donated knives in a case at the front of the store. You can just ask to see if they have any serrated knives - they are so handy in the garden for weeding and working with difficult spaces like between pavers or even just wearing out the root systems of weeds through continuous cutting above ground.





#OTD Today is National Pick Strawberries Day

Last year, instead of annual hanging baskets, I installed hanging strawberry baskets over my herb garden. They turned out great, and it was fun to harvest (and eat) strawberries as I worked in the garden. There is undeniably something extra special about the taste of a sun-warmed strawberry picked straight off of the vine. Between my student gardeners and me, there weren't many strawberries left to bring in the house. Still, it was a fun alternative to an annual basket, and I think I'll do it again this year.

Strawberries are members of the rose family, and they are unique in that their seeds are on the outside of the fruit.

In the late 18th century, the first strawberries were grown in France.

It's sweet to read early newspaper accounts of strawberries during the 1800s.

In 1843 the New York Daily Herald announced that the first strawberries went to Pattinson's on the corner of Ann and Nassau, and they reported that they were as red as the last day. It also noted that strawberries were selling in Baltimore at $.03-$.06 a quart for the best; While green peas were abundant - selling for two shillings a peck.

Twenty years later, the first strawberries were announced in this adorable newspaper account out of Columbus, Ohio - from the Daily Ohio Statesman on May 27, 1864. Here's what it said:

"The first strawberries of the season were visible to the naked eye in Charlie Wagner's show window yesterday– a window, by the way, in which everything new in the fruit line is always first seen in Columbus."

Finally, in an article in The Woodstock Mercury out of Woodstock, Vermont on July 27, 1854, strawberries made the list of notable firsts that bring joy to life:

"First things are good or bad, as it may happen or as you take them. The first shad or the sleighing, the first strawberries or first child, the first kiss of love or first pair of whiskers, these may be ranged among the primordial delights."




#OTD On this day in 1902, America lost one of its most prominent horticulturalists – Horatio Hollis Hunnewell.

Hunnewell was staggeringly wealthy. He was a railroad financier. But he also had a lifelong love of nature and gardening.

When Hunnewell purchased over 40 acres of land along the eastern and southern shores of Lake Waban ("Wah-bin"), he built a magnificent estate there. He had married Isabella Pratt Wells, and he decided to call his impressive home Wellesley in honor of his wife's maiden name Wells.

When it came time for the nearby town and college to settle on a name, they also selected the name Wellesley after conferring with Hunnewell, who was the most generous benefactor of the city.

The Hunnewell estate was so large that when the Hunnewell children grew up, seven of the nine had homes built on the property - right next to their parent's original house. Aside from the impressive homes, Hunnewell added many magnificent features to the estate, including a pinetum with over 325 specimens of conifers.

Hollis Honeywell made the following remark in 1899 In reference to his trees,

"No Vanderbilt, with all his great wealth, can possess one of these for the next 50 years, for could not be grown in less time than that."

And, Hunnewell also installed the very first topiary Garden in America at Wellesley. He referred to it as the Italian Garden, and it was ideally situated along the shore of Lake Waban. When it came to the Topiary Garden, Hunnewell went all out. Whenever he had guests, Hunnewell would have them hop aboard a large authentic Italian Gondola boat complete with an authentically dressed gondola man. After they would glide up to the Topiary Gardens, they would stop to take a tour. Hunnewell's shores rivaled that of Lake Como in northern Italy.

It’s difficult to fathom how much attention this one-of-a-kind garden received from the public. Thousands of visitors from all over the country came to Wellesley just to see the topiary garden firsthand. Many more took in its beauty through photographs and engravings published in the most popular periodicals of the time.

To this day — a century and a half later — the Hunnewell topiary garden is among the most spectacular sites in the region.

There are a few notable tidbits related to Hunnewell that bear mention. The first is that Hunnewell and his friend Nathaniel Thayer Jr. are credited with bringing the game of tennis to America. The second Is that Hunnewell was the first person to cultivate and popularize rhododendrons In the United States.




#OTD On this day in 1913, the first Chelsea Flower Show was held in Chelsea General Hospital. Originally called the Royal Horticultural Society's Great Spring Show, it was first held in 1862, at the RHS garden in Kensington.




#OTD On this day in 2003, garden designer Paul Martin won a silver medal at London’s Chelsea Flower Show. His garden was called 'Lazy Salad Days.'

Martin featured 25 varieties of salad plants in a five by four-and-a-half meter garden space, which also incorporated two tasteful wooden-slatted loungers. Martin beat 11 other competitors to get the silver medal and was the only Irish exhibitor at Chelsea that year.




Unearthed Words


Song on May Morning by John Milton, 1608 - 1674

Now the bright morning-star, Day’s harbinger,
Comes dancing from the East, and leads with her
The flowery May, who from her green lap throws
The yellow cowslip and the pale primrose.
Hail, bounteous May, that dost inspire
Mirth, and youth, and warm desire!
Woods and groves are of thy dressing;
Hill and dale doth boast thy blessing.
Thus we salute thee with our early song,
And welcome thee, and wish thee long.



Today's book recommendation: Wild Fruits: Thoreau's Rediscovered Last Manuscript Hardcover by Henry David Thoreau and edited by Bradley P. Dean

Thoreau's Walden (1854) is regarded both as a masterpiece of American prose and as a forerunner of modern environmentalism. Its author spent much of the 1850s learning what botany could teach him about the New England woods he chronicled. Thoreau brought that knowledge to bear on this sometimes very beautiful essay about plants, fruits, and nuts, left incomplete at his death in 1862 and here printed for the first time.

Thoreau's brief preface to Wild Fruits begins where Walden left off: "What are all the oranges imported into England to the hips and haws in her hedges?"

This book is arranged by fruit: beginning with elm-fruit ("most mistake the fruit before it falls for leaves, and we owe to it the first deepening of the shadows in our streets"), and proceeds through several dozen entries to sassafras, skunk cabbage, strawberries, cranberries, juniper berries and, finally, "winter fruits."




Today's Garden Chore

If you don't know where to start, focus on the edges of your garden.

Tidying up the edges is a quick way to get an instant, positive, cleaned-up look to the garden. Once the edges are addressed, you can begin to move back into the beds where your work may not be as noticeable, but it is just as important.




Something Sweet

Reviving the little botanic spark in your heart

In the Spring of 1848, botanist Ludwig Leichhardt and a small group of explorers began what was to be a two- to three-year expedition across Australia.

Shortly after that, the entire party vanished with barely a trace.

Known as the ‘Prince of Explorers,’ Leichhardt was 35 when he was lost to time.

Two years before his death, on this day in 1846, Leichhardt wrote a letter to his botanist contact and friend M. Durando, of Paris. Leichhardt's letter conveys the extreme difficulties and dangers faced by the early plant explorers.

He wrote,

"My dear friend,

You have, no doubt, noticed and regretted my long silence. There was no post to bring me your letters in the wilderness of Australia, through which I was endeavoring to penetrate in a North West direction, nor to carry those epistles which I should have enjoyed to address to you.

Thank God, my efforts have met with success, and I was preserved in the hours of danger...

You may easily suppose that I lost no opportunity of making botanical collections...

But you must bear this in mind, my good friend, ... it was not my lot to travel all at my ease...

On the contrary, I was compelled to do everything; I was alike leader of the party and bullock driver, and I had to load and unload three beasts of burthen, often several times in the day. All the cares of such a position were laid upon me ; mine were the anxieties during the hour of difficulty and peril. To arrange our camp, deal out provision, kill the bullocks, and mend the harness, to compile the log and day-book of our route, to determine the latitude and longitude, and to keep nightly watch, all these various and ever-recurring occupations devolved upon me.

.... Gladly would I have made drawings of my plants, and noted fully all particulars of the different species which I saw ; and how valuable would such memoranda have been... [as] four of my pack-horses having been drowned.

Botanical and geological specimens thus abandoned—how disappointing! From four to five thousand plants were thus sacrificed...

I hope my next expedition will be a famous one for botany... Oh, that my friend Durando could accompany me!

When I come home, I trust to be laden like a bee ; for the northwest is the district in which to look for a remarkable Flora, where the Australian types are blended with those of India...

I hear that Humboldt has at length published his Cosmos, but I have not seen the book.

You perceive that I use the English language for my letter ; the long period of bush-life has rendered my French very rusty; but when I return from my next trip, I trust to regain my fluency in that noble language. My journal of the journey to Port Essington is now in hand, and will be completed, I expect, in eight weeks more.

Ludwig Leickhardt



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