May 21, 2019 Bolting Rhubarb, Alexander Pope, Henri Rosseau, Pope’s Grotto at Twickenham, The Land of the Blue Poppies, Frank Kingdon Ward, Installing Garden Paths, and Richard Walter Pohl

Is your rhubarb bolting already?

When your rhubarb seems to be bolting too early, ask yourself these questions...

  • Is your rhubarb an heirloom or a new variety? Older varieties tend to bolt sooner. Try planting a newer variety.
  • Is your rhubarb very established? The older your rhubarb, the quicker it bolts. If you divide your established rhubarb, it revitalizes your plant and can thwart flowering.
  • Has it been super cold, hot, or is your rhubarb otherwise stressed? These threatening conditions can cause rhubarb to bolt. Make sure to mulch around your rhubarb to keep it cool as a cucumber.

Unlike other bolting edibles, bolting rhubarb does not affect the taste of the stems. So you can chillax about that.

Now, for what to do with that rhubarb flower... well, I have a friend who cuts them and puts them in a vase and treats them like a cut flower.





#OTD It's the birthday of Alexander Pope, a gardener poet who helped inspire the English landscape garden.

Born to a Catholic family, Pope was an only child. He was exceptionally bright, self-taught in numerous languages and the classics.

When Pope was twelve, he contracted Potts disease (a form of tuberculosis); the illness impacted his spine - he was a hunchback- and he was only four and a half feet tall.

He had a passion for gardens and garden design. Little details from Pope's garden plans show his regard for ancient Rome as he had incorporated both a vineyard and a kitchen garden.

Pope's Palladian villa and garden were separated by a road. Pope cleverly used a tunnel to go under the road in order to create private access to the garden from his home. The tunnel became his grotto, a masterpiece of mirrors, candles, shells, minerals, and fossils.

He described the thrill of finishing the grotto in a letter to his friend Edward Blount in 1725:

"I have put the last hand to my works... happily finishing the subterraneous Way and Grotto: I then found a spring of the clearest water, which falls in a perpetual Rill, that echoes thru' the Cavern day and night. ...When you shut the Doors of this Grotto, it becomes on the instant, from a luminous Room, a Camera Obscura, on the walls of which all the objects of the River, Hills, Woods, and Boats, are forming a moving Picture... And when you have a mind to light it up, it affords you a very different Scene: it is finished with Shells interspersed with Pieces of Looking-glass in angular Forms... at which when a Lamp hung in the Middle, a thousand pointed Rays glitter and are reflected over the place."

Pope's villa and grotto became a tourist destination. After he died, new owners of his property were so annoyed by the attention that they destroyed both the garden and the villa. Today, plans are underway to restore the grotto to its former glory.




#OTD It's the birthday of Henri Rousseau was born on this day in 1844.

Rousseau didn't start painting until he was 40 years old. He submitted his work to the Salon in 1886 and was ridiculed. Nonetheless, he returned every year for the rest of his life with new pieces. One harsh critic said that Rousseau painted with his feet.

Rousseau became famous for his jungle paintings. Although he had never been to the jungle, he had been to the botanical garden in Paris. The place was his muse. Rousseau said,

"When I step into the hothouses and see the plants from exotic lands, it seems to me that I am in a dream.”




Unearthed Words

Alexander Pope on His Grotto at Twickenham

Thou who shalt stop, where Thames' translucent wave
Shines a broad Mirror thro' the shadowy Cave;

Where ling'ring drops from min'ral Roofs distill,
And pointed Crystals break the sparkling Rill,

Unpolish'd Gems no ray on Pride bestow,
And latent Metals innocently glow.

Approach! Great Nature studiously behold;
And eye the Mine without a wish for Gold.

Approach; but awful! Lo! th' Egerian Grot,
Where, nobly-pensive, St. John sate and thought;

Where British sighs from dying Wyndham stole,
And the bright flame was shot thro' Marchmont's Soul.

Let such, such only tread this sacred floor,
Who dare to love their country, and be poor.




Today's book recommendation: The Land of the Blue Poppies by Frank Kingdon Ward

During the first years of the twentieth century, the British plant collector and explorer Frank Kingdon Ward went on 24 impossibly daring expeditions throughout Tibet, China, and Southeast Asia, in search of rare and elusive species of plants.

Ward discovered the legendary Tibetan blue poppy and thanks to Ward, the seeds were introduced into the world’s gardens. Ward’s accounts capture all the romance of his wildly adventurous expeditions, whether he was swinging across a bottomless gorge on a cable of twisted bamboo strands or clambering across a rocky scree in fear of an impending avalanche.




Today's Garden Chore

Take a cue from Alexander Pope and connect your house to your garden with a path.

This is especially lovely if you have a kitchen garden or if you grow edibles. By uniting these two areas, you're conveying the significance of the garden - as part of your home. With a series of paths and steps, you can also create offshoots to garden rooms or other distinct spaces. If your garden is feeling disjoint or too much like an island, a passageway could be the perfect way to achieve connection and harmony.




Something Sweet

Reviving the little botanic spark in your heart

#OTD It's the birthday of Richard Walter Pohl, born today in 1916.

Pohl was an expert on the grasses of temperate and tropical America. He was an avid gardener, growing fruits, vegetables, and ornamentals at his home garden.

One of the most impactful experiences in Pohl's career was the chance to teach an agrostology course in Costa Rica. He lost his heart to the plants and people there. Pohl made over 20 field expeditions to Costa Rica, Central, and South America after 1966. He botanized in the region, collecting bamboos and grasses, amassing over 15,800 plants in his lifetime.

When Pohl died in 1993, one of his former graduate students observed something uncanny. All the Costa Rican bamboo Pohl had brought to the University Greenhouse was in bloom. The bamboo had grown for years without ever flowering, and like Pohl, they were at the end their life cycle. Once bamboo flowers, it dies.




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and remember:
"For a happy, healthy life, garden every day."

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