#OTD On this day, on May 29, 1942 the actor John Barrymore died.
(Barrymore's granddaughter is actress Drew Barrymore.)
When Barrymore was 35 years old, and on the verge of stardom, he rented a quiet space in the Greenwich Village from wealthy widow named Juliette Nicholls.
His flat was on the top floor of a Greek revival townhouse.
When Nicholls left for a while to go to Europe, Barrymore wrote her to ask if he could take some liberties with the roof.
In his letter he said,
“I’d like to build a little stairway to it and place a few plants there, with perhaps a small pavilion in which I could sit when the locust blossoms come to the courtyard ... It would be like living in Paris in the twelfth century.”
When he hired a contractor to do the work, Barrymore insisted that no measuring tools be used.
“I want everything crooked or off-center, like a Nuremberg poet’s home. Just guess your way along, old, man, as we all do about most things.”
He called the little shed with the porch, "New York's first penthouse," and it still stands today..
He decided to add a full garden to the rooftop.He hauled up over 35 tons of long island topsoil In burlap bags no less. Then, he went to work, adding 8-foot Cedars, Cherry trees, and Wisteria's - not to mention the beehives. There was a flagstone path and hedges around the perimeter of the roof.
When Nicholls returned from her trip, you can imagine her surprise at finding John Barrymore lounging in his rooftop garden; sitting serenely by an Asian reflecting pool.... feeding the birds.
Here's a poem called I am going to sleep by Latin American poet and feminist Alfonsina Storni born today in 1892.
Storni was known as one of Argentina's most respected poets.
In 1916, she titled her first series of essays, The Restlessness of the Rosebush.
In 1935, Alfonsina was vacationing in Uruguay when she discovered a lump in her left breast. Following a mastectomy, Storni resumed her work with renewed energy and determination. But by 1938, Storni confided in her closest friends that her cancer has returned.
Storni sent I am going to sleep, her poignant final poem which she sent to the La Nación newspaper before drowning herself in the sea in 1938.
hands of herbs, you, perfect wet nurse,
prepare the earthly sheets for me
and the down quilt of weeded moss.
I am going to sleep, my nurse, put me to bed.
Set a lamp at my headboard;
a constellation; whatever you like;
all are good: lower it a bit.
Leave me alone: you hear the buds breaking through . . .
a celestial foot rocks you from above
and a bird traces a pattern for you
so you'll forget . . . Thank you. Oh, one request:
if he telephones again
tell him not to keep trying for I have left . . .
When Penelope Hobhouse reviewed this book she said, "Like no other writer, Osler captures the pure in enchantment of gardening."
In this book, Osler wrote,
"Garden concepts are threaded through centuries: we pull on them as on a string, not knowing from where our inspiration germinated, only that we each gather up different threads to form whatever pleases us."
Today's Garden Chore
Reviving the little botanic spark in your heart
#OTD It's the anniversary of the wedding of the botanist power couple Townsend Brandegee and Kate Curran, married on this day in 1889.
Townsend had found Kate Curran working as the curator during his first trip to California to visit the California Academy of Sciences in San Francisco.
They were both exceptionally bright, enthusiastic about botany and the natural world, and they were both quite accomplished. In their early 40s, their friends were surprised when they arrived to discover a quiet wedding for Townsend and Kate in San Diego.
Their honeymoon was a 500 mile nature walk - collecting plant specimens - from San Diego to San Francisco.
Thanks for listening to the daily gardener,
"For a happy, healthy life, garden every day."
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