June 4, 2019 Ground Cover Roses, King George III, Nathanial Bagshaw Ward, Katherine Esau, Sarah Martha Baker, Ruth Kassinger, Paradise Under Glass, Planting Peony, and Esau’s Fables

Ground cover roses.

I had someone ask me about them recently. They are fantastic for a rose that has a low spreading habit. But, they are really not a true ground covers in that they won't completely crowd out weeds.

I used to grow this rose called "The Fairy," which is a pink rose - it blooms all summer long. It's a ground cover rose, and it would amble over this brick garden wall that I had, and I absolutely loved it. It sent out these long octopus-like arms, and all the way down the branches were these beautiful pink blooms. It's a great rose - tons of thorns - but it didn't stop the Canadian thistle or any other weed that decided to make its home among the branches.




#OTD On this day in 1738, King George, the third, was born.

He's the King who appointed Capability Brown as the royal gardener and planned for the redesign of the Richmond gardens and Kew in 1764.



#OTD It's the anniversary of the death of Dr. Nathanial Bagshaw Ward, who died on this day in 1868.

Ward developed the first terrarium in 1829. When he accidentally grew a fern in an insect jar. It was quite by accident. A fern spore had gotten into the jar; Ward was using to observe insect behavior. When the jar was sealed, the spore grew into a fern plant. Ward suddenly realized that if plants were enclosed in airtight glass cases, they could survive without water for long periods of time. That's how the Wardian case came to be.

Wardian cases were very simply constructed; they were made out of wood and glass. They looked like little portable greenhouses that could be put on the deck of the ship.

They had to sit on the deck of the ship, not placed down below in cargo because Wardian cases needed the sunlight to hit the glass in order to create the perfect microenvironment for plants.

The cases were an enclosed system. The side flaps, that would open to allow plants to be placed inside, would close before starting the long voyage. They would get nailed down and then get tar paint applied over any seams to seal the case. The plants inside would be in pots, or there will be soil on the bottom of the case. There would also be a series of battens to prevent the plants from rolling about inside the case.

It was a game-changer for plant explorers. The plants lived on the ship in the cases for 6 to 12 months.

Prior to the Wardian case, saltwater and sun killed most plants on their way back to England.

With the Wardian case, plantation crops like tea, rubber, and sugar - as well as medicinal and ornamental plants - could be moved among the Botanic Gardens of the British Empire.



#OTD On this day in 1997, the great plant anatomist extraordinaire Katherine Esau died.

Her early work was dedicated to forming the curly top virus in beets and other plants.

I found an early newspaper account of her work in the Woodland Daily Democrat from 1928; the headline was "Girl to Conduct Beet Experiments."

She was best known for her research on the effects of viruses on plant tissues

Her 1953 plant anatomy book remains vital for botanists today

And her smaller work anatomy of seed plants is one of the most influential structural botany textbooks around for the past 40 years her work has been used to teach anatomy courses to horticulture students all around the world

Esau herself spent nearly 35 years of teaching at the UC Davis campus

And she helped develop the campuses center for plant diversity

Professor and Plant Biologist Bill Lucas says his about Esau

"Katherine Esau's work is the Webster's of plant biology. It's encyclopedic. Her prose is elegant and precise; each word is carefully chosen. When you read her publications, you're at the microscope with her-you see what she's seeing. If my students and I have a disagreement about cell definition, I turn to Esau's work to settle it."



Unearthed Words

Today's Unearthed Words are by Sarah Martha Baker, who was an English botanist and ecologist.

Baker studied brown seaweeds and zonal patterns on the seashore.

Her family had a house on an island, which was the backdrop to her first introduction to seaweed. Baker had noticed that different kinds of seaweed lived in different tidal limits. Baker’s theory was that the seaweed boundaries were determined by competition; faster-growing seaweeds taking control in areas with deeper water while slower-growing seaweeds were found in shallower water and had the advantage of being more resistant to drying out.

Academically, Baker also had a passion for art. Before pursuing botany, she studied for a time at the Slade School of Art; her scientific illustrations were excellent.

Tragically, she died young at the age of 29, and her personal story remains a bit of a mystery. The Times indicated in her obituary that she was highly gifted and highly strung and that she worked herself to death.

Five years before she died, Baker was invited to lecture at the University College in London in 1912 - a rare honor for a woman or an artist. Her Quaker Sunday school class recalled her telling them,

"The universe is always singing,
And we must learn to listen,
So that our heart may join the universal chorus."



Today's book recommendation: Paradise Under Glass by Ruth Kassinger

Paradise Under Glass is a witty and absorbing memoir about one woman’s unlikely desire to build, stock, and tend a small conservatory in her suburban Maryland home.

Ruth Kassinger’s wonderful story of the unique way she chose to cope with the profound changes in her life— her children were growing up and leaving the nest, a dear friend died, and she had to confront her own health issues.

Kassinger wrote,

"Gradually, it occurred to me that adding a conservatory onto our house was just what I needed. Warm and humid, beautiful, ever-green, peaceful and still, a conservatory would be the perfect antidote to the losses and changes of middle age. It would be my personal tropical paradise where nothing unexpected lurked in the landscape. I was determined to have one."



Today's Garden Chore

Plant your peony high.

The most important thing to remember is not to plant them too deeply

If you do that, they may actually fail to flower.

So, if you have a Peony that didn't flower this year, that's probably why. They need to be lifted up in order to set those flower buds. The roots should only be about 2 to 3 inches below the soil line.

It may feel odd to have them sitting up that high, but peonies have to experience a chill in order to attain dormancy and to set their buds.




Something Sweet

Reviving the little botanic spark in your heart

When I was researching Katherine Esau, I discovered that she was born in Ekaterinoslav in Ukraine.

Both she and her hometown are named after Catherine the Great.

One of her former students described her as having a stately, elegant demeanor reminiscent of Ingrid Bergman's in the film Anastasia. Although she came across as very dignified, she was apparently very relatable and funny.

Don't forget she was studying plant viruses.

She once gave a lecture titled "The Saga of Vladimir-the-Virus and the Sad Fate of Norman-the-Nucleus."

And here's something I found particularly charming about Katherine Esau: Many of her lectures began with her signature opening, "Once upon a time..." and her students referred to them as "Esau's Fables."




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and remember:

"For a happy, healthy life, garden every day."

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