June 5, 2019 New Gardens, Sir John Richardson, Allan Octavian Hume, World Environment Day, Saalu Marada Thimmakka, Alice Mackenzie Swaim, The Gardener’s Bed-Book, Richardson Wright, Pruning Spring-Flowering Shrubs, and Psalm 27
Is your garden new to you this year?
Recently at a garden center, I ran into a woman who had just moved. She was tentatively buying just a few plants - curious to see what would work in her new space.
One of the things we ended up talking about was the micro-climate she had enjoyed living in an inner-ring suburb of the twin cities - one with milder temperatures thanks to the heat island from the buildings but also helped greatly by the older, dense tree canopy.
Even little moves can be big moves when it comes to a new garden space. Just as with the interior spaces, figuring out what you want to do with your exterior space - your garden - takes time.
Remember - it's a garden.
There's no rush.
#OTD It's the anniversary of the death of the botanist and Scottish explorer Sir John Richardson who died on this day in 1865.
Richardson explored with his friend, John Franklin. Their first expedition to the Northern Coast of Canada was disastrous. After they were shipwrecked, the men split into groups, attempting to get back to civilization. Richardson's group were forced to survive by eating lichen from rocks and even the leather of their boots.
After hearing a gunshot, Richardson and others found one of the men, named Terohaute, standing over the dead body of another group member. Terohaute claimed the other man had accidentally shot himself ... Richardson didn't buy it after examining the man. He'd been shot in the back of the head. Even worse, the men believed that Terohaute had resorted to cannibalization to help keep them alive. Convinced Terohaute was about to kill the rest of the group, Richardson shot Terohaute dead.
Richardson is commemorated in the names of numerous plants, fish, birds, and mammals (including Richardson’s ground squirrel and Richardson's owl).
In his work as a naval physician, he collaborated with Florence Nightingale.
As his biographer David A. Stewart said:
"[Richardson] ....was perhaps a life of industry more than a life of genius, but it was a full, good life, and in many ways a great life. It is not every day that we meet in one person - surgeon, physician, sailor, soldier, administrator, explorer, naturalist, author, and scholar, who has been eminent in some roles and commendable in all."
#OTD It's the birthday of British civil servant Allan Octavian Hume born on this day in 1829.
Hume had worked in India for more than three decades.
"I look upon myself as a Native of India.”
Hume was a lifelong naturalist.
In his late twenties, Hume began to accumulate materials for his dream: a masterwork on the bird of the Indian Empire. Hume's job with the Customs Department of India provided exceptional opportunities for collecting birds. Hume was called the ‘Pope of Indian Ornithology.’
Hume had set up enthusiastic ornithology assistants all over India. As his team of volunteers collected specimens, they were thoroughly debriefed. Hume recorded decades of data and interviews in notebooks and journals in his home, called Rothney Castle, at Shimla.
When Hume was 55 years old, he experienced a devastating loss that would spell the immediate end of his work in ornithology. Over the winter, Hume had left Shimla only to return in the Spring to find Rothney Castle ransacked by a disaffected servant who stole and destroyed all of his written manuscripts.
Just like that, his dream was gone. All of it. A Lifetime of work. It took the starch right out of him. There would be no master book by Hume on the birds of India.
Thankfully, Hume’s specimens were spared. But his passion for ornithology had vanished with his papers. Heartbroken, Hume offered his entire collection of over 82,000 birds and eggs to the Natural History Museum in South Kensington. The Museum's curator Richard Bowdler Sharpe went to pack up the collection personally. He was blown away by Hume and his staggering collection.
"It did not take me many hours to find out that Mr. Hume was a naturalist of no ordinary calibre, and this great collection will remain a monument of the genius and energy of its founder long after he who formed it has passed away."
Hume returned to England as well. He turned his sharp observation and exploration skills to the field of botany. For the remainder of his life, he found solace and purpose in the garden. He went on expeditions annually and created an impressive herbarium.
He designed custom cabinets to store his specimens. He was especially interested in seeds and seedlings - showing the progression of early growth in plants. Hume was a fanatical collector.
In the months before he died in 1910, Hume finalized plans to transfer his botanical library and his herbarium to his lasting legacy and gift to the world: The South London Botanical Institute.
Btw - There is a lovely Gingko biloba tree standing tall in front of the Institute, and it is also in their logo.
#OTD Today, June 5th is World Environment Day. One of India's most famous living environmentalists is 107 years old this year.
Her name is Saalumarada Thimmakka. When she was a young girl, she married a local herdsman. When, at the age of 40, she realized they would never have children, Thimmakka wanted to die.
But then, she and her husband came up with their own way of adding life to the world; they began to plant banyan trees.
"Banyan trees offer shade and the fruit is food for several creatures.”
Thimmakka and her husband cared for the trees by carrying water to them after working in the fields; all 384 of them - planted along a 4 km stretch of highway.
After Thimmakka's husband passed away in 1991, Thimmakka carried on with her work. It's estimated she and her husband planted over 8,000 trees during their lifetimes.
In India, Thimmakka is known as the Mother of Trees.
The poet Alice Mackenzie Swaim was born today in 1911.
Though she moved to America and settled in Pennsylvania, she was born and raised near Aberdeen Scotland, and of Scotland, she wrote,
"My soul still, returns like a bird to its nest
To those distant islands
Where poet and seer and lover are one
And life a new challenge Beneath an old sun."
When her children were little, Swaim experienced periods of invalidism. Writing poetry became a balm for her.
She is best known for this verse:
“Courage is not the towering oak that sees storms come and go; it is the fragile blossom that opens in the snow.”
For My Remembering
I need no rosemary nor rue
for my remembering,
No faded flower, no lock of hair,
Not even spring.
When all the wind is your sweet voice
And all the rain, your tears,
There's no way of forgetting
Immortal, radiant years.
Old garden chair
sagging with the weight
of a single leaf.
(First Place: 1994 Henderson Memorial Haiku Award)
Today's book recommendation: The Gardener's Bed-Book: Short and Long Pieces to Be Read in Bed by Richardson Wright
First published in 1929, The Gardener’s Bed-Book is a much-beloved gardening classic by the renowned editor of House & Garden magazine in the 1920s and ’30s.
This book is a compilation of 365 little essays.
One word to sum it up: charming.
You can click on the link above to get a used copy on Amazon using the link above; they sell for as low as 99 cents. I kid you not.
Today's Garden Chore
Prune your Spring Flowering Shrubs like Forsythia and Lilac when they are done blooming.
Remove a third of the branches to the base of the plant. Then prune to shape the rest.
Reviving the little botanic spark in your heart
When I was researching Sir John Richardson, I learned that on the last day of May in 1865, just days before he died, he and his family went to visit some old friends.
There was a standing joke that Sir John, "never left their garden empty-handed, and that evening he carried off a plant of Forget-me-not." He placed it on his favorite border when he returned to his home.
Richardson is buried at Grasmere cemetery near William Wordsworth.
One of the verses of Scripture inserted on his tombstone is from the twenty-seventh Psalm. During times of great duress on their expeditions with Franklin - times when they were starving, facing certain death when they were too weak to hold a bible in their hands - Richardson and Franklin had repeated this psalm to each other - this was Richardson's favorite verse:
"I had fainted, unless I had believed to see the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living."
Thanks for listening to the daily gardener,
"For a happy, healthy life, garden every day."
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