June 10, 2019 The Significance of Lilacs, National Herbs and Spices Day, Jardin des Plantes, Robert Brown, Gorgeous George and Judy Garland’s Hibiscus, Frances Theodora Parsons, Natural Selection, Dan Pearson, Box Cutters, and Inspiration from John Burroughs

My neighbor, up at our cabin, has this amazing copse of lilacs.

We've become good friends, and he invited me to take some cuttings of his lilac as a gesture of goodwill.

(He also gives me all of his jack-in-the-pulpits - but that's another story.)

Over time, lilacs have met different things to different people. The Celtic's thought the sweet scent of lilacs made them magical. During the Victorian age, widows wore lilacs because they were a symbol of an old love. In Russia, in order to bless an infant with intelligence, they placed a little sprig of lilac over a baby's crib.





#OTD Today is National Herbs and Spices Day.

It is the season for growing fresh herbs.

I just helped a friend put together a sweet little kitchen Garden right outside her front door. Herbs are so wonderful to grow because, as aromatics, they generally don't have any pest issues, and they offer tremendous texture and interest.

If you're new to gardening and looking for something maintenance to grow, it won't get any easier than growing herbs.





#OTD On this day in 1793, the botanical garden, Jardin des Plantes, opened in Paris.

The very next year, it becomes the first public zoo.





#OTD It's the anniversary of the death of Scottish botanist Robert Brown, who died on this day in 1858.

Brown is best known for being the first to notice the continuous natural movement of minute particles. It's known as the Brownian movement.

Brown had experimented with all kinds of materials - including plants- and he saw the same jittery behavior.

He wrote,

“These motions were such as to satisfy me … that they arose neither from currents in the fluid, nor from its gradual evaporation, but belonged to the particle itself”

Brown was unable to explain why the particles moved, but 50 years later, Einstein was able to fully understand Brownian motion. Today, Brownian Motion helping to explain "spin" from black holes.

Brown also named the nucleus in living cells. The nucleus in Latin means "little nut."

Brown published the remarkable survey on Australian flora, which he called The Prodromus. The Prodromus opened doors for Brown when it attracted the attention of Joseph Banks. Brown was asked to serve as Banks' botanist librarian. They became great friends. So much so, that when Banks died in 1820, he left his home, his collections, and his library to Brown, and he also endowed him with a large yearly allowance.





#OTD On June 10, 1922, Frances Ethel Gumm — aka Judy Garland — was born in Grand Rapids, Minnesota (about 165 miles north of lovely, Maple Grove.)

When the famous professional wrestler George Raymond Wagner known as "Gorgeous George" retired, he quipped,

"No more wrestlin' .. I'm takin up gardening."

When Garland heard this comment, she sent him a couple of pots of her hibiscus.





Unearthed Words

It's the anniversary of the death of Frances Theodora Parsons, who died on this day in 1952.

She was an American naturalist and author, remembered most for her book on American wildflowers.

Frances or “Fanny" Smith was born in 1861 in New York City. She developed a lifelong love of nature and especially wildflowers during summers spent with her maternal grandparents near the Hudson River and the Catskill Mountains. When she was 23, Fanny happily married William Starr Dana, who was 16 years older than her and a Commander in the U.S. Navy. After they married, they lost their first baby, and five years later, William died in a flu epidemic in Paris.

Following the Victorian widows custom, Fanny wore black and isolated herself. A few years later, her friend Marion Satterlee managed to get her to take nature walks, which rekindled her love for wildflowers. In 1893, Fanny published her popular book, How to Know the Wildflowers, under her husband's name “Mrs. William Starr Dana.” It sold out in five days and was a favorite of Theodore Roosevelt and Rudyard Kipling.

Three years later, in 1896, Fanny married a childhood friend, professor, politician, and diplomat James Russell Parsons. The following year, Fanny gave birth to their son. Parsons was not well off, so Fanny wrote "How to Know the Ferns,"; this time, using her own name Frances Theodora Parsons. A year after Ferns, Fanny gave birth to their only daughter, Dorothea, who tragically died at two and a half years old five days before Thanksgiving in 1902. Three years later, James was killed when his carriage collided with a trolley car.

A widow once again, Fanny published this poem in Scribner’s Magazine in 1911: When Laughter is Sadder than Tears.

The marshes stretch to the dunes and the dunes sweep down to the sea,
And the sea is wooing the meadow which waits with an open door;
Then a melody sweet to the hearer floats up from the murmuring lea
Till the sea slips seaward again and the land is athirst as before.
And athirst is the heart whose worship is not the worship of yore,
Whose visions no magic can conjure, whose plenty is suddenly dearth;
And parched as the desert the soul whose tears no grief can restore,
Whose laughter is sadder than tears and whose grief is as barren as mirth.

The days are alive with music, the nights their pleasures decree;
The vision the morning fulfills is the dream that the evening wore,
And life is as sweet to the living as the flower is sweet to the bee,
As the breath of the woods is sweet to the mariner far from shore.
But singing and sweetness and laughter must vanish forevermore,
As the petals fall from the flower, as the waters recede from the firth,
When hopes no longer spring upward as larks in the morning soar,
Then laughter is sadder than tears and grief is as barren as mirth.

Friend, if shaken and shattered the shrine in the heart that is fain to adore,
Then forsake the false gods that have held you and lay your pale lips to the Earth,
That in her great arms she may take you and croon you her melodies o'er,
When laughter is sadder than tears and grief is as barren as mirth.




Today's book recommendation: Natural Selection: A Year in the Garden by Dan Pearson

Dan wrote,

"When it sings, a garden will have the power to transport and to lead you to a place that is magical. It is an oasis for creation, available to anyone with a little space and the compunction to get their hands dirty."

In this book, Dan compiled ten years of his columns in The Observer, sharing all the year-round pleasures of the garden.

During that decade, he tended his own urban garden in Peckham, south London, and then moved on to 20 acres of undulating Somerset countryside where he has set about creating a very different sort of garden that sits cheek by jowl with the wilder landscape beyond.

Ordered by month, and drawing together Pearson’s evocative musings on his favorite plants, his design processes, and his evolution from childhood enthusiast to seasoned professional, Pearson's writings give us the chance to dip into Pearson’s gardens as well as his design practice garden just south of the Thames in London and his many private commissions, too.





Today's Garden Chore

Order some box cutters for your garden toolkit.

I ordered this really nice five-pack on Amazon.

This week, I was reminded of how useful a box cutter is when it comes to cutting sod along the edges of your garden or removing things like grass from the edges of your beds.





Something Sweet

Reviving the little botanic spark in your heart

When I was researching Francis Parsons, I discovered that her childhood neighbor was John Burroughs.

Burroughs actually gave her the inspiration to write her wildflower book.

Burroughs had been featured in a magazine article, and he'd said,

"One of these days, someone that will give us a handbook of our flowers."


He even laid out how to organize the book. He said,

"We shall have a list of all our flowers - arranged according to color, with the place of growth, and the time of blooming."


Fanny was off to the races; she wrote her wildflower book, which has been a model for all other gardening books that have come after hers.


Here are a few excerpts:

Of the Columbine, she wrote:

"There is a daring loveliness which stamps it on the memories of even those who are not ordinarily minute observers."

Of wildflowers...

"Their lovely constellations make a little heaven on earth of the grassy places that have been brown and bare for months. They touch the heartstrings in much the same way as the early notes of the robin."


“The pleasure of a walk in the woods and the fields is enhanced a hundredfold by some little knowledge of the flowers which we meet at every turn.”





Thanks for listening to the daily gardener,
and remember:
"For a happy, healthy life, garden every day."

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