July 8, 2019 Herb Societies, Forrest Shreve, Eva Reed, Leonard Cockayne, Monty Don, National Meadows Day, Charles MacKay, Janice Emily Bowers, Stop Fertilizing, and Milk Sickness

Have you checked to see if there is an herb society near you?

Herb societies offer gardeners what I call next-level understanding of plants.

Aside from parsley, oregano, and thyme, you'll probably be surprised by the sheer number of plants that fall into the herbal category; bronze fennel, red-veined sorrel, lovage, tansy, and sweet cicely.


#OTD On this day in 1878, the American botanist Forrest Shreve was born.

We owe such a debt of gratitude to Shreve.

He was THE preeminent botanist of North American deserts during the first half of the Twentieth Century.

Shreve worked out of a laboratory in Tucson, Arizona. The lab was ideally situated for Shreve's field research of the western United States and northern Mexico. Shreve relished telling the origin story of his lab:

“Of course you are familiar with the story of Andrew Carnegie,” he began, “the immigrant boy who became one of America’s richest steel magnates and who left a fortune “to encourage in the broadest and most liberal manner investigation, research, and discovery, and the application of knowledge to the improvement of mankind.”

Before he died, Carnegie had established an institution that divided its scientific investigations into twelve departments into widely separated parts of the country. The Desert Laboratory became one of the outposts of the Division of Plant Biology. The total Carnegie benefaction totaled about $25,000,000.”

In July of 1908, Shreve ascended the Santa Catalina Mountains for the very first time. His party rode on horses to climb the 6,000 feet from Mount Lemmon's desert base to the summit, which is 9,100 feet above sea level.

During that climb, Shreve noticed what he called "a continually shifting panorama of vegetation." Shreve's astuteness helped him realize the most fantastic aspect of desert mountains; changes in vegetation are compressed into a few thousand feet of elevation - started with desert scrub, then grassland, then oak woodland... and followed by pine-oak woodland and forest, then pink forest, montane fir forest, and finally subalpine forest.

Shreve's mastery of the North American Desert allowed him to describe and define, with precision, the four distinct desert regions of the United States.

Today, each year, in Shreve's honor, the Forrest Shreve Student Research Award ($1000-2000) is given to support the ongoing research of the hot deserts of North America.

#OTD Today, in 1901, the world lost Eva Reed, a botanist, author, and librarian with the Missouri Botanical Gardens.

In a tragic accident, Reed had been sketching on the tracks of the Burlington railway, near Louisiana, Missouri, when she was run over and instantly killed by a passenger train.

Several years earlier, she had become almost totally deaf as the result of a fever.

#OTD Today, in 1934, Leonard Cockayne passed away.

Cockayne was 79 years old and is considered New Zealand's most celebrated botanist.

Cockayne was born in England and was raised in a home that encouraged the exploration and appreciation of the natural world.

As a child, Cockayne loved pressing flowers. In addition to Cockayne, both his brother and sister were great gardeners.
In 1879, Cockayne left England and made his way to New Zealand. Dominion became his home for the remainder of his life.

Ever modest, Cockayne once sent a letter to Kew along with a small parcel of seeds. He attached a little note which said,

"I may say I am not a nursery gardener but merely a private individual who spends his whole time in the study of botany."

In recognition of his 30 years of tireless work in New Zealand, Cockayne won the Darwin metal. During his career, Dr. K Richter von Goebel and John Paulus Lotsy, two distinguished botanists from the UK, visited him in New Zealand. Those visits were real highlights for Cockayne, and they inspired him to continue his work.

When he died, Cockayne was buried at the open-air museum he founded, which serves as a lasting memorial. From his grave, one can see the native vegetation which had captured his heart, as well as the heights which bear his name.

#OTD Today we wish Monty Don a happy birthday!

Don is an English television presenter, writer, and speaker on horticulture, best known for presenting the BBC television series Gardeners' World.

Over the past year, Don wrote Japanese Gardens: a journey by Monty Don and Derry Moore, the complement to the BBC2 series.

In this personal and lyrical exploration of both the traditional and the modern aspects of Japanese gardening, Monty Don guides us through the history and beauty of Japanese gardens throughout the spectacular changing seasons.

Unearthed Words

National Meadows Day took place over the weekend in the UK - and it is an annual celebration of the wildflower meadows of England. Each year, the event takes place on or around the first Saturday of July.

So, in tribute, here's a little poem about the Meadow Sweet by Charles MacKay:

ROSE! We love thee for thy splendor,
Lily ! for thy queenly grace!
Violet ! for thy lowly merit,
Peeping from thy shady place!
But mine airy, woodland fairy,
Scattering odors at thy feet,
No one knows thy modest beauty,
No one loves thee, Meadow-Sweet!

Today's book recommendation: A Sense of Place: The Life and Work of Forrest Shreve by Janice Emily Bowers

This first in-depth study of Shreve's life and work. It is a beautifully written account of Shreve's career. The author shares a friend's description of Shreve, which compares him to a desert,

"in his patience and his detachment, and like the desert, he put on a good display when he flowered."

On writing about the desert, Shreve noted,

"The most significant lesson that the desert dweller can learn from a familiarity with its plant and animal life is to regard himself not as an exile from some better place but as a man at home in an environment to which his life can be adjusted without physical or intellectual loss."

Today's Garden Chore

Stop fertilizing in hot weather.

Heat is a stressor for most plants, and they will do better without having to contend with fertilizer while they are trying to survive the hottest part of the summer.

Think about fertilizing as a shoulder season activity - spring and fall.

The temps are cooler, and water is generally more plentiful.

As always, after you fertilize, make sure to water your garden well.

Something Sweet
Reviving the little botanic spark in your heart

It was about 140 years ago that the town of Hindustan, Indiana, was abandoned by its residents because of a plague of "milk fever."

This disease occurs after milk cows have eaten Wild Snakeroot.

A few years ago, a botanist [shared] that the Hindostan neighborhood still is the best place in the Midwest to collect Wild Snakeroot for laboratory work."

Wild or White snakeroot is a problem for livestock if they consume it. All parts of the plant are toxic. Transferring the toxin through cow's milk is a concern for humans; t his is known as milk sickness.

In the early 1800s, milk sickness resulted in the death of thousands of people; the most famous person to die from it was Abraham Lincoln's mother in 1818.

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

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