July 9, 2019 Mulch Placement, Colonel Henry Wallace Johnston, Nikolay Vavilov, George Shull, Emily Dickinson, Answer July, Lives of the Trees by Diana Wells, Wheelbarrow Garden, and Samual Smithers as Plantman

Here's a little primer on mulch placement.

Keep mulch away from the bases of plants and trees.

Trees can be harmed or killed by mulching too heavily around the trunk. Perennials and other plants can be smothered or damaged by heavy mulch around the crown as well. Mulch is a wonderful tool in the garden, but it pays to pay attention to placement.

 


Brevities

#OTD Today in 1926, the Green Bay Press-Gazette posted an article titled, "Ice Cream Grown on Vine in yard of Former Kentuckian."

The article was about the fabulous Colonel Henry Wallace Johnston who, until the age of 50, had operated a hardware store in Lebanon, Kentucky. At midlife, he moved to Homestead Florida. And, in 1912, Johnston created a 20 acre estate called Palm Lodge Tropical Grove. He even liked to dress the part; wearing a tropical outfit complete with a white helmet and looking as if he had just finished playing Jumanji.

Known as the Wizard of Palm Lodge or Florida's Burbank (a nod to California's Luther Burbank ), Johnston began adding over 8,000 incredible specimens of tropical fruits and flowers, many of them not found anywhere else in America. Palm Lodge gained him widespread recognition. And, although Johnston never traveled outside the US, he was a natural marketer. Stories about Johnston include the following:

He coined the name "lipstick tree".

Rarest among his plants was a flower that produces a perfume called the "Scent of Lilith."

Johnston grew the Dumb Cane tree or dieffenbachia from Cambodia. He would tell folks that if they bit into the leaves, their tongue would be paralyzed for six weeks.

Harvey Firestone and Henry Ford brought back rubber plants from Madagascar, but only Colonel Johnston's plants survived.

Johnston's Palestine tree fruit was wrapped in cellophane while on the tree to protect against insects. The fruit was used in religious rituals by rabbis.

Johnston's gingerbread palm's fruit tasted of gingerbread.

Johnston furnished almost all of the tropical exhibit for the state of Florida at the Chicago World's Fair.

All of Johnston's plants were grown from seed.

Johnston also produced nearly 300 different types of fruits and jellies all packaged on site.

One of Johnston's specialties was the cultivation of the aloe vera plant. He grew a 15 acre aloe field and by 1920 was regularly harvesting the leaves and bringing them to Miami, individually wrapped to stop the spines from making the jelly ooze out.

And yes, one of Johnston's plants was something he called "the ice cream vine," botanically known as the monstera deliciosa. The fruit resembles a large ear of corn minus the husk and tastes like a combination of banana, strawberry and pineapple.

Johnston's lodge was a Florida showplace and there was no charge for admission. Homestead's chamber of commerce showed that 30,000 people, including botanists, visited the lodge every year. One day, after 2,000 guests had been received, the register revealed that Henry Ford had passed unnoticed in the crowd.

 

 


#OTD On this day in 1941 a Soviet court sentenced the prominent Russian botanist Nikolay Vavilov to death by firing squad.

Vavilov never faced the firing squad. Instead, he died of starvation in a Soviet prison two years after receiving his sentence.

 

 


#OTD Today in 1942, newspapers announced the retirement of George Shull.

An Ohio farm kid, Shull was the noted botanist who taught at Princeton University for 27 years.

His work resulted in a $150M increase in the value of US corn as a result of his crossing pure line varieties with self-fertilized corn. Shull's hybrid yielded 10 to 40 percent more than ordinary corn.

Shull never made a penny from his creation.

 


Unearthed Words

 

Here's a poem from Emily Dickinson called Answer July. In the poem, Dickinson speaks to July directly and July responds by pointing out that the hot summer is the fulfilled promise of spring.

Answer July –
Where is the Bee –
Where is the Blush –
Where is the Hay?

Ah, said July –
Where is the Seed –
Where is the Bud –
Where is the May –
Answer Thee – Me –

 

 

 

Wells investigates the names and meanings of trees, sharing their legends and lore.

As Wells says,

"Our long relationship with trees is the story of friendship. The human race, we are told, emerged in the branches of trees and most of us have depended on them ever since for food, shade, shelter, and fuel."

 


Today's Garden Chore

Incorporate a wheelbarrow garden into your garden plans.

Take an old wheelbarrow, drill some drainage holes in the bottom (very important!) and up-cycle it into a beautiful, portable planter that is perfect for flowers, herbs, and small edibles.

 

 


Something Sweet 
Reviving the little botanic spark in your heart

Today in 1963 the Marvel comic botanist Samuel Smithers became Plantman when lightening struck his plant ray gun, giving it the power to control and animate all plant life.

Plantman dueled with the Human Torch in the botanical garden and lost. He was taken to prison.

In his final storyline, Plantman transformed into a giant plant monster and attacked the city of Los Angeles in retaliation for humans polluting the world. In his final moments, Plantman was defeated by Ironman.

Here's one of Plantman's more popular lines:

"Do not speak to the Plant Man of power! Mine was the genius that gave the semblance of life to unthinking plant tissue! There can be no greater power than that!"

 

 


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

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