Today, Catholics honor St. Phocas the Gardener who lived in Turkey during the third century.
A protector of persecuted Christians, Phocas grew crops in his garden to help feed the poor.
Phocas is remembered for his hospitality and generosity; his garden played an essential part in living both of those virtues.
When Roman soldiers were sent to kill him, they could not find shelter for the night.
Naturally, when Phocas encountered them, he not only offered them lodging but a meal made from the bounty of his garden. During the meal, Phocas realized they had come for him. While the soldiers slept that night, he dug his own grave and prayed for the soldiers. In the morning, Phocas told the soldiers who he was, and the soldiers, who could conceive of no other option, reluctantly killed him and buried him in the grave he had dug for himself.
Although gardening can be a solitary activity, may we follow in the footsteps of Phocas, the gardener, using our gardens to connect us to others through generosity and hospitality.
#OTD Today is the birthday of Frances Ropes Williams, born on this day in 1883.
Williams had a shady garden in Winchester, Massachusetts. And, what is the most-used plant by shade gardeners? Hostas. That's right.
And, Williams had an appreciation for hostas before they became widely used in the United States. A graduate of MIT, Williams was lucky enough to get the chance to work with Warren H. Manning, the famous Boston landscape architect, for a little over two years.
Williams stopped working to marry Stillman Williams. But sadly, he died after almost twenty years of marriage, leaving Frances with four young children - two boys and two girls.
Williams and her family loved the outdoors. When the kids were little, Williams made them one of the very first playsets.
When the children were grown, Williams found purpose in her garden, and she zeroed in on her hostas. She became known for hybridizing them, and she even wrote about them for various botanical magazines.
Williams discovered the hosta that would be named for her honor quite by happenstance. She had visited her daughter in college in New York, and she stopped by Bristol Nurseries in Connecticut on her way home. Nestled in a row of Hosta sieboldiana, was a hosta that had a yellow edge. Williams bought it and continued to grow it in her garden.
Years later, Williams hosta ended up in the hands of Professor George Robinson at Oxford. Williams had labeled the plant FRW 383. When the professor couldn't remember what Williams had labeled the plant, he simply called it hosta Frances Williams.
Williams's work with hosta helped the newly-formed American Hosta Society. After she died in 1969, a hosta garden was planted in her memory at MIT.
#OTD It's the anniversary of the death of John Goldie, who died on this day in 1886.
Goldie was a Scottish-born botanist and author. He led an extraordinary life.
He started as an apprentice at the Glasgow Botanic Garden. As a young man, another botanist bumped him off what was to be his first plant exploration. However, the botanical gods were smiling on him. The expedition was doomed when most of the party died from coast fever along the Congo River.
Two years later, William Hooker encouraged Goldie to travel to North America. He started in Montreal and made his way down the Hudson River to New York. He wrote that he carried as many botanical specimens "as his back would carry."
Goldie returned to the Glasgow Botanic Gardens, and for five years, he trained an eager young apprentice, and fellow Scottsman named David Douglas. When Douglas met an early death, Goldie planted a Douglas-Fir next to his house to remember his young friend.
After Goldie discovered the giant wood fern, Hooker called it Dryopteris goldieana in his honor, and it earned the name Goldie's woodfern.
Goldie worked tirelessly, and he recorded a total of fourteen plant species previously unknown to science.
Here's a poem from Raymond A. Foss called Summer Rain
"A break in the heat
away from the front
no thunder, no lightning,
just rain, warm rain
falling near dusk
falling on eager ground
turning toward the clouds
cooling, soothing rain
splashing in sudden puddles
catching in open screens
that certain smell
of summer rain."
What if you're looking for a landscape that's not only beautiful, functional, and productive but also nourishes and fosters wildlife. That's the aim of The Living Landscape. Darke and Tallamy describe how plants can be used for multiple uses in the garden.
Today's Garden Chore
Buy a bolt of wedding tulle.
Wedding tulle is the perfect protector for your summer crops and ornamental from Japanese Beetles and other hungry insects. It's attractive and inexpensive, the perfect combination. You can get 600 feet of wedding tulle on Amazon for just $15.00 using the link in today's show notes.
Reviving the little botanic spark in your heart
Since we are in full-on-pesto-making mode, I wanted to share a recipe that I discovered on called Tarragon & Cashew Pesto from Dunk and Crumble.
Cashew Tarragon Pesto
1 large bunch fresh Italian flat-leaf parsley, roughly chopped
4 tablespoons roughly chopped fresh tarragon
1/2 cup raw cashews
zest from 1 lemon
juice from 3 lemons
a handful of lemon balm or lemon verbena stripped from the stems
1 garlic clove, peeled
1/3 cup olive oil
3 tablespoons lemon vinegar or chive herbal vinegar
salt and freshly ground black pepper
Toast cashews in a dry pan over medium heat until lightly brown and fragrant. Allow to cool slightly.
Purée parsley, tarragon, nuts, lemon and lemon juice, lemon herbs, and garlic in a food processor. Add the olive oil, vinegar, and a bit of salt and pepper, and blend until a coarse paste forms. Add a few tablespoons of warm water to thin the sauce to desired consistency and adjust seasoning to taste.
Use as a sandwich spread, atop a bowl of hot pasta, or alongside roasted chicken.
Makes about 3 cups pesto.
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"For a happy, healthy life, garden every day."
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