Right about now you might be thinking about doing a little garden cleanup and preparation for fall.

One of the questions I get from gardeners this time of year has to do with whether or not to let some of your plants go to seed.

After spending most of the summer deadheading and illuminating all of the brown stuff on our foliage, it can be tough for some gardeners to let things go to seed.

But there are many benefits to letting some of the plants in your garden bolt in all their glory.

First of all, there is a tremendous ornamental value that extends into winter if you allow your perennials to keep their seed heads. (Think of the seeds heads offered by cilantro, kale, arugula, basil and so forth).

Second, seeds offer food and habitat to native bees and other creatures.

Thirdly, saving seeds from the garden saves you money because it eliminates the need to buy seeds for next year. (Think of your tomatoes and other edibles). This practice also allows you to keep heritage plants alive for future generations. That’s precisely how the heirlooms we know and love have been passed down through the ages. The main thing is to allow nature to do most of the drying for you. Your seeds will have a much higher success rate if you let them dry as much as possible before you collect them.

And finally, allowing plants to go to seed means that you will have less to plant and subsequent seasons thanks to volunteer plants. Each year my garden is blessed with Queen Anne’s lace, Indian Paintbrush, Columbine, Forget-Me-Nots, Lettuce, Dill, Foxglove, Valerian, Lovage, and Beets. All planted by God, all perfectly placed and happy as a result. My volunteers find a way to utilize the tiniest nooks and crevices in my garden.

 

 


Brevities

#OTD It’s the anniversary of the death of the landscape and portrait painter Thomas Gainsborough who died on this day in 1788.

Gainsborough is known for his painting of the Blue Boy today. You can visit Gainsborough’s house in Suffolk. There is a garden there with a spectacular mulberry tree dating to the early 1600s during the reign of James I, who encouraged the planting of mulberry trees to establish a silk industry.

The king and his advisers lacked the knowledge about Mulberry trees, of which there are two kinds.

The white mulberry feeds silkworms, and the black supplies the fruit. Gainsborough’s Mulberry (as well as every other Mulberry cultivated in England) was the black Mulberry.

Although England never successfully became known for silkworms, the craft of silk weaving became firmly rooted.

In addition to the large Mulberry, the Gainsborough garden includes two Beds for Herbs and another that is strictly devoted to plants used for dying fabric.

The rest of the garden is made up of plants that were available during Gainsborough's lifetime.

 

 

 


#OTD Today, in 1820 the first potatoes were planted in Hawaii.

Turns out the American brig, the Thaddeus, brought more than the first missionaries to the island brought.

 

 


#OTD On this day In 1938, the Belvedere Daily Republican, out of Belvedere Illinois, published a small article about a tree named for Benjamin Franklin.

Here’s what it said:

"About 200 years ago, John Bartram, an eminent botanist, discovered a strange flowering tree in a Georgia forest and named it "Franklinia" in honor of his fellow Philadelphian, Benjamin Franklin."

 

 

 


#OTD It’s the anniversary of the death of the poet Wallace Stevens who died on this day in 1955

Stevens said,

"Death is the mother of beauty. Only the perishable can be beautiful; which is why we are unmoved by artificial flowers."

Stevens was one of the most skilled poets of the 20th Century he lived his entire adult life near Elizabeth Park in Hartford, Connecticut.

By day, Stevens worked at Hartford insurance company where he became a Vice President, and by night, he was a poet; it was in an unusual combination.

Stevens lived 2 miles from his work, and he walked to work every day, undoubtedly using the time to find inspiration and to write poems.

The park across from his house was one of his favorite places. Elizabeth Park is huge, covering over 100 acres with formal gardens, meadows, lawns, greenhouses, and a pond. Stevens wrote the following poems About Elizabeth Park:

Vacancy in the Park

The Plain Sense of Things

Nuns Painting Water Lilies

By 1950, Stevens was awarded the Pulitzer Prize and the National Book Award for his poetry.

And, here’s a little known fact about Wallace Stevens: He once started a fist-fight with Ernest Hemingway in Key West.

 

 


Unearthed Words

Today is the birthday of the Victorian poet William Watson who is born on this day in 1858.

Watson was overlooked two times for the role of poet laureate because he had included his political views about the government's policy regarding South Africa and Ireland into some of his poetry.

Late in his life, he was invited to write a poem to commemorate the Liverpool cathedral in 1924 to help raise money. He did the job, but the church wasn’t thrilled that Watson had written about the squalid conditions of the cities population - which was in stark contrast to the Grand Cathedral.

Once Watson died, England embraced him. Rudyard Kipling said he was. "someone who had never written a bad line."

Here’s a poem by William Watson that gardeners will appreciate. It’s called simply Three Flowers:

I made a little song about the rose
And sang it for the rose to hear,
Nor ever marked until the music's close
A lily that was listening near.

The red red rose flushed redder with delight,
And like a queen her head she raised.
The white white lily blanched a paler white,
For anger that she was not praised.

Turning I left the rose unto her pride,
The lily to her enviousness,
And soon upon the grassy ground espied
A daisy all companionless.

Doubtless no flattered flower is this, I deemed;
And not so graciously it grew
As rose or lily: but methought it seemed
More thankful for the sun and dew.

Dear love, my sweet small flower that grew'st among
The grass, from all the flowers apart,—
Forgive me that I gave the rose my song,
Ere thou, the daisy, hadst my heart!

 

 


Today's book recommendation: The Cook and the Gardener: A Year of Recipes and Writings for the French Countryside by Amanda Hesser

This award-winning book offers a lovely blend of a cookbook along with garden stories that allow you to live vicariously with Hesser on a culinary school of an estate in burgundy France.

Since the book is about traditional French gardening and cooking, it also captures the local customs and wisdom cultivated in provincial France.

Each chapter covers a month. The book can be read one season at a time, following along with the changes on the calendar and in the harvest. Each season offers a recipe for stock.

The little stories about the gardener are delightful, and there are lovely tips that gardeners will appreciate. For instance, Amanda learned not to pick cabbages before a frost because the frost enhances the flavor. There’s a beautiful recipe for pumpkin soup as well as all kinds of preserves.

This is my favorite kind of book because it’s part cookbook, part garden story, and part history.

Best of all, the tone is cozy-cozy, charming, and conversational.

 


Today's Garden Chore

Take some slips of mint.

Cut it with a sharp knife below a joint, take off leaves from the bottom 2-3 inches, and then put your cuttings in a glass filled with water for a week or so.

It will take a week or two for the roots to form, but don't change the water. (Go ahead and add more if needed).

This is one of the simplest ways to propagate mint, as well as other herbs.

 

 


Something Sweet
Reviving the little botanic spark in your heart

Just a quick heads up that tomorrow, August 3, is Garden Day at Longwood Gardens.

There is a keynote presentation from Matt Ross, who is the Director of Continuing Education there. Matt will give two Keynote talks titled, "Go Green, Go White, Get Variegated," and another one called "Hidden Gems: the Best Gardens in America You’ve Never Heard Of." Also, there will be nine breakout sessions to check out. So, if you live near Longwood, please go on my behalf and then tell me all about it.

 


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

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