John Tabb wrote:
"A flash of harmless lightning,
A mist of rainbow dyes,
The burnished sunbeams brightening
From flower to flower he flies."
He’s talking, of course about the hummingbird.
Gardeners are enthralled by hummingbirds and will do next to anything to attract them to their garden.
One of my happiest memories is being in my garden, working away, when I suddenly felt a little displacement of air on my cheek, and I turned and found myself staring right at a hummingbird — pure magic.
Hummingbirds find food entirely by sight. If they see red, they zoom in for a closer look. This is why all the hummingbird feeders have that "McDonald’s cherry red" as a prominent feature of the feeder.
On the other hand, the liquid does not need to be red. Remember that.
You can make your own simple nectar by combining one part sugar to four parts water in a saucepan and then make a simple syrup by boiling it for two minutes. Allow the mixture to cool before you fill your feeders and replace it every couple of days.
And whatever you do, don't add anything else to your syrup. Do not add red dye and do not add honey; both are harmful to hummingbirds.
And yes, you may not see them. Hummingbirds are notoriously sneaky. They can feed every 15 minutes without you even knowing unless you’re sitting right there or you happen to have your nest cam trained on your feeder.
Finally, hummingbirds love some plants more than others. They are especially fond of honeysuckle. Their favorite flowers have to meet their color criteria – red, red-orange, or pink blossoms.
John Audubon called them "glittering fragments of the rainbow."
#OTD Today is the day that the botanist Carl Peter Thunberg died in 1828.
Thunberg has been called by many names – the father of South African botany
Carl Linnaeus had actually taught Thunberg, and Linnaeus encouraged him to continue his work in Paris and Amsterdam. In Amsterdam, Thunberg met the Burmans, a father and a son, and both botanical experts.
From there, Thunberg joined the Dutch East India Company, and he botanized in South Africa for three years. After South Africa, he traveled to Japan, where he stayed for a little over a year.
Before he went to Japan, Thunberg needed to learn Dutch. The Japanese were not about to convert to Christianity, and so they had closed the country off to all European nations except for Holland to learn more about medicinal plants.
When Thunberg went to Japan, he was posing as a Dutchman instead of a Swede.
In fact, during the 18th century, Thunberg was Japan's only European visitor, and his Flora japonica published in 1784 was a revelation to botanists around the world.
During his time in Japan, Thunberg discovered the Easter Lily growing near the city of Nagasaki. He also found Forsythia in Japan, and he named it to honor William Forsyth.
#OTD Today is the birthday of the Canadian botanist Julia Wilmotte Henshaw who was born on this day in 1869.
Remembered as one of British Columbia‘s leading botanists, Henshaw studied for a bit with the botanist Charles Schaefer and his wife, Mary Schaefer Warren. The two were surprised when Henshaw published Mountain Flowers of America in 1906. Rumor had it that the Schaefers may have felt Henshaw had co-opted their work, but another perspective would be that Henshaw was more driven, and she was definitely an experienced author. In either case, the work needed to be published, and by that time, Henshaw had already written a few books, so she was not slow to publish. In any case, she went on to publish two additional volumes on Canadian wildflowers.
Henshaw was a founding member of the Canadian Alpine Club.
Henshaw had a regular column called The Note Book that was featured in the Vancouver Sun newspaper, where she was known as gentle Julia by her fellow journalists.
Her weekly column is a delight to read even today.
In April of 1937, she wrote:
"If one were to tabulate all the proposals put forward as to what is to be done with that monstrosity called a fountain, in the center of Lost Lagoon, I think it would occupy a whole column in the newspaper! Some want it to continue to work as a fountain, illuminated or not; others propose to turn it into a rockery."
The last one she wrote talked about was a continuation of the previous week’s discussion of the destruction of forest areas. Henshaw always wrote with conviction, and in that last column, she aimed to rouse awareness:
"I refer to the practice which has increased with each passing year of shipping enormous quantities of young Douglas firs by the carload to the United States for use as Christmas Trees. Surely this is a matter which should be promptly and peremptorily stopped."
And here’s a lovely excerpt from her post for this day August 8, 1935
"When one stops for an instant in the whirligig of daily life to think of "All things bright and beautiful," three words spring into prominence, namely music, children and gardens, each bringing a separate form of loveliness before our eyes, yet all three correlated in color, fragrance and form."
#OTD It’s the anniversary of the death of the landscape painter John Henry Twachtman who died on this day in 1902.
Twachtman was an impressionist painter known as one of "The Ten," a group of American Impressionists. It was said they were gardening with a paintbrush.
By the middle of the 1880s, American impressionists were returning home from France, where they had learned to paint out-of-doors. At home in America, the gardening movement was well underway. So, when they were looking for things to paint, outside gardens became one of the foremost subjects.
Following in the footsteps of Monet, the painters would gather their things and go out in search of flowers. This period clearly drew the two great arts of painting and horticulture together.
During this period, the painters or their spouses or their families often started gardens of their own. In the case of Twachtman, he lived in Greenwich, Connecticut, and he turned his suburban yard into a place of beauty. Twachtman is known for featuring flowers from his own garden as well as painting his family casually living their life and enjoying the outdoors.
Twachtman's painting called, In the Greenhouse, was exhibited by the National Gallery in 1902.
And here’s a funny story about John Twachtman that was shared in the El Paso Herald in 1902:
A man who had once bought one of his landscape paintings, wanted Twachtman to weigh in on the hanging of the picture. Twachtman expressed his approval of the background, the height at which the canvas was hung, and the light.
He said, "Indeed, there is only one change to make."
"What is that?" inquired his host, solicitously.
Twachtman replied, "You should hang it the other side up. I always have."
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."
- Raymond A. Foss, Summer Rain
Today’s book is one of my favorites - Judith Hahn offers delicious recipes and growing tips to transform your food.
And, I love the way Judith starts out talking about herbs in the forward of her book she writes,
"Herbs have taken over my life. They have been catalysts in the kitchen, liberating my cooking by encouraging me to be more creative. And they have also helped me to become a more serious plants woman, using the different shades of green, the texture and shape of the leaves, their intoxicating aroma and their glorious flowers to transform the look of my garden."
And did I mention that this book is absolutely beautiful? Because it is - and the photography inspires creativity like crazy. My favorite part of the book is all the anecdotes, along with Hahn’s advice on how to make the most of the herbs in your garden.
Today's Garden Chore
Today is the day to put the word peonies on your calendar.
And you should put peonies on your calendar every day between now and the end of September to remind you that now is the time to transplant or divide your peonies if they need it.
Peonies are best propagated through division. And when you plant a peony, it’s important not to bury their eyes. Experienced gardeners will tell you to plant your Peony high, with the crown no more than an inch or so beneath the soil surface. And remember: peonies no longer have to look like your grandmas did back in the 1920s. Now, peonies have an entirely new range of looks.
Reviving the little botanic spark in your heart
Here’s a charming story I ran across about Thunberg's time in Japan.
During his visit, Thunberg was confined to a small artificial island in Nagasaki harbor. Ever the clever end-rounder, Thunberg came up with a strategy to obtain botanical samples.
Thunberg bought a goat. Then, he asked his Japanese assistants to collect plants to feed the goats.
Thunberg knew that goats are picky eaters, and it was through the plant material collected for the goats that Thunberg ended up receiving five different species of hydrangea previously unknown to the West. These hydrangeas would have been the lace caps – the ones that produce the beautiful UFO ring of blooms around the flowerhead of small florets, and Japan was very private about them. Can you imagine his excitement?
The entire time Thunberg was away, which amounted to an incredible nine-year journey from his native Sweden, Thunberg sent plants and letters to Linnaeus, who in turn said that he had never had, "more delight and comfort from any other botanist."
Thanks for listening to the daily gardener,
"For a happy, healthy life, garden every day."
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