August 13, 2019 Nasturtiums, Peter Kalm, the Snowberry, Edward August Von Regal, Benedict Roezl, John Gould Veitch, Tove Jansson, The Orchid Hunter by Leif Bersweden , Add More Groundcover,  Albert Ruth and the Twinflower

Boy, nasturtiums are such wonderful plants, aren't they?

August is a time when your nasturtiums look fabulous, even after a summer of blooming their hearts out. Right about now, your nasturtiums will bloom better if you remove a few of the center leaves. Opening up the plant a little bit will promote airflow - and allow the sun to shine on the base of the plant.

Nasturtiums are 100% edible.

You can add the petals to any salad - just as you would watercress.

In fact, you can make a beautiful sandwich with nasturtium flowers and a little salad dressing.

Jane Eddington shared this idea in the Daily News out of New York in 1928.

She wrote,

“If you have never tried a nasturtium leaf spread with a thin mayonnaise between two thin slices of bread and butter, you do not know how pleasant a little bite – in two senses – you can get from this “Indian cress“ filling."

And before I forget, I found this wonderful article on nasturtiums that was featured in the Hartford current out of Hartford, Connecticut, in August of 1914.

It had all of these wonderful recipes for nasturtiums

It not only gave some good advice about nasturtium capers and nasturtium sandwiches, but also, a nasturtium sauce for fish, meat, and vegetables, a nasturtium vinegar, and a nasturtium potato salad. I’ll have all of that in today's show notes -if you’re geeking out on nasturtiums.

And, here is a little insight into how nasturtiums like to coexist with us: the more we cut nasturtiums - to bring in as cut flowers, or to eat them raw, or as capers - the more they are they will bloom. Regular cuttings seem to encourage more lateral development, and therefore you get more flowers.


If you protect your plants with burlap or sheets on cold fall evenings, your nasturtiums just might surprise you and bloom well into November.





#OTD Today, in 1750, the botanist Peter Kalm visited Niagara Falls.


Niagara was a natural attraction for Bartness like Kalm who studied under Karla Nas

Niagara was a natural attraction for botanists like Kalm, who studied under Carl Linnaeus.

(It was actually Linnaeus who came up with the idea to send trained botanists to Niagara.)

There are no records of the plants that Kalm collected that day. However, botanists suspect that Kalm's Lobelia and Kalm's Saint John's Wort were collected there; both would have been named for him by Carl Linnaeus.




#OTD Today, in 1805, Meriwether Lewis discovered the Snowberry or Symphoricarpos albus.

I love the story of how Lewis came across the Snowberry.

He was really looking for the Shoshone Indians, but he found the Snowberry instead.

Lewis wrote in his journal that he discovered something like small honeysuckle, except that it was bearing a berry as "large as a garden pea and as white as wax."

The plant was a truly new discovery to the scientific community. And, Lewis showed his botany chops when he said he thought it resembled the honeysuckle because it actually IS a member of the honeysuckle family. The Latin name is from the Greek meaning "fruits joined together," because the berries are clustered in pairs.

The berries aren’t good for eating; they’re pretty tasteless. But, the birds, and especially grouse, love it.

Lewis probably took a specimen of the Snowberry because some of the seeds made their way to Philadelphia. They were given to Thomas Jefferson‘s favorite nurseryman: Bernard McMahan.

Then, McMahan did what he always did; he grew them and sent cuttings to Thomas Jefferson. Jefferson wrote him in October of 1812, saying that the Snowberries were thriving in his garden. He gushed that they were,


“some of the most beautiful berries I have ever seen.”





#OTD Today is the birthday of the Russian botanist Edward August Von Regal, who was born on this day in 1815.

Regal was born in Switzerland - but he lived most of his life in Russia.

Regal worked in a number of botanical gardens, including gardens in Germany and Switzerland.

In 1852, he founded the magazine, Garten Flora, where he described all the new species he had encountered.

By 1855, Regal made his final move to Saint Petersburg, where he made his home.

He oversaw the imperial botanical garden, and he even started a Russian gardening society, as well as a number of journals.

Regal was a very hands-on botanist. When he went to St. Petersburg, he immediately addressed the setup and the level of excellence. He changed how all the plants were arranged and rebuilt the greenhouses (most of which were heated by hot water). Regal loved to arrange plants in groups based on geography. For instance, he would have an area for plants of St. Petersburg, and an area for the plants of Siberia, and an area for the plants of North America, and so on.

And if you’re a fan of Curtis's botanical magazine, which was started by William Curtis (who was employed at Kew), you’ll appreciate knowing that volume 111 is dedicated to Edward August van Regal.




#OTD Today is the birthday of Benedict Roezl, who was born on this day in 1823 in Czechoslovakia.

Roezl was probably the most famous collector of orchids during his lifetime.

Roezl had an interesting life. As a gardener, he traveled all over Europe. He was also the founder of a Czech botanical magazine called Flora.

Eventually, Roezl made his way to the United States. He was making his way south to Mexico, so after first landing in New York, he went to Denver. There, he collected the Yucca Angustifolia.

Roezl indeed ended up in Mexico. For a time, he owned a restaurant. But he was also trying to do business out of growing a nettle that is called the Boehmeria nivea, which produces a fiber that can be harvested.

Roezl was a tinkerer. He had built a machine to extract the fiber from the Boehmeria, and he had brought it to an exhibition. Someone asked if his machine would be able to extract fiber from an agave. When Roezl attempted to try it, his hand got entangled in the machine and was crushed. The accident changed his life, and he began collecting plants full-time.

Roezl used an iron hook in place of his amputated hand; it made him popular among the locals who brought him plants.

Roezl started collecting for Frederick Sander, who was known as the king of orchids. But it was really Roezl that made it all happen. Although, as a collector, he was a bit of a mess. Still, Roezl collected over 800 orchids from Mexico and South America, along with thousands of other plants like agaves and cacti. In Columbia, he discovered the Zambia Roezlii; the tallest and oldest orchid of all.

Even though Roezl was 6‘2“ tall, and had that imposing iron hook for a hand, during his collecting days, Roezl was robbed 17 times and, once, even attacked by a jaguar. Roezl collected for Sander for 40 years.

At the end of his life, Roezl returned to Czechoslovakia. His country welcomed him home with open arms, and he was honored by the Russian czar. When he died at home in his bed, his funeral was attended by the Austrian emperor.

Today, there is a statue of Roezl in Prague. It’s located on the southern end of Charles Square - if you happen to go.




#OTD Today is the anniversary of the death of the nurseryman and botanist John Gould Veitch, who died on this day in 1870.

The Veitch Nursery dynasty was a force in the British nursery trade. Their dominance was born out of the idea to hire their own plant hunters to collect exclusively for them. John Gould Veitch became a plant hunter himself. He’s remembered for collecting in Japan and in Australia where he once complained that the seeds of many plants,

“were so tiny he did not know if he was collecting seed or dust.“


John Gould Veitch's life was cut short by tuberculosis. He died when he was just 31 years old.



Unearthed Words

“Every year, the bright Scandinavian summer nights fade without anyone's noticing. One evening in August, you have an errand outdoors, and all of a sudden, it's pitch-black. It is still summer, but the summer is no longer alive.”

― Tova Jansson, The Summer Book



Today's book recommendation: The Orchid Hunter by Leif Bersweden

The subtitle of the book is "A young botanist’s search for happiness.

Bersweden was 19 years old when he set off on a project to see all 52 species of wild orchid in Britain and Ireland. Over one summer, as he passed his gap year, before going to Oxford University.

Bersweden was 12 years old when he asked his mom about plants. He’s continued to learn about them ever since.

Bersweden attempted to see and photograph the wild orchids of the UK in a single season. He’s a talented writer and a passionate plantsman. I won’t spoil it for you - you’ll have to read for yourself whether he completes his quest. The book is funny, enthusiastic, and brilliant.



Today's Garden Chore

Add more ground cover

I feel like you could add this to do to your garden chores throughout the growing season.

Carpeting the ground with ground covers is one of the best ways to combat weeds.

It’s also one of the best ways to help your garden feel lived in.

The best part about ground covers is they will often do quite well in areas where grass may struggle.

Shade-loving ground covers, like Lily of the Valley or Bugle Weed, are wonderful options.

And, wouldn't you rather have a Johnny Jump Up or a Sweet Violet, than some unwanted weed in the garden?




Something Sweet
Reviving the little botanic spark in your heart

Today, in 1892, the botanist Albert Ruth collected a plant in Sevier County that he thought was Partridge Berry.

Over 40 years later, this specimen ended up at the University of Tennessee.

The year was 1934, and the University of Tennessee’s herbarium had been destroyed in a fire, which was especially sad since the herbarium was par excellence and contained over 30,000 specimens.

But, the botanist and university professor, AJ Sharp, rose to the challenge. He put out the call for new specimens from botanists all over the globe, and they sent them.

Albert Ruth's Partridge Berry made its way to Dr. Sharp. When he saw it, Dr. Sharp immediately recognized that the Partridge Berry was not the plant that he had been sent. It was an obvious mislabel. Instead, what Sharp was looking at, was the twinflower, the flower named for Carl Linnaeus, the Linnea Borealis – a plant that is extremely delicate.

Although it can be found in Greenland and Alaska and Scandinavia, it has not been known to be found in the Smoky Mountains. And, no one has ever been able to find the spot where Ruth found this twinflower. There have been two attempts to locate it led by Dr. Peter White out of the University of North Carolina.

White cautions for anyone attempting to search for it in the great Smoky Mountains to take heed. He said the two things you need to botanize in the Great Smoky Mountains are excellent rock climbing experience and a great life insurance policy.



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and remember:
"For a happy, healthy life, garden every day."

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