"You don't have a garden just for yourself. You have it to share."
- Augusta Carter, Master Gardener, Pound Ridge, Georgia
Pass-along plants have the best stories, don't they?
They have history.
They have personal history.
One of my student gardeners had a grandmother who recently passed away from breast cancer.
Her mom was no green thumb. But, when her daughter started working in my garden, she let me know that her mom had some plants and her dad was looking for a place for them. Would I be willing to take one?
Sure. Absolutely, I said.
Next thing I knew, a few weeks later, Mom is walking up my driveway caring one of the largest Jade plants I’ve ever seen. The plant was in a container the size of a 5 gallon paint bucket and the plant was just as tall.
I took the plant from her with a promise to take good care of it.
When she turned to leave, I asked her mom’s name. I like to name my pass-along plants after the people I get them from; and, that’s when the tears started.
When she left, I brought it over to the potting bench and let it sit for a few days. Then, my student gardeners and I set about dividing it and taking care of it. It was a good thing we did it - because the minute we started to take it out of the pot it became very apparent that this plant was severely waterlogged. It wouldn’t of made it have a knot rescued it from the pot. We removed as much potting soil as we could. We split the plant in half and put them into separate clay pots which were very heavily perlited; which was just what the doctor ordered. It’s the perfect environment and now it’s doing fantastic.
But, I’d be lying if I didn’t say that it had a little more special meaning to me than just your typical jade plant -because of the look on this woman’s face when she gave me this plant; passing on this little, living thing that her mom had nurtured.
#OTD Today is Saint Bernard of Clairvaux‘s day; he was the patron saint of beekeepers.
He's also the patron saint of bees and candlemakers
St. Bernard was a doctor of the church and a French Abbot. He was apparently a fabulous preacher, with excellent speaking skills. He became known as the "honey sweet" doctor for his honey sweet language; he would draw people in.
When he decided to become a part of the monastery, he had to give up and get up and give a testimony. History tells us that his testimony was so compelling that thirty members of his family and his friends decided to join the monastery. That’s how he became associated with bees; all that sweet talk.
And it was Saint Bernard who said,
"Believe me, for I know, you will find something far greater in the woods than in books. Stones and trees will teach you that which you cannot learn from the masters."
#OTD Today is the birthday of Edward Lee Green; who was born on this day in 1843.
Green performed yeoman's work when it came to the plants of the American West; naming or describing or even re-describing over 4,400 species.
Before Green made his way west, he reached out to Asa Gray of Cambridge and George Englemann of St. Louis at the Missouri Botanic Garden. They gave him good counsel and in 1870, he started traveling to Colorado, California, Mexico, New Mexico, and Arizona. He eventually settled in Berkeley as a church rector.
In the early 1880s, an interesting thing happened: he left the episcopal church and he became a Catholic.
While he was becoming Catholic, Green began lecturing at the University of California, where he became the curator of the herbarium.
When he and the University's President didn’t agree on nomenclature for the plants, he ended up accepting a job at Catholic University in Washington DC, where he worked until 1904.
At that point, he ended up going to the Smithsonian. When he was there, he transferred his herbarium and published his masterpiece called Landmarks of Botanical History Part One.
Part Two was never completed.
#OTD It was on this day in 1863 that a botanist preserved a specimen of milkweed about 15 days after the battle of Gettysburg.
Drexel University shared this story back in 2018:
In the botany department, curator Elana Benamy was digitizing plant images. She came across an image of milkweed - which is pretty common - but what made her take a double-take was the date and location of the plant specimen.
The plant was labeled "Battlefield of Gettysburg, August 20, 1863."
The battle in Gettysburg had occurred during the first three days of July. So this specimen had been gathered about seven weeks after the battle, and about five weeks after Frederick Law Olmsted had walked the field.
"Can you imagine why on earth would someone be out plant collecting [there]?"
As it turns out, the reason made perfect sense.
The collector was a man named Thomas Meehan. Meehan had worked for Andrew Eastwick who was the owner of Bartrum‘s garden in Philadelphia. Afterward, Meehan opened up his own nursery in Germantown.
In 1853, his younger brother, Joseph, had come to the United States from England. The younger Meehan brother was working in the greenhouses for his brother when he enlisted to fight in the Civil War.
As the battle of Gettysburg began, the younger Meehan was taken prisoner; but with the defeat of the army he was given battlefield parole on July 4th.
Historians now speculate that Thomas' brother, Joseph, might still of been at Gettysburg or Thomas might’ve gone out with him on a botanizing trip there.
In either case, 33 years later, Joseph would write a beautiful account of the landscape in an article for a gardening magazine called, Battlefield Flowers: Floral Treasures of Gettysburg.
Apparently, both brothers had inherited a love of plants.
#OTD It was on this day in 1912 that the Plant Quarantine Act was enacted.
It gave the Health Inspection Office the authority to regulate, the importation and interstate movement of, nursery stock and other plants that may carry pests or disease. This is why if you’ve been stopped in the airport with a plant - it’s thanks to the Plant Quarantine Act.
The Act is thanks, in part, to the work of David Fairchild. When he brought that first shipment in of Cherry trees from Japan, to be placed along tidal basin in Washington DC, they were infected with disease and insects. So that in part, lead to the Plant Quarantine Act - so that something like that would not happen again.
#OTD Today we wish a happy birthday to the man with a last name all gardeners covet: the lead singer of Led Zeppelin, Robert Plant, who was born on this day in 1948.
Today we celebrate the birthday of the poet Edgar Albert Guest.
Guest was known as the People’s Poet during the first half of the 20th century. His poems were happy and hopeful; which is why people like them.
Here’s his poem called To Plant a Garden:
If your purse no longer bulges
and you’ve lost your golden treasure,
If at times you think you’re lonely
and have hungry grown for pleasure,
Don’t sit by your hearth and grumble,
don’t let mind and spirit harden.
If it’s thrills of joy you wish for
get to work and plant a garden!
If it’s drama that you sigh for,
plant a garden and you’ll get it
You will know the thrill of battle
fighting foes that will beset it.
If you long for entertainment and
for pageantry most glowing,
Plant a garden and this summer spend
your time with green things growing.
If it’s comradeship you sight for,
learn the fellowship of daisies.
You will come to know your neighbor
by the blossoms that he raises;
If you’d get away from boredom
and find new delights to look for,
Learn the joy of budding pansies
which you’ve kept a special nook for.
If you ever think of dying
and you fear to wake tomorrow,
Plant a garden! It will cure you
of your melancholy sorrow.
Once you’ve learned to know peonies,
petunias, and roses,
You will find every morning
some new happiness discloses.
This is an oldie but goodie and it was published back in 1973.
The author teaches many applications for working with roses including how to crystallize the petals and preserve the buds, how to use the rose leaves to flavor wines and vinegar, and how to use roses in medicinal ways.
So much rose wisdom has been lost to time. It’s wonderful to have resources like this still available. This book offers 83 recipes all together thanks to the herbalist Eleanor Sinclair Rhode, who gathered her information from a number of legendary herbalists, such as Sir Hugh Platt and Gervase Markham.
Pick herbs for fresh use and also for drying.
Most herbs have a more concentrated flavor if they are not allowed to bolt or flower.
Frequent harvesting will also accomplish that.
As a bonus, harvesting encourages fresh, vigorous growth and keeps them growing longer into the season.
Reviving the little botanic spark in your heart
Here’s another excerpt from a letter that Elizabeth Lawrence wrote to her sister on August 20, 1940:
"I have finished [the chapter on] Summer, and I only have [the chapter on] Fall to do—which is short. I hope I can get it done quickly, and have time to rewrite after your reading.
If you get back before I do [from a trip with Bessie and sister Ann], and can find time to look into my garden, will you see if Nerine undulata is in bloom? And if it is, pick it when all of the flowers are out, and put it in your refrigerator until I get back.
It bloomed last year while I was gone, and I have never seen it, and it is the most exciting bulb I have. I enclose a map of where it is, and of other things that might bloom.
Don’t bother about any of them—don’t look for Ridgeway [color chart]. I am taking it with me in case we get to any nurseries.…"
Nerine undulata an Amaryllis. It grows 18 inches tall and has umbels of 8-12 slender, crinkled pale pink flowers and it blooms in autumn.
Thanks for listening to the daily gardener,
"For a happy, healthy life, garden every day."