September 5, 2019 Growing Cucumbers, Michel Sarrazin, Joseph Pitton de Tournefort, Asa Gray, Charles Darwin, Katherine Warington, Andrew Marvell, Tussie-Mussies by Geraldine Laufer, the Case for Coleus, and the Suffolk Tombstone of gardener Edward Ward

If you have struggled to grow tomatoes successfully, maybe it's time to give cucumbers a try.

They are much easier to grow than tomatoes. Just add some organic matter to the soil and mulch around the base of the plant. Cucumbers benefit from support, so install a trellis for the vines to climb. That's it.

The saying, "cool as a cucumber," refers to the fact that it's about 20 degrees cooler on the inside of a cucumber. And, cucumbers contain loads of nutrients like magnesium, vitamin C, and potassium.

Here's are a fun fact about cucumbers: Cucumbers are 96 percent cool water.






#OTD Today is the birthday of the first collector and cataloguer of Canadian plant specimens, Naturalist Michel Sarrazin, who was born on this day in 1659. In France, Sarrazin was trained to be a surgeon. By the age of 25, he was appointed to help the troops headed to colonize Canada. When he arrived in Canada, he tended to both the soldiers and civilians in Québec and Montreal. Helping sick people was dangerous work. In his early thirties, Sarrazin himself became ill, and in short order, he returned to France to receive more training. Sarrazin spent three years in France - obtaining his doctorate of medicine and finding himself spending more and more time at the Botanical Garden in Paris. It wasn't long before he met the nobleman and botanist Joseph Pitton de Tournefort. Tournefort was an excellent teacher. He was the first botanist to develop the idea of creating a genus for plants. Later, Sarrazin would report that it was Tournefort who "stimulated [his] lifelong interest in collecting and classifying [plants]." Rested, educated, and passionate about horticulture, Sarrazin returned to Canada, and he kept in touch with Tournefort through correspondence. He would send back various specimens of North American plants. Tournefort, in turn, would share Sarrazin's discoveries with the Royal Academy of Science back in France.

Sarrazin's most noted discover Sarracenia purpurea, the pitcher plant - which Linneaus would name in his honor. The pitcher plant grew in wetlands, bogs, and marshes around Québec. From a medicinal standpoint, the pitcher plant was discovered to be effective against smallpox. Ever the doctor, Sarrazin, had studied the powerful pitcher plant. Incredibly, it was Michel Sarrazin who first suspected that the plant caught insects and ate them. When he shared his thoughts in writing, the academic community rejected his theory. Nearly 200 years later, Charles Darwin would validate Sarrazin's hypothesis in his work called Insectivorous Plants.

There's a fascinating side-note in the Sarrazin biography; Sarrazin was the first doctor to perform a mastectomy in North America. His patient was a 38-year-old nun, and her prognosis was so grim that Sarrazin was certain she would die without the surgery. Sarrazin acted quickly, the nun recovered and lived a full life until the age of 77.




#OTD Today, in 1857, Harvard botanist Asa Gray received a confidential letter from Charles Darwin.

In the letter, Darwin wrote:

"I will enclose the briefest abstract of my notions on the means by which nature makes her species...I ask you not to mention my doctrine."

Two years later, Darwin revealed his concept of natural selection in his book, "On the Origin of Species.




#OTD Today is the birthday of the botanist Katherine Warington who was born on this day in 1897.

Warington was a twin in a family with five girls.

After college, Warington ended up working with an entomologist who was researching the black fly. The point of the research was to make beans taste bad to the fly. Researchers took turns applying various elements to the beans, and in the process, Warington discovered that Boron was essential to plant growth. Two years later, Warington published her work - amazing the scientific community at her discovery and the unlikely scenario of a scientist making a major discovery with their first research project after college.




Unearthed Words

"What wondrous life is this I lead!
Ripe apples drop about my head;
The luscious clusters of the vine
Upon my mouth do crush their wine;
The nectarine and curious peach
Into my hands themselves do reach;
Stumbling on melons, as I pass,
Ensnared with flowers, I fall on grass."

- Andrew Marvell, Thoughts in a Garden



Today's book recommendation: Tussie-Mussies by Geraldine Laufer

This book on Tussie-Mussies is subtitled The Victorian Art of Expressing Yourself in the Language of Flowers, and it came out in 1993. Laufer's book does a wonderful job of explaining the art of sending floral messages. Tussie-Mussies were originally called "talking bouquets" or "word posies." She describes how to make them (it's simpler than you might think). She also shares how the meanings of herbs and flowers have changed over time.

Laufer has been called a Floral Poet - and she gives step-by-step instructions for how to make 60 different bouquets or tussie-mussies - to express love, wish someone a Happy Birthday, congratulations, express Sympathy, or commemorate celebrations like the birth of a baby or a family gathering.


Today's Garden Chore

Reconsider adding coleus to your garden.

Coleus went through a resurgence a decade or so ago. For many gardeners, it is a yearly addition to the garden. If you have a shady garden, coleus can add tremendous color to the garden. Nowadays, there is sun coleus that can handle sunny gardens as well. The Brazilian garden designer, Roberto Burle Marx, considered coleus a favorite. Over the years, your attraction to coleus may subside. But as with any old favorite, they can find their way back into your heart. Visit one garden with a beautiful planting of coleus, complementing the perfect perennials, and you'll be looking to add coleus back into your garden.

And here's a little tip about coleus; coleus has a natural rooting hormone, so use coleus water as you would willow water or plant coleus next to other plants to help them get established.




Something Sweet

Reviving the little botanic spark in your heart

On this day in 1882, The Ipswich Journal out of Suffolk, England, included this little snippet in an article reviewing some of the oldest tombstones in Suffolk.

"In [a] secluded, unpretending graveyard, the [is an] epitaph to " Edward Ward, aged 92, who died in 1804," who, it appears, was gardener at Troston Hall for upwards of seventy years : Thus, thy long Round of Years and Toils fullfill'd Rest, Good Old Man : no more to fear or hope From the returning Seasons & their change, Till the Great Spring arrive ; & call the forth To Bloom, we trust, &; Fruits, on earth unknown. The above forcibly illustrates the long servitude prevailing in Suffolk above a century ago, for it was reckoned that the family of Wards had been employed by the same family for 200 years."

Thanks for listening to the daily gardener,

and remember:

"For a happy, healthy life, garden every day."

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