Folklore and legends are often intertwined with plants and gardens.
Today I stumbled on a Swedish Legend called "The Harvest That Never Came," and I thought you'd get a kick out of it. The story has been used in lesson plans to teach kids problem-solving. I'm going to abbreviate it a bit, but I'll share a link to a good English translation in today's show notes.
A young man named Arild was the son of a Danish noble family. He had fallen in love with a girl from Sweden named Thale. But, in the midst of their romance, Denmark and Sweden declared war on each other.
Arild, who served in the war as a Danish Knight, was captured by the Swedes and thrown in prison. While he was in jail, Arild received a note from Thale, his true love.
"My dearest Arild,
I promised to wait for you forever, but I fear I will not be allowed to. My father says you will never return, and he has chosen another man to be my husband... He has already set the marriage date.
I will love you always.
Your faithful Thale"
Now, Arild was not about to die in prison, and he was certainly not going to lose Thala. So, he came up with an offer, and he presented it to King Erik of Sweden in the form of a letter:
"Your Royal Majesty,
Grant me one favor. Let me go home to marry the woman I love. Then allow me to stay only long enough to plant a crop and harvest it.
On my word of honor (as a knight), I will return to your prison as soon as the harvest is gathered."
The King granted Arild's request, and Arild married Thale. In the Spring, Arild decided on a crop, and he planted the seeds, placing them each of them six paces apart.
In the Fall, after the Harvest season had passed, King Erik sent a messenger to summon Arild back to prison.
Arild looked at the messenger with surprise, saying, "My crop is not harvested... Indeed it has not yet even sprouted!”
The messenger looked perplexed and said, "Not sprouted? What did you plant?"
Arild's reply revealed the cleverness of his plan: "Pine Trees."
When King Erik heard Arild's story he wisely judged, “A man like that does not deserve to be in prison.”
#OTD Today is the birthday of the botanist and physician Lorenz Scholz von Rosenau, who was born on this day in 1552.
The information history has preserved about Scholz gives us a rare glimpse into the botanical life of a dedicated plantsman in the 1500's. Like many early botanists, he was very well educated, and he was a polyglot; reading, writing, and speaking many languages.
One of the most critical endeavors accomplished by Scholz was translating medical references, which were written in Greek and Arabic. He took that information, along with texts written by peers around Europe, and put together a reference book that combined all of the best medical knowledge of his time. His work proved so valuable in helping to teach people about the plague that he earned a coat of arms and nobility title, the Scholz von Rosenau" name in 1596.
As for botanical activities, Scholz was way ahead of his time. He grew potatoes - a suspicious activity during his day and age, and one few gardeners would have pursued - because people were afraid of nightshade plants. And, Scholz had a massive garden even by today's standards - over 7 acres. I love the description of the layout for Scholz's garden: four quadrants, prominent central pathways, and smack in the middle of all of it was a building that historians say was used to entertain; Scholz had designed it to serve both as a dining hall and an art gallery.
#OTD Today is the anniversary of the death of Margherita Caffi, who died on this day in 1710.
Caffi was an Italian painter who was able to have a long career painting still life flower & fruit compositions. The men in her family were painters, but Caffi was self-taught. A mother of four who was pursuing a craft outside of the norm for her times, Caffi had an incredible work ethic. But, her efforts paid off; Caffi achieved fame and even royal patronage during a time when female painters were not embraced.
A quick Google search of Caffi will reveal that she loved tulips, roses, peonies, and carnations; she loved to paint their delicate forms and felt that their great colors - the soft pinks, the vibrant reds, the remarkable shades of yellow and orange - were best displayed against a dark background.
#OTD Today is the birthday of botanist and explorer Mary Sophie Young, who was born on this day in 1872.
In 2017, Nicole Elmer wrote a lovely profile of Young, which was featured on the website for the Department of Integrative Biology at the University of Texas at Austin. Here are some highlights from Elmer's profile:
When Mary Sophie was born in Glendale, Ohio, to an Episcopalian minister and his wife, she was undoubtedly the answer to her parent’s prayers; they had already had seven boys by they time Mary Sophie was born.
Growing up with brothers was formative for Young; she often said she felt that playing with them outside had made her tough and that the experience had helped her withstand the challenging conditions often faced by botanists during plant collecting expeditions.
Young ended up getting her Ph.D. from the University of Chicago. By the fall of 1910, she was on the faculty at the University of Texas; she had landed a job in the botany department.
In two short years, Young was put in charge of the herbarium, which already housed 2500 specimens; but had never had a curator. Young immediately set about adding to the herbarium through her collecting.
Early on, as a collector in Austin, Young began publishing her work, and she would often correspond with others using the simply sign-off "M.S. Young," which masked the fact that she was female. Young wrote in the manner that she spoke, very directly. To Young's delight, while exchanging letters, many people who read her prose and her initials and would incorrectly assume that she was a man. It gave her an immense feeling of satisfaction.
In Elmer's post about Young, she wrote:
"Young’s favorite area to collect was West Texas, and she traveled there during [her] vacation[s].... [in the] the summers of 1914, 1915, 1916, and 1918... Young would hire a younger man to accompany her, usually a university student, to assist with hunting and setting up camp. Young also paid part of her expenses on these collecting trips and donated her time. While in West Texas, she collected from ferns, grasses, cacti, large trees, and sedges."
Young recorded her 1914 trip in a journal.
Elmer wrote that,
"Young [expressed] awe at the landscape... of being in the vastness of West Texas at the turn of the century:
“It’s about five o’clock now. The ‘lonely’ time is beginning. The air is very transparent and very still and everything glistens. There is something of that uncanny fee ling of the consciousness of inanimate things.”
#OTD Today is the birthday of the garden writer Anna Pavord.
In her 2010 book, The Curious Gardener, Pavord, culled articles from her newspaper column. Here's an excerpt:
"It was at our first house and on the first patch of ground that we actually owned that I really discovered the point of gardening. It wasn’t a Pauline conversion. There was no sudden, blinding vision of beauty. I didn’t see myself (still don’t) trolling through bowers of roses, straw hat just so, gathering blooms into a basket. Nor had I any idea at first of the immense joy of growing food. But I had at least begun to understand that gardening, if it is to be satisfying, requires some sense of permanency. Roots matter. The longer you stay put, the richer the rewards.
"I also realized how completely I had missed the point as a child. Gardening was not necessarily about an end result. The doing was what mattered. At this time too, I learned about gardening as therapy."
"Under the harvest moon,
When the soft silver
Over the garden nights,
Death, the gray mocker,
Comes and whispers to you
As a beautiful friend
- Carl Sandburg
Big Dreams, Small Garden, is Willburn's Guide to Creating Something Extraordinary in Your Ordinary Space.
As a columnist and Master Gardener for over 20 years, Willburn is used to talking to people who long to create the garden space of their dreams, but find that something in their circumstances is getting in the way of that dream.
If that situation describes you, Willburn's guide will be your inspiration to getting unstuck and getting the garden you are hoping for, whether that's a restful outdoor space for entertaining or a garden to supply edibles for cooking.
Stop waiting for “the perfect place” and start the process of visualizing, achieving, maintaining, and enjoying your unfolding garden.
Today's Garden Chore
Pot up some herbs to bring indoors. This is an excellent weekend to pot up some of your herbs to grow through the fall and winter on the kitchen windowsill. I like to bring in mint and parsley, as well as rosemary, basil, and cilantro. And don't forget that your windowsill is a great place to sprout scallions which will happily grow in a vase of water - right next to the herbs on your windowsill.
Reviving the little botanic spark in your heart
On this day in 1910, The Rutland Daily Herald out of Vermont shared this utterly charming story about a little-known flower called the Rhodum sidus:
"An amusing story told by Hood describes how a country nurseryman made a large sum out of sales of a simple little flower that he sold under the name of Rhodum sidus.
This charming name proved quite an attraction to the ladies and the flower became the sage of the season.
It was one of those freaks of fashion for which there is no accounting.
At length a botanist who found that the plant was [a common] weed requested to know where the nurseryman got the name from.
He elicited the following reply:
“I found this flower in the road beside us, so christened it the Rhodum sidus.”
Thanks for listening to the daily gardener,
"For a happy, healthy life, garden every day."
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