September 23, 2019 The Autumn Equinox, Kubla Khan, Samuel Taylor Coleridge, Plants by Lewis and Clark, Stuart Robertson, Ruth Patrick, Poems about September, Plant Parenting by Leslie Halleck, Moving Plants, and the 1937 Rose Garden in Hershey, Pennsylvania

Today is the first day of Autumn, also referred to as the Autumn Equinox.

Equinox means ‘equal night.’

On this day, both day and night are nearly the same lengths.

Thereafter, the dark part of the year begins.





#OTD Today is the birthday of the grandson of Genghis Khan, Kubla Khan, who was born on this day in 1215.

Kubla Khan's Summer Garden at Xanadu is the subject of Samuel Taylor Coleridge's 1797 poem Kubla Khan.

In Xanadu did Kubla Khan
A stately pleasure-dome decree:
Where Alph, the sacred river, ran
Through caverns measureless to man
Down to a sunless sea.
So twice five miles of fertile ground
With walls and towers were girdled round,
And there were gardens bright with sinuous rills,
Where blossomed many an incense-bearing tree;
And here were forests ancient as the hills,
Enfolding sunny spots of greenery.

Coleridge's Kubla Kahn is regarded as one of his most famous works. Coleridge said that he composed the entire poem while in a dreamlike state, drowsy from opium he had as medication. When he woke up, he remembered poem as the whole and immediately set about writing it down. But then, he was interrupted by a knock at his door, and he received a visitor. Sadly, when the visitor left, his perfect recollection of the poem failed him, and he was only able to finish the poem in fragments.

The poem begins by describing Kahn's palace and the garden contrasted with the setting of the ancient Mongolian forest.

Although Coleridge wrote this poem in 1797, he didn't share it with the world until urged to do so by his friend Lord Byron.

Together, Coleridge's poem and the adventurer, Marco Polo, brought world-wide attention to Kubla Kahn and his achievements.




#OTD Today, in 1806, Lewis and Clark returned to St. Louis after spending over two years exploring the headwaters of the Missouri River in an effort to find a route to the Pacific.

They returned with their journals and with plant specimens. Here's just a handful of the plants they discovered (I picked the ones you might be the most familiar with):

Snow-on-the-mountain (Euphorbia marginata)
Creeping juniper (Juniperus horizontalis)
False indigo (Amorpha fruticosa)
Needle-and-thread grass also called porcupine grass (Hesperostipa comata)
Purple coneflower (Echinacea angustifolia)
Rough gayfeather also called large button snakeroot (Liatris aspera)
Wild four-o'clock (Mirabilis nyctaginea)
Wild rice (Zizania palustris)
Wild rose (Rosa arkansana)




#OTD Today is the anniversary of the death of Stuart Robertson, who died on this day in 2009.

Robertson was a professional gardener in Montreal, although he was born in England. In 1981, Robertson began work as a gardening columnist for the Montreal Gazette. In 1982, Robertson added the title of a broadcaster to his repertoire as a member of the show Radio Noon on CBC Radio One.

Robertson also wrote two books on gardening. A passionate, leading organic gardener, his first book was Stuart Robertson's Tips on Organic Gardening, which was published in 2007. The following year, he wrote Stuart Robertson's Tips on Container Gardening.

At the age of 50, Robertson learned he had non-Hodgkins lymphoma, a type of cancer of the lymph nodes. When it returned later in life, he received a bone-marrow transplant.

Robertson's colleagues recall him like a gentleman; he had class, strength, and optimism.

In an article announcing Robertson's passing in his hometown paper, The Gazette out of Montreal poignantly reported:

"His final column, which appeared Sept 19, read in part 'We're getting to the sad time of the year when we have to start thinking about cooler weather and the end of the growing season.'"




#OTD Today is the anniversary of the death of the botanist Ruth Patrick who died on this day in 2013 at the age of 105.

Patrick was known for a little saying that went like this: you can’t live a day without diatoms. Diatoms are single-celled algae; this was Patrick's way of saying that all life is interconnected and that nature matters.

Ruth Patrick understood this premise very well. She was a leading voice in the recognition that the smallest organisms, living in communities, were more reliable than an individual species as indicators of pollution.

Ruth Patrick was born in Topeka, Kansas. Her father was an attorney, and when he wasn't working, he loved to take Ruth and her sister out into nature. The girls would collect samples from streams and ponds and then get a closer look in the brass microscope in their father's study. Later, Ruth would often say that her father had always encouraged her to leave the world a better place for having passed through it.

In 1975, Patrick was the first woman elected president of the American Society of Naturalists. She worked for 80 years at The Academy of Natural Sciences. In 1996, she was awarded the country's National Medal of Science from President Bill Clinton.




Unearthed Words

"When the goldenrod is yellow,
And leaves are turning brown -
Reluctantly the summer goes
In a cloud of thistledown.
When squirrels are harvesting
And birds in flight appear -
By these autumn signs, we know

- Beverly Ashour, September


"The back door
bangs shut!
September gust."

- Mike Garofalo, Cuttings: Haiku, Concrete, and Short Poems



Today's book recommendation: Plant Parenting by Leslie Halleck

This is a new book that just came out in June of this year from Timber Press. The author, Leslie Halleck, founded Halleck Horticultural, and she likes to say that when it comes to plants, people naturally feel a relationship with them. Once people fall in love with plants, they want more of them. This is where propagating becomes a useful skill to learn. Mastering propagation is a snap with Halleck's book, which breaks down the different options and new resources available to gardeners. This book offers up some pretty marvelous photos along with simple instructions.

Halleck embraces the trends that are used nowadays by interior designers who incorporate plants as a way to add sculptural elements and warmth to the indoors. So, the images in Halleck's book are gorgeous, and they feel very on-trend. If you have gardeners in your life, be sure to share this lovely, friendly introduction to propagating houseplants, flowers, and vegetables.




Today's Garden Chore

Divide and move plants that have grown too big in your garden.

After the plants in your garden have finished flowering, autumn is the best time of year to move them. Despite the cooler air temps, the ground is still warm enough to provide the right, just the right environment for root growth.

This year, the hostas and astilbes in my garden needed thinning. With my hostas, I just take a sharp knife or shovel and divide the hosta while it's still in the ground. Then, I just remove half the hosta and leave the other half in place; the mother plant bounces back pretty fast.

For the astilbe or any other plants with sturdy roots, I will dig up the whole plant and then use a serrated knife to divide the plant into sections and then replant those wherever I want them in the garden.




Something Sweet
Reviving the little botanic spark in your heart

#OTD On this day in 1937, the Evening Report out of Lebanon, Pennsylvania, reported on a rose garden in Hershey, Pennsylvania.

The 12,500 rose plants of the Hershey Rose Garden were in their September glory.

The rose garden was to be dedicated the following June when its 20,000 plants would be in bloom. The garden had attracted 125,000 visitors from Pennsylvania and ... other neighboring states since its opening in May 1937.

An unusual feature of the garden was that, instead of twenty or twenty-five roses of one variety in a bed, the plants in the Hershey Rose Garden numbered as high as 175 in a single bed. And there was a lake within the garden. It was surround with the deep orange-red Gloria Mundi, the Mermaid (with its unique, pale yellow bloom), the Jacotte (with its orange blossom), and the Eblouissant (a beautiful tiny rose with double, globular flowers that had long-lasting red color and was nested in bronze foliage on a very dwarf plant).



Thanks for listening to the daily gardener,
and remember:
"For a happy, healthy life, garden every day."

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