If you're feeling a little glum about the end of the gardening season, here are a few activities that can help you rebalance:
First, support your local farmers by shopping at a local farm stand. Often the growers will have insights on plants and practices that apply to your own garden. Get inspired by seeing some of the different varieties of apples, gourds, zucchinis, pumpkins, and other vegetables.
Second, refresh your mulch supply. Topdressing before winter feels as good now as it does in the Spring. Your beds will benefit from the extra layer of protection, and you will feel a boost from the beauty of cleaned beds.
#OTD Today is the anniversary of the death of the German botanist Valerius Cordus who died on this day in 1544.
Cordus was the author of one of the most influential herbals in history. In fact, centuries later, the botanist Thomas Archibald Sprague re-published "The Herbal of Valerius Cordus" with his older sister, who he considered to be the best botanist in the family. After the book was published, Sprague gifted her with a personal and gorgeous bound copy. He had the book dedicated to her in Latin: "M. S. Sprague praeceptrici olim hodie collaboratrici d.d. T. A. Sprague" - basically saying that she had taught him and collaborated with him.
Cordus died young, at the age of 29, likely from malaria. He had botanized in Italy over the summer of 1544 with two French naturalists. At some point, he had waded into marshes in search of new plants. When he became sick a short time later, his friends brought him to Rome, and then, they continued on to Naples. When they returned for him, they found Cordus had died.
We owe a debt of gratitude to the Swiss botanist Konrad Gesner who had the sense to collect Cordus' prolific writings and preserve and publish them.
One expert once said, "There was Theophrastus; there was nothing for 1,800 years; then there was Cordus."
The genus Cordia is named in honor of Valerius Cordus.
#OTD Today is the birthday of the Landscape Gardener Edward Kemp, who was born on this day in 1817.
Edward Kemp was the landscape gardener and architect at Birkenhead under Joseph Paxton. He placed an ad in the Liverpool Mercury after the opening of Birkenhead, he was out of work and was offering his services,
“[Edward Kemp] begs to offer his services to the Noblemen and Gentlemen in the vicinity of Birkenhead and Liverpool…The fluttering testimonials which he has received from numberless visitors to the Birkenhead park, induce him to believe that a simple reference to the past and present condition of the park …. will be sufficient to ensure for him a large and liberal patronage.”
Don't worry about Edward Kemp. He went on to be a leading Victorian Landscape Gardener and a successful one at that.
#OTD On this day in 1890, the Sequoia National Park was established to protect the giant Sequoia trees, among the oldest living things on earth.
In 1847, Stephan Ladislaus Endlicher, a German botanist, came up with the genus name "Sequoia" after a Cherokee Chief named Sequoyah (1770-1843) who was the son of a British merchant and a Cherokee woman. Sequoyah developed an alphabet to enable his tribe’s dialect to be written.
In 1872, Asa Gray wrote about the sequoia and presented his work in Dubuque, Iowa at the 21st annual session of the American Association for the Advancement of Science. During his presentation, Gray speculated on the origin of the trees. He offered three hypotheses:
- Either they are just coming into existence, and are destined, if unmolested by man, to spread over the world;
- They have long lived; on the Pacific Slope, and have never spread elsewhere because no other climate is fit for them;
- They are the survivors of a race that once crowded the hills and valleys of the world.
Gray felt the last hypothesis was the one with the most merit. He expanded on this point by saying,
"Research has found the fossil sequoia gigantea throughout ... Northern Europe, Iceland, Greenland, Alaska, and the Rocky Mountains. All of these fossil specimens are almost exactly the same as the “ Big Trees” of today. The very slight difference can be readily explained by the modifying force of different conditions.
This crucial test shows that, before man sprang from the dust of the Garden of Eden, according to Genesis, or was evolved from the ape of Northern Africa, according to Darwin, the sequoia gigantea belted Northern America, Asia, and Europe, and the islands of the Northern seas. The “ Big Trees” of California are but the outlying sentinels of an army that has vanished."
#OTD On this day in 1942, the newspaper in Spokane Washington had a headline that said: Noted Botanist Crosses Jungle (Takes Long Mule Route Through Tibet to Get a Few Flowers.)
The article was about the botanist Francis Kingdon-Ward who had just arrived in New Delhi after a 500 hundred mile walk over mountains and through jungles to avoid the Japanese invaders of Burma.
The article said this:
"A thin, wiry little man in his 50s, Captain Kingdon-Ward...decided that the Japanese were getting too close for comfort, so he loaded two 60-pound bags of rice on two mules... But instead of taking the short road through the Chaukan pass, [he] decided to travel the 500-mile mule trail through Tibet... He thought he might find some useful military information during his trip [and] 'besides, there is always a chance of finding some rare wildflowers on this route.'
[Kingdon-Ward tramped] knee-deep in the snow [and] crossed the Himalayas at the 14,500-foot pass....
[He said] "It was a pleasant walk and I collected some nice flowers....Your reward is in the finding of dazzling flowers never seen before. You know they may always blush unseen unless you manage to take them back and make them grow where others can admire them. They are a little bit of the enchantment of Asia transplanted into England or America. It is satisfaction enough if you can feel in an industrial age like the present that you have brought home a little beauty for others to enjoy."
#OTD Today is the birthday of the English poet Felicia Hemans who was born on this day in 1793.
She wrote this charming garden poem to honor one of her five sons on his autumnal birthday:
Where sucks the bee now? Summer is flying,
Leaves round the elm-tree faded are lying ;
Violets are gone from their grassy dell,
With the cowslip cups, where the fairies dwell ;
The rose from the garden hath pass'd away
Yet happy, fair boy, is thy natal day !
For love bids it welcome, the love which hath smiled
Ever around thee, my gentle child !
Watching thy footsteps, and guarding thy bed,
And pouring out joy on thy sunny head.
Roses may vanish, but this will stay
Happy and bright is thy natal day!
This book came out in March of 2019 - so earlier this year. The subtitle is Plants, Potting, and DIY Projects - Botanical Styling with Fiddle-Leaf Figs, Monsteras, Air Plants, Succulents, Ferns, and More of Your Favorite Houseplants.
Botanical styling is all the rage - even Pottery Barn is offering permanent pots and stems to help lead this trend.
The blogger Kendal Morgan Hall wrote in her review of this book:
"[Living Decor] is filled with gorgeous pictures...The colour scheme in this book is vibrant. It shows how plants can warm up a minimalistic decorated living space."
Kendall's review is spot on.
I wanted to read a little excerpt to help you get to know the author a little better. Her name is Maria Colletti, and she spent 13 years working at the New York Botanical Garden (NYBG) retail shop. Here's what she wrote in one of the first sections of her book called "Where I Found My Green Life":
"In 2003 I continued my schooling it in YBG, chiseling my green skills as shop manager of the shop in the garden. I learned so much working as a garden retailer in a place that educates daily and what it means to love plants.
We bought, sold, displayed, and cared for our plant inventory. We watched the garden evolve throughout the seasons, which was, on many days, just breathtaking: The white Korean dogwood trees at the entrance of the rose garden, or the perennial garden outside the Enid A. Haupt to Conservatory in summer.
How lucky am I? I intended never to waste this privilege but instead utilize it to the best of my abilities. This is how I discovered my garden lifestyle and brought all the elements together."
Today's Garden Chore
It's time to think selectively about where and what to cut back in the garden.
Long ago, I learned not to leave grasses up near the house; the base of grasses draw mice, and in the Spring, when you cut them down, you'll have little mice running all about.
I like to get the garden in front of my porch completely clean. We pile snow thereafter, sweeping the porch and clearing off the walks. Plus, this garden is wet in the spring - so I'd rather cut back perennials now and just let everyone do their thing in the spring without me having to traipse through it.
On the other hand, it's nice to strategically allow some perennials to remain, providing habitat for insects, food for birds, and winter interest. In addition to trees and shrubs, plants like Coneflower, sedum, Russian sage, Lovage, Aster, Sunflowers, Hydrangea, and Joe Pye weed remain intact in my garden until spring.
Reviving the little botanic spark in your heart
On this day in 1915, the newspaper out of Burlington Vermont shared a little article about September flowers, focusing mainly on the goldenrod and the aster and their numerous varieties.
But then it ended with these marvelous run-on sentences. Check it out:
Most conspicuous among the flowers of the roadside and pasture, these last days of September, are the goldenrod and aster. [...]
One need not be a botanist to find and identify either plant, for we see them on every hand, making a successful struggle for life under most adverse conditions, and giving a splendor of beauty to the dull, gray days of the fall.
Its closing days show a wealth of floral loveliness that may not soon be duplicated. And this is true of the goldenrod and aster's rich relatives of the garden. The cultivated asters are a blaze of glory in countless gardens, and cannas and hardy chrysanthemums and other things aplenty show no sign of old age.
Thus, latest autumn Is connected with the earliest spring, for the floral succession has been unbroken, from the time when the snowdrop blossomed amid ice and snow, through a long line of flowers of every hue and shape, to this 25th of September, when the black-eyed Susans are closing their long campaign, chicory is losing its last pale blue, and the aster and goldenrod are left not exactly blooming alone but the kings of the floral world.
Thanks for listening to the daily gardener,
"For a happy, healthy life, garden every day."
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