September 30, 2019 How to Help Autumn Crocus Shine, Sarah Hynes, Faith Fyles, Helia Bravo Hollis, WS Merwin, Planting in a Post-Wild World by Thomas Rainer and Claudia West, Add Color with Chrysanthemums, and Robert Louis Stevenson Playing Cards with King Kalakaua

I was reading on Facebook yesterday, and a friend had planted all of these autumn croci, colchicums, in her garden.

Like any bulb, it takes lots of dedication to get them planted, and then you have all of the anticipations - waiting to see if they come up and if they meet your expectations.

Anyway, she'd invited some friends over to come and check them out. Instead of being amazed by the beautiful autumn crocus, her friends were utterly taken her gorgeous hydrangea.

Isn't that the way it goes?

We toil in our gardens, and then we invite people over to come and see it. Yet, the plants we expect others to be amazed by, the plants that have stolen our hearts, are not always the plants that are the most popular with our visitors.

So, my piece of advice, if you have an affinity for autumn crocus, is don't plant hydrangea.

If you do have hydrangea, only invite other gardeners over. Only gardeners will appreciate the dedication that it takes to plant colchicum. Only gardeners are sensitive to the fact that if they've been invited over to "see the colchicum," they will ooh and aah only for the autumn crocus and offer merely a passing nod to the show-stealing hydrangea.






#OTD Today is the birthday of the botanist Sarah Hynes who was born on this day in 1859,

Hynes was born in Danzig, Prussia, and she immigrated to Australia in the mid-1800s. After graduating from the University of Sydney, she and Georgina King brought in fresh flowers for a botanical display at the Sydney Technological Museum. This is how Haynes came to know the director of the Museum, Joseph Henry Maiden. Maiden hired Haynes as a botanical assistant, and when he was promoted to be the director of the Sydney Botanic Garden, he hired Hynes to be in charge of the herbarium.

Once Hynes arrived at the botanic garden, she ran into difficulties with her male bosses. She was pointing out disparities between herself and her male counterparts; she had requested better pay. In 1905, Hynes was suspended and cited for 39 counts of insubordination, including the use of "unladylike" phrase "lowdown, dirty larrikin trick."

Hynes stood her ground and denied the charges, which were ultimately dismissed. But, five years later, it happened again. After this suspension, Haynes had had enough; she transferred to the Department of Public Instruction.

After this position, Haynes spent the rest of her professional life teaching science to high schoolers.

William Fitzgerald named the (Acacia hynesiana) for her in recognition of her work with Joseph Henry Maiden in his book Forest Flora.





#OTD Today is the birthday of the botanical artist Faith Fyles who was born on this day in 1875.

Fyles was trained as a botanist, but her natural artistic talent became apparent early in her career.

She was the first female hired by the Canadian Department of Agriculture. In 1920, she transferred to the horticulture division, where she began producing colored illustrations of plant specimens, especially fruits and ornamentals.

Fyles is remembered for her work on the 1920 bulletin, Principal Poison Plants of Canada. The bulletin was prepared for farmers so that they could discern the problematic plants on their properties and avoid pasturing animals with poisonous plants. The book was offered free through the Ottawa Department of Agriculture.

Over her career, Fyles had the opportunity to study art with Stanhope Forbes in England and with Rene Menard and Lucien Simon in Paris.





#OTD Today is the birthday of the Mexican botanist Helia Bravo Hollis who was born on this day in 1901.

Bravo Hollis was the first woman to graduate with the title of Biologist in Mexico. By the age of 29, she was named curator of the University's herbarium, where she was assigned the job of studying the cactus.

In 1937, Bravo Hollis published "Las cactáceas de México," making her a leader of global cactus research.

Bravo Hollis focused on cactus in, and in 1951, she cofounded the Mexican Cactus Society. Six cacti species are named in her honor. In 2001, the Cactus Society had planned to celebrate her 100th birthday, but she died four days shy of the century mark.

Bravo Hollis also helped found the Botanical Gardens at the National Autonomous University of Mexico. She served as the director of the Gardens throughout the 1960s. When a strike occurred, Bravo-Hollis offset the pay owed her workers with money out of her own pocket.

Last year, Google commemorated the 117th birthday of Bravo Hollis with a Doodle.

If you search for her online, you'll see a memorable image of Bravo Hollis, in a skirt and blazer with a knife in her hand, standing next to an Echinocactus platyacanthus, also known as the giant barrel cactus, that appears to be over 5 ft tall and just as wide; an imposing specimen. This species is the largest barrel cacti. In Mexico, where the cactus is a native, the hairs are harvested for weaving, and a traditional candy is made from boiling the pith.

Today, the Helia Bravo Hollis Botanical Garden, with more than 80 species of Cactaceae, is found at the Biosphere Reserve of Tehuacán.





Unearthed Words

Today is the birthday of the American poet WS Merwin, who always went by William, and who was born on this day in 1927.

In 2010, Merwin and his wife, Paula, co-founded the Merwin Conservancy at his home in Haiku, Maui. Merwin used the 19 protected acres surrounding his home to cultivate 400 different species of tropical trees; and many of the world's rarest palm trees. Merwin bought the property in 1977, and every day, he planted one tree.

Merwin's story is outlined in an excellent opinion piece about Merwin that was featured in the New York Times earlier this year.

“come back
believer in shade
believer in silence and elegance
believer in ferns
believer in patience
believer in the rain”

“Obviously a garden is not the wilderness but an assembly of shapes, most of them living, that owes some share of its composition, it’s appearance, to human design and effort, human conventions and convenience, and the human pursuit of that elusive, indefinable harmony that we call beauty. It has a life of its own, an intricate, willful, secret life, as any gardener knows. It is only the humans in it who think of it as a garden. But a garden is a relationship, which is one of the countless reasons why it is never finished.”

“On the last day of the world I would want to plant a tree.”




Today's book recommendation: Planting in a Post-Wild World by Thomas Rainer and Claudia West

This book came out in 2015, and the subtitle is Designing Plant Communities for Resilient Landscapes. Right from the start, one can tell that this book has a different philosophical underpinning than other books on landscape design. And, I love that they incorporate the use of the word community; Rainer and West are trying to get us to think about our gardens as communities.

If we could begin to see our gardens and the plants in them in the way that Rainer and West do, we would be much more sensitive to concepts like density and diversity in our plantings. But, don't let those terms throw you; Rainer and West are all about extracting design principals that help gardeners focus on wise selections and year-round interest, all through the lens of community. If we could all do a better job of understanding the way plants behave in the wild, our gardens would benefit greatly.

I love what they write at the beginning of their book because I think it sets the tone for what they are trying to accomplish:

"The way plants grow in the wild and the way they grow in our gardens is starkly different. In nature, plants thrive even in inhospitable environments; in our gardens, plants often lack the vigor of their wild counterparts, even when we lavish them with rich soils and frequent water. In nature, plants richly cover the ground; in too many of our gardens, plants are placed far apart and mulched heavily to keep out weeds. In nature, plants have an order individual harmony resulting from their adaptation to a site; our gardens are often arbitrary assortments from various habitats, related only by our personal preferences....

In fact, the very activities that define gardening – weeding, watering, fertilizing, and mulching – all imply a dependency of plants on the gardener for survival. Gardeners are often frustrated when some plants spread beyond their predetermined location and surprised while others struggle to get established....

Further complication is the availability of plants from every corner of the globe...

So how do we shift the paradigm, making desirable plantings that look and function sympathetically with how they evolve in nature? By observing and embracing the wisdom of natural plant communities."





Today's Garden Chore

Add some color to your garden with chrysanthemums.

On this day in 2000, Stuart Robinson offered this advice about mums in his weekly column in the Montreal Gazette:

"Before shutting things down for the winter, there are a few ways to make the fall garden look a bit nicer. Brighten up your fall flower beds with some colorful chrysanthemums. If you didn't plant any in the spring, so what. Markets and garden supply stores usually have lots of them on special at this time of the year. Buy a few of the larger pots, dig holes in the flower bed (removing a few poor-performing annuals if you have to) and just drop them in and water them well. If you do it when nobody's looking, your neighbors will never know."




Something Sweet
Reviving the little botanic spark in your heart

As I was researching the poet William Merwin, I came across an interview with him done by Joel Whitney back in 2010.

During the interview, Merwin revealed that his mother used to read his poetry, and one of his early favorites was Robert Louis Stevenson's A Child's Garden of Verses.

When asked about Stevenson, Merwin recalled that Stevenson had spent a great deal of time in Hawaii:

"and played cards with King Kalakaua... Kalakaua cheated at cards... They obviously got along very well together, Stevenson and Kalakaua.

They were playing cards one day, and Stevenson said, 'I’ll beat him this time: four aces.'

And Kalakaua said, 'Five kings beats it all.'"




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

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