Today is International Coffee Day.
There is a legend that tells of coffee's discovery:
In Ethiopia, there was a goatherder who observed his goats didn't want to go to sleep at night after eating berries from a certain tree. After he reported this to the Abbot of a local monastery, the Abbott gathered the berries himself and then made a drink with them. The Abbott's discovered the drink kept him awake and alert for the long hours of evening prayers. The rest is history.
The coffee plant is actually a shrub. It's an evergreen that has a light gray bark and shiny, dark leaves that are five inches long. If the coffee plant wasn't pruned back, it could grow up to thirty feet tall in the wild.
It takes the coffee plant five years to be able to produce fruit. Coffee plants have an interesting life cycle; they can live to be 100 years old, but their producing years are between the ages of 7 and 20. And, the next time you think about the equator, reframe it as "The Bean Belt." Coffee plants grow best along the equator.
#OTD Today is the anniversary of the death of the “Dean of Landscape Architects,” Jens Jensen, who died on this day in 1860.
Jens Jensen was featured in The Living Green Documentary; he was an early pioneer in the conservation movement and used art as activism. He was ahead of his time.
Jensen and Frank Lloyd Wright were contemporaries.
Jensen made over 600 Landscapes and was known as the "Poet of the Prairie." The prairie was the theme of his work, and Jensen likened the prairie to the sea. He felt there was spiritualism that rose out of the long grass and that every person on earth needed the living green. He valued the natural lands, and he recognized that nature had restorative powers.
Jensen was a maker of public parks and spaces.
Later in life, Jensen moved his family into a remote part of Wisconsin called Ellison Bay, located in northern door county. Even in 2010, the population was just 165.
It was Jens Jensen who said, "Where there is forest, there is peace." and “Trees are much like human beings and enjoy each other's company. Only a few love to be alone.”
#OTD Today is the birthday of California plant collector, LeRoy Abrams, who was born on this day in 1874.
Abrams was born in Sheffield, Iowa. He moved west with his parents as a small boy. As a graduate student, Abrams performed yeoman's work botanizing the area around Los Angeles. A biographical sketch of Abrams said,
"[Abrams] crisscrossed southern California in a wagon, on the back of a mule or burrow, and on foot to make field observations... and collect specimens from Santa Barbara to Yuma, from Needles to San Diego, and from the Salton Sink prior to its flooding to the summits of Old Baldy"
In 1902, Abrams published a flora of Los Angeles and Vicinity. (The vicinity included a fifty-mile radius around LA).
In 1909, Abrams married a fellow student at Stanford. Her name was Letitia Patterson; they shared everything together - especially the joys of their mountain cabin they had built with their own hands on the west side of Fallen Leaf Lake. When their only daughter died a few short years after her college graduation, they shouldered their grief together.
Abrams served as the director of the Natural History Museum at Stanford, where he taught botany for thirty-four years. He did not live to see the completion of his dream, a four-volume work called An Illustrated Flora of the Pacific States (Stanford, Stanford University Press, 1923–1960, 4 vols.). However, it was Abrams's dream to carry out; he had been inspired by the New York Botanical Garden (NYBG) and their three-volume work, An Illustrated Flora of the Northern United States, Canada, and the British Possessions, by Britton and Brown.
Abrams was a loving teacher. His students called him "Father."
#OTD On this day in 1887, the botanists John and Harvey Ruth made a trip to Wyker's Island to collect fall flora.
Wyker's Island is now known as Lynn Island, in the Delaware River, Bucks County, Pennsylvania. The Ruth's rowed their own boat to the island on this day in 1887, where they discovered the island was covered with asters and butterfly weed.
#OTD On this day in 1891, the newspapers carried the obituary of the self-taught botanist and poet Cyrus M. Tracy who had died on September 29th.
Tracy was the Chair of Botany for the Massachusetts College of Pharmacy. He is remembered for his work in creating the noble forest park known as Lynn Woods. Three times the size of Central Park, Lynn Woods is a massive green space located outside of Boston. A hidden gem, Lynn Woods, enjoys less public awareness because it is not part of our National State Park system. It features a rose garden, three reservoirs, and a 48-foot-tall stone tower.
In 1850, Tracy was working to secure protection for Lynn Woods, and he formed a group called the "Exploring Circle" with four other residents; the went botanizing in the woods and then shared their discoveries with others. When Tracy wrote his Studies of the Essex Flora - a flora of the area around Boston - he recognized the immeasurable value of Lynn Woods, saying "that a district so near the metropolis" was worth protecting.
In 1891, when Lynn Woods was threatened by development, a Commission report noted Tracy's role in protecting the park:
"His call, his inner inspiration was to teach the people of Lynn that they had in the Woods "an asylum of inexhaustible pleasures." ... He led parties of enthusiastic naturalists to scenes of beauty and grandeur hitherto unseen, save by his eyes. He dedicated hilltops and glens with mystic rites."
#OTD On this day in 1916, it was State Flower anniversary day in California.
There was a program at the Native Sons Building at the University of California, featuring speakers and festivities. One hundred years earlier, the California poppy, the Eschscholzia californica, had been named by Adelbert von Chamisso in honor of his friend, Johanns Friedrich Von Eschscholz. It was both a courtesy and a quid pro quo. In turn, Eschscholz named plants for Chamisso.
"All things on earth point home in old October: sailors to sea, travelers to walls and fences, hunters to
field and hollow and the long voice of the hounds, the lover to the love he has forsaken."
- Thomas Wolfe, Novelist
“Trying to plan for the future without knowing the past is like trying to plant cut flowers”
- Daniel Boorstin, Historian, born #OTD in 1914
"Few things are riskier than "fine writing," but Miss Welty has never been afraid to risk it. She spoke once in a conversation about plant explorers who go to Nepal and Sikkim, risking their lives to introduce Alpine flowers to gardens. "Now that's something - discovering new primroses - that's worth taking trouble with, worth risking something for," she said. She seemed to set the plant explorers, bringing garden treasures from the Himalayas, over against the ordinary world we all live in every day."
- From an interview with American Short Story Writer and Novelist, Eudora Welty, in The Washington Post, 1972
Conroy's book is about the real-life of Dr. Ernst Dieffenbach, who died on this day in 1855. Dieffenbach was a scientist, explorer, a loner, a revolutionary, and an outcast. Gardeners will recognize the name Dieffenbach because the dumb cane, or Dieffenbachia, is named in honor of Dieffenbach.
Dieffenbach was part of the New Zealand Company’s 1839 colonial expedition. Once in New Zealand, Dieffenbach predicted how colonization would impact the country.
The cover of this book, The Naturalist, is one of my personal favorites. It looks marvelous on a table beside the couch or on a bedside table; plus, the story of Dieffenbach will stay with you; it's both beautiful and sad.
Today's Garden Chore
#OTD Today is October 1st, the day all Poinsettia owners are to confine their plants to complete darkness for 14 hours a day.
Place plants in a darkened closet or room (with no lights at any time) from about 5 pm to 7 am, daily, for 8 to 10 weeks. But, be sure to give your plant 10 hours of natural light daily. This change in the light will set the buds and cause bracts to color. The plant will come into full bloom in November or December.
Don't forget that the main attraction with poinsettias is not its flowers, but its leaves. In case you're wondering, the flowers are those little yellow clustered buds in the center.
Reviving the little botanic spark in your heart
#OTD On this day in 1945, The Morning Call out of New Jersey shared the story of Nurseryman William Hallicy.
During WWII, Hallicy had served for twenty-two months with the Seabees, the Navy's construction force.
While he was relieved to go home to Clifton, New Jersey, he faced a grim scene. Right after joining the Seabees, Hallicy's nursery had been decimated by a brush fire. There wasn't much left to come home to; just weeds and charred trees.
After he returned home and took stock of his situation, Hallicy estimated it would take him almost a decade to grow salable stock from new seedlings.
He planned to raise poultry until his nursery could produce again.
But a few days later, Hallicy and his wife were awakened early in the morning by the sound of truck motors on the front yard. Members of the North Jersey Nurseryman's Association had worked together to honor Hallicy's service with the Seabees. The newspaper said:
"Unannounced, they appeared at the Hallicy home with $2,500 worth of small trees in 15 trucks. With tractor, plow and spades, they cleared the 4-acre plot and set out the trees. In a few hours, the Hallicy Nursery was right smack back in business. Neighbor Hallicy started and gulped. He finally managed to pull himself together and serve beer. But nothing could wash down v the lump in his throat... We're getting one of our own just thinking: about his neighbors. Makes us want to go right out and buy a big block of stock in human nature, common and preferred."
This incident was so unusual that newspapers all over the country picked up the story. It even made The Reader's Digest.
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"For a happy, healthy life, garden every day."
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