Today we celebrate the daughter of a millionaire who found solace in nature and the refreshing approach of one of the country's top naturalists. We learn about the discovery of vanilla (complete with a ravishing recipe for vanilla coffee liqueur from 1974) and we'll commemorate the Doctor's Pit where the botanist David Douglas died. We'll hear the oft-quoted poem that begins, "The scarlet of maples can shake me like a cry of bugles going by," and we Grow That Garden Library with a new book for 2019 called The Sanctuary of My Garden: Poems by Fotoula Reynolds. I'll talk about the last call for bringing your houseplants back indoors and then wrap things up with the sweet story of a botany curriculum for 4th graders in Louisville, Kentucky.
But first, let's catch up on a few recent events.
It was a wedding that had a garden theme, and it took place at The Asylum Chapel in London. Helen Abraham Photography captured the gorgeous images of this wedding.
I shared the post in the Free FB community for listeners of the show. You can check out the full post there. But, here's a quick overview of how the couple (who share a love for gardens and garden history) met from the Bride, Nancy:
"As a life-long learner, an avid gardener and fan of early American history, I had embarked upon a trip to follow up the research I had done on the plant exchange between Philadelphia and London in the 18th century, and a botanist named Peter Collinson who had lived at that time in Peckham.
Journeying to London, I made contact with people who suggested I get in touch with Derek, as he had written an article about Collinson.
Eventually, Derek and I met up, talked endlessly about Collinson, research, and other things.
Back in California, we exchanged many emails and when I was next in London we met up again, and as time transpired, we spent more and more time together.
Derek and I are an older couple, he being in his late 80s and I am in my late 70s.
Having been happily single for 40 years, I was never expecting a marriage proposal. But it did happen…"
Now for the good part. Here's how Nancy decided to incorporate the garden into her beautiful wedding:
"I wanted the flowers of the day to be a peach/pink/apricot color scheme, and I knew they would add a punch of color alongside the black outfit I planned to wear, also coordinating with the colors of the inside of the Chapel.
Because of our background, I wanted the Chapel to look like a garden.
Rather than have typical flower arrangements, Anya turned Asylum Chapel into an amazing and magical garden, with plots of the garden here and there and a path through the garden to the altar. Even the staff said they had never seen the Chapel look so wonderful."
I reached out to Alison over at Plans and Presents to tell her how much I enjoyed her post, and she said:
"That wedding was stunning and it was my honor to feature it."
Another great story in the world of horticulture recently ran in the Denver Post.
Blake Burger is a horticulturist at the Denver Botanic Gardens, and Scott Yeats is the founder of Mythology Distillery. And, they're also old college buddies from their days back at Colorado State.
I love this story so much that I reached out to the Mythology Distillery to learn more. Btw, the bottle of Forager Gin is beautiful.
And I love how Mythology tells the story of the gin on their website:
"Two Friends, a Distiller and a Horticulturist
…. Forage for a missing ingredient in a garden one mile above the sea.
Two pounds of chamomile and elderflower along with three pounds of lemon verbena were all it took to make 3,000 bottles of Forager botanical gin.
If you're in Denver, you can pick up a bottle of Forager Gin for yourself or as a gift for around $35 from Mythology.
#OTD On this day in 1910, the news out of Pittsburgh announced the creation of a new chrysanthemum named in honor of Henry Clay Frick's only daughter Helen who was 22 years old.
The public was invited to view the lovely blossom in Frick's million-dollar conservatory. The newspaper reported that it took Frick's "high-priced gardeners" four years to create the flower.
A few years earlier, when Helen became a débutante, her father offered to give her a gift of whatever her heart desired. Helen asked for a park - but not just any park. Helen requested a wilderness park. She wanted a place where the land would remain in a natural state, and she hoped the children of Pittsburgh would use the park to connect with the natural world.
Helen's birthday present became known as Frick Park, and today it remains the largest park in Pittsburgh with 561 acres of trails and wooded areas. Helen's request doesn't seem so peculiar once you learn that nature had been a refuge for Helen as a child.
When Helen was three years old, her older sister Martha died. Her father called Martha his little "Rosebud," and she died when she was five years old. Martha's death was the result of swallowing a pin. The incident caused two years of painful complications that ultimately led to her death.
Then, when Helen was four years old, her father was shot in an assassination attempt. Two days later, her newborn baby brother died. These early losses left Helen's parents grief-stricken and depressed.
After her parents died, Helen used her immense fortune to create a 640-acre nature sanctuary in New York State. She also made a point of adding gardens to any of her developments. She also gave money for 1,000 azaleas to be planted in a garden across from the Phipps Conservatory in Schenley Park.
A Frick descendant, Martha Frick Symington Sanger, wrote a book about Helen called Helen Clay Frick: Bittersweet Heiress. In the book, Sanger noted that her aunt lived in a moss-covered cottage and rather enjoyed gardening. Helen even performed everyday garden chores like weeding and planting fruit trees. She also had a good understanding of local birds and could identify their songs.
#OTD On this day in 1942, the Freeport Journal published a delightful story about the naturalist Edwin Way Teale.
Here's what it said,
"To most of his neighbors Edwin Way Teale Is known as the man who can spend a solid day In a two-acre field without 1) being on a picnic, or (2) apparently doing a stroke of work.
Scientists... assert that his collection of 15,000 photographs of insects—most of them taken in that same two-acre field—is an important contribution to entomology. Edwin Teale himself insists that he's just an amateur who managed to make a hobby pay.
... In college he had majored in English; entomology was only a word to him.
About six years ago," he recounts, "I was writing an article on fishing. I took some pictures of dry flies, and somehow that started me photographing live insects.
Soon afterward, neighbors stared when they saw him crawling around his back yard with a magnifying glass.
This led him to rent the "insect rights" to a nearby field which contains several apple trees, a patch of swamp and other features attractive to winged and crawling life. He estimates there are 1,800 varieties of insects in the tract.
"It is a universe," Teale says. "Exploring it provides the thrill of travel and adventure."
... Once he made friends with a praying mantis. He named her "Dinah" and she shared his study for weeks. Finally, Dinah devoured her own arm. Teale had just time to get the picture. Earlier he had taken her to New York City where she escaped from his pocket on Broadway. Denizens of that cynical thoroughfare were surprised to see a well-dressed six-footer frantically pursuing a bug."
A year after this article, Teal's book By-ways to Adventure: A Guide to Nature Hobbies won the John Burroughs Medal for distinguished natural history writing.
Sadly, during World War II, the Teal’s son, David, was killed in Germany. Teal and his wife began traveling across the country by automobile. The trips help them cope with their grief and became an integral part of Teal's writing. Their 1947 journey, covering 17,000 miles in a black Buick and following the unfolding spring, led to Teal's book North with the Spring.
Additional road trips lead to more books: Journey Into Summer, Autumn Across America, and Wandering Through Winter. Wandering Through Winter won the Pulitzer Prize in 1966.
And, it was Teal who said:
"For man, autumn is a time of harvest, of gathering together. For nature, it is a time of sowing, of scattering abroad."
" Any fine morning, a power saw can fell a tree that took a thousand years to grow."
“Our minds, as well as our bodies, have need of the out-of-doors. Our spirits, too, need simple things, elemental things, the sun and the wind and the rain, moonlight and starlight, sunrise and mist and mossy forest trails, the perfumes of dawn and the smell of fresh-turned earth and the ancient music of wind among the trees.”
#OTD On this day in 1974, a newspaper clipping from the Star-Gazette out of Elmira New York shared a Recipe for Vanilla Coffee Liqueur.
But, before the Recipe was shared, the author took a moment to explain how the signature ingredient, vanilla, was discovered:
"In school, I learned that the explorer Hernan Cortes discovered vanilla during the 15th century when he quaffed a cup of hot chocolate at the court of Montezuma. The Aztec Indians made this pungent beverage from the beans of the cacao tree, combined with pods the Spaniards named vanilla. For three centuries, vanilla remained a luxury within reach of only affluent Europeans and Americans. People believed the orchid would only grow in Mexico.
Then a French botanist discovered the bee that pollinated the orchid. Eventually, Madagascar became the primary grower of the vanilla orchid, which grows on a coarse vine that requires about three years of pampering before it bears fruit. Vanilla came into its own with the invention of ice cream in the 17th century. Today vanilla is three times as popular as any other flavor."
Here is a liqueur sauce that, in my opinion, can transform a dish of ice cream or pudding into an epicurean treat.
VANILLA COFFEE LIQUEUR
I ½ cups brown sugar, firmly packed
1 cup granulated sugar
2 cups water
½ cup instant coffee powder
3 cups vodka
2 tablespoons pure vanilla extract
Combine sugars with water. Bring to boil and boil for 5 minutes. Slowly stir in coffee powder. Cool: Pour into jug or jar. Add vodka and vanilla. Mix thoroughly. Cover and let stand at least 2 weeks. Serve over ice cream or pudding or as a flavoring for milk drinks. Yields about 5 cups.
#OTD On this day in 2014, the botanist David Douglas was memorialized with a plaque at his death site.
The occasion marked the 100th anniversary of Douglas's death.
The Oregon Cultural Heritage Commission created the plaque because Douglas was the first scientist to visit the Oregon territory. Douglas scientifically identified hundreds of plants during his lifetime, including the Douglas fir, the state tree of Oregon.
In addition to the Oregon contingent, botanists from Scotland, England, and Hawaii placed the plaque at the spot on the Mountain where Douglas died on the Big Island. The locals call it the "Dr.'s Pit."
Douglas died after falling into a pit designed to trap animals. Tragically, a bull was also in the pit and gored Douglas to death.
The site hasn't changed much over the past 180 years. Today, a dirt road leads the occasional visitor near the site.
The scarlet of maples can shake me like a cry
Of bugles going by.
And my lonely spirit thrills
to see the frosty asters like smoke
upon the hills.
~ Bliss Carman, Canada's Poet Laureate
I love what CS Hughes wrote about Fotoula's book :
"They say that poetry is a garden, sometimes wild and unhewn, sometimes carefully tended. Fotoula Reynolds' poems ably demonstrate that - there is always a new and carefully tended bloom, and sometimes something unexpected, that you might think a weed, but I would say, a wildflower gone perhaps just a little astray."
Here's an excerpt from her signature poem: The Sanctuary of My Garden:
"In the evening of a
Where the stars wink their
Little eyes and the moon
Graces us with her
I have traveled the world
Fearlessly in my imagination
For a time
I am out of reach
But you can always find me
In the sanctuary of my garden."
Today's Garden Chore
It's the gardener's version of "Last Call for Alcohol," and it's "Last Call for Houseplants Ya'll."
Seriously, if you are a northern gardener, bring your houseplants inside. The colder it gets, the greater the shock they will experience.
When you bring your houseplants inside, spray them down with sharp streams of water, and I like to add a little dawn dish soap to give them a good cleaning.
There's a large, old, antique table in the middle of my botanical Library where I place many of my houseplants. The houseplants form the centerpiece of the table. They are ringed by an old typewriter, stacks of garden books, baby pruners, a mister, and some extra pots. I have to say that I love how my houseplants have brought life and fragrance into that space. Then I added a little Alexa dot on the windowsill. I have her play sounds from Nature or the Rainforest. You'd never know it's cold and dreary outside.
Reviving the little botanic spark in your heart
On this day in 2003, the newspaper in Louisville Kentucky featured an article about a 4th-grade classroom that had turned into a laboratory of botanists.
For three weeks, the kids - wearing lab coats - were led down a path of botanical discovery by their student-teacher named Bill Stangel.
"In the first week, the children collected and studied leaves and looked at plant parts under a microscope.
In week two, they dipped carnations into water [mixed] with food coloring to see the petals change colors. They made guesses about how long it would take for the color to reach the petals, and they discussed how water and nutrients move from the roots to the leaves.
... At the end of the class, the children stood up and sang [to the tune of “Head Shoulders Knees and Toes”] “Stigma, petal, stem, and roots … stem and roots”
During the last week [of the botany unit], the students got to dissect flowers."
Thanks for listening to the daily gardener,
"For a happy, healthy life, garden every day."
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