Today we celebrate the young botanist who disappeared in Australia 171 years ago and the pioneering female lichenologist who worked for the British Museum but was never officially on the payroll.
We'll learn about the French botanist who had a life-long love affair with the trees of North America and the Los Angeles woman who found a trailblazing career in botany after getting a job at an employment agency.
We'll hear some beautiful prose about bluebirds in autumn, "they linger like the last leaves on the tree."
And, we Grow That Garden Library with the book New Vegetable Garden Techniques by Joyce Russell.
I'll talk about harvesting the black walnut and then wrap things up with a bittersweet story about the founder of the Boy Scouts.
But first, let's catch up on a few recent events.
It's about a property in the Netherlands that backs up to a nature preserve, and the images are inspiring.
What I love about this post is that the owners have made the forest in their garden. There are floating runners that allow visitors to walk above the forest floor, and the long lines make the tall Larch trees seem even grander. There is a feeling of "being a guest in the landscape."
"From the living room and the kitchen, you have a poetic view through the big windows into the forest.
The play of vertical gestures is the basis for this design. The viewer’s perspective is steered towards a group of long vertical trunks of Larches.
A composition of horizontal lines and floating boardwalks create a frame which steers the view."
Budburst aims to understand how plants respond to changes in their environment. Their citizen science activity, Fall into Phenology, is a fun way for everyone to get outside and observe fall changes from around the country.
They invite you to join them, watch a plant or tree near you, and then report all your phenology observations to your Budburst Account.
"[There's] no need to limit your Fall into Phenology observations to leaf color and drop. Watch for fall flowers, such as asters, and record first flower, or full flower. Seeds and fruiting abound in the fall months.
All observation reports - whether life-cycle or one-time events - help understand how plants respond to changes in climate and atmosphere.
The goal of this campaign is to collect at least 500 observations from around the country (that's only 10 per state!)."
#OTD Today is the birthday of the Prussian botanist Ludwig Leichhardt who was born on this day in 1813.
Leichhardt is remembered for his impressive and arduous collecting efforts in Australia. For his part, Leichhardt loved Australia. He wrote,
"I would find it hard to remain in Germany, or even in Europe, now. I would have returned to the scene of my wanderings, to the clear, sunny skies of Australia."
In October in 1845, Leichhardt wrote in his diary after losing his work to a fire:
"... tears were in my eyes when I saw ...[the] results of my expedition vanish ... my collection had the great advantage of being almost complete in blossoms, fruit, and seed."
A year later, in 1846, Leichhardt wrote a letter to his botanist contact and friend the Italian, Gaetano Durando, who was living in Paris. Leichhardt's message conveys the extreme difficulties and dangers faced by the early plant explorers.
"My dear friend,
You have, no doubt, noticed and regretted my long silence...But you must bear this in mind, my good friend, ... it was not my lot to travel all at my ease... Gladly would I have made drawings of my plants, and noted fully all particulars of the different species which I saw; and how valuable would such memoranda have been... [as] four of my pack-horses having been drowned. Botanical and geological specimens thus abandoned—how disappointing! From four to five thousand plants were thus sacrificed..."
In the spring of 1848, Ludwig Leichhardt and a small group of explorers began what was to be a two- to three-year expedition across Australia.
Shortly after beginning the trek, the entire party vanished with barely a trace.
Known as the ‘Prince of Explorers,’ Leichhardt was 35 when he was lost to time.
#OTD Today is the birthday of the lichenologist Annie Lorrain Smith who was born on this day in 1854.
Smith was a British fungal biologist specializing in lichens. Her siblings all went by the last name, “Lorrain Smith,” but Annie published under the name "A L Smith."
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Let's pause for a minute to talk about Smith's favorite topic: lichens.
Lichen grows on bark and rocks. They are not plants. When you look at them microscopically, you'll see they are a complex life form that is a symbiotic partnership between a fungus and an alga. The fungus calls the shots, and they give the lichen its characteristics. Some lichens even have two fungi.
Lichens fall into three primary growth forms: Fruticose or "shrubby," foliose or "leafy," and Crustose or "crusty." Shrubby lichen grows outward. Folios are flat - two dimensional - like a leaf. You can peel them off the tree or rock, and they have a top and bottom side. Crusty lichen grows directly onto the surface, and it is so attached that you can't lift them off the rock or tree without destroying them.
OK. Back to Smith...
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As a young woman, Smith worked as a governess and science teacher. When she was 34, Smith found herself drawn to reading more about botany, and she went to Imperial College to study under the British Botanist Dr. Dukinfield Henry Scott.
Scott recognized Smith's aptitude for the subject, and he made arrangments for her to work at the British Museum (Natural History). It would be her professional home for 46 years.
During all of her time at the Museum, Smith worked as an ‘unpaid’ assistant. Her mentor, Dr. Scott, personally ensured that she was modestly compensated so that she could work without officially being on the museum's payroll.
By 1900, Smith was one of the world's leading experts in lichen taxonomy. Smith worked to integrate lichens into mycology. She produced the first workable keys for identifying British lichens. Her 1921 book simply called Lichens was a revelation:
“It is so full of matter that one marvels at the […] author in collecting and arranging the work on the various aspects of [lichens] into critical articles and then weaving these articles together … to form a connected whole, which may be read with pleasure and profit, not only by a lichenologist, but also by a general botanical reader.”
Smith helped found the British Mycological Society, and she was also the first female president of that organization.
#OTD Today is the anniversary of the death of François-André Michaux, who died on this day in 1855.
François-Andre was the son of the botanist, Andrea Michaux. His father named an oak in his honor.
When François-Andre was 15 years old, he and his dad set sail for North America. The father and son team established botanical gardens in America and sent seeds and specimens back to France.
When Michaux died on this day in 1855, back home in his native France, Asa Gray shared the news in the American Journal of Sciences and Arts. A friend of Michaux shared that he had died from a stroke - but had spent the whole day "planting American trees and directing his journeyman."
#OTD Today is the birthday of the botanist Bonnie Templeton who was born on this day in 1906.
In 2002, Templeton died at the age of 95. She was a trailblazing female in the field of botany.
Her obituary noted her some of her botanical accomplishments which included,
"discovering a rare plant on the El Segundo Sand dunes in the 1930s."
And although she was born in Nebraska, at the age of 16, she made her way - all alone - to Los Angeles where fate brought her to botany.
In the mid-1920s, after working as a waitress and a secretary, she found herself at an employment agency. They had a job working for a botanist who needed help with his extensive private herbarium.
By 1929, Templeton was hired as the Curator of Botany at the Los Angeles County Museum of Natural History. She was 23 years old; she would hold this position for over four decades from 1929 to 1970. Templeton also served as an on-call forensic botanist for the Los Angeles Police Department and the poison center.
Templeton received her doctorate from Oregon State University. Templeton made three separate gifts to the program at Oregon State, and her endowment has resulted in a new conference room, a herbarium preparation room, an imaging room, and a lectureship.
In researching Templeton, I discovered she was ahead of her time.
In 1969, she was featured in a newspaper article advocating for the use of native plants in landscaping by California homeowners.
And way back in 1943, she advocated what she called "Wild Victory Gardens,"; incorporating wild edibles into everyday cooking. Here's what was reported in The Signal out of Santa Clarita on April 23, 1943:
"[The] botanist Bonnie Templeton... has published a list of over 20 common weeds which she says are good substitutes for the common, leafy vegetables ordinarily sold in markets.
There are wild mustard and wild radish and wild lettuce and wild rhubarb and curly dock, and cheese plant and pigweed.
The ice plant is delicious eaten raw, she says, and the bristle leaved nettle is a good substitute for asparagus.
Now all of this is pretty blamed important for Newhall folks, because... wild victory gardens are about the only kind of victory garden possible here when the dry season sets in.
Maybe we can induce Bonnie to come up here and [give] a class on wild victory gardeners... and point out all of the edible kinds of wild green sass. Or better still, figure out a way of making a salad bowl out of foxtail."
#OTD Today is the birthday of the nature writer and poet Neltje Blanchan, who was born on this day in 1865.
Neltje married Frank Doubleday, and their grandson, Nelson, would go on to be the president of the Doubleday publishing company.
Neltje wrote under the pen name Neltje Blanchon ("Nel-jah Blahnchon"), and she especially loved wildflowers and birds. In 1897, she wrote a book called Bird Neighbors. In 1907, Neltje Blanchan wrote that children should get to know birds.
She also wrote a book called The American Flower Garden and also one called Wild Flowers Worth Knowing.
Neltje 's works gave us many beautiful nature quotes.
Here's one about Spring:
"Can words describe the fragrance of the very breath of spring - that delicious commingling of the perfume of arbutus, the odor of pines, and the snow - soaked soil just warming into life. "
Then she gave us this lovely quote about the Bluebird in Autumn:
"Long after their associates have gone southward, they linger like the last leaves on the tree.
It is indeed "good-bye to summer" when the bluebirds withdraw their touch of brightness from the dreary November landscape at the north to whirl through the southern woods and feed on the waxy berries of the mistletoe."
Today's Grow That Garden Library Book Recommendation: New Vegetable Garden Techniques by Joyce Russell
Joyce Russell has been gardening for forty years, and she's my favorite type of gardener - practical and generous with her knowledge. She has loads of experience growing fruit and vegetables, feeding her family with her garden harvest.
Joyce and her photographer husband Ben have collaborated on a few garden books. Their first book, The Polytunnel Book: Fruit and Vegetable all Year-Round, is a perennial best-seller. They also released, Build a Better Vegetable Garden in 2016.
In NVGT, Joyce highlights 23 projects for gardeners to try on their own. I especially loved the plan of using a carrot clamp for preservation. Joyce shares that a carrot clamp preserves carrots outside for months. It also works for other root vegetables like potatoes, beetroot, and parsnips.
Now, creating a clamp is pretty straight forward. You can follow along with the beautiful images in Joyce's book (thanks to Ben, no doubt). To create a clamp, you simply cut the tops of your carrots, leaving about 2.5 cm of the green stem.
Lay the carrots in a circle with the tips of the carrot lying pointed to the middle of the ring. Insulate the pile of carrots with straw or rushes. Then cover with soil.
Then, when you want a carrot, you make a door by pushing your hand through the layers of soil and insulation. Take out as many carrots as you need. The pile will slump down as you extract your produce.
It's a simple, secure outdoor storage that works like a charm.
Joyce also offers excellent step-by-step instructions for creating an onion string and garlic plait, how to trial different mulches, how to create simple and effective flappers to scare birds away, how to build a simple frame to protect fruit crops and she offers an excellent basic basil pesto recipe on page 172 - in addition to all of the wonder growing techniques that she shares throughout the book.
Today's Garden Chore
Celebrate the fall season by harvesting black walnuts.
Although the English walnut - with it's the more refined look and taste - is still preferred, the black walnut with worth harvesting.
Don't forget that harvesting the black walnut is the best part of owning a Black Walnut tree.
Just remember to wear gloves when you collect the black walnuts. They have that inky, sooty substance that you can get on your hands when you touch them, and it is hard to get off.
Right now, September through October is the time to collect black walnuts. Just gather them as they fall off the tree. When the tree is done dropping black walnuts, then it is time to remove the husks for storing and curing.
And, here are a few pointers to keep in mind:
Cracking open the shell is not easy. You should know that black walnuts come out in pieces - so if you're expecting a beautiful, intact, brainy-looking walnut after cracking the husk on black walnut, you'd better adjust your expectations.
And, one last caution pertains to the husk of the walnut. Be care disposing of it. It is toxic to many plants. Remember, black walnut tea was a common pioneer herbicide. And, don't mix black walnut castings with your compost.
Reviving the little botanic spark in your heart
Today is the anniversary of the death of the Englishman Ernest Thompson Seton, who died on this day in 1946.
When he was six, Seton's family immigrated to Canada. He grew up in Toronto and found solace in the woods along the Don River. His father was abusive and cruel.
When Seton turned 21, his dad presented him with a bill for $537.50. His dad had calculated every dime he had spent raising Ernest - including the fee from the delivery doctor for his birth in 1860. Seton paid his father and then never spoke to him again.
To right the wrongs of his childhood, Ernest Thompson Seton founded the Boy Scouts of America in 1910 - he even wrote the very first Boy Scout Handbook.
In 1924, Seton starred in a newspaper article called "Face to Face with Ernest Thompson Seton." The reporter met with him in a wooded setting and wrote this about Seton:
"Lithe as a cat, he jumped from limb to limb in the tree. Picking up a beetle by the roadside, he began commenting: 'A man who does not love Nature and cannot see in a bird, tree, flower, or insect some kinship, does not seem to me altogether human.
[The naturalist] John Burroughs was [there collecting] some wildflowers.. and the woods rang with laughter like children as these two Nature lovers talked of plants, trees and animals as if it were all to them an open book."
And, it was Ernest Thompson Seton who said,
"The white spruce forest along the banks is most inspiring [and] magnificent here. Down the terraced slopes and right to the water's edge on the alluvial soil, it stands in ranks."
Thanks for listening to the daily gardener,
"For a happy, healthy life, garden every day."
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