Today we celebrate the botanist who is considered the Father of Taxonomy and the young Landscape Architect who learned by taking weekly walking tours of gardens.
We'll learn about the botanist who saved Kew Garden and the most famous garden designer you’ve never heard of
We'll listen to a little garden folklore for November and an amusing poem about daylight savings
We Grow That Garden Library with today's book, which features the gardens of Russell Page, and you can get it on Amazon for under $4, which is highway robbery - or Landscape robbery in this case.
I'll talk about digging up those dahlias and then share the super cute story about a young botanist and the housekeeper who was sure he was up to no good.
But first, let's catch up on a few recent events.
National Fig Week
It’s the start of National Fig Week, which runs through the 7th of November.
All of the figs that are growing in the United States are growing in the Central Valley of California, where 28 million pounds of figs are harvested every year.
It was Captain Bligh, who is honored as the planter of the very first fig in Tasmania back in 1792.
The Greek word for fig is syco. It’s why one species of the fig tree is called the sycamore.
Fig trees are in the ficus genus and the Mulberry family. The popular house plant, the rubber plant, is also a species of ficus.
And, figs are the sweetest of all fruits. They are made up of 55% sugar.
Carla shared beautiful images from her November garden, where she commented that the fall witch hazel had started blooming, and her Sochi tea plant is still producing lovely white flowers.
The post features pictures of her witch hazel in bloom. Gardeners have soft spots for the delicate yellow spidery flowers of the witch hazel.
The common Witch Hazel virginiana can grow in zones 3 - 8.
Sochi tea Camellia sinensis is hearty in zones 7 to 10. Now, to make the tea, the leaves are harvested. But again, as with the witch hazel, it’s the beautiful blooms of this camellia that will steal your heart.
This post was part of Fine Gardening’s garden photo of the day. If you’d like to share your garden with Fine Gardening, you can send them 5 to 10 images of your garden to GPOD (which is short for a Garden picture of the day) at Fine Gardening.com (GPOD@FineGardening.com) along with a few comments about the plants in the photos. You can share anything your successes and failures funny stories or favorite plants.
Her list is so great I wanted to share with you here:
1. Compost it.
2. Puree and cook it.
3. Make it into a birdfeeder.
4. Turn it into a planter.
5. Use it as a serving bowl for soup.
6. Pickle the peel.
7. Apply a face mask.
8. Make doggie treats.
9. Wash and roast the seeds.
10. Save a few seeds to grow another pumpkin next year!
Now, if you'd like to check out these curated articles for yourself, you're in luck - because I share all of it with the Listener Community in the Free Facebook Group - The Daily Gardener Community. So there’s no need to take notes or track down links - the next time you're on Facebook, just search for Daily Gardener Community and request to join. I'd love to meet you in the group.
#OTD Today is the anniversary of the death of Carl Linnaeus, who died on this day 1783.
Thirty years earlier, on May 1st, 1753, the publication of his masterpiece Species Plantarum changed plant taxonomy forever.
It gave Linnaeus the moniker Father of Taxonomy; his naming system is called binomial nomenclature. Binomial means "two names" which in the naming game includes the plant's genus (which is capitalized or could be abbreviated by its first letter) and species or specific epithet (which is all lowercase and can be abbreviated sp.) If you have trouble remembering taxonomy, I like to think of it as the given name and surname of a person, but in reverse order.
The names that Linnaeus assigned live on unchanged and are distinguished by an “L.” after their name. And, it was Linnaeus himself who said:
“God created, Linnaeus ordered.”
One side note worth mentioning is how Linnaeus' collection ended up leaving Sweden and finding a home in London:
When Linnaeus died in 1778, his belongings were sold. Joseph Banks, the president of the Linnean Society, acted quickly, buying everything of horticultural value on behalf of the society. Linnaeus' notebooks and specimens were on a ship bound for England by the time the king of Sweden realized Linnaeus' legacy was no longer in Sweden. He sent a fast navy ship in pursuit of Banks' precious cargo, but it was too late. And so, Linnaeus’s collection is in London at the Linnaeus Society's Burlington House.
And, it was Joseph Banks who secured the legacy of Linnaeus. Banks spread Linnaeus's ideas across the globe, which was easier for him to accomplish since he was based in London, the hub for the science of botany.
#OTD Today is the birthday of Charles Eliot, who was born on this day in 1859.
Eliot was the son of a prominent Boston family. In 1869, the year his mother died, his father Charles William Eliot became the president of Harvard University.
In 1882 Charles went to Harvard to study botany. A year later, he began apprenticing with the landscape firm of Frederick Law Olmsted.
As a young landscape architect, Eliot enjoyed visiting different natural areas, and he conducted regular walking tours of different nature areas around Boston.
In his diary for 1878, Eliot did something kind of neat; he made a list. It was basically what we call a listicle nowadays. He titled it "A Partial List of Saturday Walks before 1878". Isn't that fabulous?
As a young architect, Eliot spent 13 months touring England and Europe between 1885 and 1886. The trip was actually Olmsted’s idea, and it no doubt added to Eliot's appreciation of various landscape concepts. During this trip, Eliot kept a journal where he wrote down his thoughts and made sketches of the places he was visiting. Eliot's benchmark was always Boston, and throughout his memoirs, he was continually comparing new landscapes to the beauty of his native landscape in New England.
Eliot's story ended too soon. He died at 37 from spinal meningitis.
Since Eliot had been working on plans for The Arnold Arboretum, he'd gotten to know Charles Sprague Sargent. So, it was Sargent who wrote a tribute to Eliot and featured it in his weekly journal called Garden and Forest.
Eliot's death had a significant impact on his father. At times, the two had struggled to connect. Charles didn’t like it when his dad got remarried. And, their personalities were very different, and Charles could be a little melancholy.
When Charles died, his dad, Charles Sr., began to cull through his work, and he was shocked to discover all that he had done.
In April 1897, Charles Sr. confided to a friend,
"I am examining his letters and papers and I am filled with wonder at what he accomplished in the 10 years of professional life. I should’ve died without ever having appreciated his influence. His death has shown it to me."
Despite his heavy workload as the president of Harvard, Charles Sr. immediately set about compiling all of his son's work and used it to write a book called Charles Eliot Landscape Architect. The book came out in 1902, and today it is considered a classic work in the field of landscape architecture.
#OTD Today is the anniversary of the death of the botanist John Lindley who died on this day in 1865.
Lindley was a British gardener, a botanist, and an orchidologist. He also served as secretary to the Royal Horticultural Society for 43 years. This is why the Lindley Library at the RHS is named in honor of John Lindley.
Lindley‘s dad owned a nursery and an orchard. And Lindley grew up helping with the family business.
In 1815, he went to London. He became friends with William Jackson Hooker, who, in turn, introduced Lindley to Sir Joseph Banks, who hired Lindley to work in his herbarium.
When Banks died, the fate of the Royal Botanic Gardens was put in jeopardy. Banks' death corresponded with the death of King George III, who was the patron of the garden. These deaths created an opening for the British government to question whether the garden should remain open. To explore their options, the Government asked Lindley, as well as Joseph Paxton and John Wilson, to put together a recommendation. Ultimately, Lindley felt the institution should be the people’s garden and the headquarters for botany in England. The government rejected the proposal and decided to close the garden. On February 11, 1840, Lindley ingeniously demanded that the issue be put before the Parliament. His advocacy brought the matter to the publics' attention; the garden-loving British public was not about to lose the Royal Botanic. And, so, Lindley saved Kew Gardens, and William Hooker was chosen as the new director.
Lindley shortened the genus Orchidaceae to orchid – which is much more friendly to pronounce - and when he died, Lindley's massive orchid collection was moved to a new home at Kew.
As for Lindley, there are over 200 plant species named for him. There is "lindleyi", "lindleyana", "lindleyanum", "lindleya" and "lindleyoides".
And here’s a little-remembered factoid about Lindley - he was blind in one eye.
#OTD Today is the birthday of the British gardener, garden designer, and landscape architect Russell Page who was born on this day in 1906.
His full name was Montague Russell Page.
Page's is known for his book called The Education of a Gardener. The book is a classic in garden literature. In it, Page shares his vast knowledge of plants and trees and design. The book ends with a description of his dream garden.
In the book, there are many wonderful quotes by Page.
"I know nothing whatever of many aspects of gardening and very little of a great many more. But I never saw a garden from which I did not learn something and seldom met a gardener who did not, in some way or another, help me."
First published in 1962, Page's book shares his charming anecdotes and timeless gardening advice. He wrote:
”I like gardens with good bones and an affirmed underlying structure. I like well-made and well-marked paths, well-built walls, well-defined changes in level. I like pools and canals, paved sitting places and a good garden in which to picnic or take a nap.”
"If you wish to make anything grow, you must understand it, and understand it in a very real sense. 'Green fingers' are a fact, and a mystery only to the unpracticed. But green fingers are the extensions of a verdant heart."
Page is considered the first modern garden designer. Like Piet Oudolf, Page used flowers to create living, natural paintings.
And although he designed Gardens for the Duke of Windsor and Oscar de la Renta, it was Russell Page who said:
"I am the most famous garden designer you’ve never heard of."
Page designed the Gardens at the Frick Collection in New York City in 1977.
In 2014 when the Frick was making plans to expand, they initially considered demolishing the Page garden. After a year of facing public backlash in support of the garden - which was something the museum never anticipated - in May 2015, the Frick decided to keep the garden.
During the year of debating the fate of the garden, the Frick indicated that they believed the garden was never meant to be a permanent part of the museum. But, all that changed when Charles Birnbaum, the founder of the Cultural Landscape Foundation, decided to do his homework. Birnbaum discovered an old Frick press release from 1977, where they proudly introduced the Page landscape as a permanent garden. Birnbaum shared his discovery on the Huffington Post, and thanks to him, the 3700 square-foot Page garden lives on for all of us to enjoy.
If there’s ice in November that will bear a duck,
There’ll be nothing after but sludge and muck.
~English folk-lore rhyme, first printed c.1876
"In spring when maple buds are red,
We turn the clock an hour ahead;
Which means each April that arrives,
We lose an hour out of our lives.
Who cares? When autumn birds in flocks
Fly southward, back we turn the clocks,
And so regain a lovely thing
That missing hour we lost in spring."
- Phyllis McGinley, Daylight Savings Time
Schinz and van Zuylen researched and photographed all of Page's best work, both early and late, and some now no longer extant. They share some of his private files and unpublished writing and help us get to know Page and his work more keenly. The book shares over 250 photographs that capture the exceptional beauty of Page creations in England, America, and throughout continental Europe.
I love the tidbit about Page that is shared in the introduction:
"In his youth, he had wanted to be a painter, but acquaintances in Paris intent on making gardens helped change his direction. In later years, when he was asked whether he was more of a plantsman or a designer, his answer was understated: "I know more about plants than most designers and more about design than most plantsmen." In fact, he had an exceptional understanding, knowledge, and feel for, plants allied to a b sense of architecture."
This book came out in 2008. You can get used copies using the Amazon Link in today's Show Notes for under $4.
Today's Garden Chore
If you've had your first frost, that's the signal to gardeners to dig up their dahlia and canna tubers and get them stored for next spring.
Once they are out of the ground, I brush them off; removing any extra soil, and then I put them in a basket or a container with plenty of perlite and keep them on a nice cool, dark shelf in the basement storage room. The perlite keeps the tubers dry and allows them to breathe.
Reviving the little botanic spark in your heart
When I was researching John Lindley, I stumbled on an adorable story about him.
Lindley arrived in England when he was a teenager. Naturally, he needed a place to stay, so Hooker graciously took him in and gave him a room at his home called Halesworth.
The story goes that, over the course of a few weeks, the Halesworth housekeeper had observed that Lindley‘s bed was always neat as a pin. It was clear he never slept in it.
The housekeeper immediately began to wonder what Lindley was doing and where was he sleeping. She began to worry that he might not be the kind of person they wanted living at Halesworth.
When her worry got the best of her, she brought the matter to Hooker's attention. Anxiety is contagious, and the housekeeper's concern made Hooker worry. So, he confronted Lindley and asked him to account for his unused bed.
Lindley calmly explained that he was hoping to go to Sumatra to collect plants. In anticipation of the physical difficulties of plant exploration, Lindley had been spending every night sleeping on the boards of the hardwood floor in his room.
Lindley got to keep living at Halesworth. He wrote his first book there called Observations on the Structure of Fruits. He never made it to Sumatra.
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"For a happy, healthy life, garden every day."
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