Today we celebrate fall through the eyes of a writer and naturalist from the year 1855 and the botanist honored with building on the University of Glasgow.
We'll learn about the Indian botanist who bred a new species of sugar cane and the Arizona Palm - yes, it does exist!
We'll hear some November Poems.
I'll talk about the task some gardeners regret forgetting and then share a little story about the botanist who ended up becoming one of the most prolific orchid hunters.
But first, let's catch up on a few recent events.
Saturday morning, I woke up to a snow-covered garden. Winter is gaining on us... but don't despair. I found a lovely video clip from Katie Rushworth @queenofspades00 over at Silverline Tools, who shares that there are plenty of ways to add color to your winter garden.
You can watch along in her video as she plants a colorful border and uses evergreens and semi-evergreens. She adds a lovely heuchera and huecherella. Next, she uses a beautiful false bamboo or Nandina and pittosporum for interest and texture. Then, she incorporates a Pyrrhus into the back of the border as well as a Sibirica dogwood.
Katie points out that the more exciting foliage you can source, the more dynamic your border will become.
Well, the answer is lots! I love the Fairmount, the Majestic Butterfly, and the Lacy Ginkgo.
"Fairmount. This is a columnar ginkgo, meaning its growth habit is narrow and upright. This is a good choice for narrow spaces with plenty of vertical room.
Majestic Butterfly. This type has variegated leaves, green streaked with yellow. It is also a smaller tree at just 10 feet (3 meters) high at maturity.
Lacy Ginkgo. The lacy cultivar is so called for its leaves, which have a textured edge that gives the appearance of lace."
Finally, as trends go, Houseplants are Hot!
I found a great post that was reshared from last Dec by @batesbn and featured in the blog Greenhouse Management called Houseplant Comeback. The subtitle was: Tech-savvy Millennials are reviving the houseplant market. How will the latest indoor foliage trends affect growers and retailers in 2019 and beyond?
The article featured @gardenmedia Katie Dubow:
“Whether we’re doing it consciously or subconsciously, we’re putting more greenery in our homes because we’re spending more time inside.”
"[Last year], the National Initiative for Consumer Horticulture (NICH) developed a series of infographics to promote the proven health and wellness benefits of houseplants. The #PlantsDoThat campaign illustrated how indoor plants can improve test scores in classrooms, lower blood pressure in hospitals and increase productivity in the workplace.
“We started the #PlantsDoThat campaign to show people what houseplants actually do in their everyday lives,” says Day, who is also the chair of the commercial council for NICH. “These benefits resonate with Millennials, because they want something that does more than just look pretty.”
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 On this day in 1855, Henry David Thoreau wrote in his journal:
"The winter is approaching. The birds are almost all gone. The note of the 'dee de de' sounds now more distinct, prophetic of winter, as I go amid the wild apples on Nawshawtuct. The autumnal dandelion sheltered by this apple-tree trunk is drooping and half closed and shows but half its yellow, this dark, late, wet day in the fall...
Larches are now quite yellow, — in the midst of their fall...
When I look away to the woods, the oaks have a dull, dark red now, without brightness. The willow-tops on causeways have a pale, bleached, silvery, or wool-grass-like look."
#OTD On the same day Thoreau was recording his autumnal observations, the English botanist Frederick Orpen Bower was born (in 1855).
Bower became the Regius chair of botany at the University of Glasgow. When he arrived, the department consisted of two rooms and a small attic space for the herbarium. When Bower lectured, he had to vie for a lecture hall with other departments and faculty.
In 1901, the University completed a new botany building, which was technically Britain's first botanical institute. As part of the University's 450th-anniversary celebration, Sir Joseph Hooker opened the building. It was renamed in the 1990s to honor Bower and became known as the Bower Building.
On October 24, 2001, the Bower building was significantly damaged by a fire. The losses included first editions of Darwin's Origin of the species, as well as works from both Hooker and Bower. Many of the oldest botanical manuscripts and books were impacted because they were stored on the third floor under the roof space. After almost four years of continuous work, the building reopened in November 2005.
#OTD Today is the birthday of the Indian botanist EK Janaki Ammal who was born on this day in 1897.
She was born in Kerala and studied in numerous colleges in India and received her masters and doctorate at the Unversity of Michigan.
Before Ammal's work, the sugar cane grown in India didn't grow well and wasn't sweet. After her schooling, Ammal worked at a sugar cane breeding station, and she began experimenting with varieties of sugar cane. Although she faced significant jealousy and discrimination from her male counterparts, Ammal managed to create a variety of sugar cane that grew well in the climate of India and it was sweet. It made India a significant grower of sugar cane.
#OTD On this day in 1984, the Arizona Republic newspaper shared an article by Vic Miller, a professor of agriculture at Arizona Stale University, about the history of the native palm of Arizona.
The article starts this way:
"Yes, we do have a native palm. Seeds of it were collected in Arizona; taken to Belgium and grown in a nursery; [observed] and named by a German botanist, but it is called the California fan palm."
The mystery about the California Fan Palm was not whether it existed but where it came from - California or Arizona.
The article continued:
"In 1976, ... researchers published an article ... stating that there was [an area where] native palms [grew naturally] in Arizona... on Castle Creek, about a mile north and west of Castle Hot Springs. This discovery helped solve a 100-year-old mystery.
[Here's the backstory:]
In 1879, a German botanist, Herman von Wendland, named our [Arizona] palm Washingtonia filifera in memory of George Washington. He had seen the plants growing in a nursery in Belgium. Seeds from which these were grown had been collected in America.
But from which state had the seeds been collected?
Three years earlier, in 1876, the German botanist Georg Drude wrote that the seed was collected in Arizona, along the Colorado River. Then, the [Italian botanist, Dr. Francesco Franceschi, also said that the seed was] from Arizona.
But the Stanford botanist and herbarium curator, Samuel Parish, disagreed because the area where the seeds were collected was supposedly near Prescott. According to Parish, this was "a region of pines rather than of palms." Thus he insisted that the seeds had to come from California. Now, what Parish didn't realize, was that there actually were groves of Arizona palms - only 38 miles from Prescott - at Castle Creek.
So how did the Arizona Palm seeds end up in Belgium?
Well, it turns out, the 1870's stagecoach line went right along Castle Creek to Prescott Arizona and then onto Santa Fe New Mexico. In September 1872, the Czech botanist and Extreme Orchid Hunter Benedict Roezl was in that part of the Southwest on his way to Mexico. He likely bought some of the ripe purple fruit of those Castle Creek Arizona Palms when fellow travelers were selling them. Then, he sent the fruit on to Germany with his other specimens.
"November's sky is chill and drear,
November's leaf is red and sear."
- Sir Walter Scott
With faint dry sound,
Like steps of passing ghosts,
The leaves, frost-crisp'd, break free from the trees
- Adelaide Crapsey, 1878-1914, November Night
I am a huge Tovah Martin fan, and this book does not disappoint.
First, I have to share what Michelle Slatalla of Gardenista wrote about this book (it's so good - it's printed right on the cover!)
"Reminds us that the best way to get to know a garden is through our senses. Don't expect to make it through many pages before you feel an urge to run outdoors to reintroduce yourself to your own landscape."
This book is one of my favorites, and I'm thrilled to share it with you today - at the start of November - a month where we count our blessings and are thankful. Martin's book is about that - being present and aware - as well as so genuinely grateful for our gardens.
Gardens are so much work. But don't forget they are the muse to so many of our dreams. We get so much joy from them and, if your in a Northern Garden like I am, the time we get to spend in them is so minimal.
In Tovah's book, she shares 100 essays that are divided into the four seasons; but then each season is divided into the five senses - sight, smell, sound, touch, and taste. Let me share a few excerpts from her section on autumn.
Sight "Gone to Seed"
"Look closely, and you'll realize that seed heads are fascinating.
Also, they aren't usually as glam as flowers. They're intricate little packets carefully designed to ensure tomorrow for whatever sedum, mountain mint, a ster marigold or echinacea they plan to disperse."
Sound "Crunch Time"
"You might say my affinity for rakes is just the sour grapes of a 90-pound weakling unable to pull a ripcord effectively.
And you might be right.
But there is something infinitely fulfilling about unearthing the herbaceous peony with its tawny blush leaves still intact and rejoicing because I will be enjoying its color for another few weeks."
Touch "Get a Grip"
"Some women have an arsenal of shoes at their beck and call. A stack of gloves placed by the door is more my speed. The collection includes mud gloves, leather gloves, lined gloves, driving gloves, gauntlets, and wool gloves... Wear the wrong gloves in autumn, and your hands are going to suffer. "
Touch "Underground Assets"
"I have a conspiracy theory linking chiropractors to the autumn planting bulbs trend."
Tovah Martin is such an excellent writer - conversational and witty - and the photography in this book is beautiful.
Today's Garden Chore
Don't forget to shut the water off to your spigots; you don't want frozen water to burst your pipes.
Disconnect the garden hoses from the spigots and bring the spray nozzles into a warm space so that they can be used next year.
Reviving the little botanic spark in your heart
You might be wondering what happened to Benedict Roezl, the botanist who sent the Arizona Palm seeds back to Germany and then Belgium.
Here's the rest of his story:
Once he got to Mexico, Roezl started a business out of growing a nettle called the Boehmeria nivea, which produces a fiber that can be harvested. He had built a machine to extract the fiber from the Boehmeria and brought it to an exhibition. When someone asked if his machine could to extract fiber from an agave, Roezl attempted to try it. Tragically, his hand got caught in the machine and was crushed. The accident changed his life. Roezl left his business and began collecting plants full-time.
Roezl collected over 800 orchids from Mexico and South America, along with thousands of other plants like agaves and cacti. In Columbia, he discovered the Zambia Roezlii; the tallest and oldest orchid of all. Even though Roezl was 6‘2“ tall, and used an imposing iron hook for a hand, during his collecting days, Roezl was robbed 17 times and, once, even attacked by a jaguar. Roezl collected for a nurseryman named Sander for 40 years.
At the end of his life, Roezl returned to Czechoslovakia. His country welcomed him home with open arms, and the Russian czar honored him. After he died at home in his bed, his funeral was attended by the Austrian emperor.
Today, there is a handsome statue of Roezl in Prague. It’s located on the southern end of Charles Square.
Thanks for listening to the daily gardener,
"For a happy, healthy life, garden every day."
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