November 8, 2019 Dividing Perennials, Kew’s Agius Garden, Medieval Herb Gardens, Tree Intelligence, Victoria Cruziana, Kate Sessions, Vavilov Seed Bank, Bluethenthal Wildflower Preserve, Covent Gardens, How to Know the Ferns by Frances Theodora Parsons, Bar Carts, and Botanical Stamps

Today we celebrate the plant named in honor of Queen Victoria and the President of Peru and Bolivia.

We'll learn about the Mother of Balboa Park and how the world seed bank was saved during WWII.

We'll hear the Garden Poem that celebrates the end of the apple- picking season.

We Grow That Garden Library with a book from the author who was pulled out of her grief by nature walks with Marion Satterlee. 

I'll talk about an on-trend and portable way to display your houseplants, and then we'll wrap things up with a set of botanical stamps that commemorated the bi-centenary of Captain Cook's first voyage to New Zealand.

But first, let's catch up on a few recent events.

Here's today's Curated Articles:

How to lift and divide herbaceous perennials
Now's the time for all good men to come to the aid of their... Whoops - nope - Really now is the perfect time to lift and divide perennials with @GWmag - It's not too late!
Dividing or not - you should check out the garden in this video. Swooning now...
11 things to know about the Agius Evolution Garden
Here's a Behind the Scenes Look at Kew's Brand New Garden called the Agius. Learn about the mulch @kewgardens makes for the garden, the pergola that supports 26 roses & the drought-resistant asterids - like sages, olives, and rosemary. 
What to grow in a medieval herb garden - English Heritage Blog
Medieval Herb Gardens grew the tried & true herbs. Learn more about Sage, Betony, Clary Sage, Hyssop, Rue, Chamomile, Dill, Cumin, & Comfrey in this post by @EnglishHeritage featuring a beautiful pic of @RievaulxAbbey  
Never Underestimate the Intelligence of Trees
Gardens are plant communities that need these pillars of protection- yet many gardens are treeless. As gardeners, we should plant Micro Forests. Dr. Suzanne Simard - Professor of Forest Ecology: Older, bigger trees share nutrients w/ smaller trees & they pay it back later. @NautilusMag 

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 1849, the very first Victoria cruziana flowered in a custom-built greenhouse at the Duke of Devonshire's estate at Chatsworth. 

After that initial bloom, the other specimens began blooming as well. And, one of the blossoms was, appropriately, given to Queen Victoria (Santa Cruz Water Lily).
The Victoria cruziana is an exotic plant. It is named in honor of two people: Queen Victoria & Andres de Santa Cruz, President of Peru & Bolivia, who sponsored the expedition where the plants were first collected. In the wild, Victoria cruziana is native to open waters in northern Argentina and Paraguay. Sadly, Victoria cruziana is endangered due to deforestation. Although in recent years, the Santa Cruz Water Lily has been returning by the hundreds in the Salado River in Paraguay. Locals take tourists out to see them in little canoes.

Victoria cruziana produces enormous lily pads that can grow up to 2 meters or almost 7 feet wide.

Today, greenhouses grow the Santa Cruz Water Lily from seed. In cultivation, pollination takes place by hand in the evenings when the plant is flowering.

But in its native habitat, the pollination process of the Santa Cruz Water Lily is a fantastic spectacle:

  • When the big flower bud initially opens - it is pure white, and it emits a pineapple aroma.
  • Then, as night falls, the flower goes through a chemical change that causes it to heat up. The pineapple scent and the warmth draw flying scarab beetles who venture far into the depths of the flower to find a feast of starch. It's like thanksgiving in there. While they are feasting through the night, the morning sunlight causes the flower to close up, and the feasting scarab beetles are trapped inside.
  • During the day, the flower goes through a tremendous transformation. The pineapple scent goes away, and the flower turns from pure white to pink - all in the course of a single day.
  • What's more, the sex of the flower changes from female to male. 
  • When the Santa Cruz Water Lily flower opens again on the second night, the scarab beetles are ready to go, and they fly off, covered in pollen to find the next freshly opened pineapple scented female flowers. Isn't that incredible?

Now the underside of the giant Amazonian water lily, Victoria cruziana, is quite something to see. It consists of this intricate vaulted rib structure, which is perfectly designed by Mother Nature. The air pockets give it the buoyancy and allow it to handle the load of the enormous lily pad. Those ribs are what allows the lily pad to float. This pattern so inspired Joseph Paxton that he incorporated it into his design for Crystal Palace in 1851. And, to illustrate the strength of the lily pads, there's a famous old photo from the 1800s that shows five children sitting on top of individual lily pads - one of them looks to be about three years old, and she's sitting on a rocking chair that was put on top of the Lily pad, and they are all just calming staring into the Camera. It's quite the image.

There is one more surprise for people who get the chance to really study the giant water lily. Everything except the smooth top surface of the lily is ferociously spiny to protect it from being eaten by nibblers under the water. 
Back in July, I shared a video in the Facebook Group for the Show from the Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh which showed their Senior Horticulturist, Pat Clifford, teaching an intern, how to remove older Giant Water Lily pads, so the pond doesn't get overcrowded.

Using a pitchfork, Pat carefully folded the giant lily pad first in half, then quarters, and then once more.

Then he stabbed the large folded pad with the pitchfork, hoists it in the air to let the water drain out, and then flops this huge beast of a pad down on the edge of the pond.

Then, the camera zooms in to reveal the incredibly savage thorns that grow on the underside of the lily pad and all down the stem of the plant. For folks who watch that video, It is a shock to see how vicious the thorns are - rivaling any rose.


#OTD   Today is the birthday of American botanist, horticulturist, and landscape architect Kate Sessions, who was born on this day in 1857.

As a young woman, Kate had traveled to San Diego to teach, but she ended up following her passion and bought a local nursery in 1885. Before long, Kate owned a flower shop as well. And, she didn't leave her teaching roots behind. Kate is remembered for going from grammar school to grammar school, teaching thousands of young children basic horticulture and botany.

In 1892, she managed to convince the City of San Diego to lease her 30 acres of land to use for growing in Balboa Park so that she could grow plants for her nursery. The arrangement required Session to plant 100 trees in balboa park every single year in addition to another 300 trees around the city of San Diego.  Over a dozen years, Kate planted close to 5,000 trees, forever changing the vista of San Diego. The Antonicelli family, who later bought Kate's nursery, said that Kate was tough and plants were her whole life. 

"When she would go out on a landscape job, rather than put a stake in the ground, she had these high boots on, and she'd kick heel marks in the ground, and that's where she would tell the guys to plant the trees."

Thanks to her nursery and connections, Session planted hundreds of cypress, pine, oak, pepper trees, and eucalyptus. And although she never married or had any children, it was thanks to her dedication to the trees of San Diego that Sessions became known as The Mother of Balboa Park.

But there is one tree that Sessions will forever be associated with, and that is the jacaranda, which is a signature plant of the city of San Diego. Sessions imported the jacaranda, and she propagated and popularized it - it which wasn't difficult given its beautiful purple bloom.

In September of 1939, Kate broke her hip after falling in her garden. The following march, newspapers reported she had died quietly in her sleep,

"At the close of Easter Sunday, when the broad lawns, the groves, the canyons, and the flower beds were aglow with a beauty that has become her monument."

#OTD  On this day in 1941, Hitler gave a speech where he said that "Leningrad must die of starvation.”

The following year, that's nearly what happened as hundreds of thousands starved to death in the streets of Leningrad. People were so desperate that some people attempted to eat sawdust. 

As the Nazis arrived in St Petersburg, the dedicated scientists at the Vavilov Institute of Plant Industry locked themselves inside the seed vault to protect the world's seed collection, which was housed in bins that went from the floor to the ceiling in 16 rooms.

The workers came up with a strategy where no one was allowed to be alone with the seed. They were always paired up, and they guarded the collection in shifts.

The siege lasted for 900 days, and one by one, the people in the vault started dying of starvation.  In January 1942, Alexander Stchukin, a peanut specialist, died at his desk. And, ironically, as he was guarding rice, the Botanist Dmitri Ivanov also died of starvation. When the siege ended in the Spring of 1944, nine scientists had starved to death while defending the world's seeds.


#OTD On this day in 1974, the University of North Carolina at Wilmington dedicated the Bluethenthal Wildflower Preserve.
The 10-acre preserve is in the middle of the campus and is home to a marvelous example of unique native plants like the Venus flytrap, sundew, and white and yellow jasmine.
An article reporting on the preserve said

"In this hurly-burly rush-around world of ours, there are still those who care about the natural beauty of the area and about preserving it for future generations."

#OTD On the same day in 1974, London's famous flower, fruit, and vegetable market moved from Covent Garden to Battersea.
In 1661, King Charles II established Covent Market under a charter. After an incredible transformation from a 9-acre pasture in the heart of London, the streets and alleys of Covent Garden served as a market for Londoners for 305 years. Back in 1974, 270 dealers were buying and selling 4,000 tons of produce every day, as well as flowers and plants worth $28.8 million.
One newspaper reported that when a trader was asked if he would miss the location of the old market, he replied, 

"We deal in fruit and vegetables, not sentiment."

Covent Gardens was the spot where Professor Henry Higgins met a flower seller named Eliza Doolittle in "My Fair Lady."
And, in Dicken's story, "The Old Curiosity Shop," a stranger went to the Covent Market,

"at sunrise, in spring or summer when the fragrance of sweet flowers is in the air, overpowering even the unwholesome streams of last night's debauchery and driving the dusky thrush, whose cage has hung outside a garret window all night long, half-mad with joy."

Unearthed Words

My long two-pointed ladder's sticking through a tree
Toward heaven still,
And there's a barrel that I didn't fill
Beside it, and there maybe two or three
Apples I didn't pick upon some bough.

But I am done with apple-picking now.
Essence of winter sleep is on the night,
The scent of apples: I am drowsing off.

- Robert Frost, After Apple Picking


Today's book recommendation: How to Know the Ferns by Frances Theodora Parsons

Parsons was an American naturalist and author, remembered most for her book on American wildflowers. But her book, How to Know the Ferns, is also a favorite and it's a personal favorite of mine.

One of the reasons I'm a huge Parsons fan is because of her incredible life story. After her first husband and baby died, Parsons finally broke her grief when her friend Marion Satterlee managed to get her to take nature walks, which rekindled her love for wildflowers. In 1893, Fanny published her famous book, How to Know the Wildflowers.   It sold out in five days and was a favorite of Theodore Roosevelt and Rudyard Kipling.

Three years later, in 1896, Fanny married a childhood friend, a professor, politician, and diplomat, James Russell Parsons. The following year, Fanny gave birth to their son. Parsons was not well off, so Fanny wrote today's book, "How to Know the Ferns," in an effort to financially help her family. 
In the first page of the book, Parsons shares this beautiful quote about ferns by Henry David Thoreau:

“If it were required to know the position of the fruit dots or the character of the indusium, nothing could be easier than to ascertain it; but if it is required that you be affected by ferns, that they amount to anything, signify anything to you, that they are another sacred scripture and revelation to you, helping to redeem your life, this end is not so easily accomplished.”

A year after Ferns, Fanny gave birth to their only daughter, Dorothea, who tragically died at two and a half years old five days before Thanksgiving in 1902. Three years later, Fanny's husband, James,  was killed when his carriage collided with a  trolley car.  

A widow for the second time, Fanny published this poem in Scribner’s Magazine in 1911: When Laughter is Sadder than Tears.
The marshes stretch to the dunes, and the dunes sweep down to the sea,
And the sea is wooing the meadow which waits with an open door;
Then a melody sweet to the hearer floats up from the murmuring lea
Till the sea slips seaward again and the land is athirst as before.
And athirst is the heart whose worship is not the worship of yore,
Whose visions no magic can conjure, whose plenty is suddenly dearth;
And parched as the desert the soul whose tears no grief can restore,
Whose laughter is sadder than tears and whose grief is as barren as mirth.
The days are alive with music, the nights their pleasures decree;
The vision the morning fulfills is the dream that the evening wore,
And life is as sweet to the living as the flower is sweet to the bee,
As the breath of the woods is sweet to the mariner far from shore.
But singing and sweetness and laughter must vanish forevermore,
As the petals fall from the flower, as the waters recede from the firth,
When hopes no longer spring upward as larks in the morning soar,
Then laughter is sadder than tears, and grief is as barren as mirth.
Friend, if shaken and shattered the shrine in the heart that is fain to adore,
Then forsake the false gods that have held you and lay your pale lips to the Earth,
That in her great arms she may take you and croon you her melodies o'er,
When laughter is sadder than tears and grief is as barren as mirth.

Today's Garden Chore

Enjoy a portable and dazzling spot for your houseplants by repurposing a bar cart. 

Bar carts are super trendy once again, and they offer gardeners a stylish space for displaying houseplants.
If you get a cart with glass shelves, light can filter through to plants on the bottom shelf as well. Or, you can use the bottom shelf to store extra soil, horticultural charcoal, pots, and other gear.

I've had tremendous luck sourcing bar carts on Facebook Marketplace. I recently put a gold cart in my botanical Library. It's a mid-sized oval cart, and it holds about a dozen small houseplants for me - from Swedish Ivy to a variety ferns. I have to say, my little glass misting bottle looks extra elegant on the bar cart.
And remember, if you happen to find a metallic cart - whether it's gold or silver - those are all considered neutrals in interior design. And, don't forget that you can repurpose ice buckets - whether they are crystal or have a beautifully textured exterior - you can use them as cache pots for your plants. Along with the bar cart, they add a touch of sparkle and glimmer during the holidays.


Something Sweet 
Reviving the little botanic spark in your heart

On this day in 1969, the Johnson City Press, out of Johnson City Tennessee reported on a new batch of postage stamps out of New Zealand that commemorated the bi-centenary of Captain Cook's first voyage to New Zealand:

The 4c stamp featured a side portrait of Captain Cook with the planet Venus crossing the sun - together with an old navigational instrument, the octant.

The 6c stamp featured the naturalist, Sir Joseph Banks, with an outline of the 'Endeavour.'

The 18c stamp showed Dr. Solander. He was the botanist aboard the 'Endeavour,' together with a native plant bearing his name and known locally as the Matata.

The 28c stamp displayed a portrait of Queen Elizabeth II and Captain Cook's 1769 chart of New Zealand.


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and remember:
"For a happy, healthy life, garden every day."

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