Today we celebrate the botanist who bred more than 40 types of pears - including our most popular varieties.
We'll learn about the cultural meanings associated with the chrysanthemum and the Swedish botanist who posed as a Dutchman to botanize in Japan.
We'll hear some thoughts on November from one of my favorite garden writers
And, we Grow That Garden Library with one of the best books on Gardening for Butterflies
I'll talk about straightening your ornamental trees, and then we'll wrap things up with the story of the woman who loved blueberries so much she shared them with the world.
But first, let's catch up on a few recent events.
Gardens, Paradise, & Kashmir | Searchkashmir.org | @SearchKashmir
It's no surprise that the word 'paradise' was first used to describe a garden.
This Farsi poem about Kashmir by Amir Khusrau does the same:
If ever there is Paradise on Earth,
It is here! It is here! It is here!
How to grow orchids by Alys Fowler | @guardian @guardianweekend
This is an excellent post about orchids, and I always love to hear how people approach caring for their orchids. Alys says:
"An east-facing window... plus consistent watering (every week in the growing season, every other during winter) & Lou’s Poo, dried alpaca poo."
Every gardener reading this now will search online for Lou's Poo... but just a heads up - they don't deliver to the US.
Vermont Garden Journal: Some New Ideas For Perennial Garden Care | @charlienardozzi @vprnet
I couldn't agree more! Love this post from @charlienardozzi @vprnet
The first thing I tell my student gardeners is that plant material doesn't leave the property. The second thing I teach them is Chop & Drop. https://buff.ly/32aL8TI
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 birthday of Jean-Baptiste Van Mons, who was born on this day in 1765.
The name of the game for Van Mons was selective breeding for pears. Selective breeding happens when humans breed plants to develop particular characteristics by choosing the parent plants to make the offspring.
Check out the patience and endurance that was required as Van Mon's described his work:
“I have found this art to consist in regenerating in a direct line of descent, and as rapidly as possible an improving variety, taking care that there be no interval between the generations. To sow, to re-sow, to sow again, to sow perpetually, in short to do nothing but sow, is the practice to be pursued, and which cannot be departed from; and in short this is the whole secret of the art I have employed.”
Jean-Baptiste Van Mons produced a tremendous amount of new pear cultivars in his breeding program - something north of forty incredible species throughout his lifetime. The Bosc and D'Anjou pears, we know today, are his legacy.
#OTD On this day in 1790, Chrysanthemums are introduced to England from China.
Chrysanthemums are the November birth flower and the 13th wedding anniversary flower.
The greens and blossoms of the chrysanthemum are edible, and they are particularly popular in Japan, China, and Vietnam.
Generally, chrysanthemums symbolize optimism and joy - but they have some unique cultural meanings around the world.
Back in the Victorian language of flowers, the red chrysanthemum meant "I Love," and the yellow chrysanthemum symbolized slighted love.
In China, the chrysanthemum is a symbol of autumn and the flower of the ninth moon. During the Han dynasty, the Chinese drank chrysanthemum wine - they believed it made their lives longer and made them healthier. As a result, the chrysanthemum was often worn to funerals.
On Mother's Day down under, Australians traditionally wear a white chrysanthemum to honor their moms, and Chrysanthemums are common Mother's Day presents.
In Poland, chrysanthemums are the flower of choice to be placed on graves for All Saints' Day and All Souls' Day.
Finally, in 1966, Mayor Richard Daley declared the chrysanthemum as the official flower of the city of Chicago.
#OTD On this day in 1799, the Leonids meteor shower was seen from Europe and South America.
The famous German explorer and botanist Alexander Humboldt had just arrived in South America to begin his great five-year exploration, and he wrote this in his journal from Chile as he saw the Leonids:
The night between November 11 and 12 was calm and beautiful... During 4 hours, we observed thousands of huge fireballs, often with a brightness like Jupiter. Long smoke trails were left behind, lasting 7-8 seconds, often the meteors exploded, leaving trails too.
It wasn't just Humboldt who witnessed this event. Andrew Ellicott Douglass, an early American astronomer who was born in Vermont, observed the Leonids from a ship off the Florida Keys. Douglass, who later became an assistant to the famous astronomer Percival Lowell, wrote the first- known record of a meteor shower in North America in his journal, saying that the,
"whole heaven appeared as if illuminated with skyrockets, flying in an infinity of directions, and I was in constant expectation of some of them falling on the vessel. They continued until put out by the light of the sun after daybreak."
#OTD Today is the anniversary of the death of the father of South African botany, the botanist Carl Peter Thunberg, who died on this day in 1828.
As fellow Swedes, Carl Linnaeus had taught Thunberg, and Linnaeus encouraged him to continue his work by visiting other parts of Europe.
Eventually, Thunberg joined the Dutch East India Company, and he botanized in South Africa for three years. After South Africa, he set his sights on Japan. But, before he went, Thunberg needed to become Dutch.
Averse to the influence of Christianity, the Japanese had closed their country off to all European nations except for Holland - because they valued the medicinal plant knowledge of the Dutch botanists.
So, when Thunberg went to Japan, he hid his Swedish heritage and posed as a Dutchman.
In fact, during the 18th century, Thunberg was Japan's only European visitor, and his Flora Japonica published in 1784 was a revelation to botanists around the world.
During his time in Japan, Thunberg discovered the Easter Lily growing near the city of Nagasaki. He also found Forsythia in Japan, and he named it to honor William Forsyth.
And, during his entire time in Japan, Thunberg was confined to a small artificial island in Nagasaki harbor. So how did he manage to learn so much about the country's flora?
Ever the clever end-rounder, Thunberg came up with a unique strategy to obtain botanical samples.
Thunberg knew that goats are picky plant-eaters. So, while staying on the island, Thunberg asked to have some goats. Then, he asked his Japanese assistants to collect plants to feed the goats.
It was through the guise of feeding the goats that Thunberg was able to collect all kinds of plant specimens. The most impressive examples were a total of five different species of hydrangea that were previously unknown to the West. These hydrangeas included the lace caps – they're the ones that produce the beautiful UFO ring of blooms around the flowerhead of small florets - Japan was very private about them. Can you imagine his excitement?
The entire time Thunberg was away, which amounted to an incredible nine-year journey - from his native Sweden to South Africa and then Japan - Thunberg sent plants and letters to his old teacher and friend, Linnaeus, who wrote that he had never received, "more delight and comfort from any other botanist [than Thunberg]."
"Most people, early in November, take last looks at their gardens, are then prepared to ignore them until the spring.
I am quite sure that a garden doesn't like to be ignored like this.
It doesn't like to be covered in dust sheets, as though it were an old room which you had shut up during the winter.
Especially since a garden knows how gay and delightful it can be, even in the very frozen heart of the winter, if you only give it a chance."
- Beverley Nichols, garden author
The subtitle for this book is How You Can Attract and Protect Beautiful, Beneficial Insects.
In this 2016 book, gardeners get practical and expert advice from the Xerxes Society on all things butterflies. You will learn why butterflies matter, why they are in danger, and what simple steps we can take to make a difference.
Gardeners will appreciate learning about the best blooms for attracting the garden's prettiest winged visitors, like Penstemon, Pearly Everlasting, and Golden Alexanders. There are sections on designing a butterfly garden, creating shelter, observing and conserving, even tagging butterflies to help track migration. Gardening for Butterflies provides home gardeners with everything they need to create a beautiful, beneficial, butterfly-loving gardens.
Today's Garden Chore
It's the perfect time to stake your ornamental trees.
While you are outside wrapping your boxwoods, arborvitaes, and shrubs in burlap, take the time to stake your trees - especially your smaller ornamentals like lilacs and hydrangea. It's something you can do now that can actually mean one less thing to do in the spring.
Reviving the little botanic spark in your heart
Today is the anniversary of the death of the Queen of Blueberries, Elizabeth Coleman White, who died on this day in 1954.
When Elizabeth was a little girl, growing up on her dad's Cranberry Farm in the Pine Barrens of Burlington County, New Jersey, she would take walks and gather blueberries - wild blueberries. There wasn't any other way to procure them.
Over time, Elizabeth began to wonder about creating a blueberry crop - something that would fit in nicely with the cranberry harvest, which happened at the end of the season. Cranberries grow in highly acidic soil, which is also perfect for growing blueberries. Elizabeth began by having the local blueberry pickers keep their eyes out for the plants with the biggest berries, and then she would have them transplanted to her father's field.
"I used to call them swamp huckleberries and thought an occasional one - half an inch in diameter - huge. They always grew luxuriantly about the margins of our cranberry bogs, and as a girl I used to hunt the largest and best flavored berries and dream of a field full of bushes as good. I knew it was a wild dream."
As fate would have it, in 1910, the chief botanist at the USDA, Frederick Colville, was also working on blueberries at his summer home in New Hampshire. When Elizabeth read about his efforts, she reached out, and the two worked out a deal where Elizabeth would use her land and labor. Colville would supply his technical expertise, especially when it came to propagation. Together, they crossbred the largest New Jersey blueberries with the largest New Hampshire blueberries, and the rest, as they say, is history.
"Enough of the puzzle has been fitted together to show that my old dream was but a faint shadowing of the possibilities. Now I dream of cultivated blueberries shipped by the trainload, - blueberry specials - to every part of the country.
The little berries of today's dreams are half an inch in diameter. And the big ones? - Well, it is hard to measure a dream accurately, but they are at least an inch across. And raising all these blueberries will give healthful remuneration and employment to lots of people. But you can dream for yourself - [but] only if you are to share my confidence that this dream is not wild. Some day it will come true."
It took Elizabeth five years to develop the first blueberry crop. The wastelands around the pines districts in New Jersey where Elizabeth grew her blueberries increased in value from 50 cents an acre to $500 an acre after the blueberry was cultivated. That first harvest yielded 21 bushels of berries, and it sold for $114. By 1947, more than 8,000 bushels were harvested. In 2016, a total of 690 million pounds of cultivated wild blueberries were harvested in the United States, and annual revenue was s around $80 million.
In addition to cultivating the first blueberry in 1916, Elizabeth was the first person to use cellophane to protect and market blueberries. The Whitman chocolate company inspired her because that was how they packaged their chocolates. Whitman's also partnered with Elizabeth; they helped her source the cellophane from France so that people all around the country could see her blueberries - right through the packaging.
And there's one more footnote to the Elizabeth Coleman White story. She was a champion of native plants. She fought to save the American holly, and in 1947, Elizabeth helped found the Holly Society of America.
Thanks for listening to the daily gardener,
"For a happy, healthy life, garden every day."
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