November 15, 2019 Bob Randall’s Houston Garden Guide, 50 Top Plants, Fall Berries, Australia’s First Grapes, Marianne Moore, Georgia O’Keeffe, The Surprising Life of Constance Spry by Sue Shephard, Punch Bowls and the State Flower of Florida

Today we celebrate the first grapes that were grown down under and the poet who saved a tree that looks like it came straight out of a fairy tale.

We'll learn about the painter who was supposed to paint pineapples but never did and the florist who did the flowers for Queen Elizabeth's coronation.

We'll hear some thoughts on autumn from a Swiss philosopher and poet.

We Grow That Garden Library with a riveting biography of a floral artist extraordinaire and the founder of the cordon bleu cooking school.

I'll talk about how you can repurpose a big bulky item taking up space in your kitchen cupboard, and then we'll wrap things up with the Florida State Flower - think citrus!

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


Dr. Bob has a new book for Houston gardeners - and great tips for dealing with warmer temps:

1. Grow your own food — even if it’s just a single pot of lettuce on a balcony. Food gardening cuts your carbon footprint. It sharpens your awareness of the natural world. And it’s an excellent way to fight depression about global warming.

2. If you’re a long-time gardener, accept that the time-honored planting dates you used ten years ago may no longer work for specific crops. If old reliables such as corn or lettuce are now failing year after year, ask yourself: Is it because the average temperature is too high for germination, pollination, or some other crucial stage of plant life? Adjust your planting schedule accordingly.

3. To cope with both flooding and droughts, add a pond or rain garden to your yard. During heavy storms, it will store rainwater. And over time, it will release it into the water table below your yard, keeping deep roots happy for months to come.

4. When doing your long-term planning, remember that Houston’s summer is hard both on plants and people. Plan to do as little hard outdoor work in your garden in the hot months as possible. Water with a soaker hose and automated timer. Plant cover crops to recharge the soil and keep out weeds.

5. Plant what grows well here in the warming subtropics — even if it means trying new foods or plants. Citrus trees, blackberries, figs, and persimmons grow exceptionally well here. And even in the dead of August, you can harvest crops such as long beans, tindora perennial cucumbers, and leaf amaranth.





Episode 50: Top 50 Plants - FineGardening @FineGardening

Zoo-Wee Mama! I LOVE looking through favorite plant lists! Here's a great list from Danielle & Steve with 50 Top Plants in Episode 50 of the Let's Argue About Plants Podcast. Get out your notebooks...




Ornamental Fall Berries Provide Year-Round Awe

Here are some excellent plant picks from @uie_hort that provide many seasons of interest. Not only do these plants offer beautiful flower displays & pretty foliage, but they also have a remarkable presentation of fruits called drupes:
‘Brandywine’ possumhaw viburnum (Viburnum nudum), Beautyberry (Callicarpa Americana), and White fringe tree (Chionanthus virginicus).

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 1791, Australia's first thriving grapevine was planted.

The Australian wine industry began with the arrival of the first fleet into Sydney Cove.

In 1788, Captain Arthur Phillip of the First Fleet brought grape cuttings from South America and South Africa. Philip planted a small vineyard at Farm Cove - the site of the present Sydney Botanical Gardens. In the beginning, the settlement in New South Wales experienced great difficulty. Supplies were limited, so cultivating crops for food was the top priority. The soil in and around Sydney was poor, and the convicts lacked horticultural experience. Starvation was a real issue during those early days. 

Not surprisingly, Philip's vines did not bear, but they were able to be transplanted to a new location - a three-acre vineyard at Parramatta. By this time, Arthur Philip had become the first Governor of New South Wales. 

Philip's grapes were Crimson Grapes, which require warm, deep, and fertile soil. Fortunately, many regions in Australia are perfect for growing Crimson Grapes like areas in Victoria, New South Wales, and southeastern Queensland.

Australian Crimson Grapes are harvested from November to May.





#OTD   Today is the birthday of the poet, Dodgers baseball fan, and founding member of the Friends of Prospect Park, Marianne Moore, who was born on this day in 1885.

Moore was an eccentric intellectual who had a range of interests outside of poetry.

In 1967, when she was 80 years old, Moore created a citizen group called the Friends of Prospect Park. Moore formed the group to protect endangered trees in Prospect Park - especially one tree in particular; the Camperdown Elm.

Camperdown Elms have a fascinating history that dates back to 1840. That year, on the estate of the First Earl of Camperdown, the estate forester and Landscaper named David Taylor made a discovery. After planting much of the forest on the estate, one day, Taylor noticed a contorted young elm tree growing parallel to the ground. What Taylor was looking at was essentially a weeping mutation of the Scotch Elm. Like other weepers, the tree lacked the gene for negative geotropism, so the tree couldn't distinguish which way was up. Taylor dug up the young elm and brought it to the gardens of Camperdown House.

Eventually, Taylor grafted cuttings of the weeping elm to Wych Elms, and the result was a tree that became known as a Camperdown Elm - a weeping cultivar of the Scotch Elm.

Victorian gardeners loved Camperdown Elms - with their contortions and branches that grow out from the trunk quite parallel to the ground.

In 1872, the New York florist Adolphus Goby Burgess gifted a Camperdown Elm to the Brooklyn Parks Commission. The Burgess family had immigrated from England twenty years earlier in 1852. They were highly regarded in the world of horticulture, and their specialty was dahlias. Adolphus, no doubt, acquired the tree thanks to his English connections.

After receiving the tree from Burgess, it was Frederick Law Olmsted, who decided on the location for it. He decided to install it near the boathouse at Prospect Park. Since the graft was relatively low on the rootstock, Olmsted wisely planted the tree on a small hill allowing plenty of room for the weeping branches.

By the time the Pulitzer-Winning Poet Marianne Moore fell in love with the Camperdown Elm at Prospect Park, it was in sad shape. Some of the limbs were hollow thanks to rats and carpenter ants. The weak areas of the tree made it vulnerable, and it began to succumb to a bacterial infection as well as general rot.

Marianne used her fame and her wit to save the Camperdown Elm. She wrote a poem about the tree which was published in The New Yorker in September 1967. The public read her poem, and the Bartlett Tree Company saved the tree. It still stands today.

Before I read the poem, I'll offer a few definitions.

Thanatopsis is the name of a poem written by William Cullen Bryant. It's also a Greek word that means meditation on or thinking about death. Byrant's poem is a consolation to us; eventually, we will all die.

Thomas Cole and Asher Durand were both landscape painters. 

One of Asher Durand's most famous paintings is called Kindred Spirits. The picture shows two men standing on a rock ledge and shaded by the branches of an enormous elm tree in the Catskill Mountains. The men depicted were the painter, Thomas Cole, and his dear friend, the poet William Cullen Bryant.

A curio is something novel, rare, or bizarre.


Here's The Camperdown Elm:

I think, in connection with this weeping elm,
of "Kindred Spirits" at the edge of a rock ledge
overlooking a stream:
Thanatopsis-invoking tree-loving Bryant
conversing with Thomas Cole
in Asher Durand's painting of them
under the filigree of an elm overhead.

No doubt they had seen other trees — lindens,
maples and sycamores, oaks and the Paris
street-tree, the horse-chestnut; but imagine
their rapture, had they come on the Camperdown elm's
massiveness and "the intricate pattern of its branches,"
arching high, curving low, in its mist of fine twigs.
The Bartlett tree-cavity specialist saw it
and thrust his arm the whole length of the hollowness
of its torso, and there were six small cavities also.

Props are needed and tree-food. It is still leafing;
Still there. Mortal though. We must save it. It is
our crowning curio.




#OTD   Today is the birthday of the country's most loved female painter, Georgia O'Keeffe, who was born on this day in 1887.

During her incredible career as a painter, O'Keeffe created over 900 works of art. She is remembered for her iconic paintings of skulls and flowers.

In 1938 when O'Keeffe's career was stalling, she was approached by an advertising agency about creating two paintings for the Hawaiian Pineapple Company (now Dole Food Company) to use in their advertising. O'Keeffe was 51 years old when she took the nine weeks, all-expense-paid trip. O'Keeffe never did paint a pineapple.

And gardeners will be amazed by this fact: Of all the floral paintings that O'Keeffe created in Hawaii, exactly NONE  were native to the island.  Instead, O'Keeffe was drawn to tropicals that hailed from South America: Bougainvillea, Plumeria, Heliconia, Calliandra, and the White Bird of Paradise.

It was Georgia O'Keeffe who said all of these quotes:

"Nobody sees a flower—really—it is so small it takes time—we haven't time—and to see takes time, like to have a friend takes time.

I decided that if I could paint that flower in a huge scale, you could not ignore its beauty.

I hate flowers — I paint them because they're cheaper than models and they don't move!

The days you work are the best days."  



#OTD On this day in 1929, Constance Spry - who went by Connie - unveiled her first floral shop window display, and she shocked London by using hedgerow flowers. 

Connie was a trailblazer. In the 1920s, she began creating flower arrangements for dinner parties. Her work made her an immediate hit with the socialites of her time. Her success led her to go into business, and she opened a flower shop as well as a flower arranging school. Connie designed the flowers for the coronation of H.M The Queen in 1953. During WWII, Connie gave lectures encouraging people to grow their own food.

And, I  thought you'd get a kick out of this June 20, 1945 article on Connie from the Corsicana Daily Sun out of Texas:

"Constance Spry, the English woman who not only arranges and sells flowers, but also grows them, carried on all through the blitz. On one occasion a bomb struck her house it trembled the roof sagged, but the building held and Constance went right on working.
At the corner of Berkeley Square, the most elegant district of London lives Constance Spry with her flowers.
She introduced London to a new kind of flower shop. There is a bridal department, and a department for boutonnieres and corsages; a department for fresh flowers; one for trimming on hats, and on day and evening dresses. 
In her greenhouse, Constance cultivates some rare and exotic beauties. They are used to decorate the homes and tables of clients, and they are also sent to recreation homes for soldiers, spreading joy to many.


Unearthed Words

"Walked for half an hour in the garden.
A fine rain was falling, and the landscape was that of autumn.
The sky was hung with various shades of gray, and mists hovered about the distant mountains - a melancholy nature.
The leaves were falling on all sides like the last illusions of youth under the tears of irremediable grief.
A brood of chattering birds were chasing each other through the shrubberies, and playing games among the branches, like a knot of hiding schoolboys.
Every landscape is, as it were, a state of the soul, and whoever penetrates into both is astonished to find how much likeness there is in each detail."
- Henri Frederic Amiel, Swiss philosopher & poet


I love love love the cover of this book! It shows Constance arranging flowers - ever the influential floral artist (and, btw - founder of the Cordon Bleu cooking school!)

Let me read from Sue's introduction:

"Constance possessed a rare combination of talents: As writer,innovator, gardner and above all of the florist and above all as a floral artist.

She was a gifted lecturer and at different periods in her life headed schools for the richest and for the poorest.

At a time when most women's expectations were still limited, she believed in instilling in girls from all backgrounds the confidence and freedom to create beauty.

The fact that Connie served high society never meant that she wish to be part of it  nor that she was impressed by the breeding and wealth of her clients.

She was never a name dropper.. .

Her friend the writer and gardener Beverly Nichols once described the art of flower arranging as pre-spry and post-spry.

She was brilliant at improvisation and enthusiastic user of new materials such as plastics and sticky tape – And, she invented the use of scrunched up chicken wire well hidden to anchors ring stands and branches that would seem to fly out of her arrangements without the benefit of gravity.

Instead of the priceless crystal, silver, porcelain or other heirlooms that she might be invited to use at her clients homes, she preferred baking tins, meat plates or junk finds to put her flowers in. Her genius for creating beauty of the cheapest and simplest materials was legendary."


What a story - a riveting biography.


You can get a used copy and support the show, using the Amazon Link in today's Show Notes for under $3.




Today's Garden Chore

Repurpose old punch bowls.

Right about now, you might be thinking about going through your cupboards and sideboards as you prepare for the holidays. Seldom-used items like punch bowls end up in the donation pile.

But, you can repurpose your punchbowls and use them in your home conservatory - the spot where you keep your houseplants.

If you have a larger pot that you're worried about ruining a table, or your hardwood floor or carpet, a punch bowl serving as a drip tray may be the perfect solution.  Since most of my pots are terra cotta. I just place the terra cotta pot inside the punch bowl and viola!  It certainly is an excellent way to add a little water reserve for your plant. And, if the punchbowl is clear glass, it won't add any visual disturbance to your design aesthetic.

Another way to repurpose a punchbowl is to consider using it as an open-top terrarium. 




Something Sweet 
Reviving the little botanic spark in your heart

#OTD On this day in 1909, The orange blossom was designated the state flower of Florida.

The poet, William Livingston Larned was so inspired he wrote a poem called Florida's State Flower. And, the last little bit goes like this:


"Whenever  you see the spotless bud,
You know tis Florida the fair.
And wafted to you comes the scent
Of all the blissful regions there.

The rose may have its followers,
The violet its standard, too;
The fleur-de-lis and lily fair
In tints of red and pink and blue;
But just a scent,
On pleasure bent,
Of orange sweet,
The nostrils greet,
And from our dreams, the castles rise,
Of groves and meadows 'neath calm skies." 





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