November 19, 2019 German Garden Ideas, Christmas Cactus Care, Grave Gardening, Nathan Franklin Barrett, Calvert Vaux, Tennyson, John Tabb, Adventures of a Gardener by Peter Smithers, Place Cards, and Botanical Brothers at Gettysburg

Today we celebrate the co-founder of the American Society of Landscape Architects and a man who maximized his small space garden about 130 years before the rest of us.

We'll learn about the man who came to America to work with Andrew Jackson Downing, and then they both ended up dying by drowning 43 years apart from each other.

We remember the poet laureate who wrote, "If I had a flower for every time I thought of you..." and the Catholic priest and poet who loved to garden and wrote elegantly about seasons.

We Grow That Garden Library with a memoir featuring a gardener was working in naval intelligence in Washington on the day the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor.

I'll talk about using place card holders with your houseplants, and then we'll wrap things up with the tale of two botanical brothers at Gettysburg.

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

Today's Curated Articles:

10 Garden Ideas to Steal from Germany - Gardenista

Jawohl! @Gardenista Here's 10 Garden Ideas to Steal from Germany. Verdant Practices include rooftop gardens, wildflowers & gardens, Kleingartenkolonies, the one-of-a-kind Prinzessinnengarten, the incredible work of the florist Ursula Wegener and more...


How to care for and reflower your Christmas cactus - MSU Extension (Michigan State University)

There is a simple formula for success with Christmas cactus: organic, humus-rich soil, a cute little pot since they like to be pot-bound, regular watering, cool temps, and 14 hours of darkness per day. Done!


A Year Gardening the Grave of a Stranger - Atlas Obscura

@atlasobscura shared this fascinating post about the kind folks at Woodlands Cemetery in Philadelphia who beautify gravesites with gardening. The cradle graves are especially poignant for gardeners...



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 the Landscape Architect Nathan Franklin Barrett, who was born on this day in 1845.

Instead of joining his father's dye company, Barrett went his own way.

After serving in the Civil War, BarrettLearned about plantsBuyWorking in his brother's nursery.

In 1866, the field of landscape architecture was brand new – just a baby - and there is no prescribed coursework or preparation.


Like many Landscape Architects, Barrett secured work as a town planner. He laid out the town Dolgeville New York as well as Pullman, Illinois (now located in Chicago). The town of Pullman was named for George R Pullman, who was one of Barrett's closest friends.

The planning Barrett carried out in Pullman became one of his proudest achievements. Pullman was the country's first planned industrial town.

Gardeners will enjoy hearing about Barrett's personal home garden in New Rochelle. Set on half an acre, Barrett designed his garden in an attempt to show others how to maximize a small space. Listen to the various areas and gardens he managed to install in his modest yard:

"[an] old fashioned Colonial garden, Japanese, Roman, and Moorish gardens, and English topiary work. His cellar... opened to the garden level and through which a long vista continued. [Barrett] also created a Normandy peasant's sitting room, a German peasant's kitchen, [and] a Pompeian Court. A little brook at the rear of the property... added picturesque effects, and the garden was replete with pleasant little nooks and surprises at every turn."


And, one newspaper shared a description of Barrett's wild planting tendencies:

"The Poppy and the Ground Ivy, and Creeping Charlie and Myrtle mingle together; the Aster and Goldenrod feel at home; Ferns and Mosses are used liberally, and while abandon is aimed at, there is 'method in the madness,' and the wild garden and the formal play their part, each enhancing the charm of the other."


Barett co-founded the American Society of Landscape Architects and served as its president in 1903.

Barrett worked all over the country, and when he retired, he had practiced Landscape Architecture for 50 years. By the time Barrett died in 1919, he had been the oldest living Landscape Architect in the United States.


In 1902, Barrett went to Los Angeles to give a speech on Landscape Architecture. Sadly, he caught a cold and lost his voice, so his speech was read for him, and the entire talk was shared in the newspaper. Here's my favorite excerpt - it's where Barrett addresses the spaces where living areas connect with shopping areas, how good Landscaping should mask the sides of ugly buildings, and why maintenance is a vital habit:

"The line between the store and the residence is a battle line. As the business increases, the residence is forced back. The only remedy for this insight is to make the transition as inoffensive as possible.

[And] let us ask the object of taking the valuable space In the city for lawns. Is it not to relieve the buildings? I think so.

Therefore, we should plant large trees to take away the mass of masonry, which must necessarily exist in both house, sidewalk, and street. Bull Street, Savannah, Ga. has always appealed to me, where the walls are covered with Ivy. The old parts of Norfolk, Va., where the Ivy makes a coping two to three feet thick and hangs down over the wall, is excellent.

...[And] the pushcart picking up rubbish is as Important as the trees and flowers. Neatness is as contagious as a new bonnet, and a clean face becomes a habit and is an excellent rivalry to encourage. "



#OTD Today is the anniversary of the death of the Landscape Architect Calvert Vaux ("Vox"), who died on this day in 1895.

Vaux was born in England, but he came to the United States at the age of 24 to work on landscape projects with Andrew Jackson Downing. Together, they planned the grounds around the Capitol and the Smithsonian Institution, in Washington.

After Downing's untimely death, Vaux named his second son Downing in honor of his partner and friend.

Vaux went on to work with many talented people during his career, including Jacob Weidenmann and George Radford.

When Calvert Vaux came up with the idea for a public competition to design Central Park, he teamed up with Frederick Law Olmsted, Senior. Together they created a plan they called Greensward, and while they worked on Central Park, Vaux first coined the term landscape architect to describe their profession. And, it was Calvert Vaux who said that his goal for Central Park was to “translate democratic ideas into trees and dirt.”

Since Olmsted and Vaux worked so well together, after Central Park, they designed Prospect Park in Brooklyn, South Park in Chicago, and the New York Reservation at Niagara Falls.

By 1895, at the age of 70, Vaux was living with his son in Brooklyn. He had a morning ritual of taking a walk - often going to visit Prospect Park. But, on this day in 1895, the weather was foggy, and Vaux decided to walk the pier along Gravesend Bay.

Two days later, after his kids reported him missing, newspapers shared this description:

"Missing since Tuesday. Calvert Vaux. Aged seventy years; four feet ten Inches; medium build; gray hair and full beard; ruddy complexion; wore a blue overcoat with velvet collar, blue trousers, dark mixed undercoat, no vest, black derby hat; wears gold-rimmed eyeglasses; shirt has a name on it."

The following day, Vaux's body was found in Gravesend Bay. Like his dear friend Downing, Vaux had drowned.

At the end of November, the Statesville Record And Landmark out of Statesville, North Carolina ran an anonymous tribute to Vaux that read in part:

"Calvert Vaux was in his line one of the most famous men in the world.... Calvert Vaux created Central Park [and] people who have traveled all over the world say that no park in any foreign city is so beautiful. But, the Brooklyn folks say that their own Prospect Park is handsomer. Yet that, too, was "created" by Calvert Vaux. It was he who soothed nature's rough places and touched up and brightened her attractive features.

In Prospect Park, however, nature left little for man to do.

But Central Park is almost wholly artificial, and it's beautiful vistas of hill and dale, lake and wood, are largely the work of Mr. Vaux.

Probably a statue of him will be erected in Central Park. Certainly, his name ought to be perpetuated in the most enduring of stone."



Unearthed Words

On this day in 1850, the British poet Alfred, Lord Tennyson, became the Poet Laureate.

"If I had a flower for every time I thought of you, I could walk in my garden forever."

Today is the anniversary of the death of the American poet and Catholic priest, John Banister Tabb who wrote:

Indian Summer

Tis said, in death, upon the face

Of Age, a momentary trace

Of Infancy's returning grace

Forestalls decay;

And here, in Autumn's dusky reign,

A birth of blossom seems again

To flush the woodland's fading train

With dreams of May.



Autumn Gold

Earth in the house, and the golden-rod

A-bloom in the field!

O blossom, how, from the lifeless clod,

When the fires are out and the ashes cold,

Doth a vein that the miners know not, yield

Such wealth of gold?




It's time to Grow That Garden Library with today's book: Adventures of a Gardener by Peter Smithers.

Sir Peter Smithers, was a British politician and diplomat, but also an award-winning gardener. He worked as a British spy during World War II. Smithers was said to have inspired the fictional character of James Bond.

His obituary stated that:

"Flowers were ... important to him. [He said] “I regard gardening and planting as the other half of life, a counterpoint to the rough and tumble of politics."

Smithers learned to love the natural world from his nanny.

It was when he was in his 50s, that Smithers was finally able to focus on horticulture and botany fulltime.

Smithers loved rhododendrons, magnolias, tree peonies, lilies, and wisteria. He developed a garden that didn't require a ton of work - along the same lines as Ruth Stout.

He wrote:

“The garden is planted so as to reduce labor to an absolute minimum as the owner grows older.”


Today's book was the brainchild of the RHS - who asked Smithers to write his gardening memoirs.

Thanks to Smither's travels, he had observed gardens in England, Mexico, Central America, and Switzerland. And, Smither's followed certain principals to help ground him as he pursued the hobby of gardening. He wrote:

"It shall be a source of pleasure to the owner and his friends, not a burden and anxiety."

This book is part-autobiography and part-garden book.

Smithers shares stories from his incredible career, like the time he was serving in naval intelligence in Washington when the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor. And, George Coen commented,

"He's as comfortable talking about [his career] as he is in explaining the behavior of wasps in a flower garden."

This book came out in 1996. It's considered somewhat rare. You can get a used copy and support the show, using the Amazon Link in today's Show Notes for as low as $13.



Today's Garden Chore

Use place card holders to help you remember the names of your houseplants.

If names like Schefflera or Hoya keeps slipping your mind, hop on the labeling bandwagon and use place card holders to label your plants. I used to practice saying the names of my plants as I watered them. When they finally rolled off the tongue, I moved on. Now I use the labels just because I think they're pretty. But, every now and then, when I get a new plant, they still come in handy.



Something Sweet
Reviving the little botanic spark in your heart

Today is the anniversary of the death of the botanist Thomas Meehan who died on this day in 1901.

Meehan was born in England to a gardener and his wife and raised on the Isle of Wight. He trained at Kew and then immigrated to Philadelphia. Although Meehan ultimately became known as the Dean of American horticulture, there was a charming little story that took place when Meehan was in his 40's. Drexel University shared it in 2018.

When a curatorial assistant at the botany department at Drexel, named Elana Benamy, was digitizing plant images, she came across an image of milkweed - which is pretty standard - but what made her take a double-take was the date and location of the plant specimen.

>The plant was labeled "Battlefield of Gettysburg, August 20, 1863."

The battle in Gettysburg had occurred during the first three days of July. So this specimen had been gathered about seven weeks after the battle, and about five weeks after Frederick Law Olmsted had walked the field.

Elana asked,

"Can you imagine why on earth would someone be out plant collecting [there]?"

As it turns out, the reason made perfect sense.

The collector was Thomas Meehan. At the time of the civil war, Meehan had worked for Andrew Eastwick, who was the owner of Bartrum‘s garden in Philadelphia. Afterward, Meehan opened up his own nursery in Germantown.

In 1853, Thomas's younger brother, Joseph, had come to the United States from England. The younger Meehan brother was working in the greenhouses for his brother when he enlisted to fight in the Civil War.

As the battle of Gettysburg began, the younger Meehan was taken prisoner; but with the defeat of the army, he was given battlefield parole on July 4th.

Historians now speculate that Thomas' brother, Joseph, might still have been at Gettysburg, or Thomas might’ve gone out with him on a botanizing trip there.

In either case, 33 years later, Joseph would write a fascinating account of the landscape around Gettysburg in an article for a gardening magazine called Battlefield Flowers: Floral Treasures of Gettysburg.

Apparently, both brothers, who had made their homes in the city of brotherly love, had inherited their father's love of plants.


Thanks for listening to the daily gardener,
and remember:
"For a happy, healthy life, garden every day."

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