Today we celebrate the man who discovered that plants have circadian rhythms.
We'll learn about the 20-acre estate that had the very first lawn mowed by a lawnmower in the United States.
We'll hear some truly lovely and a little melancholy poetry about November.
We Grow That Garden Library with a book about the official national tree of America - the mighty oak.
I'll talk about making Thanksgiving Time Capsules, and then we'll wrap things up with a sweet story about an Olive tree on the movie set for Samson and Delilah back in 1949.
But first, let's catch up on a few recent events.
It's just so easy to incorporate herbs into your everyday cooking.
If you haven't gotten around to raking - "There's a new campaign called 'Leave the Leaves,' and it encourages homeowners to leave the leaves on their lawn," said gardening expert @NikiJabbour "Leaves are just garden gold for the gardener." https://buff.ly/2NTYSOH
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.
There’s no need to take notes or track articles down - 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-Jacques d'Ortous de Mairan, who was born on this day in 1678.
Mairan was a French chronobiologist - a job one rarely hears about these days.
In 1729, da Mairan put together an experiment showing the existence of a circadian rhythm in plants.
Essentially, he took a mimosa pudica plant - the heliotrope - and he put it in constant darkness in a cupboard. All the while, he recorded the plant's behavior. And what do you know? The plant had a natural rhythm of opening and closing its leaves - even if it couldn't absorb sunlight. Now, de Mairan didn't think that the plant had an internal clock, but he DID think that it could attune itself to the sun - even if it was blocked from it.
No matter the accuracy of Mairan's conclusions, his work was on to something, and it established the foundation for chronobiology or the internal circadian clock.
#OTD Today is the birthday of Henry Winthrop Sargent, who was born on this day in 1810.
Henry Winthrop was born into American royalty. The Sargent family was fabulously wealthy, and Henry's dad was the Boston artist Henry Sargent. Like most of the men in his family, Henry Winthrop went to Harvard, where he studied law.
Before he turned 30, he married Caroline Olmsted of New York, and shortly after that, Henry Winthrop retired to pursue his true calling: a country life.
A little over a year after marrying Caroline, Henry Winthrop bought a twenty-acre estate that overlooked the Hudson River. He christened it Wodenethe - a marriage of two old Saxon terms Woden (pronounced Woe-den) and ethe, which stands for woody promontory ( promontory is a point of high land that juts out into the sea or a large lake; a headland.) Almost two decades later, the unusual name caused one newspaper reporter to write that it was a beautiful property with a wretched bad name.
Wodenethe was a massive undertaking for Henry. He had unsightly buildings neighboring his property that he needed to hide, and he needed to learn what would grow in the extremes of the Northeast. Although Henry traveled to many different European gardens, his most considerable influence was much closer to home: Andrew Jackson Downing. In fact, one history of the area said,
"Had there been no Downing there would have been no Wodeneth."
Downing was a renowned landscape designer, horticulturist, and writer, and his botanic garden was just across the river from Wodenethe.
Downing and Henry Winthrop formed an immediate friendship.
And, even though Downing's work and writings played a significant role in his approach, Henry Winthrop ultimately took matters into his own hands as he designed the Landscape at Wodenethe. Henry Winthrop clearly had vision and courage - two characteristics that are often found in master Landscape Designers. One of his first acts at Wodenethe was to remove trees and foliage that obstructed scenic vistas. As a lover of trees, Henry Winthrop was strategic and exacting when it came to framing a vista. This skill in framing a scene was Henry Winthrop's superpower, and he even created windows for his home that were shaped to maximize the view to the outside.
One story about Henry Winthrop's exceptional ability to create a view involves his son, Winthrop. One time a woman visited the Sargents, and when she looked out the window, she noticed little Winthrop out on the lawn. Henry Winthrop had created the view to look like the lawn extended out to the Hudson, creating a sense that there was a sharp dropoff - almost like the lawn ran out to the edge of a cliff.
Concerned for Winthrop, the lady visitor commented something to the effect of how SHE wouldn't let her own children play so close to that dropoff. Well, after that visit, Henry Winthrop would often have little Winthrop go out to the lawn with a fishing pole and pretend to fish off the edge. In reality, he was sitting a good mile away from the water's edge - quite safe on the flat earth. But, Henry Winthrop's masterful vista created an artful and beautiful illusion.
Henry Winthrop's major life accomplishment, aside from Wodenethe, was taking Downing's book simply called Landscape Gardening and revising it for the fourth edition. This extensive re-write included details on the creation of Wodenethe in detail in addition to the Italien garden of Horatio Hollis Hunnewell in Wellesley, Massachusetts. Hunnewell had married Henry Winthrop's cousin, Isabelle.
And, keep in mind that Henry Winthrop's father was a painter when you listen to his words on Landscape Gardening:
“Landscape Gardening is just as much a picture, though a living one, made by trees, as a painted landscape is made by the pencil or brush; both require long years of study, artistic perceptions, and a knowledge of how to handle the tools.”
One of the most charming quotes I found about Henry Winthrop is regarding his early days at Wodenethe. After forty years of work, he reflected:
"For the ten years [I] did everything wrong, and for the next five,[my] time was occupied in correcting [my] mistake[s]."
The epilogue for Wodenethe is unfortunate. Henry Winthrop died there. He and Caroline were buried there. Wodenethe was serially passed along to children and surviving spouses until in 1921 when a Dr. Clarence Slocum opened a sanatorium at Wodenethe making it America’s first privately licensed psychiatric hospital. In fact, some of the Wodenethe patients ended up living in Henry Winthrop's Wodenethe mansion. After Dr. Slocum died, his son sold the property to a developer, and the first thing they did was to carry out a controlled burn that destroyed the mansion and the entire garden. The place once called “The most artistic twenty-acre place in America” was gone. A year later, in 1955, the land turned into a housing development mainly for employees of Texaco.
And there is yet one more little known and sad footnote to the Wodenethe story. The sanatorium gatehouse at Wodenethe was turned into a one-bedroom, one-bath cottage for a particular patient who occupied it pretty much in solitary confinement all through the 1940s: Rosemary Kennedy, JFK's disabled sister. Their father, Joseph Kennedy, made the arrangments for Rosemary to live at Wodenethe without every sharing the location with the rest of the family. Consequently, she never had any visitors.
Today, Wodenethe is memorialized by the street name Wodenethe Drive which intersects with Sargent Avenue in Beacon, New York.
On this bleary white afternoon,
are there fires lit up in heaven
against such faking of quickness
and light, such windy discoursing?
While November numbly collapses,
this beech tree, heavy as death
on the lawn, braces for throat-
cutting ice, bandaging snow.
- Edwin Honig, November Through a Giant Copper Beech
No warmth, no cheerfulness, no healthful ease,
No comfortable feel in any member -
No shade, no shine, no butterflies, no bees,
No fruits, no flowers, no leaves, no birds -
- Thomas Hood, No!
As a professional arborist and award-winning nature writer, Logan captures the reciprocal relationship between humans and oak trees for centuries. Oak is a fascinating book, and Logan's prose sometimes reads almost like poetry. In the book, Logan even writes about the mighty acorn and its little known use as an edible. Logan tries to make acorn jelly and acorn flour, and he writes that the acorn has a unique characteristic as an edible; it makes you feel full for hours after eating it.
"There is some basic sympathy between oaks and humans. We invented a whole way of living out of their fruit and their wood, and by that token, they too invented us."
Logan is the author of the simply-titled books Dirt, Oak, Air, and Sprout Lands.
This book was written in 2006.
Today's Garden Chore
Create a Thanksgiving Time Capsule.
Gather leaves and specimens from your garden.
Put it all together in a mason jar.
Then, create a journal entry about this year's Thanksgiving: who was gathered together, who did you miss, record the weather, maybe jot down a poem or prayer, record some thoughts on your November garden.
Then tear out the entry and roll it up and tie it with a piece of twin and tuck it in your mason jar.
You'll have a lovely way to store your memories as well as a beautiful display from your 2019 November garden.
Reviving the little botanic spark in your heart
On this day in 1948, the Ponca City News out of Ponca, Oklahoma, shared a story about the famous director Cecil B. DeMille.
I'll paraphrase it for you:
During the filming of Samson and Delilah, Demille wanted to film a scene under an olive tree. He quickly called for the film's nurseryman and instructed him:
Hang another olive branch from that limb. It's pretty bare there.”
In short order, the nurseryman appeared with a leafy branch and set about attaching it.
“Just a minute. THAT’s not an olive branch!”
The nurseryman was a little taken aback, but managed to reply,
“I’m sure it is sir.”
DeMille snapped back,
“I’m sure it's NOT. Why, a four-year-old kid could tell you that's not from an olive tree. Where did you get it?”
To which, the nurseryman humbly replied,
“I just clipped it from the [backside] of this olive tree.”
Suddenly there was complete silence from DeMille. After a few seconds, he said,
“I don’t suppose I am in a position to say this is not an olive tree.”
“No sir,” said the nurseryman... and the scene went on.
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