December 9, 2019 Goodbye Sansevieria, Blue Mold, Substituting Herbs in Cooking, Thoreau, Peter Smithers, Karl Blossfeldt, Ground Rules by Kate Frey, Mushroom Set and Lorraine Collett

Today we celebrate the botanist who was also a spy during WWII.

We'll learn about the German photographer who saw artistic inspiration in his close-ups of plants.

We'll hear some prose about winter,

We Grow That Garden Library with a book that offers us 100 tips for Growing a More Glorious Garden.

I'll talk about a sweet little gift of bling for your indoor pots and containers, and then we’ll wrap things up with the woman who became the beautiful face of a produce company.

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



Here's Today's Curated Articles:

Will I Ever Call Sansevieria by Its New Name? - The Houseplant Guru by Lisa Steinkopf

Goodbye Sansevieria trifasciata... Hello Dracaena trifasciata!


The Royal Society - Microscopic Blue Mould @royalsociety

This beautiful illustration is actually a microscopic view of blue mold growing on leather. The original (1665) appears in Micrographia: or some physiological descriptions of minute bodies made by magnifying glasses with observations and Inquiries thereupon, by Robert Hooke.

Penicillium expansum is commonly known as Blue Mold.

Blue molds are the bluish fungus that grows on food.

Most people are familiar with the blue molds on some cheeses...


Substituting Herbs | @RosaleeForet

“What herbs can I use instead of ________?”

Great post from @RosaleeForet

At first, it may seem like a simple question.

But the reality is, herbal substitutions are more complicated than that.

You need to know how to think about them first.” 


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 on Facebook. So, there’s no need to take notes or search for links - the next time you're on Facebook, just search for the Free Facebook Group - The Daily Gardener Community and request to join. I'd love to meet you in the group.





#OTD On this day in 1855, it was starting to snow on Walden Pond, and Henry David Thoreau wrote in his journal:

“At 8.30 a fine snow begins to fall, increasing very gradually, perfectly straight down, till in fifteen minutes the ground is white, the smooth places first, and thus the winter landscape is ushered in.

And now it is falling thus all the land over, sifting down through the tree-tops in woods, and on the meadow and pastures, where the dry grass and weeds conceal it at first, and on the river and ponds, in which it is dissolved. But in a few minutes, it turns to rain, and so the wintry landscape is postponed for the present.”



#OTD Today is the birthday of Peter Smithers, who was born on this day in 1913.

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.

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.”


Thanks to Smither's travels, the Royal Horticulture Society asked Smithers to write his gardening memoirs. The book was a part-autobiography and part-garden book.

Smithers had observed gardens in England, Mexico, Central America, and Switzerland. Smithers shared 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,

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


And, Smither's followed certain basic principals to help ground him as he pursued the hobby of gardening. All gardeners could benefit from Smithers wise advise. He wrote:

"[The garden] shall be a source of pleasure to the owner and his friends, not a burden and anxiety."




#OTD Today is the anniversary of the death of the German plant photographer Karl Blossfeldt who died on this day in 1932.

Working in Weimar, Germany as a sculptor and architect, Karl made his cameras himself and designed them to magnify up to thirty times - which allowed him to capture the incredible forms, patterns, and textures of plants. Blossfeldt’s work was not a passing fancy; he took pictures of plants for 35 years. Karl said,

“If I give someone a horsetail he will have no difficulty making a photographic enlargement of it – anyone can do that. But to observe it, to notice and discover old forms, is something only a few are capable of.“


Karl preferred to portray an ideal, and as a result, he carefully selected his specimens. Even then, he shaped them with strategic pruning and clipping and arranged them in the very best light. As a teacher of industrial design, Blossfeldt wanted his students to understand that art and design originated in the forms of nature and he wrote,

The plant must be valued as a totally artistic & architectural structure".


“The plant never lapses in to mere arid functionalism; it fashions and shapes according to logic and suitability, and with its primeval force compels everything to attain the highest artistic form.”


Four years before his death, at the age of 63, Karl Blossfeldt created a book of his photographs called “Art Forms in Nature.” The book featured 120 photos, and they were all created using a home-made pinhole camera. The book made him famous. A few years later, a second edition featured more plant photographs.

After the first book was released, the San Francisco Examiner wrote a feature review that gushed:

“These photographs of leaves, blossoms, and stalks of living plants amplify details… not apparent to the human eye.

One of the most interesting of the photographs … is [of] the plant known as Willkomm's Saxifrage (pronounced SAK-suh-frij), enlarged eight times. The picture does not seem to be that of a plant but of a delicately designed and fashioned brooch.

Another [image] shows a shoot of the Japanese Golden Ball Tree, enlarged ten times, and is strikingly like the hilt of a sword used in the adventurous Middle Ages.

[Another] picture, showing the rolled leaf of a German ostrich fern, was also so much like a crozier (a hooked staff carried by a bishop) that it seems [it] must have been designed from fern leaves.

Another photograph looks like the detail of a Fourteenth Century screen done in wrought iron, but it is actually nothing but a picture of the tendrils of the common pumpkin vine enlarged four times.

Students all over Europe are interested in the German professor's unique discovery and will, in the future, go more and more to nature for decorative designs.”


Karl’s work still feels fresh and fascinating, and his 6,000 photographs remind us that art often imitates Nature. Karl’s microphotography is a great reminder to gardeners to look more closely at their plants.

It was Karl Blossfeldt who said,

"Nature educates us into beauty and inwardness and is a source of the most noble pleasure."




Unearthed Words

"The grim frost is at hand, when apples will fall thick, almost thunderous, on the hardened earth."

- D. H. Lawrence, Author


“Winter, a lingering season, is a time to gather golden moments, embark upon a sentimental journey, and enjoy every idle hour.”

–John Boswell, Historian


"I prefer winter and fall when you feel the bone structure in the landscape - the loneliness of it - the dead feeling of winter. Something waits beneath it - the whole story doesn't show."

- Andrew Wyeth, Realistic Painter




It's Time to Grow That Garden Library with Today's Book: Ground Rules by Kate Frey

The subtitle to this book is 100 Easy Lessons for Growing a More Glorious Garden, and it came out in October of last year.

In this photo-filled book, Kate shares her secrets to garden design and hard-won lessons on gardening. Thanks to the gorgeous illustrations and practical tips, Kate’s book is an uplifting and refreshing read.

Best of all, Kate’s tips are shared one page at a time, and they are easy-to-read and understand. This makes Kate the rarest sort of expert gardener and designer in that she understands how to explain things to gardeners.

Kate’s book covers the following sections:

1) Design - paths, seating, color combos...

2) Planting Advice - plants for your zone & weather considerations.

3) Soil - identify the soil you have and then amend it.

4) Water - conserve water, use drip irrigation, plant smart.

5) How To Be a Good Garden Parent - deadhead, divide plants, manage weeds.

6) How To Attract Birds, Bees, and Butterflies - attract insects with plants and provide water.

7) How To Create a Garden of Earthly Delights - how to evoke emotion through design and create community through plants.




Today's Recommended Holiday Gift for Gardeners: 5.2" x 4.6" 3pc Aluminum Mushroom Planter Figurine Set Gold - Smith & Hawken™

Bring a touch of fun, rustic flair to your plant collection when you decorate using the 3-Piece Aluminum Mushroom Planter Figurine Set from Smith & Hawken™.

This gold-finish planter decor set includes three figurines designed to look just like little mushrooms, complete with allover textured and embossed detailing.

Each mushroom features a small stake at the bottom, making it easy to insert into your planter, and the aluminum construction offers lasting style. Use them in the same planter, or spread them throughout your collection for whimsical appeal. It’s a fun way to add a little bling to your indoor pots and containers.



Something Sweet

Reviving the little botanic spark in your heart

#OTD Today is the birthday of the American model Lorraine Collett who was born on this day in 1892 in Kansas City, Missouri.

At the age of 23, Lorraine was working as a Sun-Maid Raisin girl and wore a blue bonnet with a white blouse and blue piping. Lorraine and the other Sun-Maid girls handed out raisins. In a spectacular marketing stunt, Lorraine even hopped aboard a small plane every day of the festival and tossed raisins into the crowds of people.

One Sunday morning, after her mom had set her hair into eight long black curls, Lorraine was outside drying her hair in the warmth of her sunny backyard in Fresno. That afternoon, Lorraine had swapped out her blue bonnet for her mother’s red one. The combination of her silky black curls and the red bonnet in the sunshine apparently made an arresting sight. Coincidentally, a group of raisin coop executives and their wives walked by at that very moment, and they asked Lorraine about the red bonnet.

After that day, all the Sun-Maids wore red bonnets, and Lorraine agreed to pose for a watercolor painting.  Lorraine and her mom had to rent an apartment in San Fransico for a month in order to work with the artist Fanny Scafford. Lorraine posed every day - all month long - for three hours a day. She held a wooden tray overflowing with grapes while wearing the red bonnet. The portrait ended up as the symbol for the company, and it was included on every box of raisins. One newspaper article about the story in 1978 had the headline “Hair A-glinting in the Sun Made Girl an Emblem.”

After the executive passed away, the painting ended up in Lorraine’s possession. But after many years, Lorraine returned the watercolor to the company. Today, the portrait hangs in a conference room at the Sun-Maid Growers plant. And the faded red bonnet? That was donated to the Smithsonian on the company’s 75th Anniversary.



Thanks for listening to The Daily Gardener, and remember:

“For a happy, healthy life, garden every day.”

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