December 10, 2019 Wild about Weeds, Botany at the Bar, Sweet Potatoes, Emily Dickinson, Howard Scott Gentry, Joseph Dalton Hooker, Carl English, A Year in Our Gardens by Nancy Goodwin and Allen Lacy, Herb Drier, and The Ungrateful Garden

Today we celebrate the gardener poet known for writing “hope is the thing with feathers”, and the man who became the world authority on agaves.

We'll learn about the Victorian botanist who was the first to speak in favor of Darwin’s theory and the man who created the Ballard Lock Garden in Seattle.

We'll hear a December poem from the man known during the 20th century as the People's Poet.

We Grow That Garden Library with a book of letters between two gardeners during the year between 1998 and 1999.

I'll talk about an architectural element for your kitchen that makes a tremendous holiday gift and we wrap things up with a clever poem about King Midas and what would happen if his roses had turned to gold.

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



Today's Curated Articles:

Book Review: Wild about Weeds, Garden Design with Rebel Plants by Jack Wallington

Here's Alison Levey's review of the wonderful new book from @jackwallington on garden design with weeds and rebel plants #gardenblog #bookreview #gmg @LaurenceKingPub

The book is one of my favorites for 2019. I especially enjoy the designer profiles and Jack's ability to defend the plants many of us secretly love but might not admit in certain circles.


Botany at the Bar

Three scientists discuss the plant science and history of bitters—and share a Thanksgiving cocktail | Scientific American@sciam

Take 3 researchers, add plant science, & a deep dive into the world of bitters & you have this phenomenal book of 75 botanically inspired craft cocktails! #BotanyattheBar #science #technology

Great post to help you discover the fascinating and ancient #botanicalhistory behind bitters, plus a fun cocktail recipe - and, these scientists really know how to make a good cocktail!

Folks on Social Media provided many ringing endorsements saying they had tried a number of their bitters and etc at conferences and were definite fans.



Who Doesn't Like Sweet Potatoes? This Kenyan Researcher, For One | @npr @estherngumbi

Can you have too much of a good thing? Yes. Yes, you can.

Here’s a very relatable post from Researcher Esther Ngumbi who grew up eating sweet potatoes for nearly every meal. Part of our desire for certain foods is their seasonality. Monotony is the death of pleasure.

Now many of her family members are just done with these foods. "No one — and I mean no one — had any more appetite for these root vegetables."

"True confession," she writes, "I will not eat sweet potatoes on Thanksgiving. Or any other time of the year. It all has to do with my Kenyan childhood."

"I know it is many people's favorite food, especially during Thanksgiving, but as for me, I still say NO to sweet potatoes. They remind me of what it's like to grow up ... without being able to choose what kind of food you'd like to eat each day."



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.



Here are Today's Brevities:

#OTD Today is the birthday of Emily Dickenson who was born on this day in 1830.

The Dickinson Author Judith Farr, reminds us that during her lifetime, Emily Dickinson was "known more widely as a gardener,... than as a poet."

Emily grew up gardening. She would help her mother with their large edible and ornamental garden.

The flower garden became Emily’s responsibility when she got older. She planted in a carefree cottage garden style.

After Emily died, her sister Lavinia took over the garden. Emily's niece and editor, Martha Dickinson Bianchi recalls:

"All [Lavinia’s] flowers did as they liked: tyrannized over her, hopped out of their own beds and into each other’s beds, were never reproved or removed as long as they bloomed; for a live flower to Aunt Lavinia was more than any dead horticultural principle."



#OTD Today is the birthday of Howard Scott Gentry who was born on this day in 1903.

A 1982 newspaper article shared a great story about Howard, saying:

"This elder statesman of the botanical world [is] a first-class charmer when you get .... to his subject;... his love for the wilds of Sonora and Chihuahua, Mexico; [and] about the years he spent as an agricultural explorer for the USDA, and about how he gradually came to know more about agaves "than any other human being."


Concerning the hectic pace of his agave research after his retirement from the USDA in 1971, Howard said:

"I don't like to start things and not finish them."


Several times a year, Howard would plunge into the rugged interior of Mexico perched atop a mule, just as he'd done during his first collecting trips nearly half a century earlier.

[Howard graduated college with a degree in] vertebrate biology from the University of California at Berkeley [and he] concocted the notion of becoming a freelance biologist.

To pay for his first field trip into Mexico, Howard sent 300 letters around the country - to scientific institutions, naturalists, really anybody he could think of - soliciting collection orders.

"I came up with $3,000 worth of orders. For anything and everything, for an embryo of a white-tailed deer, which I did collect, for birds' eggs, for ticks, for plant specimens. I really got fascinated with that southern Sonoran and Chihuahuan country.”


After this trip, Howard wrote "Rio Mayo Plants." He recalled:

"After that book came out, I became somewhat known as a botanist, which I wasn't. I was a zoologist doing exceptionally well writing as a botanist."

Howard completed a doctorate in botany at the University of Michigan, where the well-known botanist Harley Harris Bartlett taught.

In 1950, Howard became an agricultural explorer for the USDA. Based in Maryland, he traveled the world locating, researching and collecting plants for the government. [Howard was involved in a] spurt of postwar agave work when it was discovered that plants in the agave family and plants in the wild yam family contained compounds that seemed effective in treating arthritis.

Because of his far-flung collecting (he traveled in 24 foreign countries), Howard was constantly introducing new plants to the United States. It was high-profile work in the botanical community.

"I refused several times to become a desk man for USDA.

It was a chance to cut out all the travel, but I told them,

'No, not me. I want to work with plants, not people. People are problems."



#OTD Today is the anniversary of the death of the Victorian British botanist, explorer, President of the Royal Society, and director of the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew, Sir Joseph Dalton Hooker who died on this day in 1911 at the age of 94.

Hooker accomplished much during his long life. The botanic gardens of the world were a discovery and classification network he masterfully orchestrated into R&D facilities to enhance the world's economy and promote trade.

Hooker was Charle’s Darwin’s closest friend and collaborator. In fact, they corresponded about Darwin's theory before it was made public. And, Hooker was instrumental in getting Darwin's work published. Many regard Hooker as Darwin’s personal PR man.

In 1877, Hooker was knighted for scientific services to the British Empire. And here's an adorable factoid about Hooker: Kew Gardens recently shared that, during his travels, Hooker would address letters to his young son to “my dear little Lion” or “my dear cub”.



#OTD On this day in 1974, in Seattle, Washington, that seven acres of gardens were named in honor of the eminent horticulturist, Carl S. English Jr.

The gardens are located on the Lake Washington Ship Canal and overlook the Hiram Chittenden Locks which connect Puget Sound to Lake Washington. The locks and the canal offer their own beauty and are fascinating to watch. And, every year, hundreds of thousands of salmon and trout climb the fish ladder in their annual migration.

English was the supervisor of the gardens for 36 years, from 1940 until his death in 1976.

After graduating with a degree in botany from Washington State University, Carl was hired by the locks to tend the grounds. The seven acres were intended to be used as a demonstration field where soldiers could march. In reality, the area sat idle.

Being a botanist, Carl thought the grounds had potential and would have loved to install a garden on the spot, but there was no budget. So, Carl used his own time and went on many plant collecting trips around the world. Not surprisingly, Carl always brought back seeds and specimens for the garden. In addition, Carl and his wife, who was also a botanist, had a small seed business and published a seed catalog.

Today, this lovely arboretum and specimen garden is home to nearly 1,500 flower varieties.

There’s a charming description of the garden by Dr. Arthur Kruckeberg written in the Summer of 1959:

“To be sure, the average visitor enters the grounds bent on viewing the activity of boats and people at the locksides. Yet, once entering the north gate, one senses the change from the clutter and crowding of city life to the serenity and expansive beauty of a park. To the knowing eye, the plantings are not at all typical of just any park. The keen gardener, horticulturalist, or botanist is at once convinced that he has stepped into a botanical sanctuary-a true arboretum.”



Unearthed Words

Edgar Albert Guest, Winter in the Garden

Gray skies above us, and the snow
Blankets the frozen earth below.
Where roses bloomed the drifts lie deep.
The hollyhocks are fast asleep.
The cedars green are wearing white
Like rich men's wives on opera night.
The elm tree strangely seems to throw
A lean, gaunt shadow on the snow.
The last brown leaves of twig and stem
Have found the storms too much for them.
Winter, the tyrant of the land,
Once more is in supreme command.

Guest was known as the People’s Poet during the first half of the 20th century. His poems were happy and hopeful; which is why people liked them.



It's Time to Grow That Garden Library with Today's Book: A Year in Our Gardens by Nancy Goodwin and Allen Lacy

This is a book of letters that were exchanged between Nancy Goodwin and Allen Lacy during one year between 1998 and 1999.

They were both enormously passionate gardeners and they drew inspiration from their shared zest for plants. Aside from sharing a growingng zone (7A), their gardens were very different.

Allen gardened on sandy soil on a small lot while Nancy battled rich clay loam on more than sixty acres.

Together Nancy and Allen swapped stories of their horticultural successes and failures; traded information about a great many plants; discussed their hopes, fears, and inspirations; and mused on the connections between gardening and music, family, and friendship.

I love what it says in the description of this book:

Any woman who buys a house because of the quality of its dirt is a true gardener.

Any man who reads garden catalogs word for word, cover to cover, is equally enthusiastic about plants.

Meet Goodwin and Lacy, two kindred spirits… who also reveal the changes in their lives, sharing their innermost feelings and experiences, as one does only with a very close friend.

You can get a used copy and support the show, using the Amazon Link in today's Show Notes for under $4.



Today's Recommended Holiday Gift for Gardeners: Esschert Design C3000 Herb Drier

  • With this hanging herb drier, you can enjoy aromatic herbs year-round
  • Just tie herbs in bunches with string and hang upside down
  • Herb drier made of rustic metal with hooks for hanging herbs
  • Herb drier is 15.8 inches in diameter
  • $23.99



Something Sweet

Reviving the little botanic spark in your heart

#OTD Today is the birthday of the poet Carolyn Kizer who was born on this day in 1925.

Kizer wrote occasionally about the garden and my favorite poem of hers is this charming piece about King Midas growing golden roses called The Ungrateful Garden.

Here are some definitions to help you understand Carolyn’s poem:

Ague is a shivering fever, serried means standing in a row, to "silt up" is to block or fill with silt, and a shift is a nightgown. To keep the show clean, I’ve eliminated all offensive language.


The Ungrateful Garden

Midas watched the golden crust
That formed over his steaming sores,
Hugged his agues, loved his lust,
But (cursed) the out-of-doors

Where blazing motes of sun impaled
The serried roses, metal-bright.
"Those famous flowers," Midas wailed,
"Have scorched my retina with light."

This gift, he'd thought, would gild his joys,
Silt up the waters of his grief;
His lawns a wilderness of noise,
The heavy clang of leaf on leaf.

Within, the golden cup is good
To lift, to sip the yellow mead.
Outside, in summer's rage, the rude
Gold thorn has made his fingers bleed.

"I strolled my halls in golden shift,
As ruddy as a lion’s meat.
Then I rushed out to share my gift,
And golden stubble cut my feet."

Dazzled with wounds, he limped away
To climb into his golden bed,
Roses, roses can betray.
"Nature is evil," Midas said.



Thanks for listening to The Daily Gardener, and remember:

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

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