Today we celebrate the Scottish naturalist who walked 838 miles to London and the birthday of a man who learned a great deal from growing peas.
We'll learn about one of the most prolific plant collectors of Western Australia flora, and we’ll celebrate what would have been the 75th birthday of a towering figure in the world of subtropical botany.
Today’s Unearthed Words feature thoughts on the new year from a variety of writers.
We Grow That Garden Library™ with a book Publishers Weekly said was, “A pleasure to read and a valuable resource … for the enthusiastic gardener.”
I'll talk about a handy little garden item - inexpensive, too - that can help with stem management for plants like orchids.
And then, we’ll wrap things up with the birthday of a musician, artist, and gardener who co-founded one of the best rock bands of all time.
But first, let's catch up on a few recent events.
“If you can hone down the style of your space in terms of colors & style, keep the number of different materials used to a minimum and pare down your planting palette, you’ll find the overall look is more coherent and pleasing, too.
From @IBTimes The botanist Julio Betancur is a 59-year-old, a biologist, university professor, and "collector of bromeliads -- which include the pineapple, Spanish moss, and queen of the Andes -- says it's worth taking risks so his country can 'know about' its biodiversity.
"Every time I take a botanical sample, it's like writing a page in the book of our forests," he said.
In the future, once the vegetation has disappeared from somewhere, people "will know what species lived there at a certain time and with that will reconstruct the natural history of this territory."
So, there’s no need to take notes or search for links - the next time you're on Facebook, search for Daily Gardener Community and request to join. I'd love to meet you in the group.
1796 Today is the birthday of the Scottish artist, naturalist, and ornithologist William MacGillivray (“Mick-ILL-vree”). He once walked 838 miles from Old Aberdeen to London to visit the natural history museum there. Along the way, MacGillivray documented all the flora and fauna he encountered. You can read about it in a book by Dr. Robert Ralph called A Walk to London. It’s a fascinating read. (Btw, In his journal, MacGillivray also kept a tally of all the whiskeys he drank on the way to London!) Right there, at the bottom of each journal entry, MacGillivray would record three things: his miles walked that day, the total miles walked, and the number of whiskeys drank. Here’s one humorous account from September 11, 1819:
“As I have no botanical accounts for my readers tonight, I shall try to patch up a story somehow or other…
My readers will recollect that I came here on a dark night, wet and weary. At the door, I met a woman of whom I inquired if I might stay the night. Like other honest women of her kind, she thought fit to scrutinize my exterior... So a candle was held to my face, and a door then opened for me.
The results of my examination were not favorable to me as I was informed that I would be obliged to sleep with a man to whom she pointed in bed, and, as I grumbled, told me to reconsider the matter.”
MacGillivray was a Professor of Natural History at the University of Aberdeen from 1841 until his death. He founded the Zoology Museum, which still houses some of his specimens.
The MacGillivray warbler is named in honor of MacGillivray.
1884 Today is the anniversary of the death of the Austrian botanist and monk Gregor Mendel.
Mendel pioneered the study of heredity when he gave peas a chance. (Sorry, couldn’t resist!)
In all seriousness, Mendel discovered the basic principles of heredity through experiments with peas in his garden at the Augustinian monastery he lived in at Brno (pronounced "burr-no") in the Czech Republic.
During seven years in the mid-1800s, Mendel grew nearly 30,000 pea plants - taking note of their height and shape and color. This work resulted in what we now know as the Laws of Heredity. And Mendel came up with the genetic terms and terminology that we still use today, like dominant and recessive genes.
1896 Today is the birthday of the botanist and prolific plant collector Charles Austin Gardner. Gardner was born in England, but his family immigrated to Australia in the early 1900s.
Gardner had a tremendous love for plants and landscape painting. During his 20s, he received painting instruction and encouragement from the Landscapeape painter JW Linton and the wildflower painter Emily Pelloe. He created an impressive herbarium with nearly 10,000 specimens from all over Western Australia. Gardner helped start the Western Australian Naturalist Club. And although he had become a repository for information about Western Australian Flora, he sadly never published a book on the Flora of Western Australia.
Gardner received several honors and medals for his work, but much of his information about Australian plant geography, distribution, and biology was lost to us when he died.
Today in Tammin, in Western Australia, there is a Charles Gardner Memorial that is surrounded by over 50 species of native wildflowers. There's also the Charles Gardner National Park that was named in his honor.
1945 Today is the 75th birthday of the American botanist Alwyn Howard Gentry.
Gentry's life was tragically cut short when his plane crashed in fog into a forested mountain during a treetop survey in Ecuador. At the time, Gentry was just 48 years old, and he was at the peak of his career. Gentry was regarded as a towering figure in tropical biology and ranked among the world's leading field biologists. He also was the senior curator at the Missouri Botanical Garden.
Theodore Parker III was also on the plane with Gentry. Parker was a world expert ornithologist.
Parker's fiance survived the crash, and she told a reporter that both Gentry and Parker had survived the crash as well. But sadly, they were both trapped in the wreckage of the plane, and without immediate medical attention, they passed away together the following morning. The only consolation for the many who knew and loved them was that Gentry and Parker both died doing what they loved.
Throughout his professional life, Gentry had been in awe of the powerful pull of the rainforest, writing:
"The Amazon is a world of lush green vegetation, and abundant waters has inspired naturalists, fortune hunters, dreamers, explorers, and exploiters."
According to Conservation International, Gentry had collected more specimens than any other living botanist of his time - a staggering 70,000 plants.
To this day, botanists rely on Gentry's Guide to the Woody Plants of Peru for understanding and direction when it comes to neotropical and tropical plants.
Here are some verses about the beginning of the new year:
January is here, with eyes that keenly glow,
A frost-mailed warrior
striding a shadowy steed of snow.
— Edgar Fawcett, American poet (1847-1904)
Janus am I; oldest of potentates;
Forward I look, and backward, and below
I count, as god of avenues and gates,
The years that through my portals, come and go.
–Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, American poet (1807–82)
Time has no divisions to mark its passage; there is never a thunder-storm or blare of trumpets to announce the beginning of a new month or year.
Even when a new century begins, it is only we mortals who ring bells and fire off pistols."
— Thomas Mann, The Magic Mountain
Anyone who thinks that gardening begins in the spring and ends in the fall is missing the best part of the whole year.
For gardening begins in January with the dream.
— Josephine Nuese, ("Noose") Author of The Country Garden
Grow That Garden Library
The subtitle to this book is: An Illustrated Guide to the Elements of the Garden
Imagine a sweet garden dictionary that has the most adorable cover and is filled with beautiful illustrations and then throw in excellent garden history and botanical tidbits along with clear and simple definitions - and you have garden historian Suzanne Staubach’s delightful book, A Garden Miscellany.
This book was a 2019 standout for me from a design standpoint - Julia Yellow did a marvelous job with the whimsical and striking illustrations.
Staubach introduces her book this way:
“If Gardens were musical compositions, this book would be a look at the notes. Gardens have many notes, many parts. Paths, borders, beds, containers, pergolas, plants. Not all gardens, of course, include the same elements, but they do include some combination.”
In Susan’s alphabetical collection, A is for Allée: Derived from the French verb meaning to go; allée refers to a straight walkway or avenue, a promenade, usually lined with trees, occasionally with shrubs.
As a garden historian, Susan shares invaluable historical insights on each element in her book. For allee, she reminds us that, “the 17th-century diarist, author, and gardener John Evelyn, wrote that, ‘alleys must not be interrupted and that their length alone affords a most gracious and pleasant perspective, while they serve to decline and concur at a point - especially if planted with tall trees... Nothing can be more ravishing and agreeable.’”
In writing this delightful dictionary, Suzanne reflected,
“As I wrote, I wanted to add everything to my own garden. Oh, for a pond! Or a shepherd's Hut! For a week, I thought nothing would do but a pavilion. Gardening is dreaming.”
Susan’s book is one I find myself revisiting, and it is such a wonderful resource, it should be on your garden gift list - to give or receive.
Great Gifts for Gardeners
These clips are of high quality. They are non-toxic and eco-friendly.
You can use it for outdoors and indoors plant. They are suitable for small and medium-sized plants.
These plant clips hold stems and delicate flowers securely, non-slip, provide tremendous and steady support for plants to grow upright and towards sunlight.
They can be used to tomato support, orchid, vine, or seedlings. Just clip the stem to bamboo stakes, tomato cage, or anything that can provide support.
You can get a used copy and support the show, using the Amazon Link in today's Show Notes for under $20.
Today’s Botanic Spark
1946 Today is the birthday of the guitarist, singer, songwriter, and co-founder of Pink Floyd, Syd Barrett.
After his immense success with Pink Floyd, Syd released two solo LPs and then disappeared into a self-imposed 30-year exile where he spent most of his time painting and gardening.
Before his life with Pink Floyd, Syd attended the Camberwell Art School. One of the pieces he created was a beautiful watercolor - a delicate-looking still life of a dried flower bouquet.
In 2006, Syd died of cancer at the age of 60.
Before he died, Syd was a patient at Addenbrooke Hospital in Cambridge. In 2017, his friend, the sculptor Stephen Pyle, and a garden designer named Paul Harrington were planning to install the Syd Barrett Garden at Addenbrooke. Stephen’s sculpture for the garden depicts Syd riding his bicycle - hands-free - with a guitar in one hand and artist brushes in the other.
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