Today we celebrate the woman who has been called the greatest painter of plants and insects who ever lived and the birthday of a man who is remembered in the name of one of the most ubiquitous garden plants.
We'll learn about an Austrian-American plant explorer who grew to feel his “real” home was in China, and we’ll learn about today’s tradition: Plough Monday - the first Monday after the 12 days of Christmas.
Today’s Unearthed Words feature sweet poetry from a little-known woman who lived in Concord Massachusetts; she was a suffragist, animal rights activist, and American poet.
We Grow That Garden Library™ with a book that helps us turn our gardens into a sanctuary for restoration and healing.
I'll talk about a simple garden item that serves a great purpose and looks great with a simple terra cotta pot,
and then we’ll wrap things up with an article from the 1930s about how to propagate a popular houseplant through air layering.
But first, let's catch up on a few recent events.
Here's a post about William Mullan, who takes gorgeous photos of Rare and Beautiful Apples. His images will open your eyes to the wider spectrum of varieties of the fruit known as apples.
Here is an excellent post - actually, it's a "Tree-tise."
Professor of History Catherine Stewart visited eight trees on the hilltop at Cornell College & wrote about each- imagining what they might tell us if they could speak. Her words appear with each tree.
Catherine's post features the Cottonwood, the Redbud (Cercis spp.), the Blue Spruce, Larches, Magnolia, Ginkgo, and White Ash.
Here's one of her entries. It is for the Blue Spruce:
Botanical name: Picea pungens ("Pie-SEA-ah PUN-gins").
Locations: Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial is west of King Chapel. A second blue spruce that has been noted for its size is in front of Armstrong Hall.
Identification: The blue spruce has a pyramidal shape with horizontal, dense branches with sharp blue needles. The bark is silver, grey, and brown with vertical scales.
Known for: Providing homes to wildlife in the winter.
Then Catherine writes:
to assist you
with time travel
if you look long enough,
and lean in,
and breathe in the elixir of its scent.
Take a moment and "Tree-t" yourself - by reading this wonderful article.
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 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.
1717 Today is the anniversary of the death of the naturalist and botanical illustrator Maria Sibylla Merian.
She was born on April 2, 1647. As a frame of reference, Isaac Newton was only a few years older than her. Unlike Newton, Merian’s work was largely forgotten over time. However, during the past century, her work has made its way to us.
In 2011, Janet Dailey, a retired teacher, and artist from Springfield, Illinois, became so captivated by Merian’s life story that she started a Kickstarter campaign to follow Merian’s footsteps to the mecca of her best work - Surinam, in South America. And, in 2013, Merian's birthday was commemorated with a "Google Doodle.”
Merian would have delighted in our modern-day effort to plant milkweed for the Monarchs. The concept that insects and plants are inextricably bound together was not lost on Merian. In her work, she carefully noted which caterpillars were specialists - the ones that ate only one kind of plant. (You can relate to that concept if your kid only wants to eat Mac and cheese; Hey - they aren't picky - they're specialists.)
For centuries, drawings like Merian's were a holy grail for plant identification. One look at Merian’s work, and Linneaus immediately knew it was brilliant. Merian helped classify nearly 100 different species long after she was gone from the earth. To this day, entomologists acknowledge that the accuracy in her art is so good they can identify many of her butterflies and moths right down to the species level!
Between 1716 and 1717, during the last year of her life, Merian was visited multiple times by her friend, artist Georg Gsell - and his friend Peter the Great. Oh, to be a fly on the wall for THAT meetup.
Gsell ended up marrying Merian’s youngest daughter, Dorothea Maria, and Peter the Great ended up with 256 Merian paintings. In fact, Peter the Great so loved Merian's paintings, that when she died shortly after his last visit, he quickly sent an agent to buy up every one of her remaining watercolors. The agent was on the case. He bought her entire collection and then promptly brought all of them back to St. Petersburg where they remain to this day.
1761 Today is the anniversary of the death of the Austrian botanist and physician Nicolaus Thomas Host.
Host was the physician to the Austrian emperor in Vienna. The genus Hosta was named for Host by Austrian botanist Leopold Trattinnick in 1812.
Hostas were brought to Europe by the Dutch nurseryman Philipp Franz Von Siebold. He had visited Japan and brought specimens back to his Leiden Nursery. This is why Hosta Sieboldiana is a famous prefix to so many hosta varieties.
Hostas are dependable and tough. They are undemanding herbaceous perennials that give us lush greenery in shady spots. Hostas belong to the Asparagaceae family along with Asparagus, Agave, Lily of the Valley, Sansevieria, Yucca, and Hyacinth.
The common name for hosta is plantain lilies - they used to belong to the lily family.
Nicholas Host died in 1834.
1884 Today is the birthday of the renowned Austrian-American botanist and explorer Joseph Rock.
Joseph was born in Austria but ended up immigrating to the United States and eventually settled in Hawaii, where he was beloved. Joseph became Hawaii's first official botanist. He started teaching as a professor of Botany at the University of Hawaii in 1911. he also served as a botanist for the Hawaiian territorial Board of agriculture. He served in these capacities during his first 13 years in Hawaii and then got about the business of exploring China, which was his primary passion. He left Honolulu in 1920. He always said that he considered China to be his “real” home, “Where life is not governed by the ticking of the clock but by the movement of celestial bodies.”
Joseph spent much of his adult life - more than 20 years - in southwestern China. There were many instances where he was the first explorer to enter many of the locations he visited. Joseph became so embedded in the country that there were many times that his counterparts in other parts of the world thought that he might have died in the Tibetan or Yunnan ("YOU-nan") mountains. After World War II, Joseph had to be evacuated by plane from the Yunnan province.
Joseph recounted many hair-raising stories from his time in China. One time he had collected plants along the base of Mount Gongga ("Gan-GAH") in China's Tibetan Borderland. Mount Gongga is known as "The King of Sichuan ("SITCH-ooh- an") Mountains. One spring, Joseph had great luck collecting around the base of Mount Gongga. When he returned in the fall, Joseph asked the tribal King for permission to go as far as the foot of the peak. Halfway up Mount Gongga, a runner caught up to Joseph and his guides with a letter from the King. Apparently, after their first collecting trip, a severe hail storm had destroyed the fields of the tribe that lived near the mountain range. The tribe blamed the catastrophe on Joseph Rock and his party. They believed that the deity of the mountains was not pleased; the tribe considered the mountains to be sacred. If Joseph and his party were to continue up the mountain, they would certainly be killed. The King requested that Joseph abort the trip - which he did.
In addition to plants, Joseph had a knack for languages. He cataloged and transcribed Chinese manuscripts and actually wrote a dictionary of one of the tribal languages. He had an enormous intellect and was multi-talented. In addition to being a botanist, he was a linguist. He was also regarded as a world-expert cartographer, ornithologist, and anthropologist.
From a gardening standpoint, it was Joseph Rock who first introduced blight-resistant Chestnut trees to America. He had sourced them in China, and he also brought us more than 700 species of rhododendron. Some of his original rhododendron seeds were successfully grown in the Golden Gate Park in San Francisco. How could we ever thank him enough for that?
In the year before Joseph died, he was granted an honorary doctor of Science degree from the University of Hawaii. He died at the age of 79.
2020 Well, it's official, the holidays are over - today is Plough Monday. Plough Monday is regarded as the traditional start to the agricultural year and the official end to the holiday season. Plough Monday is always the first Monday after the 12th night of Christmas, and it represented "men's work". For centuries, Plough Monday represented the day that agricultural workers returned to the fields after resting over the Christmas season. On Plough Monday, farmers would bring their ploughs to church so that they could be blessed.
1847 Today is the birthday of the suffragist, animal rights activist, and American poet Hannah Rebecca Hudson.
Not much is known about the life of Hannah Hudson, but gardeners love her poetry. Hannah’s beloved poem called “April,” was featured in The Atlantic Monthly, April 1868:
"April has searched the winter land
And found her petted flowers again
She kissed them to unfold her leaves,
She coaxed them with her sun and rain,
And filled the grass with green content,
And made the woods and clover vain.”
Her crocuses and violets
Give all the world a gay “Good year.”
Tall irises grow tired of green,
And get themselves a purple gear;
She fills the dusk of deepest woods
With vague sweet sunshine and surprise,
And wakes the periwinkles up
To watch her with their wide, blue eyes.
And when she sees the deeper suns
That usher in the happy May,
She sighs to think her time is past,
And weeps because she cannot stay;
So leaves her tears upon the grass,
And turns her face and glides away.
In 1874, when she was 27, Hannah published a book of her original poetry. Hannah was a charter member of the Woburn Women's Club. At the age of 74, Hannah died sitting at her aunt’s kitchen table in Woburn, Massachusetts. Hannah is buried at Sleepy Hollow Cemetery in Concord, Massachusetts.
Grow That Garden Library
This book is a favorite of mine. Rosemary Gladstar, the herbalist and author, said this about Jessi’s book:
“In this beautiful, inspiring, and practical book, we are invited to look deeply at the landscape around us and create sacred respites from our busy worlds.”
Creating Sanctuary is about creating a garden that will nourish your spiritual and emotional well-being. Jessi's beautiful book is chock full of ideas. She will help you discover ways to have a deeper connection with your garden. You'll discover the powerful and beneficial properties of plants, and learn how to incorporate nature-based routines and rituals.
With the help of Jessi's book, you can turn your garden into a sanctuary - a place of true restoration for your mind, body, and soul.
Jessi's book came out in November of 2018.
Great Gifts for Gardeners
- Edge Design: a slightly raised edge, which is good for collecting excess water and soil spillage
- Natural Color: in natural wooden color, simple but beautiful, well match with most pots
- Good Material: made of bamboo, good quality, durable and lightweight
- Wide Suitable: suited for most 2.5-inch pots, the natural color can decorate the pot as well; Plants and pots not included in the order
- Size of the Plant Saucer: about 7.2 cm/ 2.8 inch of the outer diameter, 6.3 cm/ 2.5 inch of inner diameter, 1 cm/ 0.4 inch in height
You can get this 6 pack of bamboo plant saucers and support the show using the Amazon Link in today's Show Notes for under $10.
Today’s Botanic Spark
1935 Today the Pittsburgh Press shared a story about how to propagate a Rubber Plant.
“Yes, you can get a new rubber plant by air-layering the old.
To do this, a V-shaped cut is made in the branch, almost severing it. The cut should be made near the growing tip. A wedge is then inserted to keep the cut open. Bind the wound all around with sphagnum moss, tying with raffia or cord. Keep this bandage quite moist, never allowing it to dry out, and keep the plant in a warm place.
In a month or six weeks, small white roots will appear. Then the new plant is cut from the parent and planted in a pot of Its own without removing the moss bandage. The place where it is cut from the large plant may be rubbed with a little dry sulfur, and it will quickly heal. The young plant in a five or six-inch pot should be kept shaded for a week when it may be brought into the light and watered. January to May is the time of the year most seasonable for this work, but it may be done with varying success the year-round.“
Rubber Plants (Ficus elastica) are a popular ornamental houseplant plant from the Ficus genus. For gardeners looking for a tree-type plant species with attractive large foliage, the Rubber Plant is an excellent choice. It is also a great low-light specimen. Water your rubber plant once a week and clean leaves monthly.
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