Today we celebrate the Father of Paleobotany and the botanical illustrator honored by King Charles X.
We'll learn about the botanical painter who got sick of painting flowers (he'd painted 800 of them) and the botanical illustrator who worked for Curtis's Botanical Magazine and Kew Gardens.
Today’s Unearthed Words feature the hidden (and often unappreciated) transformations happening in our garden during January.
We Grow That Garden Library™ with a book that helps us understand plant physiology through an intimate and entertaining memoir.
I'll talk about a garden item that can help you propagate your house plants, and then we’ll wrap things up with the birth flowers of January.
But first, let's catch up on a few recent events.
Horniman Gardens, Forest Hill, London - Spotlight: Wes Shaw
"The last place that blew me away was GARDENS BY THE BAY in Singapore. Amazing conservatories, landscaping & planting - taking horticulture to a new level. While I was there, I saw gardeners abseiling down the side of green walls and volunteers using tweezers to pick over the beds.
Gardens should continuously change and evolve. I never see the point of keeping something looking the same as it did at some point in the past.
What’s the next big project task you’ll be tackling in the garden?
We are planning a Winter Garden for an area of the Horniman Gardens that needs a bit of a refresh.”
Here's a great post from @AlysFowler featuring Richard Wilford - an alpine lover and head of design and collection support at the Royal Botanic Gardens @KewGardens.
"What Richard doesn’t know about alpines isn’t worth knowing. 'We’ve got a very tall house to grow some very small plants' he jokes. Alpines are surprisingly easy and hardy and perfect for tricky corners and small plots. As their name suggests, alpines are from areas of high elevation, so they love full sun, cool roots, and cold nights."
Check out Richard Wilford’s Five Easy Alpines:
Sempervivum: will grow on sunny rocks, cracks in walls, and stony places. Put a little compost into the niches first, then nudge them in.
Alpine pinks Dianthus alpinus: a tiny mat-forming evergreen with bright pink flowers. It likes free-draining conditions and suits pots, gravel path edges, and window boxes.
Erinus alpinus, or alpine balsam: forms neat rosettes of narrow leaves and loves crevices.
Campanula cochlearifolia (fairy thimbles or ear leaf flowers): Nodding blue flowers - Keep its feet well-drained.
Phlox douglasii: A low-growing perennial - it grows in dry woodlands. It needs a dry winter, but good drainage and a sheltered spot by a wall will work.
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.
1801 Today is the birthday of the French botanist and the Father of Paleobotany Adolphe-Théodore Brongniart ("Bron-yahr").
Adolphe-Théodore was born in Paris. His father, Alexander, was a geologist.
There’s no doubt his father’s work helped Adolphe-Théodore become a pioneer in the field of paleobotany. A paleobotanist is someone who works with fossil plants. Plants have been living on the planet for over 400 million years. So, there are plenty of fossil plants to study and catalog.
As one of the most prominent botanists of the 19th century, Adolphe-Théodore worked to classify fossil plant forms, and he did so even before Charles Darwin. Adolphe-Théodore’s work provided content for his book on the history of plant fossils in 1828. Adolphe-Théodore published his masterpiece when he was just 27 years old.
Adolphe-Théodore’s writing brought him notoriety and gave him the moniker "Father of Paleobotany." He was also called the "Linnaeus of Fossil Plants." Adolphe-Théodore was not so much a fossil plant discover as he was a fossil plant organizer. He put fossil plants in order and applied principles for distinguishing them.
In 1841, at the age of 40, Adolphe-Théodore received the Wollaston Medal for his work with fossil plants. It is the highest award granted by the Geological Society of London. It must have made his father, Alexander, very proud.
Adolphe-Théodore was a professor at the Paris Museum of Natural History. He was the backfill for Andre Michaux, who had left to explore the flora of North America.
Adolphe-Théodore's wife died young. They had two boys together, and when Adolphe-Théodore died, he died in the arms of his eldest son.
1825 King Charles X honored the Belgian botanical illustrator Pierre-Joseph Redouté with the Legion of Honor.
To this day, Redouté is one of the most renowned flower painters of all time. Redouté was born into a Flemish family of painters. Growing up, his family supported themselves by creating paintings for the home and for the church.
Redouté was an official court draftsman to Queen Marie Antoinette. One evening around midnight, she summoned him to appear before her, and she asked him to paint her a cactus. She was exerting her control; she wanted to see if Redouté was as talented as was reported. (He was.)
Redouté also became a favorite of Josephine Bonaparte. Redouté’s paintings of her flowers at Malmaison are among his most beautiful works. Today, Redouté is best known for his paintings of lilies and roses. Roses were his specialty. And, Redouté's work earned him a nickname; he was known as "the Raffaele of flowers.".
Now, if you'd like to really treat yourself or get a special gift or a gardener in your life, you should check out the book by Werner Dressendorfer called Redouté: Selection of the Most Beautiful Flowers.
This is a large coffee table book. It is probably one of the most beautiful books I've ever seen; again, it's called Redoute: A Selection of the Most Beautiful Flowers.
This book came out in September of 2018, and I finally just got myself a copy of it after mulling it over for over a year. the book features 144 paintings by Redouté that were published between 1827 and 1833. it's is truly one of my favorite books in my Botanical Library.
When this book first came out, it retailed for $150.
I managed to get an excellent used copy for $65. But, as I said, this is an investment piece, and it's also extraordinarily beautiful.
I guarantee if you have this book sitting out, your visitors will be sure to comment, and they probably won't be able to resist looking through the beautiful paintings. Glorious.
1836 Today is the birthday of the botanical painter Henri Fantin-Latour (Fahn-tahn Lah-tur”).
It's kind of humorous to me that we end up discussing Henri Fantin-LaTour today - right after Pierre Joseph Redoute - because Henri painted flowers as well. But, unlike Pierre Joseph Redoute, Henri got so sick of painting flowers that he could find no joy in doing it for the end of his career.
All together, Henry painted well over 800 pictures of flowers over 32 years between 1864 and 1896. By the end of his career, the entire genre of still life flower painting was life-draining to him. He despised it. Yet, it's how he made a living, and many of his paintings bought to be displayed in homes.
The painter James Whistler talked up Henri’s work so much that his flower paintings were quite famous in England. In fact, during his lifetime, he was better known in England as a painter than he was in his native France.
Henri also painted portraits, as well as group portraits of Parisian artists, and he even painted imaginative compositions. He enjoyed painting portraits and his other creative work more than painting flowers. But, it was always the flower paintings that sold, and so he kept painting them to support himself.
1892 Today is the anniversary of the death of the exceptionally talented Scottish botanical illustrator Walter Hood Fitch. He was 75 years old.
Fitch was one of the most prolific botanical artists of all time.
His illustrations were stunning, and he used vivid colors for his work.
In 1834, Walter began working for William Hooker. Hooker was the editor of Curtis's Botanical Magazine. Walter's very first published plate was of a Mimulus Rose. He didn’t know it then, but it was one down, and he had over 2,700 more to go.
Hooker loved Walters’s work because his paintings reflected the way the plants appeared in real life; they weren't fanciful or embellished, yet they were beautiful. In short order, Walter became the sole artist for the magazine.
When Hooker became the director of Kew, the promotion meant moving to London. He talked Walter into moving, too. Pretty soon, Walter was not only making illustrations for the magazine but for everything published at Kew.
At the end of his career, around the age of 60, Walter got into a disagreement with William Hooker’s son, Joseph Dalton Hooker, over his pay. Walter left his post at Kew and became a freelancer. During his lifetime, Walter created over 12,000 illustrations that found their way to publication in various works.
There is a famous saying, slow as molasses in January. We often think nothing is happening in our gardens during the winter, As Alfred Austin said in his poem, Primroses (Primula vulgaris):
Pale January lay
In its cradle day by day
Dead or living, hard to say.
But this belief that January is a dead time in the garden… well, nothing could be further from the truth. Today's Unearthed Words are all about the productivity that takes place in our gardens in January.
January is the quietest month in the garden. ... But just because it looks quiet doesn't mean that nothing is happening. The soil, open to the sky, absorbs the pure rainfall while microorganisms convert tilled-under fodder into usable nutrients for the next crop of plants. The feasting earthworms tunnel along, aerating the soil and preparing it to welcome the seeds and bare roots to come.
— Rosalie Muller Wright, Editor, Sunset Magazine
Nature looks dead in winter because her life is gathered into her heart. She withers the plant down to the root that she may grow it up again, fairer and stronger. She calls her family together within her inmost home to prepare them for being scattered abroad upon the face of the earth.
— Hugh Macmillan, Scottish Minister & Naturalist, 1871
Over the land freckled with snow half-thawed
The speculating rooks at their nests cawed
And saw from elm tops, delicate as flower of grass,
What we below could not see, Winter pass.
— Edward Thomas, British Poet
"You think I am dead,"
The apple tree said,
“Because I never have a leaf to show-
Because I stoop,
And my branches droop,
And the dull gray mosses over me grow!
But I'm still alive in trunk and shoot;
The buds of next May
I fold away-
But I pity the withered grass at my root."
"You think I am dead,"
The quick grass said,
"Because I have parted with stem and blade!
But under the ground,
I am safe and sound
With the snow's thick blanket over me laid.
I'm all alive, and ready to shoot,
Come dancing here-
But I pity the flower without branch or root."
"You think I am dead,"
A soft voice said,
"Because not a branch or root I own.
I have never died, but close I hide
In a plumy seed that the wind has sown.
Patient, I wait through the long winter hours;
You will see me again-
I shall laugh at you then,
Out of the eyes of a hundred flowers."
— Edith Matilda Thomas, American Poet
Grow That Garden Library
The subtitle to this book is: How We Discovered that Flowers Have Sex, Leaves Eat Air, and Other Secrets of Plants
This book came out in April of 2015.
Ruth Kassinger didn’t always have a green thumb. in this book, she'll tell you that until she completely understood how plants actually worked, she couldn't know precisely what they needed.
Her story starts this way,
“This book was born of a murder, a murder I committed.”
The victim - it turns out-was a beloved kumquat tree. Ruth had decided to prune it. Her efforts made the tree turn brittle and brown. It made her wonder:
Why did the kumquat die when a rose bush and a crepe myrtle that was pruned the very same way were both thriving?
The dilemma is what made Ruth begin a quest to understand more about plant physiology. This book is part memoir and part science-class.
Ruth writes with a friendly voice. This book is a beautiful way to learn basic botany - the marvel of flowers, roots, stems, and leaves. While we're learning botany from Ruth, we also get to know her personal stories. Ruth shares how she learned to become a better gardener. Initially, Ruth made the same mistakes we all make: over-watering, under fertilizing, making untrue assumptions about what plants need.
Great Gifts for Gardeners
Retro Wooden Frame -3 Glass Plant Vases - for Desktop
Rustic wood and vintage design, these decorative glass vases are perfect for propagating plants like hoya, pathos, Swedish Ivy, etc.
It is a gorgeous plant prop for your home.
The frame is made of natural wood, mottled surface; three bulb vases are made of High boron silicon heat resistant glass.
The wooden stand size : 5.5"H x 11" W x 4" D; Each vase : 3.74 H x 2.75 W; Opening – 1 inch Diameter. Perfect for the desktop, in office, or home.
Accessories complete- Easy to set up - ready for water (the hexagon screwdriver and screws are included).
Today’s Botanic Spark
January’s birth flowers are the carnation and snowdrop. Let’s take a moment to celebrate both.
Carnations are some of the world's oldest flowers. They have been cultivated for over 2000 years. The Greeks and Romans used them and garlands
Carnations are part of the Dianthus family. Their Latin name is Dianthus caryophyllus. The etymology of the word Dianthus is from two Greek words. Dios means Divine, and Anthos means Flower. And, the translation of dianthus means "Flower of the Gods."
Carnations have different meanings based on their color. White carnations symbolize good luck and pure love. Pink carnations represent admiration, and a dark red carnation represents affection and love.
January’s other birth flower is the Snowdrop (Galanthus).
Snowdrops were named by Carl Linnaeus, who gave them the Latin name Galanthus nivalis, which means "milk flower of the snow."
Snowdrop is a common name. They were also known as Candlemas Veils because they typically bloom around Candlemas or February 2nd.
Snowdrops are an indicator flower signaling the transition from winter into spring. Thus, the meaning of a Snowdrop blossom is Hope.
The word Galanthophile is the name given to people who love snowdrops.
And here's a Fun Fact: a substance extracted from snowdrops is used to treat Alzheimer's Disease.
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