January 16, 2020 Planting Hope, Marks Hall Arboretum, Antonio José Cavanilles, Wine Bricks, Carole Lombard, Louisa Yeomans King, January Poems, Murder Most Florid by Mark Spencer, Tree Branch Hooks, and Lengthening Days by Vita Sackville-West

Show Notes

Today we celebrate the Spanish Enlightenment priest and botanist who named the Dahlia and the glamorous movie star who traded in her star sapphire collection for a tractor.

We'll learn about the item vintners were selling during prohibition and the woman who became the most widely read American Garden author in the United States.

Today’s Unearthed Words feature thoughts on the blackest month of the year: January.

We Grow That Garden Library™ with a new book written by a 20-year Fellow of the Linnaean Society - he's the man who began his career as a forensic botanist after getting a phone call from the authorities.

I'll talk about a garden item that comes in so handy - especially if you're going to hang things in trees.

And then we’ll wrap things up with thoughts on the lengthening days - we gain about two minutes of sunlight a day right now.

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



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Curated Articles

Planting Hope by Debi Holland | Richard Jackson's Garden

Here's an inspiring post from Debi Holland @RJGarden:

"I work with people who have experienced bereavement or long-term illness. Gardening has been a tremendous respite, an escape from the house, provided achievable goals with visible results from a few hours toil when other aspects of life may not be so straightforward."


Marks Hall Arboretum and walled garden in Essex - Gardens Illustrated

Marks Hall Arboretum is absolutely gorgeous in the winter. The Arboretum sits on a 2,200-acre estate in Essex. You wouldn't know it by looking at it, but the soil there is clay.

The beautiful thing about this garden is that it has been organized into geographic zones, so from an inspiration standpoint, it's splendid.

There's a beautiful 3-acre lakeside garden. This garden beautifully compliments the rest of the estate offers five interlinked gardens. There are hedges and walls, groupings of ornamental grasses, and long flowering perennials.


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.


Important Events

1745 Today is the birthday of the Spanish Enlightenment priest and botanist Antonio José Cavanilles ("Cah-vah-nee-yes")

Antonio was a prolific botanist and probably Spain's first expert botanist. He was born in Valencia - Spain's third-largest city. When Antonio struggled to find a job at the university, he moved to France. In Paris, he was influenced by Andre Jussieu ("Juice You")and André Thouin (pronounced "too-ah"). By the time he was 36, he had decided to focus on botany.

Antonio named over a hundred genera. He gave the name Cosmos to the Mexican Aster. Cosmos comes from a Greek word meaning harmonious or orderly.

When Alexander Von Humboldt sent seeds of a beautiful plant to Antonio, he suggested that the plant should be named after Antonio called Cavenillesia. But, Antonio declined the honor named it the Dahlia after the botanist Andrew Dahl, instead. Dahl was Swedish and a student of Carl Linnaeus. Ironically, Dahl never had anything to do with the Dahlia. The plant’s botanical name is Dahlia pinnata ("pin-AYE-tah"). Pinnata refers to the fact that the leaves are divided in a feathery manner.

Now, around the same time, dahlia seeds arrived in Germany, and a botanist there decided to name the plant Georgina after a Russian explorer by the name of Professor Georgie. For decades, Germans refused to call it the Dahlia and stuck with the name Georgina. However, in 1834, London Gardeners Magazine settled the matter once and for all, declaring that the name would be Dahlia and not Georgina. German gardeners capitulated. And, despite being the first to grow the Dahlia, no Dahlia variety has ever been named after Antonio José Cavanilles.

The French Revolution caused him to return to Spain. Antonio was 45 years old when he returned home, and he had already established himself as a respected botanist. At the turn of the century in 1801, Antonio was promoted to be the director of the Royal Botanic Garden. The garden was created by King Fernando VI in 1755 (10 years after Antonio was born.) In 1774, three staggered terraces were added to the botanic garden along with an iron gate that surrounds it. A greenhouse was constructed. Decades later, it would become Antonio's professional home.

During Antonio's lifetime, botanists were beginning to classify plants using Carl Linnaeus's classification method. Not every botanist agreed with this, but Cavanilles was quick to jump on the bandwagon. Under his direction, the Madrid Botanical Garden became the center of botany for Spain and Europe.

Antonio died three years after becoming the director of the garden. His early death prevented Cavanilles from finishing his book on the plants of the garden. It featured descriptions and drawings of the main species at the garden - many were the fruit of the great scientific expeditions of the 18th century.

Four years later, after Antonio Cavanilles died, Napoleon would invade Spain, and the botanical torch would be passed to England and France - Spain's botanical golden age was over. Today the Madrid Botanical Garden is home to over a 100,000 plant species and roughly 1,500 trees.


1920 (100 years ago!) Prohibition began in the U.S., and many people became interested in learning about fermentation overnight.

You might be curious to know how vintners handled the challenge of prohibition. Well, instead of making wine, they made wine bricks.

Wine bricks were essentially grape concentrate.

Some cities and towns even went so far as to ban wine bricks. The city of Richmond Virginia band them, and in an article from 1931,

the Attorney General had to do his duty. The law does not differentiate between the person who buys wine bricks for the delicious fruit juice in them and the person who maliciously tampers with them in such a way as to produce a forbidden beverage. No chances must be taken. Every Virginian must be protected against himself.

Wine bricks were marketed as a way to make your own grape juice, but of course, everyone knew the real reason for the wine brick Market. And there was a little slogan that became popular during the wine brick era: "Hic! Hic! Here's the brick with the kick!"


1942 Today is the anniversary of the death of the movie star and homesteader Carole Lombard.

Lombard died tragically when her plane crashed shortly after taking off from Las Vegas.

Three years earlier, just before the premiere of Gone With the Wind, Carole had married Clark Gable.

As newlyweds, Carole and Clark had bought a 21-acre estate - just 40 minutes outside of Beverly Hills. Instead of living glamorously, they turned the estate into a working farm. Lombard had sold her star sapphire collection to fund their dream.

Carole set up all the crops they would grow, and she worked long hours on the ranch. They had an orchard/citrus grove, a dairy, and a vineyard, and the farm produced peaches, grapes, oranges, lemons, walnuts, apricots, hay, and alfalfa. They used the alfalfa they grew for feed. They sent their grapes to the local hospital. The Farmers Association marketed their citrus crop. Many biographies mention that Carole and Clark raised turkeys for MGM to use at its commissary. Carole bought Clark a tractor, and Clark enjoyed taking care of his two prized racehorses and the cattle. To top it all off: Carole and Clark called each other “Ma” and “Pa.” They were really and truly living a farm fantasy. They even used kerosene lamps in their living room.

They loved their simple life together on their ranch, and Carole loved watching things grow.


1948 Today is the anniversary of the death of the American Gardener and Garden writer Louisa Boyd Yeomans King.

At the age of 26, she married a wealthy man from Chicago by the name of Frances King, which is why her pen name was Mrs. Francis King.

Louisa learned to garden from her mother-in-law Aurelia. Her mother-in-law lived on a large estate, and she had a huge garden and an impressive garden library.

In 1902, Louisa and her husband moved to Michigan, where they built a home called Orchard House. With the help of a gardener by the name of Frank Ackney, Louisa began to plan and create her garden. She also began writing about her Gardens.

Soon, she was giving lectures, contributing pieces to magazines, writing columns, and organizing garden clubs. She even became friends with prominent gardeners of her time like Gertrude Jekyll, Charles Sprague Sargent, and the landscape architects Fletcher Steele and Ellen Biddle Shipman.

Louisa learned to garden during the heyday of American Garden Culture, and her garden writing in newspaper columns and magazine publications made her the most widely read American Garden author in the United States.

For Louisa's first book, "The Well-Considered Garden," the preface was written by her dear friend Gertrude Jekyll. In 1915, when the book debuted, it was considered an instant classic in garden literature. Louisa would go on to write a total of nine books.

The garden estate known as Blithewold has a copy of "The Well-Considered Garden." Their particular text also contains a handwritten inscription along with Louisa's signature. The inscription borrows a quote from Sir William Temple who said,

"Gardening is an enjoyment and a possession for which no man is too high or too low."

Louisa changed the quote and wrote,

"Gardening is an enjoyment and a possession for which no woman is too high or too low."

In 1922, House & Garden Magazine dubbed Louisa, "The Fairy Godmother of Gardening." We know that the garden photographer Frances Benjamin Johnston was a fan of her work because she donated her entire collection of Louisa's books to the library at the New York Botanical Garden.

Louisa helped start the Garden Club of America and the Women's National Farm and Garden Association. She held leadership positions in both organizations.

When her husband died suddenly in 1927, Louisa was forced to sell Orchard House. She moved to Hartford, New York, and bought a property she called Kingstree. This time, she set up a smaller garden. The size meant less work, which better-accommodated her writing and speaking commitments.

When Louisa died on this day in 1948, her ashes were scattered at Kingstree.

It was Louisa Yeomans King who said,

"Each has his most real thing. Mine is the garden."


Unearthed Words

Today's poems reflect on the harshness of January. The winter months can be in agony - if for no other reason than the biting cold.

Thus the saying,

“The blackest month in all the year Is the month of Janiveer.”

Another piece of winter lore says,

“As the days lengthen, the cold strengthens.”

January and February are the coldest months of the year and the toughest for many people to get through. It’s no wonder that people have vented their feelings about these two cold months through poetry.


Where has thou been all the dumb winter days

When neither sunlight was nor smile of flowers,

Neither life, nor love, nor frolic,

Only expanse melancholic,

With never a note of thy exhilarating lays?

— Alfred Austin, English Poet, Poet Laureate, "A Spring Carol," Soliloquies in Song


[W]hat a severe yet master artist old Winter is... No longer the canvas and the pigments, but the marble and the chisel.

— John Burroughs, American Naturalist, "The Snow-Walkers," 1866


It’s January, and I’m kicking snow off the ground. I just threw out the flower you made me promise to water,

handle with care because I was too careless, you said.

Careless with things and people, around me

and behind and I remember being still for just a second or two,

thinking that it’s so much easier to leave and start anew,

then take care of what’s already here.

― Charlotte Eriksson, Author, The Glass Child


January, month of empty pockets!

let us endure this evil month,

anxious as a theatrical producer's forehead.

— Sidonie Gabrielle Colette, French Author, Nominated for Nobel Prize


January gray is here,

Like a sexton by her grave;

February bears the bier,

March with grief doth howl and rave,

And April weeps—but, O ye hours!

Follow with May’s fairest flowers.

— Percy Bysshe Shelley, English Romantic Poet, Dirge for the Year


Grow That Garden Library

Murder Most Florid by Mark Spencer

The subtitle to this book is: Inside the Mind of a Forensic Botanist

Mark is a passionate plantsman, and he's a champion of plants and the study of Botany.

Mark is also passionate about connecting people with the natural world.

Creating a niche for himself, Mark is a consultant botanist who specializes in Forensic Botany as well as the history of botany.

Murder Most Florid is a book where Mark shows us how plants and the environment can help investigators solve crimes.

Mark didn't train to become a forensic botanist. He became one through an accidental event in his life. It started with the phone call asking for help with a murder.

Forensic Botany actually goes back to the early part of the 20th century and was memorably used to convict the kidnapper of the Lindbergh baby.

“Murder Most Florid is an enthralling, first-person account that follows Mark's unconventional and unique career, one that takes him to woodlands, wasteland, and roadsides, as well as police labs, to examine the botanical evidence of serious crimes. From unearthing a decomposing victim from brambles to dissecting the vegetation of a shallow grave, Mark's botanical knowledge can be crucial to securing a conviction. More widely, this gripping book challenges our attitude to death and response to crime. It picks holes in the sensationalized depictions of policing we see on TV and asks pertinent questions about public sector funding in the face of rising crime. Most importantly, Mark's book shows us how the ancient lessons of botanical science can still be front and center in our modern, DNA-obsessed world.”

And before I forget, let me just tell you that there is a fantastic video podcast of Mark presenting to the Linnaean Society Where he's been a fellow for over 20 years.

Mark is an honorary curator at the Linnaeus society’s herbarium. He has worked for over a decade at the Natural History Museum in London.

In this presentation, Mark talks about the book and his work. I thought it was fascinating. If you get a chance to watch it, you really should.

I have created a link to it in today's show notes.


Great Gifts for Gardeners

5 Pack 12 Inches Tree Branch Hooks, S Shape Hooks - Metal Hanger Hook for Hanging Bird Feeders, Baskets, Plants, Lanterns and Ornaments (Black): Garden & Outdoor $13.99

  • Material: Black metal S hook, anti-rust. Premium vinyl coatings rust-resistant heavy-duty metal Diameter 1/5 Inch holds up to 35 pounds. Very sturdy.
  • Size: 12 Inches or 23inches
  • Easy to Use: S-shaped hooks can be easily hung on the existing objects without any tools.
  • Multipurpose: Ideal for outdoor hanging bird feeders, birdhouses, plants, wind chimes, string lights, lanterns and ornaments, and so on.
  • Applications: They can be used both indoor and outdoor. Specially designed for outdoor use, can be hung on trees, bushes, gutters, ladders, balconies, and more.


Today’s Botanic Spark

Despite the fact that we're in the middle of January and it's so cold, and our gardens are buried under many feet of snow, The days are getting longer.

The good news is that the winter solstice, the shortest day of the year, is behind us. It took place on December 21st. In January, each day gains about 2minutes of daylight. In February, we gain about 2.5 minutes of sunlight each day.

Here are some thoughts on the lengthening days by the English poet, novelist, and garden designer Vita Sackville-West:

"The shortest day has passed, and whatever nastiness of weather we may look forward to in January and February, at least we notice that the days are getting longer. Minute by minute, they lengthen out. It takes some weeks before we become aware of the change. It is imperceptible even as the growth of a child, as you watch it day by day until the moment comes when with a start of delighted surprise, we realize that we can stay out of doors in a twilight lasting for another quarter of a precious hour."

The next Winter Solstice will take place in the northern hemisphere on Monday, December 21st, 2020, at 4:02 p.m. Central Standard Time.


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