Today we celebrate the man who found a splendid crabapple growing in his nursery and the anniversary of a society that celebrates the flower of the rainbow,
We'll learn about the “Grand Lady of Canadian Horticulture" and a Colorado State botanist who fought to protect the Columbine.
Today’s Unearthed Words, we hear simple poems from a Quaker poet.
We Grow That Garden Library™ with a book about a Woman's Quest for the World's Most Amazing Birds.
I'll talk about a garden item that will help you get creative with words in your garden,
And, then we’ll wrap things up with the incredible story of a gardener who gardened for nine years in a place most gardeners would deem un-garden-able, and he transformed it into a haunting paradise.
But first, let's catch up on a few recent events.
Here's a Great Calendula Tincture Recipe from Mother Earth Living @mthrearthliving
Start simple on your home apothecary with this multi-purpose calendula remedy. This calendula tincture is easy to make and perfect in teas, baths, and astringent solutions.
Artichoke: Sow and Grow Guide from Botanical Interests@botanicalseeds:
By sowing artichokes early, the plants can be subjected to vernalization (a cold period) of at least two weeks growing at 40°-50°F, which triggers artichokes to form in the season.
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.
1906 Today is the birthday of the nurseryman Melvin Bergeson who, ironically, lived in Fertile, Minnesota.
After World War II, an employee of Melvin’s named Norris Oftedahl was walking along a row of trees at the nursery. As expected, all of the trees in the row had succumbed to winterkill… except for one. It stood out and caught Norris’s attention. It was a little crabapple tree. Norris thought the tree might be a mutant variety and told Melvin to keep his eye on it. Melvin did, and over the years, Melvin took note of the little crab’s continued hardiness - which was tremendous - and also the beautiful fruit. Melvin’s instincts told him the tree was something special.
Melvin christened the tree Red Splendor in honor of the gorgeous fruit. Melvin sold some Red Splendors to customers, and he also sent some Red Splendors to other nurserymen so that it could be trialed. Sadly, when Melvin applied to patent the Red Splendor, he was denied. The government claimed the tree was already in the public domain.
Once it was on the market, the Red Splendor captured people’s hearts. One of the best features of a Red Splendor Crab is that it doesn't drop fruit over the summer. Instead, the fruit holds on until the following spring. This habit allows the birds and animals to eat from the tree all winter long - which makes for way less clean up of dropped apples (one of the main gripes of apple tree owners.)
With all of the Red Splendor’s marvelous features, it’s not surprising to learn that the University of Minnesota once regarded the Red Splendor Crab as the best plant ever created in the state of Minnesota.
Melvin also deserves personal recognition; he was a natural-born marketer and salesman. He came up with clever slogans that were splashed across the cover of his annual nursery brochures like “Let’s get it done in ‘71.” The hype around Red Splendor opened opportunities for the tree to appear in venues like the Kennedy Center in Washington DC. And, a Red Splendor even accompanied President Nixon on his trip to China, where it was presented as a gift from America.
It’s hard to believe after the thrill of the Red Splendor, that Melvin and his wife Olga started their humble nursery during the Great Depression in 1937. Their customers were mostly farmers, and their main product was trees - especially windbreak trees and fruit trees.
Today, 83 years later, Melvin's Nursery is run by his grandson, Joe Bergeson. The nursery offers a diverse selection of trees, shrubs, and plants. However, Joe’s passion is hybridizing roses. As far as trees are concerned, one of the nursery’s top-selling trees is the Ohio buckeye tree, which is grown from a nut.
1920 Today marks the hundredth anniversary of the American Iris Society. The Society started with about 60 eager members. A year later, membership had climbed to nearly 500 members. Today, you can join the Iris Society online at Irises.org.
“The Mission of The American Iris Society is to organize and disseminate knowledge of the genus Iris while fostering its preservation, enjoyment and continued development.”
Iris takes its name from the Greek word for a rainbow, and the Iris is known as the flower of the rainbow. When it comes to scent, the roots of Irises contain their fragrance.
Although there are around 300 species of Iris, Bearded Iris and Siberian Iris are two of the most common types of Irises grown.
During the Middle Ages, Irises were linked to the French monarchy, and the fleur-de-lis is now a national symbol of France.
1965 Today is the 55th anniversary of the death of Canada’s first professional woman plant breeder - a woman called the “Dean of Hybridists” and the “Grand Lady of Canadian Horticulture" - Isabella Preston.
When Vita Sackville-West first heard her name, she famously acknowledged, "I must confess I don't know anything about Miss Isabella Preston of Ottawa."
Isabella's name had become known internationally as the result of her Lily hybrids. In 1919, Isabella bred the renowned George C. Creelman Hybrid Lily after crossing two Lily cultivars from southern China, a hardy Lily and a fragrant Lily. The Creelman Lily was a stunner; human-sized (it grew about 6 feet tall), and it featured a sweet-scented white bloom with pink speckles on its yellow throat. Isabella named the Creelman Lily after the President of the Ontario Agricultural College. Today, there are no known Creelman Lilies in existence, although people still search for them.
Vita would have loved Isabella's practical and hard-won advice. When a colleague asked Isabella what she should do with her rock garden, her advice was fascinating:
“Use every bit of rock – Don’t be afraid of it. Plant between, atop or alongside. Presently, you will be convinced that flowers need near them the harsh stability of stone.”
Isabella was a self-taught plant hybridizer. In 1920, she began work at the Central Experimental Farm in Ottawa. For almost three decades, she endeavored to create more blooms on more disease-resistant plants. She created over 200 cultivars of six different plants, including Lilacs, Lilies, Crab Apples, Columbine, Siberian Iris, and Roses. Preston Lilacs are named in her honor, and Isabella received many honors for her work.
1990 Today is the anniversary of the death of Colorado State botanist Hazel Schmoll.
Hazel was born in a sod cabin in McAlester, Kansas, in 1890. Her family settled in Colorado when she was just two years old.
Hazel was the first woman to earn a doctorate in botany from the University of Chicago. Early in her career, Hazel had the exciting opportunity to work with Alice Eastwood.
When it came to her beloved Rocky Mountains, Hazel was an active conservationist, and she regularly taught others about the ecology of the mountains. Hazel led the effort to protect the Colorado Blue Columbine Columbine (Aquilegia caerulea). Also known as Rocky Mountain Columbine, Colorado Blue Columbine is a herbaceous perennial with bluish-purple and white blooms that appear spring and early summer. Colorado Blue Columbine can grow up to 3 feet tall with a spread of about 2 feet.
The word Aquila is Latin and means eagle, a reference to the claw-like spurs on the blossom. The word Columbine is derived from the Latin word for dove and refers to this little trick: if you tip the flower over, it looks like five little doves huddled together. Columbine.
Hazel's favorite flower, the Colorado Blue Columbine, was first discovered on Pikes Peak in 1820. As the state flower, it has significant symbolic meaning to Colorado; the blue represents the sky, the white represents snow, and the gold is a nod to the state’s gold mining history, which attracted so many settlers to Colorado.
The Colorado Blue Columbine is so beautiful that it actually became a threatened species after people were digging it up for their rock gardens. In 1925, legislation was passed making it illegal to pick the Rocky Mountain Columbine.
It was Hazel Schmoll who said,
"I hope we can keep some wilderness areas. People need some places where they can get away from the crowds and be refreshed by nature."
2005 Today is the anniversary of the death of the founder of Miracle-Gro plant food Horace Hagedorn. Every year on November 15th, the Horace Hagedorn outstanding philanthropy award is given out on philanthropy day. Horace was a marketing genius and a philanthropist. A resident of Port Washington, Long Island, Horace and his wife Amy were esteemed for their charity. After Horace died, the Amy Hagedorn Foundation distributed close to 50 million dollars to more than 175 nonprofits.
Aligned with his enormous spirit of generosity, it was Horace Hagedorn who said,
“You can’t keep taking away from the Earth. You must give something back."
1784 Today is the birthday of the prolific English Quaker poet Bernard Barton.
One of Barton’s most famous poems heralds the spring Crocus. Here is an excerpt:
Welcome! Wild harbinger of Spring,
To this small nook of earth;
Feeling and fancy fondly cling
Round thoughts which owe their birth
To thee, and to the humble spot
Where chance has fixed thy lowly lot.
Yet not the Lily nor the Rose,
Though fairer far they be,
Can more delightful thoughts disclose,
Than I derive from thee.
The eye their beauty may prefer,
The heart is thy interpreter.
Thy flower foretells a summer sky,
And chides the dark despair
By winter's chilling influence flung
O'er spirits sunk, and nerves unstrung.
Barton also wrote this whimsical poem for children called “The Squirrel”
The squirrel is happy, the squirrel is gay,
Little Henry exclaimed to his brother,
He has nothing to do or to think of but play,
And to jump from one bough to another.
But William was older and wiser and knew
That all play and no work wouldn't answer,
So he asked what the squirrel in winter must do,
If he spent all the summer a dancer.
The squirrel, dear Harry, is merry and wise,
For true wisdom and mirth go together ;
He lays up in summer his winter supplies,
And then he don't mind the cold weather.
And, here’s an excerpt from Barton’s poem called Winter Evenings.
The summer is over,
The autumn is passed,
Dark clouds over us hover,
Loud whistles the blast ;
But clouds cannot darken,
nor tempest destroy
The soul's sweetest sunshine,
the heart's purest joy.
Our path is no bright one,
From morning till eve ;
Our task is no light one,
Till day takes its leave :
We'll turn to the pages
Of history's lore ;
Of bards and of sages
The beauties explore :
And share o'er the records we love to unroll
The " feast of the reason and flow of the soul."
Grow That Garden Library
The subtitle to this book is “A Woman's Quest for the World's Most Amazing Birds.”
This book is a loving and beautiful biography of bird enthusiast Phoebe Snetsinger. Phoebe was a 1950’s housewife, married with four children, and an avid bird-watcher. When she got diagnosed in her 40’s with incurable cancer and given less than a year to live, she started traveling the world, birding, and she never looked back. Phoebe ended up living, after her diagnosis, for another 18 years.
Oliva begins this book by explaining the concept of a life list:
“Bird-watching, the way most people do it, is a lot like hunting, which is why some practitioners prefer the more active sounding term “birding”: you have to know where and when to look for Birds, you have to chase them down, and, when you find them, you have to figure out what species they are— often in just a second or two, before they fly away. Tate, like most birders, kept a “ life list” of all the species he'd seen and identified, and he was always looking to add new ones, or “life birds.”
“I decided to write some sort of essay on bird watching, and I called a few bird clubs near my home in Manhattan to see what they had going on. One man misunderstood and thought I was interested in joining his Club. He tried to encourage me. “ Who knows?” he said. “ Maybe you'll be the next Phoebe Snetsinger.” the man had never met Phoebe, but he knew all about her— as most birdwatchers do, it turned out— and he told me a little. That was back in 2001, two years after her death, and I've been piecing together her life ever since.”
Great Gifts for Gardeners
The set contains a total of 144 pieces, with 4-pieces of each alphabet letter and number in a natural wooden color. Also excellent for craft projects, as party decorations, weddings, baby showers, and so on. Put these letters together to spell whatever you want. Use these letters to decorate walls and doors to your liking. Your imagination is the limit.
- CRAFT WOOD LETTER SET: Contains a total of 144 plywood pieces, with 4 pieces of each letter in the alphabet and number from 0 to 9 in a natural wooden color.
- EDUCATIONAL: Helps kids learn letters, spelling, pronunciation, and math.
- WIDE APPLICATION: Use the available letters to spell a certain word or phrase like Happy Birthday, Congratulations, Mr and Mrs, Welcome, and many more.
- CRAFT USE: Put these letters together to spell whatever you want. Use these letters to decorate walls and doors to your liking. Your imagination is the limit.
- DIMENSIONS: The wood pieces measure from the smallest to largest, 0.3 x 0.7 inches to 0.7 x 1 inch.
Today’s Botanic Spark
1942 Today is the birthday of the English filmmaker, gay rights activist, painter, poet, and gardener Derek Jarman.
Born Michael Derek Elworthy Jarman, gardeners remember Derek for sharing his experiences in the garden intermingled with his thoughts on life. Most gardeners have a sensitivity about them, especially when it comes to attuning to themselves, to others, or to the natural world. Derek was continually examining all of these aspects of life.
Toward the end of his life, Derek had found a very small retreat in a place many would find challenging to love: in the only desert in England located in Kent in a place called Dungeness. Derek lovingly called it Ness.
It’s a hard and harsh place that has an ancient feel. The meaning of name Dungeness is from Old Norse, which means "headland." The French etymology would translate to "dangerous nose."
The landscape at Dungeness is referred to as a shingle beach - it’s a British way of saying it has a rocky or pebbled shore. It’s a curiously understated term that does not adequately convey the harsh reality.
A shingle beach means the ground is covered everywhere, without exception, with little rocks and pebbles. A shingle beach is sharp and shocking. It’s stone confetti as far as the eye can see. It’s a place where, if you were barefoot, you would involuntarily find yourself saying “ooch-ouch” “ooch-ouch” as you walked your way to land cruiser so you could get the heck out of Dodge.
And just to be clear, this is not the place where Dungeness crab are found. Dungeness crab are a west coast species ranging from the Aleutian Islands in Alaska all the way down to southern California.
Derek’s pebble beach at Dungeness is a resting place for relics and debris. It’s a junker’s paradise. There are boats, parts of boats, driftwood, chunks of metal and scrap. If Dungeness had a Statue of Liberty, the placard would read, “Give me your rusted, your broken, your abandoned boats and weathered pieces of wood, yearning to get out of the sea.”
For Derek, these items were gifts from the sea, to be lovingly received during an early-morning walk. He’d bring all of his finds back to Prospect Cottage, where Derek would insert them into the shingle. Then, they were transformed; no longer debris, but artifacts turned into art and proudly displayed in their final resting spot in Derek’s garden.
Once your eyes drift past all the treasures from the sea installed firmly in the Landscape, you can’t help but spy the man-made mountain that forms the backdrop to Dungeness - a nuclear power plant. There are actually two nuclear power plants in Dungeness. They are another item for the Dungeness Statue of Liberty placard - “Give me your nuclear power plants while you’re at it.” Like the bits and bobs, Derek placed around his shingle cottage garden, the nuclear plants rise out of the shingle beach. It’s as if they say, “Even though nobody wants me, I’ve managed to find a place here among the rocks. I’m home.”
Prospect Cottage has managed to survive on Dungeness for over 100 years. Initially, it was a fisherman’s cottage, built in 1910, and it was still standing when Derek bought it in 1985 mainly because it is covered in a preservative - black tar. That’s right. Prospect Cottage is painted top to bottom in black tar.
Yet, there are two standout features that define Derek’s black tar cottage - bright yellow trim and wooden letters. The yellow trim around the windows that calls to mind school buses, sunshine, and daisies. The wooden letters (also painted with black tar) are attached to the side of the cottage and scream “an artist lives here” and “read me.” The letters were attached to a bump-out Derek had added on one the side of the cottage for extra space. Derek wrote,
“Dawn can be a miracle, the sun floating up from the sea and slowly crossing the garden. As it passes it can laugh with John Donne, whose poem fills the southern wall of the house.”
The wooden letters attached to Prospect Cottage spelled out verses from the beginning and end of John Donne’s poem “The Sun Rising.” It’s a poem that challenges the sun.
Stop the sunshine from hitting your bed in the morning, and you don’t have to get up; you can stop the march of time. And, what is more, powerful than time? Love.
Imagine the sun - it’s rays hitting the wooden letters - having to read this in-your-face challenge every day:
Busy old fool, unruly Sun,
Why dost thou thus,
Through windows, and through curtains, call on us ?
Must to thy motions lovers' seasons run?
Saucy pedantic wretch, go chide
Late school-boys and sour prentices,
Go tell court huntsmen that the king will ride,
Call country ants to harvest offices;
Love, all alike, no season knows nor clime,
Nor hours, days, months, which are the rags of time.
At the end of the poem, Donne’s sun is resigned to the fact that time must march on, but he intends to make the most of it. And, Donne puts the sun to work, warming his bed and lighting the room, ordering:
...Since thy duties be
To warm the world, that's done in warming us.
Shine here to us, and thou art everywhere;
This bed thy center is, these walls thy sphere.
Not many people would put a poem on the side of their house. But, then, not many people would garden in a stone desert or prefer to spend their final days in a little cottage painted in black tar under the gaze of a nuclear power plant. Clearly, not many people are like Derek Jarman.
One time, my mom was shopping on a dreary day, and she commented on the bleak weather to a woman who replied, “that’s why we have to carry the sunshine in our hearts, dear.” That’s what Derek Jarman did.
Only a card-carrying member of the sunshine club could see the beauty of the Ness. Only Derek Jarman would attempt, let alone create, a garden chock full of color at Prospect Cottage.
Derek planted resilience in his garden; known tough guys and survivors like California Poppy, Opium Poppies, Dark Red Valerian, Pink Foxgloves Blue Viper’s Bugloss, Giant Sea Kale, Gorse, Sky Blue Cornflower, Mediterranean Cistus, Santolina, Pale Blue Devil’s-bit Scabious, and Purple Lavender. Somehow, Derek managed to convince all of these plants that this garden, set in stone and whipped by salt winds, was their happy place.
For nine years, it was Derek’s happy place as well.
“The postman arrives with a smile and a huge pile of letters, from every corner of the globe, often addressed just to: Derek of Dungeness, wishing me well and happy, which I am….
The garden has been both Gethsemane and Eden. I am at peace..."
Today, Prospect Cottage is not open or closed to the public; it just is - and visitors are free to walk the landscape because, as Derek would agree, “The garden is the Landscape.”
Derek's last book, published after he died, was Derek Jarman's Garden. Derek’s friend, Howard Sooley, took the pictures, and they are wonderful. In the book, Derek shares the story of his garden at Prospect Cottage at the Ness: how it was born in 1985, how it grew with plants and gifts of debris from the sea, and how it looked as a spritely nine-year-old; full of life and immortality on the day Derek died from AIDs in 1994.
"Paradise haunts gardens, and some gardens are paradises. Mine is one of them."
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SI HORTUM IN HORTORUM PODCASTUM IN BIBLIOTEHCA HABES, NIHIL DEERIT.