February 5, 2020 Growing Turnips, Piet Blanckaert Terrace Garden, John Lindley, Meriwether Lewis, Friedrich Welwitsch, the New England Botanical Club, James Van Sweden, February Poems, Winter World by Bernd Heinrich, Okatsune Hedge Shears and the Happy Huntsman’s Tree

Show Notes

Today we celebrate the savior of the Royal Botanic Garden, Kew,

and the fir tree described by Meriwether Lewis as "Fir No. 5."

We'll learn about the man who discovered a plant that was called "the ugliest yet most botanically magnificent plant in the world" by Joseph Dalton Hooker.

And, we celebrate the 124th birthday of the founding of the New England Botanical Club as well as the Landscape architect who helped create the New American Garden.

Today's Unearthed Words feature poems about February

We Grow That Garden Library™ with a book that reveals the Ingenuity of Animal Survival - in and out of our gardens.

I'll talk about a lovely gift for a gardener - something that will likely become an heirloom in your garden family.

And then we'll wrap things up with the story of the Happy Huntsman's Tree.

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



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Curated Articles

Turn To Turnips For Early Vegetables

Gardening: Turn to turnips for early vegetables

Nancy Szerlag, master gardener and @detroitnews freelance writer, had a chance to try Burpee Gardening @burpeegardens new turnip, 'Silky Sweet'!


Terrace Garden Of A Townhouse In Bruges By Piet Blanckaert | House & Garden

The magnificent terrace garden in Bruges ("Brooj") by @_houseandgarden

Piet Blanckaert says:

"Small gardens are a puzzle in 3D. You need all the pieces, big & small, & every centimeter counts. You need less of everything so that you can choose top-quality materials."


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

1799  Today is the birthday of the British botanist, pomologist, pioneer orchidologist, and flower show organizer, John Lindley.

Lindley's dad was a nurseryman, and he ran a commercial nursery in England. Despite his array of botanical talents and knowledge, the family was constantly under financial duress.

Growing up in his father's nursery, helped Lindley acquire the knowledge to land his first job as a seed merchant. This position led to a chain of events that would shape Lindley's life. First, he met the botanist William Jackson Hooker. And, second, Hooker introduced him to Sir Joseph Banks. Lindley worked as an assistant in the Banks herbarium.

In 1938 after Banks died, when the fate of Kew Gardens hung in the balance, it was Lindley who recommended that the gardens belonged to the people and that they should become the botanical headquarters for England.

The government rejected Lindley's proposal and decided to close the garden. But, on February 11, 1840, Lindley ingeniously demanded that the issue be put before the Parliament. His advocacy brought the matter to the people; the garden-loving public was not about to lose the Royal Botanic. And, so, Lindley saved Kew Gardens, and William Hooker was chosen as the new director.

From his humble beginnings to his incredible standing in English Botanical History, Lindley is remembered fondly for so many accomplishments. For 43 years, Lindley served as secretary to the Royal Horticultural Society, which is why the RHS Library is called the Lindley Library.

And, there are over 200 plant species named for Lindley. There is "lindleyi", "lindleyana", "lindleyanum", "lindleya" and "lindleyoides". Lindley once told his friend, the botanist Ludwig Reichenbach, "I am a dandy in my herbarium."

Without question, Lindley's favorite plants were orchids. Before Lindley, not much was known about orchids. Thanks to Lindley, the genus Orchidaceae was shortened to orchid – which is much more friendly to pronounce. And, when he died, Lindley's massive orchid collection was moved to a new home at Kew.

Lindley's friend, the botanist Ludwig Reichenbach, wrote a touching tribute after his Lindley died. He wrote,

"We cannot tell how long Botany, how long science, will be pursued; but we may affirm that so long as a knowledge of plants is considered necessary, so long will Lindley's name be remembered with gratitude."

And here's a little-remembered factoid about Lindley - he was blind in one eye.


1806   Today Meriwether Lewis described a tree he referred to in his journal as "Fir No. 5."

The tree in question was the Douglas-fir.

Later, on February 9, Lewis added more details about the fir and sketched the distinctive bract of the cone in his journal. On their way back across the northern Rocky Mountains of Idaho and Montana, Lewis and Clark would encounter the inland variation of the species, the Rocky Mountain Douglas-fir.

The Douglas-Fir gets its name from the botanist David Douglas, who was the first to grow the tree in England successfully.

When Douglas met an early death, his friend and teacher, the botanist John Goldie, planted a Douglas-Fir next to his house to remember his young friend.

The lifespan of a Douglas-Fir Tree ranges from 500 to 1,000 years. And, Douglas-Firs are very large trees - reaching heights of 60 feet tall and up to 25 feet wide. In the wild, they sometimes reach over 200 feet tall. This massive tree is too big for residential landscaping. The bark of a Douglas Fir gets thicker over time, and that dense layer of bark enables the tree to survive forest fires with only some blackened bark.


1806  Today is the birthday of the Austrian botanist and explorer Friedrich Welwitsch.

Welwitsch found a second home in the country of Portugal, where he served as the director Of the botanic gardens in Lisbon.

Welwitsch had some amazing experiences during his lifetime, but the pinnacle was clearly the day he discovered the Welwitschia mirabilis. The mirabilis refers to its unusual form.

Portugal had to send him to Africa to collect plants -  which he did for seven years. In 1860,  Welwitsch discovered a strange-looking plant that is actually a tree - a conifer and a gymnosperm - in terms of botanical classification. The Africans called it "Mr. Big." The Welwitschia is endemic to Namibian deserts, and it's also present on the Namibian coat of arms.

When Welwitsch discovered this unique plant which can live for more than 1500 years and bears only two leaves in its entire lifecycle, he was so astonished that he "could do nothing but kneel down and gaze at it, half in fear lest a touch should prove it a figment of the imagination."

Imagine a two-tentacled octopus with very long arms and a red floral bouquet for a head, and you have the Welwitschia mirabilis. Welwitschia's two leaves grow continually throughout the life of a plant. The pair of leaves are broad, leathery, and belt-shaped. Incredibly, some specimens, tested with carbon 14, are over 2000 years old.

There is a spectacular photo of Welwitsch seated behind a large welwitschia mirabilis. He's wearing a pith helmet, and the plant's leaves are clearly many times longer than Welwitschia's arms and legs, which are mostly obscured by the plant.

In 1862, Joseph Dalton Hooker described the plant in The Gardener's Chronicle as "the ugliest yet botanically magnificent plant in the world among centuries-old plants."


1896   Today the New England Botanical Club was founded by seven Professional and ten amateur botanists. The club was established to study New England and Alpine Flora. Dues were set at $2/year.

 The late 1800s ushered in several scientific organizations - like the American Philosophical Society, the Massachusetts Horticultural Society, the Massachusetts Audubon Society, and the American Association for the Advancement of Science.

What distinguished the New England Botanical Club was the fact that it welcomed amateurs as well as professionals. The early meetings were held in member's homes. Charles Sprague Sargent of the Arnold Arboretum was reputed to be a wonderful host. The club began as a gentleman's club; it would not officially admit women until 1968. Focused on botany, the group went on regular field trips - and they published a scholarly Journal called Rhodora. The group was looking for a one-word title, and so they held a vote. The options were Rhodora, Oakesia, Wasonia, Bigelovia, Gayia, and Nova anglia.  The name Rhodora was created to reflect the clubs focus on studying the flora in the natural range of Rhododendron lapponicum - with the common name Lapland rosebay.

Today, the NEBC is a non-profit organization that promotes the study of plants of North America, especially the flora of New England and adjacent areas.


1935    Today is the birthday of the influential landscape architect and author James Van Sweden.

Van Sweden was an early pioneer in developing a new look and feel for American Landscapes, and his style is called The New American Garden.  signature elements of the new American Garden are broad sweeps of flowering perennials and wild grasses.

 In 1975, van Sweden partnered with Wolfgang Oehme, and together they started their firm now known as Uehme van Sweden or OvS.

Many gardeners remember that James created a purple Meadow for Oprah Winfrey's South Bend Indiana estate.

In his book, architecture in the garden, Van Sweden wrote,

"As I pulled up to Oprah Winfrey's front door for the first time, my immediate impression was that her house was divorced from its setting. Built in an elegant French-Chateau style, the house was visibly uncomfortable with the matter-of-fact Midwestern farmland that surrounded it. Nothing had been done to ease the transition from one to the other—  the house and the site weren't talking.

Over the next four years, we worked together to create an architectural context around the house, including newly-installed terraces and walls. The materials we selected, brick framed with the Limestone, echo the house, yet this architecture also conformed to the surrounding countryside, adopting its long, horizontal lines. In this way, we quite literally pulled out into the site."

Van Sweden's books include The Artful Garden: Creative Inspiration for Landscape Design (2011), Architecture in the Garden (2003), and Gardening with Nature (1997).

You can get a used copy of James van Swedens books and support the show, using the Amazon Link in today's Show Notes for under $5.


Unearthed Words

Here are some words about February:

"Probably more pests can be controlled in an armchair in front of a February fire with a garden notebook and a seed catalog than can ever be knocked out in hand-to-hand combat in the garden."
—  Neely Turner, State Entomologist & Vice Director, Connecticut Agricultural Experiment Station, 1927 - 1968


Come when the rains
Have glazed the snow and clothed the trees with ice,
While the slant sun of February pours
Into the bowers, a flood of light. Approach!
The incrusted surface shall upbear thy steps
And the broad arching portals of the grove
Welcome thy entering.
—  William Cullen Bryant, American Romantic poet, A Winter Piece


I stood beside a hill
Smooth with new-laid snow,
A single star looked out
From the cold evening glow.

There was no other creature
That saw what I could see--
I stood and watched the evening star
As long as it watched me.
—  Sara Teasdale, American Lyric poet, February Twilight


Grow That Garden Library

Winter World by Bernd Heinrich

The subtitle of this book is: The Ingenuity of Animal Survival.

The author of numerous bestselling and award-winning books, Bernd Heinrich, is a professor of biology at the University of Vermont. He divides his time between Vermont and the forests of western Maine.

From flying squirrels to grizzly bears, and from torpid turtles to insects with antifreeze, the animal kingdom relies on some staggering evolutionary innovations to survive winter. Unlike their human counterparts, who must alter the environment to accommodate physical limitations, animals are adaptable to an amazing range of conditions.

Examining everything from food sources in the extremely barren winter landscape to the chemical composition that allows certain creatures to survive, Heinrich's Winter World awakens the largely undiscovered mysteries by which nature sustains herself through winter's harsh, cruel exigencies.

You can get a used copy of Winter World by Bernd Heinrich and support the show, using the Amazon Link in today's Show Notes for under $9.


Great Gifts for Gardeners

Okatsune Precision Hedge Shears, 7 5/8" blade, 22" overall length by Okatsune $62.25

  • These short garden shears are used by professional gardeners throughout Japan.
  • Total Length:21in(535mm)
  • Blade Length:6.9in(175mm)
  • Weight:1lb12oz(800g)
  • The handles are made of slick Japanese White Oak

Today's Botanic Spark

1917   On this day, the Happy Huntsman's Tree was planted, which stands beside the Harrington family crypt.

The Happy Huntsman's Tree is an Oak tree that honors the 8th Earl of Harrington -  Charles Augustus Stanhope who died on this day at the age of 73. When he died, Charles was one of the largest landowners in England, with estates totaling over 13,000 acres.

Charles was the first business person to open a store in London under his own name. Selling fruit from his garden, his store closed after a few seasons.

Gardeners would be delighted by his home at Elvaston Castle, which was settled among the most magnificent topiary; trees shrubs and hedges were fashioned into men, animals, pyramids, and fans.

Even though one of his arms was useless, Charles was an active person.  He was one of the pioneers of polo in England, and he also played as an old man.  Vanity Fair published a caricature of him playing polo - sitting atop his horse with his potbelly and white flowing beard.

And, Charles was an avid Huntsman. He was a master of the South Knot Hunt for over 30 years. During hunting season, he hunted six days a week. His obituary said that he never missed a hunt unless he happened to be laid up with broken bones from a fall.

At Elvaston castle, there was a little workshop where Charles liked to tinker with projects. At the end of his life, Charles was badly burned while working there. He was making a picture frame, and he accidentally bumped his left hand against the pipe of a stove. After treating it with oil, he developed blood poisoning and died.

Charles left specific instructions in his will that upon his death, his hounds should be let out to hunt.  Family lore says that when Charles was buried, the hounds bounded into the graveyard and gathered around the oak tree near the family crypt. They would not leave and could not be coaxed away.

The tree the hounds were fixated on was dubbed the Happy Huntsman's Tree. There's a small plaque beneath it oh today it still stands in the graveyard of Saint Bartholomew's Church Derbyshire ("Dar-bee-shur").

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