February 7, 2020 Australian Plants, NYBG’s Poetic Botany, Cadwallader Colden, Jane Colden, John Deere, Charles Dickens, A Rich Spot of Earth by Peter Hatch, and Dr. Jan Salick

Show Notes

Today we celebrate the botanist who served as Lieutenant Governor of New York and the first American female botanist in America.

We'll learn about the man who changed agriculture forever with his invention.

Today's Unearthed Words feature the English Victorian author born today. He loved geraniums.

We Grow That Garden Library™ with a book that features Thomas Jefferson's revolutionary garden at Monticello.

I'll talk about a garden item that will heat things up...

And, then, we'll wrap things up with a fantastic honor for a modern plant explorer and ethnobotanist - a daughter of the great state of Wisconsin and a senior curator of the Missouri Botanical Garden.

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



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Curated Articles

Yes, Native Plants Can Flourish After Bushfire. But There's Only So Much Hardship They Can Take

While Australian plants and ecosystems have evolved to embrace bushfires, there's only so much drought and fire they can take...


Poetic Botany: A Digital Exhibition

Poetic Botany:

Have you explored the 'Poetic Botany' exhibition from @NYBG yet? This interactive digital exhibition illuminates the cross-section between art, science, and poetry through nine plant species. Check it out here:


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

1688 Today is the birthday of the Scottish-American physician, Scientist, botanist, and Lieutenant Governor of New York, Cadwallader Colden (CAD-wah-LIDDER). When Colden arrived in America in 1718, he began a family dynasty that would eventually settle in Queens, New York. Aside from his political endeavors and his many interests, Colden was interested in botany and the new Linnaean system.

The family lived on an estate called Coldenham, and it was often visited by famous New World botanists like John Bartram.

Now, Colden and his wife had ten children, and they actively encouraged each of them to pursue their education.

Colden's 5th child was a daughter named Jane. Jane was born in 1724, and she followed in her father's footsteps and is regarded to be the first American woman to have become an official botanist.

Peter Collinson suspected as much when he wrote to John Bartram about Jane saying,

"Our friend Colden's daughter has, in a scientifical manner, sent over several sheets of plants - very curiously anatomized after Linnaeus's method and I believe that she is the first lady that has the tempted anything of this nature."

A proud dad, Colden wrote to his friend Jan Gronovius,

"I (have) often thought that botany is an amusement which may be made greater to the ladies who are often at a loss to fill up their time…

Their natural curiosity and the pleasure they take in the beauty and variety of dress seems to fit it for them (far more than men). The chief reason that few or none of them have applied themselves to (it)… is because all the books of any value are (written) in Latin.

I have a daughter (with) an inclination... for natural philosophy or history…

I took the pains to explained her Linnaeus's system and put it in English for her to use by freeing it from the technical terms - which was easily done by using two or three words in the place of one.

She is now grown very fond of the study… she now understands to some degree Linnaeus's characters. Notwithstanding that she does not understand Latin.

she has already (written) a pretty large volume in writing of the description of plants."

Cadwallader was able to give his daughter personal instruction on botany. He gave her access to his impressive botanical library; he even shared his personal correspondence with her and allowed her to interact with the many botanists that came to visit the family's estate.

In 1754 at Coldenham, when Jane was 30 years old, she met a young William Bartram who was less than half her age at just 14 years old. She also met the Charleston plantsman Alexander Garden who was just 24 years old.

In 1753, on the land around her family's home, Jane discovered marsh St Johnswort (Hypericum virginicum). Alexander sent it to her the following year, and Jane wanted to name it gardenia in his honor. Unfortunately for Jane, the gardenia name had been used by John Ellis, who had given the name to the Cape Jasmine. Since Ellis used the name first, Jane could not. So gardenia is reserved for the strongly scented Cape Jasmine (Gardenia jasminoides). They are fabulous cut flowers. With their beautiful foliage, they also make effective screens, hedges, borders, or ground covers.

In 1758, Walter Rutherford wrote to a friend after visiting Coldingham, and he described Cadwallader, his home and his 34-year-old daughter Jane this way:

"We made an Excursion to Coldingham, the Abode of the venerable philosopher Colden, as gay and facetious in his conversation is serious and solid in his writings. From the middle of the woods, this family corresponds with all the learning Societies in Europe…. his daughter Jenny is a florist in botanist. she has discovered a great number of plants never before described and his given their properties and virtues ( in her descriptions).... and she draws and colors them with great beauty… she (also) makes the best cheese I ever ate in America."

As for Jane, she is most famous for her only manuscript - a work in which she described 341 plants in the flora of NY, and she illustrated all but one of the different species she described.

The genus Coldenia in the borage family is named after Jane's father, Cadwallader Colden.


1804 Today is the birthday of the inventer and manufacturer John Deere.

John was born in Rutland, Vermont.

When he was four years old, his father returned to England to claim his inheritance. His father disappeared during that trip, and so John was raised by a single mother. As a little boy, John went to school, and at the age of 17, he became an apprentice to a blacksmith. Four years later, John set up his own shop and worked as a blacksmith for a dozen years.

But in 1837, times had changed, there were many blacksmiths in the east, and John was struggling to get business. Ultimately, John was facing bankruptcy when he headed west with just $73 in his pocket. After three weeks of traveling, John made it to Grand Detour, Illinois. After settling in, he opened another blacksmith shop in Grand Detour, and seeing that his prospects for business were good, he sent word back to his wife, Demaryius Lamb, to bring their five children and join him at their new home.

During his first year in Illinois, John was constantly making the same repair over and over again to the wood and cast-iron plow. The plow had worked well in the eastern part of the United States, where the soil is light and sandy. But, heavy and thick Midwestern farmland broke wooden plows. The farmers of the prairie desperately needed something more heavy-duty.

So, in 1838, when he was 34 years old, John Deere developed the first steel plow and the rest, as they say, is history.

Fast forward 20 years to 1858, and John Deere was building and selling more than 13,000 plows per year. Almost thirty years later, when John Deere died at the age of 82 in 1886, John's son Charles took over the business.

A little over a hundred years later, in 1993, the John Deere Lawn and Garden division alone topped two billion dollars in sales.

Today, the John Deere company is worth more than 53 billion dollars.


Unearthed Words

1812 Today is the birthday of the English Victorian era author and social critic Charles Dickens.

Charles Dickens' personal garden was called Gad's Hill Place. Every day, Charles Dickens cultivated the habit of walking the circuit of his gardens at Gad's Hill Place before sitting down to write his stories.

We know from his oldest daughter Mamie that Dickens's favorite flower was the Mrs. Pollock geranium - a tricolor variety that dates back to 1858. The Mrs. Pollock geranium was bred by the Scottish gardener and hybridist Peter Grieve. It's considered a classic geranium with sharply lobed leaves that sport three colors: brick red, gold, and grass green.

You've heard the saying, "not your grandmother's geranium"? Well, Mrs. Pollock could very well have been your second or third great grandmother's geranium. Dickens loved to wear geraniums in his buttonhole - and he had a steady supply. He grew them into large beds at gad's Hill, and he also grew them in his conservatory.

Here are some quotes about gardens and nature from an assortment of Dickens' 15 novels and short stories:

Spring is the time of year when it is summer in the sun and winter in the shade.
— Charles Dickens, Great Expectations


On the motionless branches of some trees, autumn berries hung like clusters of coral beads, as in those fabled orchards where the fruits were jewels...

— Charles Dickens, The Life, and Adventures of Martin Chuzzlewit


Around and around the house, the leaves fall thick, but never fast, for they come circling down with a dead lightness that is somber and slow.

— Charles Dickens, Bleak House


Facts alone are wanted in life. Plant nothing else, and root out everything else.

— Charles Dickens, Hard Times


The evening wind made such a disturbance just now, among some tall old elm-trees at the bottom of the garden, that neither my mother nor Miss Betsey could forbear glancing that way. As the elms bent to one another, like giants who were whispering secrets, and after a few seconds of such repose, fell into a violent flurry, tossing their wild arms about, as if their late confidences were really too wicked for their peace of mind.

— Charles Dickens, The Personal History of David Copperfield


Grow That Garden Library

A Rich Spot of Earth by Peter J. Hatch

The subtitle to this book is "Thomas Jefferson's Revolutionary Garden at Monticello."

The author of this book, Peter Hatch, was responsible for the maintenance, interpretation, and restoration of the 2400 acre landscape of Monticello from 1977 until 2012.

Alice Waters wrote the forward to this book. She said,

"I first met Peter Hatch in 2009 when he took me around the gardens of Monticello on a crisp, sunny, autumn day. No one knows the land’s story better than Peter. Thomas Jefferson‘s garden, Peter writes, ‘was an Ellis Island of introductions, filled with a whole world of hearty economic plants: 330 varieties of 99 species of vegetables and herbs.’ I’m so impressed by this biodiversity which is exactly what our country so urgently needs right now - a vegetable garden that is, as Peter frames it, a true American garden: practical, expensive, and wrought from a world of edible immigrants.”

The president of the Thomas Jefferson foundation wrote this in the preface to Peters book:

"Peter is a man of the earth. Annie Leibovitz Photographed his hands when she came to Monticello. For 34 years, Peter has plunged those hands into the earth on the mountainside of Monticello. Each year, coaxing, wresting, and willing an ever more copious renaissance of Jefferson's peerless garden. Monticello is Jefferson's autobiography, his lifelong pursuit, the greatest manifestation of his genius, And the only home in the united states listed on the United Nations list of World Heritage Sites. We have Peter to thank for devoting his career to the revelation of Jefferson's passion for plants and the significance of our founder’s horticultural pursuit of happiness.”

Peter Hatch opens the book with this quote from Jefferson. It's from a letter he wrote to the Philadelphia Portrait Painter Charles Wilson Peale. Jefferson said,

“I have often thought that if heaven had given me a choice of my position and calling, it should have been on a rich spot of earth, well-watered, and near a good market for the productions of the garden. No occupation is so delightful to me as the culture of the earth and no culture comparable to that of the garden. Such a variety of subjects, some one always coming to perfection, the failure of one thing repaired by the success of another, and instead of one harvest a continued one thro’ the year. Under a total want of demand except for our family table I am still devoted to the garden. But tho’ an old man, I am but a young gardener.”

Peter went on to write that,

“Thomas Jefferson's Monticello vegetable garden was truly a revolutionary American garden. many of the summer vegetables that we take for granted today — tomatoes, okra, eggplant, lima beans, peanuts, and peppers— were slow to appear in North American gardens around 1800. European travelers commented on the failure of Virginia gardeners to take advantage “of the fruitful warmth of the climate” because of the American reliance “on the customary products of Europe”: cool-season vegetables. Jefferson's garden was unique in showcasing a medley of vegetable species native to hot climates, from South and Central America to Africa to the Middle East and the Mediterranean. Few places on Earth combined tropical heat and humidity with temperate winters like those at Monticello. Jefferson capitalized on this by creating a south-facing terrace, a microclimate that exaggerates the summer warmth, tempers the winter cold and captures an abundant wealth of crop-ripening Sunshine. Peter’s book is beautiful. It's lavishly Illustrated and the writing is engaging. The first half of the book focuses on Jefferson’s gardening and then the second half focuses on the development and the restoration of the gardens at Monticello."

You can get a used copy of A Rich Spot of Earth by Peter J. Hatch and support the show, using the Amazon Link in today's Show Notes for under $7.


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Today's Botanic Spark

2020 Today is a big day for Dr. Jan Salick - a daughter of the great state of Wisconsin - who is being honored with the 2020 Fairchild Medal for Plant Exploration.

Jan accepts her award tonight at a black-tie dinner at National Tropical Botanical Garden‎'s (NTBG) historical garden, The Kampong, in Coconut Grove, Florida, the former residence of plant explorer Dr. David Fairchild. The following day she will present a public lecture entitled "Neither Man Nor Nature." Jan is only the second woman to receive the medal.

Jan has been an ethnobotanist for over four decades. She is a Senior Curator at the Missouri Botanical Garden. Jan's Focus has been to examine the effects of climate change on indigenous people in the plants they rely on.

Jan has worked all over the world. She's been to the most exotic places that you can think of: Indonesia, the Himalayas in the Amazon, in South America, etc. In 2018, the Missouri Botanical Garden tweeted:

"Garden ethnobotanist Dr. Jan Salick has built a career on wanderlust."

Jan says,

"Don't hold back. It's out there. The whole wide world is out there."

In 1916, Fairchild and his wife, Marion (the daughter of Alexander Graham Bell), purchased the property and named it The Kampong. Today, it is one of the oldest buildings in Miami-Dade County, and it is on the National Register of Historic Places. The Kampong is one of five botanical gardens that make up the National Tropical Botanic Garden, and it is the only garden located in the continental United States.

Given by the National Tropical Botanical Garden, the Fairchild Medal is the highest honor that can be bestowed upon a scientist who explores remote parts of the world to discover important plants and expand our scientific knowledge and practical understanding of them.

The award is named in honor of Dr. David Fairchild, one of the greatest and most influential horticulturalists and plant collectors in the United States. Fairchild devoted his entire life to searching for useful plants, and he was single-handedly responsible for the introduction of more than 200,000 plants to the United States, including pistachios, mangoes, dates, nectarines, soybeans, and flowering cherries.

Anyway, congratulations to Dr. Jan Salik. She is a role model for young women, and her career is an exciting example of the wide-open field of plant exploration and botany. The world of the future needs more botanists like Jan Salick!

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