February 11, 2020 Penelope Hobhouse, Fertilizer Numbers, Margaret Cavendish Bentinck, William Shenstone, Charles Daubeny, Winter Poems, A Botanist’s Vocabulary by Susan K. Pell and Bobbi Angell, Jute Twine, and February Folklore

Show Notes

Today we celebrate a woman who was once the wealthiest woman in England, and she happily spent a fortune on plants.

We also celebrate the man who transformed his family farm into a glorious garden.

And, we'll learn about the Oxford professor who is remembered by a flower known as the "Jewel of the Desert."

 Today's Unearthed Words feature thoughts on winter.

We Grow That Garden Library™ with a book that will help you develop a botanist's vocabulary.

I'll talk about a garden item you can buy that I use all the time.

And then, we'll wrap things up with some sweet February folklore.

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



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Curated Articles

Penelope Hobhouse wins Lifetime Achievement Award | @TEGmagazine

Bravo for Penelope Hobhouse - awarded the 2020 Society of Garden Designers (SGD) Lifetime Achievement Award!

Past winners: Piet Oudolf, Beth Chatto & Christopher Bradley-Hole.

The award recognizes her outstanding contribution to landscape & garden design.

Get inspired & grow with her many books on garden design & garden history.


Fertilizer Numbers: What They Mean and How to Use Them to Grow Better

Excellent Comprehensive Post on Fertilizer @savvygardening @JessicaWalliser

Know Your Numbers: What they mean and how to use them to grow better!

NPK stands for "nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium," the three nutrients that comprise complete fertilizers. The description of the fertilizer may not expressly say "NPK," but you will at least see a series of three numbers.

How do plants use N, P, & K?

Nitrogen promotes shoot & leaf growth. Adding it to a green, leafy vegetable plant, such as spinach or lettuce, makes sense.

Phosphorous generates fruit, flower, & root production. It's great for root crops, like beets, carrots, and onions, as well as for encouraging flower and fruit production.

Potassium affects a plant's heartiness and vigor.


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

1715  Today is the birthday of the British aristocrat, naturalist, plant lover, and botanist Margaret Cavendish Bentinck, Duchess of Portland. Her family and friends called her Maria.

Maria married when she was 19 years old. Together, she and William Bentinck had five children; one of their sons became prime minister twice. When William died after their 27th anniversary, Maria threw herself into her many passions.

As the wealthiest woman in England, Maria could acquire virtually any treasure from the natural world - and she did. She cultivated an enormous collection of natural history, which was tended by two experts she hired to personally attend each item: the naturalist Reverend John Lightfoot and the Swedish botanist Daniel Solander.

Maria's home in Buckinghamshire was referred to by society as the hive - it was the Hub of activity for Solander and Lightfoot and the other people who helped process her acquisitions.

At one point, Maria had reached out to Captain James Cook and had secured some shells from his second expedition to Australia. Daniel Solander was focused on cataloging Maria's massive shell collection but sadly left to the work unfinished when he died in 1782. Maria had an enormous appetite for curation and collecting. In addition to her Botanic Garden on her property, Maria opened a zoo, kept rabbits, and had an aviary.

A constant stream of scientists, explorers, socialites, and artists visited her to exchange ideas and to inspect her collections.

And, think about the limitless ambition she must have had as Lightfoot wrote that Maria wanted,

"Every unknown species in the three kingdoms of nature described and published to the world."

Now, Maria had a special love for collecting plants and flowers from far-off places from around the world. She retained the botanist and the incomparable botanical illustrator Georg Dionysius Ehret as a drawing instructor. Struck by the luminescence of his work, Maria bought over 300 of his paintings.

Maria also became friends with the botanical artist Mary Delany. Mary made botanical paper mosaics, as she called them. Mary was essentially creating flower specimens out of tissue paper. Mary was exacting - dissecting real flowers and then replicating what she saw with tissue paper. To gather more material for her work, Maria and Mary loved to go out into the fields and collect specimens together.

As the Duchess of Portland, Maria shared her specimens with the public, and she displayed her various collections from around the globe in what she called her Portland Museum.

Once, in 1800, Maria received a rose from Italy, which became known as the Portland Rose in her honor. The rose was a beautiful crimson scarlet with round petals - and it was a repeat bloomer. And, here's a fun fact: all Portland Roses were developed from that first Portland Rose - the sweet gift to Margaret Cavendish Bentinck, the Duchess of Portland.


1763  Today is the anniversary of the death of poet and landscape gardener William Shenstone

In the early 1740s, Shenstone inherited his family's dairy farm, which he transformed into the Leasowes (pronounced 'lezzoes'). The transfer of ownership lit a fire under Shenstone, and he immediately started changing the land into a wild landscape - something he referred to as an ornamented farm.

Shenstone wisely bucked the trend of his time, which called for formal garden design (he didn't have the money to do that anyway.) Yet, what Shenstone accomplished was quite extraordinary. His picturesque natural landscape included water features like cascades and pools, as well as structures like temples and ruins.

What I love most about Shenstone is that he was a consummate host. He considered the comfort and perspective of the garden from the standpoint of his visitors. When he created a walk around his estate, Shenstone wanted to control the experience. So, Shenstone added seating, every so often along the path,  to cause folks to stop and admire the views that Shenstone found most appealing. Then, he incorporated signage with beautiful classical verses and poems - even adding some of his own - which elevated the Leasowes experience for guests.

After his death, his garden, the Leasowes, became a popular destination - attracting the likes of William Pitt, Thomas Jefferson, and Benjamin Franklin.

It was William Shenstone who said,

"Grandeur and beauty are so very opposite, that you often diminish the one as you increase the other. Variety is most akin to the latter, simplicity to the former."


1795  Today is the birthday of the 19th-century professor of botany at Oxford University — as well as a chemist and geologist — Charles Daubeny (dow-Ben-EE). The herbarium at Oxford is named in his honor, as is the Daubenya genus (dow-Ben-ya) in the Hyacinth family.

In 1835, the genus was described by the British botanist John Lindley. Lindley named it in honor of his peer, Charles Daubeny, in recognition of his experiments in vegetable chemistry, which improved our understanding of plant physiology.

Native to South Africa, up until 2000, Daubenya was thought to have a single species, Daubenya aurea or Golden Daubenya. But then, it was expanded by John Manning and Peter Goldblatt to include additional genera ("jeh·nr·uh"). These Hyacinth varieties, with the common name "Jewel of the Desert," - Daubenya - grow flat on the ground and have a single large red or yellow bloom. Growing only on the Roggeveld ("Rog-veld" Afrikaans for "rye field") mountain range in South Africa, Daubenya blooms every  September.


Unearthed Words

Here are some thoughts on winter:

Winter is a time of promise because there is so little to do — or because you can now and then permit yourself the luxury of thinking so.
—Stanley Crawford, A Garlic Testament: Seasons on a Small New Mexico Farm, 1992


There are two seasons in Scotland: June and Winter.
— Billy Connolly, Scottish stand-up comedian


A melancholy mantle rests
Upon the land, the sea.
The wind in tristful cadence moans
A mournful threnody.
There flits no gleeful insect,
No blithesome bee nor bird;
Over all the vast of Nature
No joyful sound is heard.
In garments sere and somber
Each vine and tree is clad:
It's dreary-hearted winter,
And all the earth is sad.
— Hazel Dell Crandall, Los Angeles poet, The Lilt of the Year


Go to the winter woods: listen there, look, watch, and "the dead months" will give you a subtler secret than any you have yet found in the forest.
— William Sharp (pseudonym Fiona Macleod), Scottish writer and poet, Where the Forest Murmurs


Grow That Garden Library

A Botanist's Vocabulary by Susan K. Pell and Bobbi Angell

This book came out in May of 2015, and it describes and illustrates - which is so helpful - a whopping 1300 terms.

Bobbi and Susan introduce their book this way:

"We have attempted to define terms used by botanists, naturalists, and gardeners alike to describe plants.

The included terms mostly refer to plant structures and come from the horticultural and botanical literature and practice. Many… terms are not easily defined or illustrated. If they were, the botanical kingdom would not be as rich and engaging as it is. With infinite variety, petals and sepals sometimes adhere to each other to attract pollinators or facilitate pollination; male and female reproductive parts may fuse to form intricate unified columns; fruits have peculiar, sometimes complicated, mechanisms of seed dispersal.

There are terms that apply only to a particular group of plants, such as orchids, grasses, or irises. Some apply to whole plants or ecosystems, while others are visible only under a microscope.

Please wander through the book to recognize the easily applied terms and learn a few unusual ones, but also use the book as a reference when you are stumped by a field guide or a strange-looking fruit. We hope your newfound knowledge helps you gain an even greater appreciation for the world of plants."

You can get a used copy of A Botanist's Vocabulary by Susan K. Pell and Bobbi Angell and support the show, using the Amazon Link in today's Show Notes for under $14.


Great Gifts for Gardeners

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Today's Botanic Spark

February joined the calendar with January around 700 B.C. The etymology of the name February comes from the Latin "februa," which means "purification." February generally has 28 days, except in a leap year (like this year), in which it has 29 days. Sometimes sayings about February aren't very kind like the translation of this French saying: "February is the shortest month and by far the worst."

February is National Cherry (Prunus spp.) month and National Grapefruit (Citrus × paradisi) month.

Here's some folklore regarding the month of February:

Married in February's sleety weather,
Life you'll tread in tune together.


It is better to see a troop of wolves than a fine February.


If a hedgehog casts a shadow at noon, winter will return.


If February gives much snow,
A fine summer it doth foreshow.

Fogs in February mean frosts in May.

A wet February, a wet Spring.

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