Today we celebrate the Dutch botanist who figured out the king bee was actually a queen and the poet gardener who preferred curves over straight lines.
We'll learn about the evolutionist who started out as a staunch Christian and who once wrote,
"I did not in the least doubt the strict and literal truth of every word in the Bible."
Today's Unearthed Words feature thoughts about February, our shortest month.
We Grow That Garden Library™ with a book that is brand new - just released officially today - and it encourages you to grow your fruit and vegetables in pots.
I'll talk about a garden item that is just the coolest little gadget for growing seeds.
And then we'll wrap things up with the backstory on a Clematis you probably have in your garden, or your neighbor has it - or both.
But first, let's catch up on a few recent events.
How to Eat Edible Flowers? One bite at a time.
"Chamomile tastes like apples; Begonia has a sharp citrus flavor, Calendula goes peppery to bitter, Daylilies - a melony, cucumber taste & Nasturtium is sweet and peppery."
Take a moment & watch this - an EXCELLENT video featuring Penelope Hobhouse - (Society of Garden Designers) SGD Awards 2020 Lifetime Achievement Award Winner
"My feelings about good design are, first of all, the skeleton - the architecture. If you get the architecture right, you can fill it in with the plants you love.
I was 82 - or something like that - when I came here. I knew it was my last garden.
That's really what made me plant this as an architectural garden - with flowers in between green architecture. I only wanted plants I really loved, and that's what I've done.
That's what is so lovely is living here - almost as a recluse - getting old. I think I'm very lucky people remember me at all. That's just luck and chance, I think."
Sarah Morgan, SGD Chair, said:
"Penelope Hobhouse has influenced and inspired garden design for decades. Self-trained in practical horticulture and design, she nevertheless forged a hugely successful career, thanks to her love and knowledge of plants and instinctive design talent."
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.
1637 Today is the birthday of the Dutch biologist and entomologist Jan Swammerdam (Yahn SWAH-MER-dam).
Before Jan's work, people believed that insects created spontaneously. Jan proved that insects were born from eggs laid by the female of the species and that the larva, pupa, and adult, were just different forms of the same species.
After Jan dissected a female bee and discovered it had ovaries, he pronounced the head of the colony to be a queen bee "hitherto looked upon as a king."
And here was Jan's description of the male bees:
"[The hive] tolerates, during summer days of abundance, the embarrassing presence in the hive of three or four hundred males, from whose ranks the queen about to be born shall select her lover; three or four hundred foolish, clumsy, useless, noisy creatures, who are pretentious, gluttonous, dirty, course, totally and scandalously idle, insatiable, and enormous."
Jan's description of the hive's survival abilities is still as vibrant and relevant today as it was when he wrote:
"Should disaster befall the little Republic; should the hive or the comb collapse; should man prove ignorant or brutal; should they suffer from famine, from cold or disease, and perish by thousands, it will still be almost invariably found that the queen will be safe and alive beneath the corpses of her faithful daughters.
For they will protect her and help her escape; their bodies will provide both rampart and shelter; for her will be the last drop of honey, the wholesomest food. Break their comb twenty times in succession, take twenty times from them their young and their food, you still shall never succeed in making them doubt of the future."
1724 Today is the birthday of the poet and gardener William Mason.
The Reverend William Mason was also a writer, artist, and garden designer. Mason is remembered for creating the romance of the country house garden. Here's how he did it:
In 1775 at Nuneham ("NEW-Num"), near Oxford, England, Mason designed a flower garden for his friend Lord Harcourt. To many, this garden was a turning point and marked the beginning of what came to be known as romantic flower gardening.
What Mason accomplished was a radical change; straight lines in borders and beds were out. Circular beds were in. With new elements in gardens like island beds, this meant that the plants were located away from the house. Instead, plantings and beds were located near outdoor garden buildings like temples, or orangeries, or a seating area.
The garden at Nuneham became a model for others. Mason's creation set the trend for English gardening, and Mason broadcast his ideas about romantic gardening in a very, very long poem called "The English Garden." It was released in chunks over the span of a decade, between 1772 and 1781.
Mason's target audience were the wealthy garden owners of his time. He was speaking directly to them when he wrote:
"Waste is not grandeur," and
"A garden is the purest of human pleasures; it is the greatest refreshment to the spirit of man."
Mason made many appeals to country estate owners, but his broad message was to throw out formal gardens in favor of romantic landscapes.
Now, the word romantic simply means a landscape that is wild or natural. During this time, people referred to these romantic, natural, or wild landscapes as the picturesque garden.
Today, gardeners delight in this little verse from Mason's poem. It offers simple, resonate advice from William Mason to you:
Take thy plastic spade,
It is thy pencil.
Take thy seeds, thy plants,
They are thy colors.
1809 Today is the birthday of the English naturalist and writer Charles Robert Darwin.
Darwin was born into a large Christian family in Victorian England. His dad was wealthy; he was a doctor and an investor. For generations, Darwin's family were staunch abolitionists.
Darwin's mother died when he was just eight years old. Clever and curious, he managed to find solace in learning. When he went to college at Cambridge, he was planning to be a member of the clergy. He wrote,
"I did not then in the least doubt, the strict and literal truth of every word in the Bible."
But then, Darwin met a man who would become his mentor and friend, John Stevens Henslow. Henslow taught botany at Cambridge, and the two men enjoyed learning from each other as they took walks in the country. Their time together inspired Darwin and helped him to focus on his specialty - the natural world. It also opened the door to a strong wanderlust - a desire to see firsthand what the world had to offer.
It was thanks to his friend Henslow that Darwin received an invitation to join Captain Robert FitzRoy on the HMS Beagle. Henslow had written a letter recommending Darwin for the journey, especially endorsing his likable personality.
Once Darwin was officially asked to be part of team Beagle, Henslow presented Darwin with a gift - a rare copy of Alexander von Humboldt's travels in South America. In the book, Henslow had inscribed these words:
"J. S. Henslow to his friend C. Darwin on his departure from England upon a voyage around the World. 21st Sept. 1831."
Darwin treasured this gift above all others, and at his death, the book was safely brought to Cambridge University Library, where it remains to this day.
Darwin's five-year Journey on the HMS Beagle led him to think differently about his faith and his perspective on creation.
It was October 2, 1836, before the HMS Beagle returned to England.
Often, Darwin is depicted on the Beagle as an old man; but he was just 22 when he sailed away and still a young 27 when he returned with boxes full of specimens and a brain swirling with new ideas.
During the revelatory trip on the Beagle, Darwin had found the building blocks to his evolutionary theory in the many fossils and diverse species he discovered on his excursions. In particular, his visit to the Galapagos Islands - which were largely untouched by man; they were pristine - was especially influential.
And, although people assume that Darwin had a lightbulb moment during his time on the Beagle, his writing shows that wasn't the case. Darwin's thinking on the topic of creation and evolution matured as he grew older. Bear in mind, his paternal grandfather, Erasmus, had experienced bigtime negative backlash for his own ideas on evolution. This made Darwin cautious, and it raised the stakes for going public with his own radical thoughts. To mitigate the risk, Darwin was methodical, and he worked to make an irrefutable case for evolution. Thus, it would be another 23 years after returning to England Beagle before Darwin was ready to publish his masterpiece: Origin of Species.
Now, if you ever get the chance to review the first edition online, you might be surprised to know that the word evolution isn't even mentioned. It wasn't until the 6th edition that the powerful word that became synonymous with Darwin's work was integrated into the text - evolution.
Here are some thoughts on February - the shortest month of the year:
The February sunshine steeps your boughs and tints the buds and swells the leaves within.
— William Cullen Bryant, American Romantic poet
Deep sleeps the winter,
Cold, wet, and grey;
Surely all the world is dead;
Spring is far away.
Wait! the world shall waken;
It is not dead, for lo,
The Fair Maids of February
Stand in the snow!
— Cicely Mary Barker, English illustrator of fairies and flowers
In tangled wreath, in clustered gleaming stars,
In floating, curling sprays,
The golden flower comes shining through the woods
These February days;
Forth go all hearts, all hands, from out the town,
To bring her gayly in,
This wild, sweet Princess of far Florida -
The yellow jessamine.
— Constance Fenimore Woolson, American novelist, and poet, (and grand niece of James Fenimore Cooper), Yellow Jessamine
February is merely as long as it is needed to pass the time until March.
— Dr. J. R. Stockton, Professor Emeritus of Business Statistics, University of Texas
February, when the days of winter seem endless, and no amount of wistful
recollecting can bring back any air of summer.
― Shirley Hardie Jackson, American writer, Raising Demons
February makes a bridge, and March breaks it.
— George Herbert, Welsh poet, orator, and priest
Grow That Garden Library
This book is hot off the shelf - brand new - just released today!
Aaron Bertelsen is the gardener-cook of England's Great Dixter in East Sussex — where the kitchen garden is a central part of everything he does.
In his new cookbook, Aaron shares tips and tricks for potting up vegetables and preparing recipes from Grow Fruit & Vegetables in Pots - his brand new cookbook.
This is such a great topic because so many of us have gardens where space is precious and limited. Following Aaron's example, we can expand our garden pots to include plants like blueberries and eggplant.
Aaron has spent many seasons at Great Dixter, and for the years, he's refined his list of go-to vegetables and the various fruit specimens that he has learned to grow in containers. Now, he's sharing that advice with all of us so that we can learn what crops will grow best in pots.
As a cook, Aaron also gives us his best advice on harvesting and cooking. This cookbook features over 50 wonderful recipes. The photos of these incredible dishes are so inspiring that you'll definitely want to expand what you're growing so that you can try some of Aaron's novel food ideas.
Thanks to Aaron, once again, we've learned that space is not an excuse to not garden, and it certainly isn't a barrier to creativity or variety when it comes to what we plant. We just have to think more strategically about our gardens and search more diligently for wonderful examples to follow. Aaron and Great Dixter give us a wonderful blueprint for amping up the productivity in our garden space through the use of pots and the excitement in our own small garden spaces by following Aaron's lead.
Great Gifts for Gardeners
Esschert Design says:
"Our Secrets du Potager line is for those who are passionate about gardening, cooking, and entertaining and have an eye for detail. This clever tool is used for making seed pots from a newspaper; it's fun. Instead of traditional flower pots made of clay or plastic, you can also use homemade, small paper pots. In no time at all, you will be able to prepare a range of paper pots. When the time comes to plant the young seedlings outside, simply put them together with the paper pot in the ground. The newspaper rots away by itself. This set contains the paper pot press and instructions on how to produce the pots."
- A clever tool for making seed pots from newspaper
- Set includes the paper pot press and instructions on how to prepare the pot
Today's Botanic Spark
I thought you'd enjoy learning about the family behind the ubiquitous Jackman Clematis - it's the one with the large dark purple flowers with yellow centers. And, just an FYI, you can prune the Jackman back in the fall without hurting next year's bloom - so don't sweat it, you can't hurt it with an end of the season cleanup.
1869 Today is the anniversary of the death of the English nurseryman, pomologist, florist, and Clematis hybridizer George Jackman. He died at the age of 68. With multiple George's in the family, this George Jackman was always referred to as George I.
Now, George I, and his brother Henry, were born into a nurseryman's family. In 1810, their father, William, founded Jackman Nursery on 150 acres in Woking ("Woe-king"), Surrey.
George I and Henry grew up learning the business alongside their dad. By 1830, Willliam had turned the business over to his sons. After a few years, Henry decided he wasn't interested in running the struggling nursery, and he left it for George I.
In the fall of 1834, George married Mary Ann Freemont. He was 33 years old. In a little over three years, George II was born.
The beginning of the year 1840 was a terrible time in the life of George I. He lost his wife Mary in January and his father, William, in February. In the span of twenty-five days, George I and his 3-year-old son, George II, were alone. Needless to say, the nursery became the center of their world.
The start of Clematis hybridizing, began five years before George I's life took such a dramatic turn. In 1835, about 35 miles from the Jackman nursery, London's Pineapple Nursery owned by John Andrew Henderson created the first Clematis hybrid. It was called Clematis Hendersonii - no doubt, George I took notice.
When George II was 13 years old, Robert Fortune brought Clematis lanuginosa ("LAN-you-jee-NO-sah") to England. Native to China, the blooms on this Clematis were larger than any ever seen before. If Clematis blossoms were going to get bigger, the lanuginosa was the linchpin.
By this point, George I was employing 35 men and six boys at the Jackman Nursery. George II shadowed every aspect of the business, and he grew to be a shrewd owner/operator.
As a young man, George II was energized at the thought of clematis hybridizing. When he was just 21 years old, George II crossed Fortune's lanuginosa with Hendersonii along with the climber atrorubens. In less than six months, they had 300 seedlings. and George Jackman II had an instant hit on his hands.
The plant was hardy, it quickly produced long-lasting impressive flowers, and the rootstock lasted for many years. The year was 1858, and Clematis Jackmanii (ii = "ee-eye") was born.
George II wrote:
"Seedlings about 300 — results of hybrids: very robust growers, abundant in flower of rich deep purple and maroon."
Clematis jackmanii went on to receive the Award of Garden Merit from The Royal Horticultural Society. And, George II co-authored a book with Thomas Moore, the Secretary of The Royal Horticultural Society, the book called Clematis as a Garden Flower. George II and Thomas Moore dedicated the book to HRH Princess Mary, the Duchess of Teck. The Clematis was one of her favorite flowers.
When George I died on this day in 1869, he had raised his son and had turned his nursery into a success. He had served as chapelwarden for his church - the church of St. John - for over two decades. He started serving a few years after losing his wife Mary, Mrs. George Jackman.
The Gardener's chronicle said he died after a gout attack and was by all accounts a "beloved… kind-hearted, genial Christian." It went on to say that his "workmen (several of whom had been [with him] for 20, 30, or 40 years)" followed his coffin to the churchyard for burial.
In 1967, the Jackman Nursery was sold by a Jackman descendant, Roland Jackman.
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SI HORTUM IN HORTORIA PODCASTA IN BIBLIOTEHCA HABES, NIHIL DEERIT.