February 13, 2020 North Carolina Wildflower of the Year, Vita Sackville-West, Joseph Banks, Lewis David von Schweinitz, Jeremiah Bailey, Julia Dorr, A Sting in the Tale by Dave Goulson, and Maria L Owen

Show Notes

Today we celebrate the botanist who sailed with Captain James Cook on the Endeavor and the man regarded as the father of North American mycology.

We'll learn about the man who patented the first practical lawnmower 198 years ago today.

Today's Unearthed Words feature a poet and writer who used the names Flora or Florilla as her pseudonyms.

We Grow That Garden Library™ with a book about one man's adventures with bumblebees.

I'll talk about a flexible and tough garden item to help you plant your seedlings and it is reusable to boot.

And then, we'll wrap things up with the story of a woman who knew the botanical world of Nantucket like the back of her hand.

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



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Curated Articles

2020 Wildflower of the Year – North Carolina Botanical Garden

The 2020 North Carolina Wildflower of the Year: marsh-pink (Sabatia angularis "Sah-BAY-tee-ah ANG-you-LARE-iss) @NCBotGarden

  • aka: rose gentian, rose pink, or bitter-bloom.
  • A biennial - Native to US (South & East), Grows in low, wet meadows, woods & along roadsides.
  • Marsh-pink grows best in moist soil in full to partial sun and is infrequently offered in nurseries because of its biennial habit.
  • It seemingly disappears in years of drought,


Vita Sackville-West on her garden at Sissinghurst (1950) | House & Garden

Wow. Great share from @_houseandgarden archive: Vita Sackville-West at Sissinghurst (1950).

If you are renovating or starting from scratch - read this & be inspired!

"The place had been in the market for three years since the death of the last farmer-owner...

Brambles grew in wild profusion; bindweed wreathed its way into every support; ground-elder made a green carpet; docks and nettles flourished; couch­ grass sprouted; half the fruit trees in the orchard were dead; the ones that remained alive were growing in the coarsest grass; the moat was silted up and so invaded by reeds and bulrushes that the water was almost invisible; paths there were none, save of trodden mud. It had its charm.

It was Sleeping Beauty's castle with a ven­geance — if you liked to see it with a romantic eye. But, if you also looked at it with a realistic eye, you saw that Nature run wild was not quite so romantic as you thought, and entailed a great deal of laborious tidying up.

The most urgent thing to do was to plant hedges. We were extravagant over this, and planted yew, and have never regretted it. Everybody told us it took at least a century to make a good yew hedge, but the photographs will, I think, disprove this: the hedge is now only seventeen years old, a mere adoles­cent, and, at the end where the ground slopes and it has been allowed to grow up in order to maintain the top-level, it is 16 feet high.

At the end of all this is the herb garden, which always seems to allure visitors, no doubt because it is a secret, senti­mental little place. "Old world charm" is the phrase I always expect to hear, and nine times out of ten I get it. But, less romantic­ally, the herb garden does supply very useful things to the kitchen.

One needs years of patience to make a garden; one needs deeply to love it, in order to endure that patience. One needs optimism and foresight. One has to wait. One has to work hard oneself, sometimes, as I had to work hard, manually, during the war years, cutting all those hedges with shears in my spare time. I hated those hedges when I looked at my blistered hands; but at the same time, I still felt that it had been worthwhile planting them. They were the whole pattern and design and anatomy of the garden; and, as such was worth any trouble I was willing to take.”


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

1743 Today is the birthday of Joseph Banks.

Banks is best known for his study of Australian flora and fauna and his role as the botanist on board the Endeavor with Captain James Cook.

When they landed in Australia, neither Cook nor Banks realized that the quartz reef where they planted the British Flag contained gold. The area would remain untouched by Europeans for almost two more decades.

Before returning to England, Cook worried the Endeavor wouldn't make it around the Cape of Good Hope.

In a fateful decision, Cook had brought the ship to Batavia, a Dutch colony, to fortify his boat. Batavia was a dangerous place where malaria and dysentery were rampant. As a result of his stop, Cook lost a staggering 38 members of his crew. Banks, and a fellow botanist Daniel Solander, managed to survive the stop, although, at one point, they were both gravely ill. Even as they battled back from illness, they still went out to collect specimens.

As gardeners, we owe a great debt to Banks.

When he returned to England, it was Joseph Banks who advised George III on the creation of the Royal Botanic Garden, Kew.

And, in 1778, when Linnaeus died, his belongings went up for sale. By then, Joseph Banks was the President of the Linnean Society. Joseph acted quickly, buying everything of horticultural value on behalf of the society. Linnaeus' notebooks and specimens were on a ship bound for England by the time the king of Sweden realized Linnaeus' legacy was no longer in Sweden. He sent a fast Navy ship in pursuit of Banks' precious cargo, but it was too late. And so, Banks secured the legacy of Linnaeus, which is why Linnaeus's collection is in London at the Linnaeus Society's Burlington House.

And, Banks helped spread Linnaeus's ideas across the globe, which was easier for him to accomplish since he was based in London, the hub for the science of botany.

At his London residence, Banks hired the Scottish botanist Robert Brown to be his botanical librarian. The two became lifelong friends. So much so, that when Banks died in 1820, he left his home, his collections, and his library to Brown, and he also endowed him with a sizeable yearly allowance.


1780 Today is the birthday of the Moravian clergyman and botanist Lewis David von Schweinitz, also known as the "Father of North American Mycology." Mycology is the study of fungi.

Lewis was born in Pennsylvania, and he was a descendant on his mother's side of Count Zinzendorf - the founder of the Moravian Church. Lewis's home town of Bethlehem Pennsylvania was a Moravian settlement.

When Lewis was seven years old, he was placed in a Moravian boarding school called Nazareth Hall. One of Lewis's earliest memories was visiting Nazareth Hall before attending there. He passed by one of the classrooms and saw a specimen of lichen digitatus sitting on a table, and he went to inspect it. It was Lewis's first experience with botany, and it would become his favorite subject.

After completing his education, Lewis moved to Niesky, Germany, with his family. He was 18 years old. In Germany, Lewis became a pastor, got married, and studied botany in his spare time. He even managed to help his professor put together a book featuring over 1,000 different types of fungi found in Niesky. Lewis used his natural talent for drawing and painting to created watercolors of the specimens featured, and they are now digitized and available online.

After many years in Germany, Lewis and his wife moved back to the United States to lead a Moravian church. They settled in Salem, North Carolina. Although the church was his primary focus, throughout his adulthood, Lewis devoted all of his spare time to the study of fungi.

Between 1812 and 1821, Lewis collected in and around Salem North, Carolina. He was essentially replicating the work he had performed in Germany under the direction of his botany professor. In 1818, Lewis published his work on the fungi of North Carolina. Then, four years later in 1822, Lewis published an even more comprehensive book featuring a staggering 3,000 species of fungi. In all, Lewis single-handedly published over 1,200 new species of fungi.

When Lewis died, his enormous herbarium made its way to the Academy of Natural Sciences in Philadelphia.

And here's a fun side note that pertains to Lewis Schweinitz:

In 1986, botanists discovered the rare sunflower named for Lewis Schweinitz - the Schweinitz sunflower (Helianthus schweinitzii) near Rock Hill in South Carolina. The Schweinitz sunflower exists only in about a dozen little pockets around Rock Hill and Charlotte. Lewis, himself, initially discovered the Schweinitz sunflower in 1821.


1822 On this day, Jeremiah Bailey of Chester county, Pennsylvania, patented the first practical lawnmower; it had two wheels and was pulled by a horse. A person could mow up to ten acres a day with Bailey's machine. After locals trialed the device, they reported,

“We consider it as one of the most complete and useful labor-saving machines for agricultural uses hitherto invented...”

The first genuinely successful machine would be patented ten years later by Obed Hussey of Maryland.


Unearthed Words

1825 Today is the birthday of the heartfelt American poet and writer - known at Rutland's poet and Vermont's unofficial poet laureate - Julia Dorr. As a girl, her pseudonym was Flora or Florillla. The poet William Cullen Bryant once read one of her poems and wrote to tell her how much he loved the beauty of its imagery. And Ralph Waldo Emerson visited her and included one of her poems - called Outgrown - in his book called Parnassus.

As you hear today's poems, imagine Julia Dorr writing in her little study next to the parlor. She had a window by her desk that overlooked her flower garden, which she called "her refuge and her inspiration."


Roly-poly honey bee,
Humming in the clover,
Under you, the tossing leaves
And the blue sky over,
Why are you so busy, pray?
Never still a minute,
Hovering now above a flower.
Now half-buried in it!
— Honeybee


And all the meadows, wide unrolled,
Were green and silver, green and gold,
Where buttercups and daisies spun
Their shining tissues in the sun.
— Unanswered


I know a spot where the wild vines creep,
And the coral moss-cups grow,
And where at the foot of the rocky steep,
The sweet blue violets blow.
—Over the Wall


And the stately lilies stand Fair in the silvery light,
Like saintly vestals, pale in prayer;
Their pure breath sanctifies the air,
As its fragrance fills the night.
— A Red Rose


Often I linger where the roses pour
Exquisite odors from each glowing cup;
Or where the violet, brimmed with sweetness o'er,
Lifts its small chalice up.
— Without and Within


Plant a white rose at my feet,
Or a lily fair and sweet,
With the humble mignonette
And the blue-eyed violet.
— Earth to Earth


Around in silent grandeur stood
The stately children of the wood;
Maple and elm and towering pine
Mantled in folds of dark woodbine.
— At the Gate


Meadow-sweet or lily fair—
Which shall it be?
Clematis or brier-rose,
Blooming for me?

Spicy pink, or violet
With the dews of morning wet,
Sweet peas or mignonette—
Which shall it be?

Blue-bells and yellow-bells
Swinging in the air;
Purple pansies, golden pied;
Pink-white daisies, starry-eyed;
Gay nasturtiums, deeply dyed,
Climbing everywhere.

Life is so full, so sweet—
How can I choose?
If I gather this rose,
That I must lose!
All are not for me to wear;
I can only have my share;
Thorns are hiding here and there;
How can I choose?
— Choosing


O my garden! Lying whitely in the moonlight and the dew,
Far across the leagues of distance flies my heart to-night to you,
And I see your stately lilies In the tender radiance gleam
With a dim, mysterious splendor, like the angels of a dream!

I can see the trellised arbor, and the roses crimson
And the lances of the larkspurs all glittering, row on row,
And the wilderness of hollyhocks, where brown bees seek their spoil,
And butterflies dance all day long, in glad and gay turmoil.
— Homesick


My true love sent me a valentine
All on a winter's day,
And suddenly the cold gray skies
Grew soft and warm as May!
The snowflakes changed to apple blooms,
A pink- white fluttering crowd,
And on the swaying maple boughs
The robins sang aloud.
For moaning wintry winds, I heard
The music sweet and low
Of morning-glory trumpets
Through which the soft airs blow.
O love of mine, my Valentine!
This is no winter day —
For Love rules all the calendars,
And Love knows only May!
—An Answer To A Valentine


Julia died just before her 88th birthday in 1913. In Evergreen Cemetery, in Rutland, Vermont, Julia shares a tombstone with her husband, Seneca. The stone features her poem "Beyond." For your understanding, a barque is a ship with three masts.

Beyond the sunset's crimson bars,
Beyond the twilight and the stars,
Beyond the midnight and the dark,
Sail on, sail on, O happy barque.
Into the dawn of that Tomorrow
Where hearts shall find the end of sorrow
And Love shall find its own!
— Beyond


Grow That Garden Library

A Sting in the Tale by Dave Goulson

The subtitle of this book is My Adventures with Bumblebees.

Dave's book is fascinating and it will change the way you think about bumblebees.

When he was a little boy, Dave became obsessed with wildlife. Although he grew up with a menagerie of pets, bumblebees were his passion. I thought you would enjoy hearing a few excerpts from Dave's book.

Here's where he talks about the biology of the Bumblebee:

“They have to eat almost continually to keep warm; a bumblebee with a full stomach is only ever about forty minutes from starvation. If a bumblebee runs out of energy, she cannot fly, and if she cannot fly, she cannot get to flowers to get more food, so she is doomed.”

Then, here's where Dave tells us what we can do to help the Bumblebee. The answer for gardeners is a pretty simple one. Dave writes:

“The key to helping our rarer species to thrive is probably simply to add more flower patches to the landscape, making it a little easier for them to find food and keep their nests well provisioned.”

And Dave is hopeful about the future of the Bumblebee And about the impact that each of us can have on their survival. He writes:

“Conserving bumblebees is something anyone can do. A single lavender bush on a patio or in a window box will attract and feed bumblebees, even in the heart of a city."

And I love that Dave includes this fantastic quote from Andrew Downing, the 19th-century American horticulturist.

“The music of the busy bee Is drowsy, and it comforts me; But, ah! ’tis quite another thing, When that same bee concludes to sting!”

Dave’s book came out in 2014.

You can get a used copy of A Sting in the Tale by Dave Goulson and support the show, using the Amazon Link in today's Show Notes for under $4.


Great Gifts for Gardeners

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Today's Botanic Spark

1825 Today is the birthday of a student of Nantucket flora, the botanist Maria Louise Owen.

Maria was born into a wealthy family in Nantucket. Her maiden name was Talent. When she was a little girl, Maria showed an interest in the plants growing around her home on Nantucket. The women in her family - her mother, her sisters, and her aunt - all shared in the hobby of botany. It wasn't long before Maria showed an aptitude for it. She had a superior intellect, memory, and processing skills. She had a scientific mind.

After marrying a Harvard-educated doctor named Varillas Owen, the young couple settled in Springfield, Massachusetts. For more than 50 years, their home became a hub for scientists and academics.

Maria loved to entertain, and she drew energy from connecting with the educated people in her area. One peer said that Maria was "easily the most cultivated and best-read woman of her time in Springfield." Maria served as the President of both the Springfield Women's Club and the Springfield Botanical Society for over a decade. A renaissance woman, Maria taught botany, French, astronomy, and geography. Although Maria enjoyed teaching all of these subjects equally, she always said that for her, happiness could be found in the study of botany.

In 1882, Maria contributed to a little Nantucket guidebook. Maria's part featured a listing of all the plants on the island of Nantucket. The project was a bit retrospective for Maria since she was writing about the plants of her childhood and featuring specimens she'd collected as a young woman. Even after moving to Springfield, Maria still botanized in the area whenever she came back to Nantucket. Although she spent five decades of her adult life in Springfield, she always regarded Nantucket as her home.

In 1888, Maria wrote her masterpiece - a comprehensive Flora of Nantucket, which featured almost 800 species and varieties.

After her book, Maria made it a point to connect with new generations of Nantucket botanists. The young botanists were eager to make her acquaintance; Maria was a one-woman repository of all the plants of Nantucket.

When the botanist Bicknell published a follow-up catalog about Nantucket in the early 1900s, he continually referred to Maria's work, which explicitly documented when and where plants were introduced. For instance, when she wrote about chicory, she said it was, "a roadside plant along the south end of Orange Street" where it had thrived for "fifty years."

At the age of 87, Maria was asked about one of the plants in her flora - Tillaea. The plant was hard to find, and botanists were curious about a location for it. Maria wrote,

"My patch of Tillaea... doubtless still exists, and there is a happy day in store for any botanist who sees it at just the right season."

Maria died in 1907. She had moved back to Nantucket to live with her daughter. Walter Deane wrote in his Rhodora biography of Maria that she died,

"...on a bright morning with the room flooded with sunshine, which she always loved, and filled with iris, columbine, and cornflowers…. She lived true to the [Latin] motto of her mother's family 'Post tenebris, speramus lumen de lumine,' which [Maria] always loved to translate, 'After the darkness, we hope for light from the source of light.'"

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