Today we celebrate a man who wrote one of the most influential herbals in history and the French botanist who created the modern strawberry.
We'll learn about the Father of Paleobotany and the sweet little Orchid known as the moccasin flower.
Today's Unearthed Words feature words about winter.
We Grow That Garden Library™ with the diary of a fabulous nurserywoman and garden designer.
I'll talk about a garden item to get hung up on...
and then we'll wrap things up with the fascinating birth flowers for the month of February.
But first, let's catch up on a few recent events.
JSTOR is a digital library for scholars, researchers, and students.
Aw... it's The Sensitive Plant! Whenever you touch it, the leaves fold up like a fan along its stem.
"At first glance, Mimosa pudica ("poo-DEE-cah") is a plant that most people would consider a weed. It grows close to the ground, with countless delicate leaflets, puffy pinkish balls of flowers, and small bunches of legumes. So it makes sense that Mimosa pudica would be known as the "Humble Plant," but what about its association with other names, like "Herb of Love" and "Sensitive Plant"?
When Linnaeus considered what separated living from non-living things he wrote,
"Stones grow; plants grow and live; animals grow, live, and feel."
With the Mimosa's apparent ability to feel, many people felt that the Sensitive Plant took on animal characteristics with its strong reaction to touch.
The Sensitive Plant fascinated 18th-century botanists, scientists, and poets who often compared the plant to animals because of the reaction of the plant; contracting after being touched.
In 1791, Erasmus Darwin wrote about the Sensitive Plant in a poem called The Botanic Garden.
Weak with nice sense, this chaste Mimosa stands
From each rude touch withdraws her timid hands;
Oft as light clouds o’er-pass the Summer-glade,
And feels, alive through all her tender form,
The whisper’d murmurs of the gathering storm;
Shuts her sweet eye-lids to approaching night,
And hails with freshen’d charms the rising light.
This post is from Gardening Know How.
"Many people have found success with using honey to root cuttings.
It is, after all, a natural antiseptic and contains anti-fungal properties — allowing the little cuttings to remain healthy and strong.
Some people have even added honey to willow water to aid in rooting."
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.
1515 Today is the birthday of Valerius Cordus.
Cordus was the author of one of the most influential herbals in history.
In fact, centuries later, the botanist Thomas Archibald Sprague re-published "The Herbal of Valerius Cordus" with his older sister, who he considered to be the best botanist in his botanist family.
After the book was published, Sprague gifted her with a personal and gorgeous bound copy. He had the book dedicated to her in Latin: "M. S. Sprague praeceptrici olim hodie collaboratrici d.d. T. A. Sprague" - basically, thanking her for all that she had taught him and collaborated with him.
Valerius Cordus died young, at the age of 29. He had contracted malaria.
In 1544, Valerius had spent the summer botanizing in Italy with two French naturalists. At some point, he had waded into marshes in search of new plants. When he became sick a short time later, his friends brought him to Rome, and then, they continued on to Naples. When they returned for him, they found their friend, Valerius, had died.
We owe a debt of gratitude to the Swiss botanist Konrad Gesner who had the sense to collect Cordus' prolific writings and preserve and publish them.
One expert once said,
"There was Theophrastus; there was nothing for 1,800 years; then there was Cordus."
The genus Cordia is named in honor of Valerius Cordus.
Cordia's are in the borage family, and many cordias have fragrant, showy flowers. Some cordias also produce edible fruits with strange and fascinating names like clammy cherries, glue berries, sebesten, or snotty gobbles.
1827 Today is the anniversary of the death of the French botanist, gardener, and professor at Versailles, Antoine Nicolas Duchesne ("do-Shane").
A specialist in strawberries and gourds, Duchesne was a student of Bernard de Jussieu at the Royal Garden in Paris. A plant pioneer, Duchesne recognized that mutation was a natural occurrence and that plants could be altered through mutation at any time.
As a young botanist, Duchesne began experimenting with strawberries. Ever since the 1300s, wild strawberries had been incorporated into gardens. But, on July 6, 1764, Duchesne created the modern strawberry - the strawberry we know and love today.
Strawberries are members of the rose family, and their seeds are on the outside of the fruit. Just how many seeds are on a single strawberry? Well, the average strawberry has around 200 seeds.
Now, to get your strawberry plants to produce more fruit, plant them in full sun, in well-drained soil, and trim the runners.
1873 Today is the anniversary of the death of the French botanist and the Father of Paleobotany; Adolphe-Théodore Brongniart ("Bron-yahr").
Adolphe-Théodore and his wife had two sons, and when Adolphe-Théodore died, he died in the arms of his eldest son.
As one of the most prominent botanists of the 19th century, Adolphe-Théodore worked to classify fossil plant forms, and he did so even before Charles Darwin. Adolphe-Théodore's work provided content for his book on the history of plant fossils in 1828. Adolphe-Théodore published his masterpiece when he was just 27 years old.
Adolphe-Théodore's writing brought him notoriety and gave him the moniker "Father of Paleobotany." He was also called the "Linnaeus of Fossil Plants." A paleobotanist is someone who works with fossil plants. Plants have been living on the planet for over 400 million years. So, there are plenty of fossil plants to study and catalog.
Adolphe-Théodore was not so much a fossil plant discoverer as he was a fossil plant organizer. He put fossil plants in order and applied principles for distinguishing them.
In 1841, at the age of 40, Adolphe-Théodore received the Wollaston Medal for his work with fossil plants. It is the highest award granted by the Geological Society of London. The honor would have made his geologist father, Alexander, very proud.
Adolphe-Théodore was a professor at the Paris Museum of Natural History. He was the backfill for Andre Michaux, who had left to explore the flora of North America.
1902 Today the Showy Lady's-Slipper became the State Flower of Minnesota.
The Lady's-Slipper Orchid was discovered in 1789 by the botanist William Aiton. The common name Lady's-Slipper is from the unusual form of the third petal that makes that part of the bloom look like a little shoe.
During his lifetime, Darwin repeatedly tried to propagate the Lady's-Slipper Orchid. He never succeeded.
Now, the growing conditions of the Lady's-Slipper are quite particular - which is why they are almost impossible to keep in a traditional garden. It's also illegal to pick, uproot or unearth the flowers - which was a problem in the 1800s when people collected them almost to extinction. Since 1925, the Lady's-Slipper has been protected by Minnesota state law.
In the wild, Lady's-Slippers grow in swamps, bogs, and damp woods. They take forever to grow and they can grow for almost a decade before producing their first flower which can last for two months in cooler weather. As long-lived plants, Lady's-Slippers can grow as old as 100 years and grow up to 4 feet tall.
To Native Americans, the Lady's-Slipper was known as the moccasin flower. An old Ojibwe legend told of a plague that had occurred during a harsh winter. Many people died - including the tribal healer. Desperate for help, a young girl was sent to find medicine. But, the snow was deep, and in her haste, she lost her boots and left a trail of bloody footprints in the snow. Every spring, the legend was that her footprints were marked with the beautiful moccasin flower.
One summer, when Henry David Thoreau came upon a red variety of Lady's-Slipper in the woods, he wrote about it, saying:
"Everywhere now in dry pitch pine woods stand the red Lady's-Slipper over the red pine leaves on the forest floor rejoicing in June. Behold their rich striped red, their drooping sack."
Here are some words about this time of year.
The day is ending,
The night is descending;
The marsh is frozen,
The river is dead.
— Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, American poet, An Afternoon in February
A man says a lot of things in summer he doesn't mean in winter.
— Patricia Briggs, American Fantasy Writer, Dragon's Blood
Pleasures newly found are sweet
When they lie about our feet:
February last, my heart
First at sight of thee was glad;
All unheard of as thou art,
Thou must needs, I think, have had,
And long ago.
Praise of which I nothing know.
— William Wordsworth, English Romantic poet, To the Same Flower
(In medieval lore, it was believed that mother birds dropped the juice of the celandine into the eyes of their blind fledglings.)
I was just thinking if it is really religion with these nudist colonies, they sure must turn atheists in the wintertime.
— Will Rogers, American actor & cowboy
The twelve months…
Snowy, Flowy, Blowy,
Showery, Flowery, Bowery,
Hoppy, Croppy, Droppy,
Breezy, Sneezy, Freezy.
— George Ellis, Jamaican-born English satirical poet
Grow That Garden Library
Beth's book was a monthly record of everything she did in her garden. Her chapters covered the garden, but also bits of her life. From a personal standpoint, Beth shared her successes as well as her failures. She was a business owner and ran a garden center, and she also showed a garden at Chelsea, which was a tremendous thrill but also an incredible amount of work.
Beth gardened for over four decades, and she appreciated the time-factor of gardening and the patience required to grow a garden and grow into a good gardener. She wrote:
"As certain of our plants take many years to mature, so it takes a long time to grow a genuine plantsman. Those of us who have been at it longest know that one lifetime is not half enough, once you become aware of the limitless art of gardening."
Here's an excerpt from her chapter on January. Beth's talking about a mass planting of shrubs that appeared less-than-enticing in the winter landscape:
"I remember several years ago… suddenly feeling very dissatisfied with a group of shrubs which had not faulted when they were full of leaf (and, for a few weeks, blossom) during the summer. But now, leafless and with nothing distinguished about their habit of growth, the whole patch looked muddled, formless and lifeless.
By removing some of it, planting a holly and Mahonia among the rest together with vigorous sheaves of the evergreen Iris foetidissima ("FOY-ta-dis-EMMA")'Citrina' nearby and patches of small-leafed ivies as ground cover, the picture became much more interesting in winter and now forms a better background to the summer carnival which passes before it."
In her book, Beth writes in conversation with the reader. In January, she asks:
"If you look out of your favorite window now, are you satisfied with the view? Does it lack design? Would a small-leafed, narrowly pyramidal Holly do anything for it, and how many plants can you see which remain green -or grey, or bronze -throughout the winter, furnishing the bare soil at ground level?"
Finally, Beth begins her chapter on February with a word about how, for many nursery owners and landscapers, this time of year can feel overwhelming as the full weight of the season's work is anticipated. Beth also acknowledged how difficult it was for her to write during the garden season. This is a common challenge for garden writers who are too busy gardening in the summer to write but then can find less inspiration to write in the winter without their gardens.
"This morning, I awoke to hear the grandfather clock striking 4 a.m. and was immediately alert, all my present commitments feverishly chasing themselves through my head. Apart from a garden I have foolishly agreed to plan, there is the Chelsea Flower Show nudging more and more insistently as the weeks rush towards May. Usually, I have a nucleus of large plants and shrubs in containers that provide an established looking background. [But] the sudden severe weather in January has killed off several of my old plants. I have no frost-free place large enough to protect them all; in normal winters, a plastic-covered tunnel has been sufficient.
Another commitment is this notebook, which has been fermenting in my mind for several months. I would like to write it, to record some of the ups and downs of a nursery garden, but my one fear is not finding time to write decently. Even keeping up a scrappy diary becomes difficult as the sap rises."
Great Gifts for Gardeners
- HANDMADE WEAVE: Show your plants some love with this elegant, vintage-inspired macrame plant hanger. Simple, yet meticulously handcrafted, this beauty would add a touch of elegance and beauty to your home, balcony, or your patio.
- PACKAGE INCLUDE: 3 PCS hooks and 3 PCS different sizes plant hanger, approximate length:46"/41"/34", and diameter: 2cm.Fit multiple pot size and shape, ideal pot size is 3-10". (No pot or plant included).Color: off-white
- Create Nice Home: Hanging plant holders can be used for indoor, outdoor, living room, kitchen, deck, patio, high, and low ceiling. This hanging plant stand has a strong, flexible woven design that can accommodate various shapes and sizes of planters (pots not included). The maximum load is about 12 pounds.
- EASY INSTALLATION: the hangers are suitable for indoor and outdoor use; Just expand the four leg-strings, put the plant pot in the middle of the conjunction. The perfect solution for pet owners if the pet has a tendency to destroy your plants, then this one will save you from lots of struggle!
- Nice Gift: Ideal to decorate pathways and indoor. It will be a great and practical gift for a plant lover. They'll love the freedom to display their plants wherever they want. It's perfect for birthdays, Christmas, and more!
Today's Botanic Spark
Even though roses are often associated with February (thanks to Valentine's Day), February's birth flower is not the rose.
Instead, February has two birth flowers. In England, February's birth flower is the Violet, and in the United States, February is honored with the Primrose.
With regard to the Violet, the plantsman Derek Jarman once wrote:
"Violet has the shortest wavelength of the spectrum. Behind it, the invisible ultraViolet.
'Roses are Red; Violets are Blue.'
Poor Violet — violated for a rhyme."
The adorable little Violet signifies many virtues; truth and loyalty; watchfulness and faithfulness.
Gifting a Violet lets the recipient know you'll always be true. Like the theme song from Friends promises, you'll always be there for them.
The ancient Greeks placed a high value on the Violet. When it came time to pick a blossom as a symbol for Athens, it was the Violet that made the cut. The Greeks used Violet to make medicine. They also used Violets in the kitchen to make wine and to eat the edible blossoms.
Today, Violets are used to decorate salads, and they can even be gently sprinkled over fish or poultry. Violets are beautiful when candied in sugar or used to decorate pastries. Violets can even be distilled into a syrup for a memorable Violet liqueur.
Finally, Violets were Napoleon Bonaparte's signature flower. When his wife, Josephine, died in 1814, Napoleon covered her grave with Violets. His friends even referred to Napoleon as Corporal Violet. After he was exiled to Elba, Napoleon vowed to return before the Violet season. Napoleon's followers used the Violet to weed out his detractors. They would ask strangers if they liked Violets; a positive response was the sign of a loyal Napoleon supporter.
The other official February flower is the Primrose, which originated from the Latin word "primus" meaning "first" or "early". The name refers to the Primrose as one of the first plants that bloom in the spring.
As with the Violet, the leaves and flowers of Primrose are edible and often tossed into a salad. The leaves are said to taste like lettuce.
Gifting a Primrose has a more urgent - stalkerish- meaning than the Violet; a Primrose tells a person that you can't live without them. In Germany, people believed that the first girl to find a Primrose on Easter would marry that same year.
And, the saying about leading someone down the Primrose path, refers to enticing someone with to do something bad by laying out pleasurable traps.
The phrase originated in William Shakespeare's Hamlet as Ophelia begs her brother:
Do not, as some ungracious pastors do,
Show me the steep and thorny way to heaven;
While like a puffed and reckless libertine,
Himself the Primrose path of dalliance treads.
And, the man known as "The Daffodil King, Peter Barr, who bred over 2 million daffodils at his home in Surry and he's credited with popularizing the daffodil. Yet, when Barr retired, he went to Scotland and grew - not daffodils, but Primroses. Two years before he died, Peter Barr, the Daffodil King, mused,
"I wonder who will plant my grave with Primroses?"
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