March 31, 2020 Starting Seeds, Renee’s Garden Seeds, John Lineback, William Ralph Meredith, Elmer Ivan Applegate, Muriel Wheldale Onslow, April Poems, Life List by Olivia Gentile, and Karen Washington

Show Notes

Today we celebrate the man who invented the cottonseed huller.

We'll learn about a Canadian legal eagle who loved gardening and one of Oregon's pioneer botanists.

We'll celebrate the work of a female biochemist who made some remarkable discoveries about bloom color by studying snapdragons.

Today's Unearthed Words feature words about March.

We Grow That Garden Library™ with a book that was released 11 years ago today.

And then we'll wrap things up with the fascinating story of a garden activist who was teaching gardening on this day in NYC two years ago.

But first, let's catch up on some Greetings from Gardeners around the world and today's curated news.



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Gardener Greetings

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Curated News

Starting Seeds: Use What You Have - Lewis Ginter Botanical Garden | Jonah Holland

"If you have seeds that are less than three years old, at least some of them should be viable.

You could also use avocado seeds, citrus seeds, seeds from dates. You could try anything you happen to have — peppers, squash, beans, or maybe even pineapple!

Mail ordering seeds is another option. We asked our horticulturist some of their favorite seed sources, and here are a few of our favorites: Johnny's Select Seeds, White Flower Farm, Peace Tree Farm and Prairie Moon Nursery. You might even have a really fun time exploring the Seed Saver Exchange."


My COVID-19 Renee's Garden Seed Order for the Cabin

I share the seeds I ordered after planning to ride out the first wave of the COVID-19 pandemic at the cabin.


Alright, that's it for today's gardening news.

Now, if you'd like to check out my curated news articles and blog posts 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

1814  Today the inventor and agricultural pioneer John Lineback received a patent for the first cottonseed hulling machine. He was based in Salem, North Carolina.

Today, cottonseed hullers are known as disc hullers, and they not only dehull oilseed shells like cottonseed and peanuts, but they also crush oilseeds such as soybeans.

Cotton is neither a fruit or a vegetable. The fibers of the cotton plant are made of cellulose. The seed of the cotton plant attaches to the fibers after emerging from the fruit. After maturing and left to its own devices, the cotton plant seed would simply blow off the plant in the wind - which is how the plant would get distributed.

Cotton seeds are exactly what you might deduce: the seeds of the cotton plant. They are egg-shaped and are 3.5-10 mm long. The Latin name for the Cotton Plant is Gossypium ("Gah-SIP-EE-UM), and the seeds are richly covered with white or rusty-colored, long, woolly hairs, called lint. It is actually the lint on the outer part of the seed that is the main product used to make cotton textiles.

Lineback's machine dehulled the seeds. The hulls are the outer coverings of cotton seeds. Dehulling makes it possible to extract cottonseed oil from the seeds. The process of dehulling is pretty straight forward: after removing the lint, the hull is removed from the kernel by screening.

Cottonseed hulls are fibrous, and they also get used and incorporated into food for livestock like cattle and sheep.

There's one final note about whole cottonseed worth mentioning: Cottonseed is toxic to humans and most animals.


1840  Today is the birthday of William Ralph Meredith.

Meredith was a Chief Justice in Ontario, and he's remembered as the founding father of workers' compensation in Ontario. His work helped shape worker's compensation for the rest of Canada and the United States. his principals regarding workers' compensation became known as the Meredith principles. The Meredith Principles allowed that workers would give up their right to sue employers in exchange for income security if they were injured at work. In turn, employers would receive business loss protection while paying for the system.

Meredith came from a large family in Westminster Township in Upper Canada with eight sons and four daughters. William was the oldest boy, and all the men in the family became quite successful in the legal community. The Meredith brothers were known as 'The Eight London Merediths' - a reference to the family's London Ontario homeplace. London is just north of Lake Erie and the U.S. border. As Chief Justice, Meredith was known among his legal colleagues simply as "The Chief." And, on more than one occasion, Meredith found himself presiding over cases where the lawyers for the accused and the defense were two of his own brothers - Richard and Edmund, who was regarded as the area's top criminal attorney.

All of the Meredith brothers enjoyed gardening, and Meredith was no exception. Meredith gardened on his large estate in Rosedale, Ontario, at 41 Binscarth Rd. In 1913, a Toronto newspaper ran a delightful story about Meredith, and it ended with his love of gardening, writing:

"Despite his seventy-three years, Sir William is still a fine and handsome man. His favorite pastime is gardening and on his beautiful grounds in Rosedale, he spends much of his spare time. Donning a straw hat and gloves, he delights in moving about among his plants and bushes, weeding and clipping, or else to dig out dandelion roots from his lawn."


1867  Today is the birthday of an important pioneering Oregon botanist Elmer Ivan Applegate.

Elmer was born near Ashland. His grandfather, Lindsey Applegate, was a wagon train leader, and he led many settlers to Oregon during the "Great Migration" of 1843.

Elmer was the oldest in his family of six children. He grew up on a 5,000-acre ranch where he mastered the demands of ranch life, and it was on the ranch that Elmer discovered his love for botany.

In 1895, Elmer graduated from Stanford, and after graduating, he spent time with the USDA's Frederick Colville - the botanist who, along with Elizabeth Coleman White, helped tame the wild blueberry.

As one of the most prominent Oregon botanists of the 20th century, Elmer's signature work focused on trout lilies (Erythronium) "AIR-ah-THROW-KNEE-um."

The trout lily is a native plant featuring nodding, freckled, yellow flowers that bloom in early spring in woodlands and on north-facing slopes. Trout lilies bloom in spring from March to May. As a spring ephemeral, they often bloom before the trees leaf out, and once the forest canopy fluffs out, the trout lily bloom disappears.

At the base of the trout, lily are these mottled brown and green leaves, which inspired the name of the plant because they look like the markings on brook trout. Those spots have also inspired the name fawn lily.

Trout lily is also known by common names like the dogtooth violet or the adder's tongue. The dogtooth name refers to the tuber of the trout lily which is underground. The tuber looks like a smooth, white fang. The adder's tongue refers to the curled, serpent-like, pointed leaf-tips, and the six stamens with anthers that look like fangs.

Here are some fun facts about the trout lily:

Trout lilies are short; they grow 6 to 8 inches tall.

Young plants have only one leaf, but mature plants sport two leaves. In fact, until that second leaf appears, the plant cannot flower.

Trout lily colonies are very long-lived, and some are 200 to 300 years old.

Trout lily leaves and bulbs have been used for medicinal purposes, such as contraception.

Mary Oliver wrote a poem called Trout Lilies:

It happened I couldn't find in all my books
more than a picture and a few words concerning
the trout lily,

so I shut my eyes,
And let the darkness come in
and roll me back.

The old creek
began to sing in my ears
as it rolled along, like the hair of spring,
and the young girl I used to be
heard it also,

as she came swinging into the woods,
truant from everything as usual
except for the clear globe of the day, and its
beautiful details.

Then she stopped,
where the first trout lilies of the year
had sprung from the ground
with their spotted bodies
and their six-antlered bright faces,
and their many red tongues.

If she spoke to them, I don't remember what she said,
and if they kindly answered, it's a gift that can't be broken
by giving it away.

All I know is, there was a light that lingered, for hours,
under her eyelids - that made a difference
when she went back to a difficult house, at the end of the day.


1880  Today is the birthday of the biochemist Muriel Wheldale Onslow who researched flower color inheritance and pigment molecule biochemistry.

Muriel was born in England and ended up marrying a fellow biochemist named Victor Onslow. Victor was actually the son of royalty - his dad was the fourth Earl of Onslow. Muriel and Victor's story is special. When Victor was a student at Cambridge, he became paralyzed from the waist down after diving off a cliff into a lake. The accident also left him with limited use of his arms and hands. Even though Victor and Muriel were married for only a little over three years before Victor's untimely death, their love was a story of mutual admiration and respect. When Muriel recorded her memoir of Victor, she wrote that he was a man of amazing courage and mental vitality; and that he was an inspiration to their peers in biochemistry.

Early in her career, in 1903, Muriel became part of its genetics group working at Cambridge University, and it was here that she began studying flower petal color. Much of her research specifically focused on snapdragons which come in a range of flower colors including green, red, orange, yellow, white, purple, and pink - and now even bicolor and speckled. Muriel's work on coloration gained her worldwide recognition by 1910 she had published a whopping four papers on color inheritance in snapdragons.

Snapdragons or Antirrhinum majus ("ant-er-EYE-num MAY-jus") are a beloved cottage garden flower. It's a cousin to the foxglove.

Snapdragons are happiest when planted early, in cool weather. They will bloom their hearts out all summer long. Then, if you cut them back in August, you will get a second flush of color in the fall.

And here are a few final notes about Muriel Whelan Onslow.

Muriel was multi-talented. In addition to her scientific work, she was also an artist. Her Botanical illustrations are actually quite good, and she was often regarded as a top botanical artist among her scientific colleagues.

As one of the few female scientists of her time, there are just a handful of fantastic online images of Muriel working in her laboratory. They are a must-see if you get the chance.

And you might recall that a decade ago in 2010, the Royal Institution in England put on a play called blooming snapdragons. The play was about for female biochemist of the early 20th century. Naturally, one of them was Muriel Onslow.


Unearthed Words

Here are some poignant words about this time of year.

This first poem was shared on this day in 1859.

Come to the woods, where flowers bloom,
The violet peeps beneath each tree,
And on the wintry slope bestirs
The silver-leafed Anemone.

The yellow Cowslip decks the pool,
And early Crowfoot lifts its shining head,
The star-eyed Liverleaf looks forth
From out its green and mossy bed.

Lichnidia tall and Draba pure
And Erythronium appear,
Claytonia comes with penciled brow,
The first of all the pleasant year.

Wake-robin nods its snowy crest,
The Blue-Bells pale, Collinsia rare,
The tiny Ground Nut, Squirrel Corn,
All the joyous welcome give and share.

I then to nature's palace grand,
All purple, yellow, green, and gold;
Leaf-music, bird-songs, fill the air,
The summer days, their revel hold.
— Lydia A Tompkins, Come to the Woods


"Indoors or out, no one relaxes in March, that month of wind and taxes; the wind will presently disappear, the taxes last us all the year."
— Ogden Nash, American poet

March! March! March! They are coming
In troops to the tune of the wind.
Redheaded woodpeckers drumming,
Gold - crested thrushes behind;
Sparrows in brown jackets, hopping
Past every gateway and door;
Finches, with crimson caps, stopping
Just where they stopped before.

March! March! March! They are slipping
Into their places at last. . .
Little white lily buds, dripping
Under the showers that fall fast;
Buttercups, violets, roses;
Snowdrop and bluebell and pink,
Throng upon throng of sweet posies
Bending the dewdrops to drink.

March! March! March! They will hurry
Forth at the wild bugle sound,
Blossoms and birds in a flurry,
Fluttering all over the ground.
Shake out your flags, birch, and willow!
Shake out your red tassels, larch!
Grass blades, up from your earth - pillow.
Hear who is calling you. . . March.
— Lucy Larcom, American teacher, poet, and author, March


Grow That Garden Library

Life List by Olivia Gentile

It's hard to believe that this book was published on this day already eleven years ago in 2009. The subtitle to this book is "A Woman's Quest for the World's Most Amazing Birds."

This book is a loving and beautiful biography of bird enthusiasts Phoebe Snetsinger. Phoebe was a 1950's housewife, married with four children, and an avid bird-watcher. When she got diagnosed in her 40's with incurable cancer and given less than a year to live, she started traveling the world, birding, and she never looked back. Phoebe ended up living, after her diagnosis, for another 18 years.

Oliva begins this book by explaining the concept of a life list:

"Bird-watching, the way most people do it, is a lot like hunting, which is why some practitioners prefer the more active sounding term "birding": you have to know where and when to look for Birds, you have to chase them down, and, when you find them, you have to figure out what species they are— often in just a second or two, before they fly away. Tate, like most birders, kept a "life list" of all the species he'd seen and identified, and he was always looking to add new ones, or "life birds."

Olivia continues:

"I decided to write some sort of essay on bird watching, and I called a few bird clubs near my home in Manhattan to see what they had going on. One man misunderstood and thought I was interested in joining his Club. He tried to encourage me. "Who knows?" he said. "Maybe you'll be the next Phoebe Snetsinger." the man had never met Phoebe, but he knew all about her— as most birdwatchers do, it turned out— and he told me a little. That was back in 2001, two years after her death, and I've been piecing together her life ever since."

You can get a used copy of Life List by Olivia Gentile and support the show, using the Amazon Link in today's Show Notes for under $3.


Today's Botanic Spark

On this day in 2018, garden activist Karen Washington was giving a talk in New York City to help spur on the community garden movement. The theme was peace and justice.

Washington has done so much for the Bronx as an Urban Gardener. She's an award-winning gardener, farmer, and co-owner of her business called Rise and Shoot Farm.

It was Karen Washington who said,

"If you come into the garden feeling sad, you will leave feeling happy."

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