April 2, 2020 Prospect Cottage, Pascua Florida, Maria Sibylla Merian, Job Baster, American Farmer, The Overstory by Richard Powers, and Max Ernst

Show Notes

Today we celebrate the discovery and naming of the state of Florida.

We'll also learn about one of the best botanical illustrators ever born as well as the man who introduced goldfish to Holland.

We celebrate the publication of the first successful agricultural journal.

Today's Unearthed Words feature words about April.

We Grow That Garden Library™ with a book about trees that was released a year ago today - and it won the Pulitzer Prize in fiction.

And then we'll wrap things up with the fascinating story of the German artist who found surreal inspiration in the natural world.

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

To participate in the Gardener Greetings segment, send your garden pics, stories, birthday wishes and so forth to Jennifer@theDailyGardener.org

And, to listen to the show while you're at home, just ask Alexa or Google to play The Daily Gardener Podcast. It's that easy.

Curated News

Derek Jarman's Prospect Cottage saved for the nation

"The success of the campaign will enable Art Fund to purchase Prospect Cottage from the Keith Collins Will Trust and to fund a permanent public program, the conservation and maintenance of the building, its collection, its contents, and its renowned garden.

Before Art Fund's appeal, Prospect Cottage had been at risk of being sold privately, its contents dispersed, and artistic legacy lost.

Art Fund's director Stephen Deuchar announced today that the appeal to save artist and filmmaker Derek Jarman's Prospect Cottage for the nation has successfully reached its £3.5-million target in just ten weeks, with a final total of £3,624,087. Over 8,100 donations have been made by the public – nearly 2,000 of them in the past week alone, despite the significant changes happening to people's lives - and further funding has come from leading charities, trusts, foundations, and philanthropists. The campaign was supported by major grants of £750,000 from the National Heritage Memorial Fund, £500,000 from Art Fund and £250,000 from the Linbury Trust, as well as significant support from the Luma Foundation, the Roger De Haan Charitable Trust, the John Browne Charitable Trust, and the Ampersand Foundation.

Tilda Swinton said, 'When Derek initiated the project of making of this little house on the shingle the unique and magically empowering space it has come to be, not only for him but for so many of us, it was at a time of intense uncertainty and fragility in his own life. That our casting the net of our appeal to keep this project alive has coincided with the phenomenal global challenge to the community with which we are currently faced - and that that net has still come in so full of bounty - has only served to prove how invaluable this vision of future is to us all."


Goals For Your 2020 Garden

What are you curious about in your garden?
What are you hoping to learn this season?
How will your gardening change during the pandemic?

Your greatest accomplishment might be the result you didn't plan to learn.

Maybe you've always been a flower gardener, but this year you feel compelled to grow some edibles, and you discover the joy of growing your own garlic.

Last year, you grew your own tomatoes to great success and ended up sharing some with neighbors. This year you want to help out the food shelf.

Maybe you didn't like pulling weeds for your mom, but now with the pandemic, you suddenly find that tending to the yard is calming and anchoring. Now you want to have a garden of your own.

Our gardens are classrooms. And those classrooms are filled with many teachers or Upah Gurus.

Upah Guru is the Hindu word for the teacher next to you at any moment.

The Upah Gurus in your garden this year might be the seeds you just ordered, a mystery plant that you inherited, the hydrangea that refuses to flower, the rose that won't give up.

This year, they say there will be more new gardeners than ever as a result of the COVID-19 restrictions.

Calling All Gardeners: Share Your Expertise

  • Don't consider yourself an expert? Think again.

One of the things that can happen to gardeners is that we can underestimate our own expertise or experience in the garden.

But any experience is helpful to a gardener just starting out. To new gardeners, you can be a gardening Upah Guru.

  • New Gardeners Need Encouragement

Remind new gardeners that their primary job this year is to simply be a good student of gardening. They don't need to get straight A's in the garden. Let them know that no one is putting that pressure on them to replace the produce section of the grocery store. One of the biggest commitments new gardeners can make is simply to learn more about gardening. Encourage them to focus on the teaching - whether that is from books or podcasts or neighbors - because the teaching is what makes us better gardeners.

  • The Benefits of Gardening go beyond food: physical, mental, spiritual

Any gardener knows that being active in the garden is a form of exercise - just like walking, running, or playing basketball. It is legit exercise.

As a pastime or a passion, gardening is a return to nature. It is connection with the natural world. It is grounding, and it is centering. It is good for us, physically and emotionally.

After Walt Whitman suffered a debilitating stroke, he recovered by spending time in nature. The two years he spent walking the woods were his primary therapy, and he forever credited nature with his recovery.

This is why I end every episode with, "For a happy, healthy life, garden every day." It's not just a slogan. I really believe those words.


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

1513  Juan Ponce de León claims new land for Spain. He names his discovery La Florida; in a nod to the Easter Season, which the Spaniards called Pascua Florida (Festival of Flowers).


1647  Today is the birthday of a female botanical illustration powerhouse - Maria Sibylla Merian.

She was born on April 2, 1647. As a frame of reference, Isaac Newton was only a few years older than her. Unlike Newton, Merian's work was largely forgotten. However, over the past century, her work has made its way to us.

Merian has the "it" factor. In 2011, Janet Dailey, a retired teacher, and artist from Springfield, Illinois, became so captivated by Merian's life story that she started a Kickstarter campaign to follow Merian's footsteps to the mecca of her best work - Surinam, in South America. In 2013, Merian's birthday was commemorated with a "Google Doodle."

Merian would have delighted in our modern-day effort to plant milkweed for the Monarchs. The concept that insects and plants are inextricably bound together was not lost on Merian. In her work, she carefully noted which caterpillars were specialists - meaning they ate only one kind of plant. (You can relate to that concept if your kid only wants to eat Mac and cheese; they aren't picky - they're specialists.)

Before all these social media and high tech, drawings like Merian's were a holy grail for plant identification. One look at Merian's work and Linneaus immediately knew it was brilliant. Merian helped classify nearly 100 different species long after she was gone from the earth. To this day, entomologists acknowledge that the accuracy in her art is so good they can identify many of her butterflies and moths right down to the species level!

Between 1716 and 1717, during the last year of her life, Merian was visited multiple times by her friend, artist Georg Gsell - and his friend Peter the Great. Oh, to be a fly on the wall for THAT meetup.

Gsell ended up marrying Merian's youngest daughter, Dorothea Maria, and Peter the Great ended up with 256 Merian paintings. In fact, Peter the Great so loved these pieces that when Merian died shortly after his last visit, he immediately sent an agent to buy all of her remaining watercolors to bring them home to St. Petersburg.

Here's a fun story for you. On the Maria Sibylla Merian Society website, the feature a video that shows writer Redmond O'Hanlon flipping through an original Merian folio (with gloveless hands!) Now O'Hanlon is a scholar and explorer himself. He is known for his journeys to some of the most remote jungles of the world. At one point in the video, he becomes speechless. Then, he just lets out this big sigh and says, "It's so simple. Without the slightest doubt, she is - she was the greatest painter of plants and insects who ever lived... I mean just between you and me, she's the greatest woman who ever lived. You can keep Catherine the Great. Maria Sybilla Merian is the real heroine of our civilized time."


1711  Today is the birthday of the Dutch naturalist and pond-owner-extraordinaire Job Baster.

Baster was one of the first Dutch nature researchers to use a microscope to look at flora and fauna. He wrote down his findings in a book. He also wrote an excellent translation of Philip Miller's work on horticulture.

In 1758, Baster was given a beautiful property loaded trees and two large ponds. He called it Zonnehof (Sunshine Farms). As a new pond owner, Baster decided to try his hand at breeding Goldfish. A versatile scientist, Baster exchanged letters with leading biologists of his time, and the first twelve fish arrive thanks to a contact in England. Unfortunately, all the goldfish die. The following year, Baster gets eighteen more fish. Two die, but the rest survive. Thirteen years later, Baster owned more than a thousand goldfish. When Baster died, an inventory of his estate showed that all of his goldfish had been sold - raising over seven hundred guilders (not a small amount at the time). That's Job Baster, the man who introduced goldfish to the Dutch.

Baster also drew goldfish and then hand-colored the images. I've seen these images, and I'm telling you they have that iridescence that makes them look like someone just laid out real goldfish on the page - they are that life-like after all this time.

Baster had a large collection of shells. At the time, adhering shells to furniture was a fad in Europe. Baster took the fad and ran with it, covering a buffet with European and Tropical shells. At the bottom of the buffet are the coat of arms of Baster (jumping greyhound) and his wife Jacoba Vink (climbing lion) - all made out of shells. After seeing the Baster buffet at the Royal Zeeland Society of Sciences, one sightseer commented, "one can almost hear Baster's wife, who donated the piece to the museum after his death, saying, "Job, will you do something with all those shells!"

To honor Baster's work with mollusks, there is a floating snail named for Baster, and the Dutch Malacological Association's scientific journal "Basteria" is a nod to this versatile explorer of the natural world.


1819  Today the first successful agricultural journal, American Farmer, was published in Baltimore.


Unearthed Words

Here are some poignant words about this time of year.


April comes like an idiot, babbling, and strewing flowers.

— Edna St. Vincent Millay, American lyrical poet, and playwright


A gush of bird-song, a patter of dew,
A cloud, and a rainbow's warning,
Suddenly sunshine and perfect blue–
An April day in the morning.

― Harriet Prescott Spofford, American writer


Tis spring-time on the eastern hills!
Like torrents gush the summer rills;
Through winter's moss and dry dead leaves
The bladed grass revives and lives,
Pushes the moldering waste away,
And glimpses to the April day.

John Greenleaf Whittier, American Quaker poet


Three things a wise man will not trust, The wind, the sunshine of an April day, And woman's plighted faith.

— Robert Southey, English poet


The children with the streamlets sing,
When April stops at last her weeping;
And every happy growing thing
Laughs like a babe just roused from sleeping.

— Lucy Larcom, American teacher, author, and poet


She waits for me, my lady Earth,
Smiles and waits and Sighs ;
I'll say her nay and hideaway,
Then take her by surprise.

— Mary Mapes Dodge, American children's author

Oh, the lovely fickleness of an April day. 

— William Hamilton Gibson, American illustrator, author, and naturalist


Grow That Garden Library

The Overstory by Richard Powers

It's hard to believe that this book was published on this day already a year ago in 2019.

This book won the Pulitzer Prize in fiction. It's a New York Times bestseller.

The author Ann Patchett said, "The best novel ever written about trees, and really just one of the best novels, period."

The book is 512 pages of stories or more precisely fables - all told with trees in mind. This is Richard's 12th novel, and in it, we learn about trees and their world - that is just as big as ours - just as interconnected and creative and responsive and powerful. Yet many of us are oblivious to trees and what they have to tell us about the world we share together.

You can get a used copy of The Overstory by Richard Powers and support the show, using the Amazon Link in today's Show Notes for under $14.


Today's Botanic Spark

1891  Today is the birthday of the German Dadaist & Surrealist Max Ernst.

He sketched the gardens at Bruhl castle - the castle in his home town. In fact, some of his most beautiful works involved flowers, forests, suns, birds, and gardens.

Max had no formal training. Yet, he created a technique called Frottage or texture rubbings or rubbing on paper - and he used plants or the texture of wood planks and other items in the house to create some wonderful artwork. He also created grattage or scraping paint across the canvas to reveal the imprints of the objects placed beneath it.

At one point in his life, he lived with the surrealist painter Leonara Carrington who once reflected on their relationship with the natural world. Gardeners will be able to relate to the Max and Leonara drawing Inspiration from the garden in the early morning:

"We went down into the silent garden. Dawn is the time when nothing breathes, the hour of silence. Everything is transfixed, only the light moves."

Ernst once remarked:

"Art has nothing to do with taste. Art is not there to be tasted."

Ernst was not comfortable with his fame. He once lamented,

"He, who would rather have a single wild strawberry, than all the laurels in the world."

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