Today we celebrate the birthday of a Russian Count who funded an expedition that led to the discovery of the California poppy.
We'll also learn about one of the country’s most beloved naturalists.
We celebrate the life of the second woman to be professionally employed as a botanist in the United States. She died 100 years ago today.
We also celebrate a nurseryman whose passion for plants was sparked with the gift of a Fuschia.
Today’s Unearthed Words feature words about rainy, windy April.
We Grow That Garden Library™ with a book about a little cottage that you might find inspiring as you spruce up your own nest this season.
And then we’ll wrap things up with a little poem about trillium - which is also known as Wake Robin.
But first, let's catch up on some Greetings from Gardeners around the world and today’s curated news.
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.
“If you’ve ever tried to grow a garden, you’ll know that your first efforts are seldom as successful as you’d hope. Conditions are seldom ideal, no matter how carefully you plan. You will mess up seemingly simple things; even experts do. However, there are ways to approach gardening that will improve your ability to weather those mistakes.
Good soil is crucial
Dirt is dirt, right? Sadly, no. If I had it to do over again, I’d have spent that first year amending the heck out of the soil.
Choose some plants for quick wins
Grab something quick like an herb garden, a planted lettuce bowl, or a strawberry planter from your local gardening center, so you can get those first nibbles right away. There’s a psychological factor to getting an immediate reward that will help you be more resilient in the face of inevitable garden setbacks.
Look for what grows well in your area
Not all plants grow well everywhere. Some of the things that struggle in your climate might surprise you. It certainly did me!
Grow plants you love to eat
Whatever happens with our current crisis, I hope that more people take up gardening as a means of self-care and... I also hope that if this sort of advice can help make early gardening experiences more enjoyable, more people will take this on as a long-term hobby or lifestyle change rather than a stop-gap measure. I want you to love working with plants as much as I do!”
Today’s to-do is to add a magnifying glass to your garden tote.
The best gardeners throughout our history have looked closely at their plants - often using magnifiers of some fashion.
Get up close and personal with your plants and increase your intimacy with your garden by looking at it through the lens of a magnifying glass. Now’s the perfect time to add one to your garden tote. As with every garden tool - you won’t use it if it’s not handy.
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.
1754 Today is the birthday of a man who was the foreign minister of Russia, Count Nikolay Rumyantsev.
In 1815, he funded the round the world scientific voyage of the Rurik which included the poet and botanist Adelbert von Chamisso ("Sha-ME-So") and a doctor/surgeon named Johann Friedrich von Eschscholtz.
Two years later, in 1817, the Rurik ended up in the San Francisco Bay area where it planned to reprovision.
During their stay in San Francisco, Chamiso discovered the California poppy, which he named Eschscholzia californica after his friend Johanns Friedrich Von Eschscholzia.
In 1903, the botanist Sarah Plummer Lemmon put forth a successful piece of legislation that nominated the golden poppy (Eschscholzia californica) as the state flower of California.
And here’s what the botanist Alice Eastwood once said about the poppy:
“The Eschscholzia so glows with the sunbeams caught in its chalice that it diffuses light upon the other flowers and the grass. This poppy will not shine unless the sunbeams on it, but folds itself up and goes to sleep.”
1837 Today is the birthday of the Naturalist, poet, and philosopher John Burroughs (books by this author) was born on a dairy farm in Roxbury, outside of Boston on this date in 1837.
He was sent to the local school, where his desk was next to that of Erie Railroad Robber Baron, Jay Gould (the son of a nearby neighbor). When Burroughs struggled in school, Gould would bail him out.
Called “John o’ Birds” for his special admiration for birds, Burroughs loved the natural world.
One of the four vagabonds (a reference to an annual camping group that included Harvey Firestone, Henry Ford, and Teddy Roosevelt) Burroughs drove a Ford which was an annual present from Henry Ford.
John Burroughs wrote about what he knew and loved best: the land around his homes in the Catskills of upstate New York. The area included a stream called “The Pepacton" - today it is known as the "East Branch of the Delaware River".
Burroughs was great friends with Walt Whitman (Books by this author) whom he loved dearly. Of Whitman, Burroughs reflected:
“[Meeting] Walt was the most important event of my life. I expanded under his influence, because of his fine liberality and humanity on all subjects.”
Here’s a fun fact:
Whitman gave Burroughs a little marketing advice on his first book, Wake-Robin. Burroughs recalled
"It is difficult to hit upon suitable titles for books. I went to Walt with Wake-Robin and several other names written on paper. '"What does wake-robin mean?” he asked "It's a spring flower,' I replied. "Then that is exactly the name you want."
Here’s the beginning of “Wake-Robin by John Burroughs”
“Spring in our northern climate may fairly be said to extend from the middle of March to the middle of June… It is this period that marks the return of the birds…. Each stage of the advancing season gives prominence to certain species, as to certain flowers. The dandelion tells me when to look for the swallow, the dog-tooth violet when to expect the wood thrush, and when I have found the wake-robin in bloom I know the season is fairly inaugurated. With me this flower is associated, not merely with the awakening of Robin, for he has been awake some weeks, but with the universal awakening and rehabilitation of Nature."
Wake-robin is the common name for trillium. Trilliums are in the Lily Family and they carpet the forest floor in springtime. They have a single large, white, long-lasting flower that turns pink as it matures.
One last memorable fact about Trilliums.
Most of the parts of the plants occur in threes: 3 broad flat leaves, 3 petals to a flower, and three sepals (the part that enclosed the petals, protects them in bud, and supports them in bloom).
During Burroughs’ time, The Tennessean and other newspapers advertised “English Wake-Robin Pills: the Best Liver and Cathartic Pills in Use!” and they were 25 cents per box.
Burroughs died at the age of 84 years - fourteen more than the biblical allotment of man. He was on his way back to the Catskills after undergoing abdominal surgery in California. Burroughs just wanted to see home one more time. Burroughs' nurse and biographer were with him as he made the trip by train. After a restless attempt at sleeping, he asked: “How near home are we?” Told the train was crossing Ohio, Burroughs slumped back and passed away.
In 1937, the 100th anniversary of Burrough’s birthday celebration was held at Hartwick College in New York. Music was furnished by the college a cappella choir who sang Burrough’s favorite song, “Lullaby” by Brahms. Supreme Court Justice Abraham Kellogg presented this tribute:
"When the trees begin to leaf and the birds are here when the arbutus, laurel, and wildflowers are blooming and nature is clothing herself with beauty and grandeur, turn ye to your library and in a restful attitude read 'Pepacton' and you will acquaint yourself as never before with John Burroughs, the scientist, the naturalist, the poet, and the philosopher.”
It was John Burroughs who said,
"Most young people find botany a dull study. So it is, as talk from the textbooks in the schools; but study by yourself in the fields and woods, and you will find it a source of perennial delight."
1920 Today is the anniversary of the death of the botanist Kate Brandegee.
Kate was the third woman to enroll at Berkely’s medical school and the second woman to be professionally employed as a botanist in the US.
After getting her MD at Berkley, she found starting a practice too daunting. Thankfully, Kate’s passion for botany was ignited during med school. She had learned that plants were the primary sources of medicine, so she dropped the mantle of a physician to pursue botany. Five years later, she was the curator of the San Francisco Academy of Sciences herbarium. While Kate was at the academy, she personally trained Alice Eastwood. Later, when Kate moved on, Alice was ready to take her place - Kate was a phenomenal mentor.
During her time at the academy, in surprise development at the age of 40, Kate had “fallen insanely in love” with plantsman Townshend Brandegee. Equally yoked, their honeymoon was a 500-mile nature walk - collecting plant specimens from San Diego to San Francisco. The couple moved to San Diego where they created a herbarium that was praised as a botanical paradise. The collecting trips - often taken together, but sometimes individually, would be their lifelong passion - and they traveled through much of California, Arizona, and Mexico at times using the free railroad passes afforded to botanists. Despite poor health, Kate loved these experiences. In 1908, at the age of 64, she wrote Townshend a letter,
“I am going to walk from Placerville to Truckee (52 miles!)”
In 1906, when the Berkeley herbarium was destroyed by an earthquake, the Brandegees single-handedly restored it by giving the school their entire botanical library (including many rare volumes) and their plant collection which numbered some 80,000 plants. Thanks to Townshend's inheritance, the couple was financially independent, but they were also exceptionally selfless. The Brandegee’s followed their plants and books to Berkley where Townshend and Kate worked the rest of their lives pro bono. Botanist Marcus Jones said of Kate,
“She was the one botanist competent to publish a real [book about the native plants of California].”
But Kate had delayed writing this work. Kate was 75 when she fell on the University grounds at Berkeley - she broke her shoulder. Three weeks later, she died.
1909 Today is the birthday of Graham Stuart Thomas.
GST was fundamentally a nurseryman and he lived a life fully immersed in the garden. His passion was sparked at a young age by a special birthday present he was given when he turned six: a beautiful potted fuchsia.
In 2003. his gardening outfit - including his pants, vest, and shoes - as well as a variety of his tools (including plant markers and a watering can) were donated to the Garden Museum.
GST was best known for his work with garden roses and his leadership of over 100 National Trust gardens. He wrote 19 books on gardening. Ever the purposeful perfectionist, he never wasted a moment.
What do folks have to say about GST on social media? Here’s a sampling:
- Pachysandra ground cover - A GST classic!
- My mom gave me a Graham Stuart Thomas for my first gardening book, so very special
- Our best selling plant of 2015? At number 1 (drum roll) - Eryngium Graham Stuart Thomas.
- Flower spike on yucca in a border. GST used them as punctuation marks in design.
- Love being married to someone who knows what I mean when I say, “Bring me Graham Stuart Thomas"
April cold with dripping rain
Willows and lilacs brings again,
The whistle of returning birds,
And trumpet-lowing of the herds.
— Ralph Waldo Emerson, American essayist and poet
Oh, how fresh the wind is blowing!
See! The sky is bright and clear,
Oh, how green the grass is growing!
April! April! Are you here?
— Dora Hill Read Goodale, American poet and teacher
A SENSITIVE PLANT in a garden grew,
And the young winds fed it with silver dew,
And it opened its fan-like leaves to the light,
And closed them beneath the kisses of night.
The snowdrop, and then the violet,
Arose from the ground with warm rain wet,
Then the pied wind-flowers and the tulip tall,
And narcissi, the fairest among them all,
And the hyacinth, purple and white and blue,
Which flung from its bells a sweet peal anew
And the jessamine faint, and the sweet tuberose,
The sweetest flower for scent that blows;
And all rare blossoms from every clime,—
Grew in that garden in perfect prime.
And the sinuous paths of lawn and of moss,
Which led through the garden along and across,
Some open at once to the sun and the breeze,
Some lost among bowers of blossoming trees,
The plumèd insects swift and free,
Like golden boats on a sunny sea,
Laden with light and odor, which pass
Over the gleam of the living grass;
And Spring arose on the garden fair,
Like the Spirit of Love felt everywhere;
And each flower and herb on Earth's dark breast
Rose from the dreams of its wintry rest."
— Percy Bysshe Shelley, English romantic poet, The Sensitive Plant
Grow That Garden Library
The subtitle to this lighthearted book is “How I Made a Muddle of Things and Decorated My Way Back to Happiness” and the book was published in 2015.
This book was inspired by Frances's popular House Beautiful magazine series on the makeover of her East Hampton house that she calls Bee Cottage.
Frances had intended this book to be a decorating book, but it evolved into so much more.
It's a memoir combining beautiful photos of Bee Cottage inside and out - and a compelling personal story - Frances's story.
This book is perfect for this time of year when we're trying to come up with all kinds of ideas for our home and garden. It’s loaded with inspiring images and snapshots.
In this book, Frances shared what she learned during all her renovations of Bee Cottage. We get a sneak peek into how she decided each area of the house and garden would be used and furnished.
From a personal standpoint, Frances came to discover that, like decorating a home or planting a garden, our Lives must adapt to who we are and what we need along the way.
And, I love this little poem that Frances uses to start out her book - along with a picture of one of her garden gates it's got a little bee cut out at the top of it.)
The poem goes like this:
He who loves an old house
Never loves in vain,
How can an old house,
Used to sun and rain,
To lilac and to larkspur,
And an elm above,
Ever fail to answer
The heart that gives it love?
Next, Frances shows a picture of her cottage before it became Bee Cottage. “ It was a little run-down but it had curb appeal but not much love”. And she wrote,
“I felt a bit that way myself.”
And here's the how the story of Bee Cottage starts:
“I'd planned to make Bee Cottage the perfect place to begin my second marriage. I'd bought it with my fiance's Blessing. It was great for us and for his two sons. Though the house was old and needed work, I relished the prospect. if only I'd been as optimistic about the marriage, but the story of Bee Cottage begins, I'm sorry to say, with heartbreak.
After the wedding invitations were sent, after gifts received, after the ridiculously expensive dress made, after deposits paid, after a house bought... I called it off. I wish I could say he was a jerk and a cad, but he wasn't. He was and is a great guy. The relationship failed because we were just not a fit.
And there I was with a house and the dawning that everything I had dreamed it would be would now be something else entirely.”
And that is the beginning of the Bee Cottage story.
This is a great and light-hearted book for this time of year as you're making plans for your own nest. If you're looking for a nice escape from the heaviness of this time we're living through, this book would be an excellent choice. It’s lovely.
Today’s Botanic Spark
In honor of John Burroughs’ first book, Wake-Robin, I found a little-known poem by Rebecca Salsbury Palfrey Utter (Books by this author) called The Wake-Robin. Rebecca was a descendant of Gene Williams Palfrey who served with George Washington and served as ambassador to France. When she was 28, she became the wife of a Chicago minister named David Utter. Thereafter, Rebecca worked beside David as a missionary and she coined the now-popular term “Daughter of the King” in one of her more popular poems.
Here’s The Wake-Robin by Rebecca Salsbury Palfrey Utter.
THE WAKE-ROBIN (or trillium)
When leaves green and hardy
From sleep have just uncurled —
Spring is so tardy
In this part of the world —
There comes a white flower forth,
Opens its eyes,
Looks out upon the earth,
In drowsy surprise.
A fair and pleasant vision
The nodding blossoms make ;
And the flower's name and mission
Is "Wake, robin, wake !”
But you're late, my lady,
You have not earned your name ;
Robin's up already,
Long before you came.
You trusted the sun's glances,
To rouse you from your naps;
Or the brook that near you dances
At spring's approach, perhaps ;
Your chamber was too shady,
The drooping trees among ;
Robin's up already,
Don't you hear his song?
There he sits, swinging, ‘
In his brown and scarlet cloak,
His notes like laughter ringing ;
Tis plain he sees the joke.
"Accidents will happen,”
Laughs robin loud and clear ;
"If you think to catch me napping,
Wake earlier next year!"
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