April 20, 2020 The Best Indoor Herb Gardens, Kitchen Scrap Gardening, Charles Plumier, Agnes Block, William Bartram, Louise Beebe Wilder, Joan Miró, Gardening Your Front Yard by Tara Nolan, and Pineapple Upside Down Cake Day

Show Notes

Today we celebrate the French botanist and explorer who christened the Begonia, the Magnolia, and the Fuchsia.

We'll also learn about one of the best and earliest botanical collectors and artists in Holland - and she was a woman to boot.

We celebrate the American naturalist born into one of our country's botanical founding families.

We also celebrate the life of one of America's greatest garden writers, Louise Beebe Wilder.

We honor the life of a Spanish artist who equated his work as a painter and sculptor to that of a gardener.

We Grow That Garden Library™ with a book about Gardening in Your Front Yard - it's packed with ideas and projects for big and small spaces. It's an idea that is gaining popularity and acceptance thanks to stay at home orders and physical distancing - one of the few positive effects of dealing with the pandemic.

And then we'll wrap things up with a delightful dessert that continues to impress, and that is having it's a special day today - and we've been making and enjoying it in this country for well over 100 years now.

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

The 7 Best Indoor Herb Gardens by Scarlett James | Bustle

"Fresh herbs are an undeniable delight, even if you don't channel Ina Garten on a daily basis. But they often end up half-used or forgotten in the back of the fridge. The best indoor herb garden will bring bold, fresh flavor to your kitchen in just the amount you need."


Garden Shopping in the Produce Aisle

Did you know that you can regrow or grow many items from your produce aisle in the supermarket? It's true.

Two of the many gardening books I brought with me to the cabin when I came up here to quarantine were

No-Waste Kitchen Gardening: Regrow Your Leftover Greens, Stalks, Seeds, and More by Katie Elzer-Peters

and Don't Throw It, Grow It!: 68 windowsill plants from kitchen scraps by Deborah Peterson

With seeds being harder and harder to source, these books are a great reminder that we shouldn't be tossing out our kitchen scraps — we can use them to grow!

Right now, thanks to books like these, I'm growing onion, garlic, spring onions, carrots, and even radish greens - all of them from food scraps.

What's more, I'm discovering that the possibilities are really endless. You'll be amazed at all of the options for utilizing pieces and parts of produce from the grocery store to regrow food you never thought possible.

This practice of growing and gardening from produce scraps is a great way to reduce food waste and even help your family to understand the power of gardening and the powerful cycle of growing and harvesting. Botany really is an exciting and wonderful area of science that you can easily study in your own kitchen.


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

1646 Today is the birthday of the French priest and botanist Charles Plumier. He was born in Marseille.

Regarded as one of the most important botanical explorers of his time, Plumier served as a botanist to King Louis XIV of France, and he traveled many times to the New World documenting many plant and animal species.

During his third expedition to the Greater Antilles, Plumier discovered the Fuchsia triphylla on the Caribbean island of Hispaniola (Haiti and the Dominican Republic), and he named the fuchsia plant after the 16th-century German botanist Leonhart Fuchs. Sometimes Charles Plumier is referred to as the Father of the Fuchsia.

Also known as ladies eardrops, the Fuchsia has colorful upside-down blossoms that hang from the stems. That drooping habit is reflected in the Irish name for Fuchsia - Deora Dé - meaning God's Tears.

The fruit of all the species of Fuchsia is edible. Although many Fuschia fruits are bland and have a bad aftertaste, the Fuschia variety splendens has flavorful fruit and can be used to make jam.

In addition to the Fuchsia, Plumier discovered and named both the Begonia and the Magnolia. Plumier named the Begonia after Michel Begon, who was the governor of the French Antilles for three years from 1682 to 1685. In fact, it was Begon who recommended Plumier for the position of plant collector in the Caribbean to King Louis XIV. Plumier named the Magnolia for the botanist Pierre Magnol - Magnol introduced the concept of plant families.

The plant names Fuschia, Begonia, and Magnolia first appeared in Plumier's 1703 book called Nova Plantarum Americanarum Genera.

Plumier drew the plants and animals that he discovered, and his drawings were quite good. In fact, Plumier's illustrations of fish were featured in a book by Professor Ted Pietsch called Charles Plumier and His Drawings of French Caribbean Fishes. And, Carl Linnaeus used Plumier's work to make a wallpaper for his home.

Today, Plumier is remembered by the genus Plumeria. A tropical, the Plumeria grows in shrubs & trees. Plumeria is sometimes called by the common name frangipani. This is because an Italian Marquis named Frangipani used Plumeria blossoms to create a perfume that was used to scent gloves during the 16th century.


1704 Today is the anniversary of the death of the inspiring female Dutch collector, paper artist, illustrator, and horticulturist, Agnes Block.

A Dutch Mennonite, Agnes first married a silk merchant named Hans de Wollf. His income made it possible for Agnes to pursue her many passions. The Dutch poet Joost van den Vondel praised her illustrations and art, while the Dutch artist Jan Weenix forever captured the image of Agnes and her second husband, also a silk merchant, in their outdoor courtyard at their place called Vijverhof.

Agnes had purchased Vijverhof, which was located just outside Amsterdam, after the death of her first husband. She had married again when she was 45. At Vijverhof, Agnes collected curiosities, and she installed gardens that were filled with rare and novel plants. Indeed, the many exotics plants and various elements of her garden - like the arbors - became the primary subjects of many pieces of her work. Also, Agnes commissioned some of the top botanical artists of her time to capture the beauty of the plants and insects at Vijverhof. In fact, history tells us that her gardens were so impressive that they even made royalty jealous.

During her lifetime, Agnes was able to experiment and work in an area that was mostly reserved for men. Today, most gardeners are surprised to learn that it was Agnes Block who successfully grew the first pineapple in Europe in 1687 - thanks to her hothouses. In a nod to her accomplishment, when Jan Weenix painted Agnes in her garden, he made sure to include the tropical pineapple.

Sadly, Block's work was lost to time, but many famous painters captured aspects of her gardens at Vijverhof - including the great Maria Sybilla Merian.


1739 Today is the birthday of the naturalist William Bartram.

In 1775, when he was 36 years old, William Bartram left Charleston, South Carolina, on horseback to explore the Cherokee Nation near Franklin, North Carolina.

In addition to his botanical discoveries, Bartram was a student of all aspects of the natural world. His prose was eloquent, as is evident in this passage about traveling through a terrible storm as he began to make his way up the Jore Mountains.

"It was now after noon; I approached a charming vale... Darkness gathers around, far distant thunder rolls over the trembling hills; ...all around is now still as death, ... a total inactivity and silence seems to pervade the earth; the birds afraid to utter a chirrup, ...nothing heard but the roaring of the approaching hurricane; ...now the lofty forests bend low beneath its fury,... the face of the earth is obscured by the deluge descending from the firmament, and I am deafened by the din of thunder; the tempestuous scene damps my spirits, and my horse sinks under me at the tremendous peals, as I hasten for the plain.

I began to ascend the Jore Mountains, which I at length accomplished, and rested on the most elevated peak; from whence, I beheld with rapture and astonishment, a sublimely awful scene of power and magnificence, a world of mountains piled upon mountains."


1938 Today is the anniversary of the death of one of America's greatest Garden writers and one of the 20th century's most famous horticulturists, Louise Beebe Wilder.

Louise was born into a wealthy family in Baltimore. After marrying an architect named Walter Wilder, they bought a country place - a 200-acre estate in Pomona, New York; they called BalderBrae. Louise set about adding fountains, terraces, arbors, walled gardens, and pathways. Her book called "My Garden" shared Louise's experiences learning how to garden at BalderBrae, where one of her first flower beds was bordered with clothespins.

At BalderBrae, Louise and Walter created a garden and a stone garden house that was made famous in Louise's book "Color in My Garden" - which came out in 1918 and is generally regarded as her best work.

In the book, Louise was the first garden writer to write about gray as a garden color. Louise was also the first person to write about Moonlight Gardens, and she wrote about looking at plants under the light of the Moon.

After World War I, Walter and Louise settled in suburban Bronxville, New York. Louise created a personal Eden on a single acre of land complete with stone pillars and a long grape arbor. It was here that Louise began rock gardening. After 1920, most of her garden writing focused on rock gardening. Louise inspired both women and men to rock garden.

By 1925, Louise founded a local Working Gardeners Club in Bronxville, and she also had steady work as a garden designer and as a garden writer. Her experiences gave her material for her writing. Louise included so many people from Bronxville in her writing that her columns were referred to by locals as "a Bronxville Family Affair."

In all, Louise wrote eleven books about gardening. Her voice is pragmatic and pointed, which is why they were popular; gardeners appreciated her no-nonsense advice.

For instance, Louise was not a fan of double flowers. In her book, "The Fragrant Path" from 1932, she wrote:

"Some flowers are, I am sure, intended by a wise God to remain single. The hyacinth doubled, for instance, is a fat abomination."

Louise wrote for a number of publications, and her writing was published in many prominent periodicals like the Journal of The Royal Horticultural Society of England and the New York Times. House and garden alone published close to a hundred and fifty articles by Louise. Many of Louise's columns were collected and published as books.

A year before she died, Louise was honored with the Gold Medal for Horticultural Achievement from the Garden Club of America. It was the pinnacle moment in her career, and it came as Louise and her children were still grieving the loss of her husband. In the Spring of 1934, Walter had committed suicide after a long battle with mental illness.

Louise wrote prolifically about gardening and plants. Her experiences resulted in increasing the awareness of different plant species, gardening practices, and she helped shape the gardens of her time. Louise gave us many wonderful garden quotes.

On Snowdrops:

"Theirs is a fragile but hardy celebration…in the very teeth of winter."

On Rosemary,

"It makes a charming pot plant, neat, svelte, with its dark, felt-lined leaves held sleek against its sides. The smell… is keen and heady, resinous, yet sweet, with a hint of nutmeg."

On Roses:

"Over and over again, I have experienced the quieting influence of rose scent upon a disturbed state of mind."

On gardening:

"In the garden, every person may be their own artist without apology or explanation. Each within their green enclosure is a creator, and no two shall reach the same conclusion."

Louise is buried with her parents in lot 41 in Lakeside Cemetery in Wakefield, Massachusetts. It was a shock to read that her grave is unmarked and to see that it is completely unadorned - without any flowers - nor does it rest under the shade of a tree.


1893 Today is the birthday of the Spanish painter and artist Joan Miró

Born in Barcelona, Miró's surrealist art left a mark on the world.

Gardeners will especially enjoy his 1918 work called The Vegetable Garden with Donkey and his 1919 work called "Vines and Olive Trees."

Miró's biography was subtitled I Work Like a Gardener, and it captured his thoughts about his art and his work:

"More important than a work of art itself is what it will sow. Art can die; what matters is that it should have sown seeds on the earth… It must give birth to a world."

Miró recognized that sculpture was most at home in the natural world. Gardeners love to incorporate sculpture and art into the garden. Regarding sculpture, Miró said,

"Sculpture must stand in the open air, in the middle of nature."

And, it was Joan Miró who said,

"I think of my studio as a vegetable garden, where things follow their natural course. They grow, they ripen. You have to graft. You have to water... I work like a gardener or a winegrower."


Unearthed Words

Here are some very true words about this time of year - which can be a mix of hurry up and waiting as the weather evens out.


The first day of spring is one thing, and the first spring day is another. The difference between them is sometimes as great as a month.

— Henry Van Dyke, American author and clergyman


The early mist had vanished, and the fields lay like a silver shield under the sun. It was one of the days when the glitter of winter shines through a pale haze of spring.

— Edith Wharton, American novelist and designer


A sap run is the sweet goodbye of winter. It is the fruit of the equal marriage of the sun and frost.

— John Burroughs, American naturalist and writer


The sun was warm, but the wind was chill.
You know how it is with an April day.
When the sun is out, and the wind is still,
You're one month on in the middle of May.
But if you so much as dare to speak,
a cloud comes over the sunlit arch,
And wind comes off a frozen peak,
And you're two months back in the middle of March.

— Robert Frost, American poet, Two Tramps in Mud Time, 1926


In the spring I have counted one hundred and thirty-six different kinds of weather inside of four and twenty hours.

— Mark Twain, American writer and humorist


Poets and songwriters speak highly of spring as one of the great joys of life in the temperate zone, but in the real world, most of spring is disappointing. We looked forward to it too long, and the spring we had in mind in February was warmer and dryer than the actual spring when it finally arrives. We'd expected it to be a whole season, like winter, instead of a handful of separate moments and single afternoons.

— Barbara Holland, American author, Endangered Pleasures


I wonder if the sap is stirring yet,
If wintry birds are dreaming of a mate,
If frozen snowdrops feel as yet the sun
And crocus fires are kindling one by one:
Sing robin, sing:
I still am sore in doubt concerning spring.

— Christina Rossetti, English Poet


Grow That Garden Library

Gardening Your Front Yard by Tara Nolan

This book came out in March of this year, and the subtitle is: Projects and Ideas for Big and Small Spaces - Includes Vegetable Gardening, Pollinator Plants, Rain Gardens, and More!

The author Julie Bawden Davis said, "I recommend Gardening Your Front Yard to anyone looking to create an eye-catching and inviting front yard. The book promises to inspire nonstop ideas for making your front yard a living masterpiece."

The book is 208 pages of ideas and projects - all shared with today's gardener in mind. This is Tara's second book - she also wrote Raised Bed Revolution - and in her new book, we learn about transforming our front yards from wide-open lawns to endless possibilities. Tara's book takes you on a tour of options for repurposing and leveraging the potential of the land that lies between your home sweet home and the sidewalk or the street. Tara shares projects and troubleshooting advice - helping you navigate some challenges you may face as you transform your space. The upshot is that your front yard can go from producing a single crop - grass - to becoming a multi-crop vital and verdant living space that can greatly enhance your life.

You can get a copy of Gardening Your Front Yard by Tara Nolan and support the show, using the Amazon Link in today's Show Notes for around $20.


Today's Botanic Spark

Today is National Pineapple Upside Down Cake Day. We celebrate it every year on the 20th of April.

This cake became popular in America until after 1903. The cakes were traditionally made in cast iron skillets.

Pineapple Upside Down Cake is a very satisfying dessert that you can enjoy with a cup of coffee. If you'd like to make one, line the bottom of a cake pan with pineapple rings and then place a cherry in the center of each ring followed by a butter and sugar mixture.

Finally, the cake batter is poured over the pineapples and baked.

The best part happens when the cake is done. That is when the pan is turned upside down onto a platter, revealing a masterpiece that is both amazing and delicious.

Don't forget, if you save the top slice with the foliage still attached, you can turn that top piece into a very attractive houseplant.

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