Today we celebrate what I'm calling Dependence Day for Gardeners.
We'll also learn about the gutta-percha pioneer - it's a fascinating story.
We celebrate the California botanist who is remembered with a plant name and the name of a Canyon - and she was a tremendous conservationist.
We also celebrate a botanist who is a sentimental favorite of mine - she died while collecting samples in the Western Himalayas almost eighty years ago today.
We honor National Meadows Day - an annual celebration of the wildflower meadows of England - with some poetry.
We Grow That Garden Library™ with a fiction book that was the Winner of the Man Asian Literary Prize, and the main character finds "solace among the jungle-fringed tea plantations of [the] Cameron Highlands," and she also meets some incredible gardeners.
And then we'll wrap things up with the flowers for the birthday of President Calvin Coolidge - in 1924 one newspaper headline said, "Cal's Cool and 52".
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.
“It’s a smart plan to set up a temporary garden at your new home when you have just moved because you don’t really understand the “lay of the land” in your garden yet. Understanding your garden takes at least a year. A YEAR!?!?! Yes. A year. An example of this is that the sunshine changes throughout your garden. In the winter you might have the direct sun in some places, creating micro-climates, while in the summer you could have the opposite. Understanding your sun, water, and other conditions on your property takes a while.”
No Independence Day for Gardener (Click here to read my original blogpost)
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.
1804 Today is the birthday of the gutta-percha pioneer Henry Bewley who was born on this day in Dublin, Ireland.
A trained chemist, Bewley began work manufacturing soda water. Bewley's work with soda got him in touch with Charles Hancock, who was eager to develop a stopper for bottles. Hancock's solution came to him in the form of gutta-percha - a tough, rubber-like substance that had been discovered in the sap of Malayasian trees and brought to England in the mid-1840s. After Hancock showed Bewley the gutta-percha, he set about inventing the machine that would extrude the gutta-percha into tubing, which would ultimately find a purpose in dentistry and as an insulator for electrical wiring.
Although their partnership would not last, Bewley and Hancock formed the Gutta Percha Company in London on February 4, 1845. Twenty years later, Bewley's company was swept up in the merger that created The Telegraph Construction and Maintenance Company. Until the mid-1900s, it was gutta-percha that protected the transatlantic cables used for communication.
The resin from gutta-percha was used to make all kinds of items like buckets and mugs, soles for shoes, bands for heavy equipment, buoys, and so forth. Early on, the uses for gutta-percha seemed endless - but its original use as tubing (thanks to Bewley) was vital for scientists and engineers working with wiring, liquids, and gases. Gardeners owed a debt of gratitude to Bewley. His gutta-percha tubing was perfect for this in-demand item called a garden hose.
I thought you might enjoy hearing a little excerpt from this 1854 advertisement for gutta-percha. It features a testimony from a Mr. J. Farrah, the gardener to a successful attorney who lived on the estate known as Holderness House near Hull.
“I have 400 feet of your gutta-percha tubing in lengths of 100 feet each [and I have used them] for the past 12 months for watering these gardens and I find it... better than anything I have ever yet tried. The pressure of the water is very considerable, but this has not the slightest effect on the tubing.
I consider this tubing to be a most valuable invention for gardeners, as much as it enables us to water our gardens in about half the time and with half the labor formerly required.”
1976 On the 4th of July in 1976, a very hot day to go hiking, botanist Mary Dedecker made her way back to a spot in the desert of California where she had discovered a new plant earlier in June of that same year.
When DeDecker reached the shrub, she was stunned. She remembers seeing the plants in full bloom - a gold profusion - and fondly recalled,
“It was just golden. All over the dark cliffs, these golden bunches of this shrub.”
Mary and her husband, Paul, lived in Independence for over five decades. Paul's job brought them to the town. Mary remembered, "It was a different world up here. My husband would fish in the Alpine lakes of the High Sierra, and I would sketch and make notes on plants. There was virtually no literature on the flora of the eastern Sierra."
Mary and Paul's DeDeckera shrub became the only species in the brand new Dedeckera genus, which was the first newly discovered genus in California in almost three decades. The DeDecker's shrub, the Dedeckera eurekensis, is a member of the buckwheat family and is commonly referred to as July gold. It's a rare plant and is only found in California's Inyo and White Mountains.
These mountains are remote, but they were well-known by Paul and Mary, who loved to explore the desert and found it utterly enchanting. They lived to see the naming of Dedeckera Canyon, which was a unique honor. Believe it or not, there is a rule that geographic locations cannot be named after living people. In this case, the canyon was officially named after the Dedeckera plant genus named for Mary and Paul - but it clearly honored the couple all the same. It was a sneaky way to get around the rules.
As a little girl, Mary learned to garden from her dad, who encouraged her to grow things. Her training as a botanist and her love of nature gave her the drive to search the desert floor on countless hikes in order to collect and catalog over 6,000 plant species.
It's no wonder then that Mary successfully fought to preserve the Eureka Dunes, which are adjacent to the northwest corner of Death Valley. In Mary's lifetime, she was able to stop off-road vehicles from destroying the dunes. Regarding her three-decades-long fight, she said,
“It was terribly frustrating. I was sick as I went out and watched [off-road vehicle users] tear up the place, spinning out the plants and seedlings, destroying animal habitats. They would be all over the dunes having the time of their lives, so unaware of the damage to the delicate and unique ecosystems. . . ."
Much of her work involved researching the flowers of the dunes. Thanks to Mary, the Dunes became part of the over 500 nationally recognized natural landmarks in the United States.
Mary DeDecker witnessed many impressive desert blooms during her lifetime. The beauty of the desert and the miraculous desert plant life never failed to hold her attention. Among her many published works, Mary was perfectly suited to write two books on California's desert flora. Today young botanists may be surprised to learn that Mary never received any formal training. Yet, Mary credited the help of countless botanists and the desert itself as her teachers. Through her devotion and fieldwork, Mary came to be regarded as one of the nation's top experts on plants of the northern Mojave Desert and Owens Valley.
There is an interesting side note to Mary's story. In 1945, while on one of her desert hikes, Mary discovered the remains of a Japanese-American named Matsumura who had left the internment camp at Manzanar to go fishing with friends. He had been missing for one month when Mary discovered him. Authorities buried him in that spot, and then slowly, the world forgot about his resting place. For decades, people attempted to relocate his burial spot without any luck. His grave remained lost to time until it was re-discovered in 2019.
1939 The English botanist Lady Joan Margaret Legge ("LAY-gee") died after she slipped and fell while collecting samples in the Western Himalayas at Valley of Flowers in India.
When she died, Lady Joan was 54 years old and unmarried, and the youngest daughter of the sixth Earl of Dartmouth. In addition to enjoying botany, Lady Joan served the poor through her local church. In 1922, she was nominated for Sheriff of Staffordshire county, but her dad disqualified her on the grounds that she owned no property.
Before traveling to the Valley of Flowers, Lady Joan had spent the previous three years tending to her sick father. Then, she had spent the winter before her trip battling pneumonia. Although some of her friends were against her going to India, Lady Joan was eager to go, and many remarked that it was her first real holiday in ten years.
The Valley of Flowers was an exciting destination. It had only just been discovered in 1931 - eight years before Lady Joan's visit. Three English mountaineers had stumbled on the Valley after getting lost. The Valley enchanted them, and the flowers made it seem like they were in a fairyland. One of the climbers was a botanist named Frank Smythe. He wrote a book called Kamet Conquered, and in it, he named the area the Valley of Flowers.
The Valley of Flowers is a seven-day trip from Delhi. It is now a protected national park. As the name implies, it is a lush area famous for the millions of alpine flowers that cover the hills and slopes and nestle along icy flowing streams.
Throughout most of the year, the Valley of Flowers remains hidden, buried under several feet of snow throughout a seven-to-eight-month-long winter. In March, the melting snow and monsoon activate a new growing season. There is a brief 3-4 month window when the Valley of Flowers is accessible – generally during the months of July, August, and September.
The Valley of Flowers is home to over 500 varieties of wildflowers, and many are still considered rare. Along with daisies, poppies, and marigolds, there are primulas and orchids growing wild. The rare Blue Poppy, commonly known as the Himalayan Queen, is the most coveted plant in the Valley.
Lady Joan ended up traveling to the Valley of Flowers as a direct result of Frank Smythe's book. Smythe's work inspired many, and it attracted the attention of Edinburgh's Royal Botanic Garden, and they sponsored Lady Joan's trip.
After arriving in the Himilayas, Lady Joan was accompanied by guides and porters. As she made her way over the lower foothills, she collected alpine specimens.
On the day she died, Lady Joan was traversing the slopes of Khulia Garva, which still attracts tourists. After she fell, her porters recovered her body. They buried her in the Valley at the request of her older sister, Dorothy. All of Lady Joan's belongings were packed up and sent home to England.
The following summer, in 1940, Dorothy visited her sister's grave and placed a marker over the spot where she had been buried. Today, Lady Joan's marker is visited by tourists, and it includes poignant words from Psalm 121:
I will lift up mine eyes unto the hills
From whence cometh my help
Today in the UK, it's National Meadows Day - an annual celebration of the wildflower meadows of England. Each year, the event takes place on or around the first Saturday of July. So, in tribute, here are little poems about meadows.
How does the Meadow flower its bloom unfold?
Because the lovely little flower is free down to its root,
and in that freedom bold.
— William Wordsworth, English Romantic poet
In the meadow - what in the meadow?
Bluebells, Buttercups, Meadow-sweet,
And fairy rings for the children's feet
In the meadow.
In the garden - what in the garden?
Jacob's Ladder and Solomon's Seal, And Love-Lies-Bleeding beside
All-Heal In the garden.
— Christina Georgina Rossetti, English poet, In The Meadow - What In The Meadow?
Rose! We love thee for thy splendor,
Lily! For thy queenly grace! Violet !
For thy lowly merit, Peeping from thy shady place!
But mine airy, woodland fairy, Scattering odors at thy feet,
No one knows thy modest beauty,
No one loves thee, Meadow-Sweet!
— Charles MacKay, Scottish poet, Meadow-Sweet
The Meadow-Sweet was uplifting Its plumelets of delicate hue,
The clouds were all dreamily drifting
Above the blue.
On the day when I broke from my tether
And fled from the square and the street
Was the day we went walking together
In the meadow, sweet.
The Meadow-Sweet with its clover
And bright with Its buttercups lay;
The swallows kept eddying over,
All flashing and gay.
I remember a fairylike feather
Sailed down your coming to greet,
The day we went walking together
In the meadow, sweet.
Ahl the Meadow-Sweet! and the singing
Of birds in the boughs overhead l
And your soft little hand to mine clinging,
And the words that you said
When bold in the beautiful weather
I laid my love at your feet,
The day we went walking together In the meadow, sweet.
— Francis Wynne, Irish poet, Longman's Magazine, Meadow-Sweet
In summer fields the Meadow-Sweet
Spreads its white bloom around the feet
Of those who pass In love or play
The golden hours of holiday;
And heart to answering heart can beat
Where grows the simple Meadow-Sweet
Embosomed in some cool retreat
The long seed grasses bend to meet
The stream that murmurs as it flows
Songs of forget-me-not and rose;
The filmy haze of noon-tide heat
Is faint with scents of Meadow-Sweet.
Ah, Love ! do you know Meadow-Sweet?
Does some pale ghost of passion fleet
Adown this dreary lapse of years,
So void of love, so full of fears? Some ancient far-off echo greet
The once loved name of Meadow-Sweet
— William Leonard Courtney, English author and poet, Meadow-Sweet
Grow That Garden Library
This book came out in 2012, and it won the Man Asian Literary Prize.
Kirkus Reviews said,
“The unexpected relationship between a war-scarred woman and an exiled gardener leads to a journey through remorse to a kind of peace. After a notable debut, Eng (The Gift of Rain, 2008) returns to the landscape of his origins with a poetic, compassionate, sorrowful novel set in the aftermath of World War II in Malaya…Grace and empathy infuse this melancholy landscape of complex loyalties enfolded by brutal history, creating a novel of peculiar, mysterious, tragic beauty.”
The book is a 4.5 star rated book on Amazon. It is 352 pages - and the perfect summer read for gardeners.
Today's Botanic Spark
1924 President Calvin Coolidge is the only American President to have been born on the 4th of July and celebrated his 52nd birthday at the Whitehouse.
To mark the occasion, he received a nearly 6-foot-tall floral arrangement from the Florist Telegraphers Association.
The president was born at Plymouth, Vermont.
Newspapers pointed out that while he was turning 52, the country was turning 148. One newspaper headline said, "Cal's Cool and 52".
The Wilkes-Barre Record reported:
“The President made no unusual observance of his birthday but joined with the nation in the July Fourth celebration. He spoke [in the] morning before the National Education Association.
Later in the day, he planned to board the Presidential yacht (Mayflower) for a cruise down the Potomac.
There were no White House guests, although the two sons of the President and Mrs. Coolidge, John and Calvin, Jr, were at home.
E. T. Clark, private secretary to the president, said more than 46,000 cards and letters of congratulation had been received.”
Today, if you google "Calvin Coolidge 1924 birthday", you can see him standing on the south lawn next to the very large floral arrangement that was delivered to the White House.
Three days after his birthday, Coolidge and his family suffered a personal tragedy. His younger son and namesake, Calvin Jr., developed an infected blister. He died on July 7 from sepsis. Although Coolidge became depressed, the public voted him into office, and he won a three-way race and the popular vote by 2.5 million votes over his two opponents' combined totals.
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