Today we celebrate the man remembered in the genus name for Crape Myrtle.
We'll also learn about the botanist who served as the physician to George Washington.
We celebrate the man remembered in the name of the largest flower in the world.
And we also celebrate the practical gardener and journalist who helped change the English landscape from formal to much more relaxed and attainable for the masses.
We honor the beautiful Rose, queen of the garden, with today's poetry.
We Grow That Garden Library™ with a book that shares "Age-Old Advice and Tips for the Garden."
And then we'll wrap things up with the story of a botanist who wanted to make orchids possible to grow in the "average man's garden."
But first, let's catch up on some Greetings from Gardeners around the world and today's curated news.
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1759 The naturalist, and Director of the Swedish East India Company, Magnus von Lagerstrom died.
In his work, Magnus was a friend and patron of Carl Linnaeus. During his travels, he supplied Linnaeus with plants, and in return, Linnaeus named the genus for Crape Myrtle after him - Lagerstroemia.
Before we get into the plant details of the Crape Myrtle, we need to talk about the spelling controversy. In the South, the spelling is Crepe, as in crepe paper. This spelling supposedly came about because the flowers resemble crepe paper. But, everywhere else, it is spelled Crape like Grape.
Now, botanists have recorded close to 50 known species of Crape Myrtle. Crape Myrtles are a member of the loosestrife family. Their size can vary significantly from one foot to a hundred feet tall. Crape myrtles are robust and can put up with severe growing conditions - like high heat, humidity, and drought. (Basically, what many parts of the country are putting up with right now)
Their hardiness in sweltering conditions gives us a clue as to their origins; Crape Myrtles are native to the Indian subcontinent, southeast Asia, northern Australia, and parts of Oceania.
In China, the Crape Myrtle is known as the "Monkey Tree." Crape Myrtle trunks are slippery, which means the monkeys have a tough time climbing them. The Chinese also called the Crape Myrtle "The Tree of 100 days" in reference to the long bloom time. Gardeners especially appreciate the Crape Myrtle's extraordinarily long bloom time. Once the plant starts blooming in the middle of the summer, it will continue to produce blossoms well into fall.
Medicinally, Crape Myrtle is used for constipation. The leaves, bark, and even the blossoms are high in fiber. And, herbalists know how to make a purgative decoction with Crape Myrtle leaves.
1817 Today is the anniversary of the death of the American doctor, professor, and naturalist Adam Kuhn.
Adam was exceptionally well-trained for his time. His father had been a physician - his parents were German immigrants - and Adam grew up in Germantown, Pennsylvania. At some point, his family sent him to Sweden, where he studied at Upsala University. He's believed to be the only American student of Carl Linnaeus. Linnaeus wrote to Adam's father with rare praise, saying:
"[Adam] is unwearied in his studies and daily and faithfully studies materia medica with me. He has learned the symptomatic history of diseases in an accurate and solid manner. In natural history and botany, he's made remarkable progress."
Linnaeus clearly liked Adam, and he named the plant Kuhnia (Kuhnia Eupatorioides), commonly known as False Boneset, in Adam's honor.
Adam began teaching at the medical school of the College of Philadelphia, where he became the first professor of medicine for the 13 colonies. He's remembered for being the physician for George Washington.
He's also recalled as a somewhat rigidly formal man - some historical texts have used the word "pompous" to describe him. One doctor recalled Adam this way:
"He was by far the most highly and minutely furnished specimen of old-school [medicine] I have ever beheld.
He wore a fashionable curled and powdered wig; his breeches were black, [he wore] a long-skirted buff or white waistcoat...
He carried a gold-headed cane and a gold snuff-box; his knee and shoe buckles of the same metal.
His footsteps were sternly and stubbornly regular;
He entered the sick-room at a given minute and stayed a given time and never suffered deviation from his directions.
[Once a nurse asked] "'Doctor, if the patient should desire toast, water or lemonade he may have it?'
[Adam] would turn and reply with oracular solemnity,
'I have directed weak sage tea. Good morning madam.'"
1826 Today is the anniversary of the death of Sir Stamford Raffles.
Eight years before he died, Raffles described the Arnold's rafflesia, the largest flower in the world.
"The magnificent plants have no leaves, no roots, and no stem. The entire flower measures about a yard across and weighs about fifteen pounds. And, the Rafflesia flower lasts for only a few days before it withers and dies."
The Rafflesia arnoldii, commonly called the corpse lily or stinking corpse lily, is named to honor Raffles and his dear friend Dr. James Arnold, who was with him during the discovery of the plant on the island of Sumatra. Arnold was a surgeon, botanist, and a naturalist in his own right, but sadly he died shortly after seeing the bloom. The Rafflesia arnoldii was named in honor of them both (Raffles and Arnold).
The Rafflesia flower is still regarded as the largest in the world.
1838 It's the birthday of the Irish practical gardener and journalist, the passionate William Robinson.
A horticultural powerhouse, Robinson helped change the English landscape from formal to much more relaxed and attainable for the masses. Robinson wrote,
"The Medici Gardens in Rome, [offers] clipped walls of green, formal walks, numerous statues, and the ever-present Stone Pine. It's difficult to imagine anything more monotonous or uninteresting than [this] type of garden."
I always say of Robinson that his gardens were chill, but the man was hot - as in he was hot-tempered, opinionated, hoppin', and happening. He developed the practice of planting the herbaceous border, and he was an advocate for the wild garden. He wanted everyone to do their own thing in their gardens - no need for a cookie-cutter approach or formality.
And, Robinson had an artistic mindset; he wanted people to be free to express themselves in their own way in their garden. Robinson was ahead of his time, as is evidenced by the fact that many of his ideas remain relevant and commonplace.
In 1867, Robinson visited the gardens of France and came home to write his first gardening book. He called it Gleanings from French Gardens. (I love that title!) Robinson's work and books brought him financial security. By the age of 45, he had enough money to purchase the Elizabethan Manor of Gravetye in Sussex, along with almost two hundred acres of pasture and woodland.
Now, Robinson became great friends with Gertrude Jekyll. In 1896, Jekyll offered this summary of Robinson's impact on gardening:
"[Thanks to William Robinson] ... we may see how best to use and enjoy the thousands of beautiful plants that have been brought to us by the men who have given fortune, health, and often life in perilous travel that our gardens may be enriched and botanical knowledge extended. We cannot now, with all this treasure at our feet, neglect it and refuse it the gratefully appreciative use that it deserves."
Today's selections are all about the superstar of the July garden - the Rose.
I have a garden of my own
But so with Roses overgrown
And Lilies, that you would it guess
To be a little wilderness.
— Andrew Marvell, English poet and politician
I haven't much time to be fond of anything ... but when I have a moment's fondness to bestow most times ... the Roses get it. I began my life among them in my father's nursery garden, and I shall end my life among them, if I can. Yes. One of these days (please God) I shall retire from catching thieves, and try my hand at growing Roses.
― Wilkie Collins, English novelist, The Moonstone
The serene philosophy of the pink Rose is steadying. Its fragrant, delicate petals open fully and are ready to fall, without regret or disillusion, after only a day in the sun. It is so every summer. One can almost hear their pink, fragrant murmur as they settle down upon the grass: 'Summer, summer, it will always be summer.'
— Rachel Peden, newspaper columnist
Where you tend a Rose, my lad, a Thistle cannot grow.
— Frances Hodgson Burnett, English-American novelist, The Secret Garden
I have a White Rose to tend
In July as in January;
I give it to the true friend
Who offers his frank hand to me.
And for the cruel one whose blows
Break the heart by which I live,
Thistle nor thorn do I give:
For him, too, I have a White Rose.
— José Martí, Cuban poet, A White Rose
The Lily has a smooth stalk,
Will never hurt your hand;
But the Rose upon her brier
Is lady of the land.
There's sweetness in an Apple Tree,
And profit in the Corn;
But lady of all beauty
Is a Rose upon a thorn.
When with moss and honey
She tips her bending brier,
And half unfolds her glowing heart,
She sets the world on fire.
— Christina Georgina Rossetti, English poet, The Rose
Grow That Garden Library
This book came out in 2013, and the subtitle is: Age-Old Advice and Tips for the Garden
In their review of this book, Amateur Gardening said, "Buried among the tongue-in-cheek tips, gardening quotations and fascinating facts aimed at making you the envy of the allotment, there are some real nuggets of information that will benefit even the most green-fingered."
The book is 160 pages of tips, ideas, anecdotes, and inspiration.
Today's Botanic Spark
1985 Today is the 35th anniversary of the death of the botanist and Northwestern University professor Margery Claire Carlson.
In 1916, Margery was the first woman to major in botany at Northwestern. Later, she earned a Ph.D. in botany, and then she became the first full-time female professor at Northwestern.
During the 1930s, she was featured in many Newspapers for her work with orchids. One popular article from 1936 said that Margery was working on making orchids possible to grow in the "average man's garden." Two years later, another article shared her unique approach to raising orchids in bottles. Margery trialed different ways of feeding the orchids, growing them specific food-based cultures like carrots, beets, tobacco, sugar, or beef extracts.
Margery and her partner Kate Staley went on several expeditions together to South and Central America. Margery's obituary said the two were used to traveling, "by an ox, truck, or airplane through and over dense jungles."
Margery was always on the lookout for orchids and other rare species. In 1948, on one expedition alone, she gathered over 4,000 specimens and discovered 15 new plant species.
Margery commented that during her many travels, she was never afraid of snakes because they made so much noise cutting through the jungle with their machetes that they scared the snakes away.
Margery was born and raised in Illinois. Her parents, John and Nellie, helped chart her destiny. They named her after the Marguerite Daisy.
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