July 6, 2020 Gardens on Lockdown, Hollyhocks, Leonard Plukenet, William Jackson Hooker, Frank Smythe, Bee Poetry, The Humane Gardener by Nancy Lawson, and an Ode to Basil
We'll also learn about the botanical illustrator and collector who established a worldwide reputation for his incredible herbarium.
We celebrate the great Himalayan and Alpine mountain climbing and writer - he was also a botanist.
We also honor bees with today's poetry.
We Grow That Garden Library™ with a book gardening in a humane way - helping you create a garden that is healthy and harmonious for all living things.
And then we'll wrap things up with an Ode to Basil - my favorite summer crop.
But first, let's catch up on some Greetings from Gardeners around the world and today's curated news.
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The hidden gardens of lockdown | The Guardian
“As some of the UK’s best-loved gardens prepare to reopen to the public, we ask the head gardeners what has been happening behind their closed gates.”
Gardener Jess Evans:
“I can’t lie, it’s been amazing, and so peaceful,” she says. “It’s very easy to stick your head down and just crack on and get things done, but this has given us an opportunity to take stock and look at the garden properly.” She has also enjoyed the chance to get her hands dirty. “I’m doing more outdoor work than I have done in ages. Usually I’d be in the office at least two or three days a week and yet now I’ve had the perfect excuse not to be.”
“Hollyhocks are designed to give easy access to quantities of pollen, through the open funnels of the single varieties. Just watching a less svelte bee (like a bumble bee) climbing around a hollyhock illustrates how double flowers can be problematic. Aesthetically, the simple singles are very desirable but have been out-marketed by the doubles. The best way to procure singles, in the best colors, is through a generous friend.”
What's Green and Sings? (Click to read this original post)
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1706 Today is the anniversary of the death of Leonard Plukenet, who had served as the botanist to Queen Mary II.
When he died (like almost every plant-lover of his era), he left his collections and herbarium to Sir Hans Sloane, which is how his collections have become one of the oldest still existing at the Natural History Museum in England.
As the royal botanist, Plukenet was an important part of botanical society during the 1600s. Along with George London and William Sherard, Plukenet assisted the zealous botanical aspirations of Mary Somerset, Duchess of Beaufort. Her next-door neighbor was Sir Hans Sloane. When she died, she, too, left her herbarium and other valuable botanical items to Sir Hans Sloane. This is how Hans Sloane became a one-man botanical repository, and that repository ultimately became the Natural History Museum.
Plukenet played an unforgettable role in the history of the sacred lotus. And in 2011, Corinne Hannah wrote an exceptional piece about Plukenet's name for the sacred lotus. Here's an excerpt from Corinne's marvelous article, which appeared in the Calgary Herald.
“[The] English botanist Leonard Plukenet christened the sacred lotus in 1696 as:
Nymphaea glandulifera indiae paludibus gardens foliis umbilicatis amplis pediculis spinosis flore rosea-pupureo,
or "the marsh-loving, nut-bearing Indian water lily with large, navel-centred leaves, prickly stalks and rose-purple flowers.
Thank heavens for Carl Linnaeus and his invention of binomial nomenclature, which decreed each plant could only be identified with two names!
But Linnaeus was not infallible. He too initially identified the sacred lotus as being closely related to the water lily family (Nymphaea). Recent genetic testing has confirmed that sacred lotus belongs to a genus unto itself, Nelumbo nucifera. This aquatic plant is not even remotely related to water lilies. In fact, it is far more closely allied to woody plants such as plane trees or banksias.“
1785 Today is the birthday of the great Sir William Jackson Hooker.
Hooker was both a botanist and a botanical illustrator, and he was a great friend of Joseph Banks.
Thanks to his inheritance, Hooker was wealthy; he didn't need a patron to fund his work or expeditions. Hooker's first expedition was to Iceland in the summer of 1809. The trip was actually Bank's idea. Hooker came along in order to collect specimens, as well as to trial everything he discovered.
Unfortunately, during their voyage home from Iceland, there was a terrible fire. Most people don't realize it, but Hooker nearly died. Sadly, all of Hooker's work was destroyed. But it turns out, Hooker's mind was a steel trap. In a remarkable accomplishment, Hooker was able to reconstruct his discoveries and publish an account of his adventure in a book called Tour in Iceland.
Over his lifetime, Hooker established a global reputation for his world-class herbarium. By 1841, he was appointed the director of the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew. Hooker elevated Kew to greatness. His leadership resulted in an expanding of the gardens from 10 to 75 acres as well as adding a 270-acre Arboretum and a museum for botany.
In 1865, there was a virus going around at Kew. Everyone had sore throats. Soon, Hooker, too, became ill. He was 80 years old. The virus overpowered him, and he died.
His son Sir Joseph Dalton Hooker, and outstanding botanist in his own right succeeded him at Kew.
1900 Today is the birthday of the great Himalayan and Alpine mountain climber and mountaineering writer Frank Smythe.
Frank had a diverse range of interests, which he mastered - including photography, collecting plants, botany, and gardening.
He is most remembered for his mountaineering and for discovering and naming the Valley of Flowers in the Western Himalayas in India.
During his lifetime, Frank would go on seven expeditions to the Himalayas, where he especially enjoyed botanizing and taking pictures.
In 1931, Frank stumbled on the Valley of Flowers along with two other English mountaineers after they got lost. The climbers had just finished ascending Mount Kamet, and they were looking for a place to escape bad oncoming weather. The Valley enchanted them, and the flowers made it seem like they were in a fairyland. When Smyth returned to England, he wrote a book called Kamet Conquered, and in it, he named the area the Valley of Flowers. Well, the name Frank gave the Valley caused a sensation.
In one of his later books, Frank wrote about the moment he discovered the Valley:
“Within a few minutes, we were out of the wind and in the rain which became gradually warmer as we lost height. Dense mist shrouded the mountainside and we paused, uncertain as to the route when I heard Holdsworth, who was a botanist as well as a climbing member of the Expedition exclaim, “Look!”
I followed the directions of his outstretched hand.
At first, I could see nothing but rocks. Then suddenly my wandering gaze was arrested by a little splash of blue, and beyond it were other splashes of blue; a blue so intense it seemed to light the hillside.
‘All of a sudden I realized that I was simply surrounded by primulas. At once, the day seemed to brighten perceptibly. Forgotten were all the pains and cold and lost porters. And what a primula it was! Its leek-like habit proclaimed it a member of the nizalis section. All over the little shelves and terraces, it grew, often with its roots in running water. At the most, it stood six inches high, but it's flowers were enormous for its stature, and ample in number— sometimes as many as thirty to the beautifully proportioned umble and in the color of the most heavenly French blue [and] sweetly scented.’
In all my mountain wanderings I had not seen a more beautiful flower than this primula. The fine raindrops clung to its soft petals like galaxies of seed-pearls and frosted its leaves with silver. “
Now you can see how Frank's writing inspired so many people to make a pilgrimage to the Valley. For the people who make the trek, 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. Through 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.
In 1937, Frank returned to the Valley where he especially enjoyed botanizing. He gathered specimens and seeds and documented his discoveries. 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.
Today's poetry is all about the buzz of July: Bees.
The hum of bees is the voice of the garden.
— Elizabeth Lawrence, garden writer
The dandelions and buttercups gild all the lawn: the drowsy Bee stumbles among the clover tops, and summer sweetens all to me.
— James Russell Lowell, American Romantic poet
"And pray, who are you?"
Said the Violet blue
To the Bee, with surprise,
At his wonderful size,
In her eyeglass of dew.
"I, madam," quoth he,
"Am a publican Bee,
Collecting the tax
Of honey and wax.
Have you nothing for me?"
— John Bannister Tabb, American poet and priest, The Violet and the Bee
Where is the Bee—
Where is the Blush—
Where is the Hay?
Ah, said July—
Where is the Seed—
Where is the Bud—
Where is the May—
― Emily Dickinson, American poet
All day the bees have come to the garden.
They hover, swivel in arcs and, whirling, light
On stamens heavy with pollen, probe and revel
Inside the yellow and red starbursts of dahlias
Or cling to lobelia's blue-white mouths
Or climb the speckled trumpets of foxgloves.
My restless eyes follow their restlessness
As they plunge bodily headfirst into treasure,
Gold-fevered among these horns of plenty.
They circle me, a flowerless patch
With nothing to offer in the way of sweetness
Or light against the first omens of evening.
Some, even now, are dying at the end
Of their few weeks, some being born in the dark,
Some simply waiting for life, but some are dancing
Deep in their hives, telling the hungry
The sun will be that way, the garden this far:
This is the way to the garden. They hum at my ear.
And I wake up, startled, seeing the early
Stars beginning to bud in constellations.
The bees have gathered somewhere like petals closing
For the coming of the cold. The silhouette
Of a sphinx moth swerves to drink at a flowerhead.
The night-blooming moon opens its pale corolla.
— David Wagoner, American poet, Falling Asleep In The Garden
Grow That Garden Library
The Humane Gardener by Nancy Lawson
This book came out in 2017, and the subtitle is: Nurturing a Backyard Habitat for Wildlife (How to Create a Sustainable and Ethical Garden that Promotes Native Wildlife, Plants, and Biodiversity)
In Nancy's words:
"A humane gardener challenges herself to see the world through the eyes (and ears and noses and antennae) of other species, from the easy-to-love butterflies and birds to the more misunderstood moles and beetles and wasps and groundhogs. She appreciates all the creatures just trying to make a life outside her door, rather than applying compassion selectively to some species and not others."
The book is 224 pages of valuable, inspirational, and critical information designed to help you create a garden that is healthy and harmonious for all living things.
You can get a copy of The Humane Gardener by Nancy Lawson and support the show, using the Amazon Link in today's Show Notes for around $16.
Today's Botanic Spark
2015 On this day, Leah Raup, over at the unboredhousewife.com, wrote an ode to Basil. It's a delight.
Basil, sweet basil, you are a true summer treat.
Straight from the plant is the only way to eat
your tender green leaves on Caprese salad or penne,
the uses for you are vast – they are many.
In ice cream or cookies you're an unexpected flavor,
you make me creative and cause me to savor
the warm summer air and my bare feet in the grass.
I'm pondering ways to store you when autumn comes to pass.
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