July 8, 2020 American Garden Stamps, Herb Paris, Forrest Shreve, Eva Reed, Tom Thomson, Leonard Cockayne, Summer Poetry, Paradise Lot by Eric Toensmeier, and Milk Sickness

Show Notes

Today we celebrate the preeminent botanist of North American deserts.

We'll also learn about a beloved botanist and librarian with the Missouri Botanical Gardens.

We celebrate the Canadian Landscape artist, who was a member of Canada's treasured Group of Seven.

We also celebrate a genuinely great English-Kiwi botanist.

We honor summer gardening and garden life with today's poetry.

We Grow That Garden Library™ with a book about "Two Plant Geeks, One-Tenth of an Acre, and the Making of an Edible Garden Oasis in the City" - and this book is loaded with ideas and inspiration for anyone interested in urban agriculture and permaculture.

And then, we'll wrap things up with a sickness caused by Snakeroot.

But first, let's catch up on some Greetings from Gardeners around the world and today's curated news.



Apple | Google | Spotify | Stitcher | iHeart


Gardener Greetings

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.

Curated News

Enveloped In American Gardens | Landscape Architecture Magazine

“Showcasing the diversity of American landscapes, past legacies of cultural stewardship, and the skills of generations of landscape architects, the U.S. Postal Service recently released the “American Gardens” stamp series, commemorating 10 landmark gardens across the nation. The gardens, many of them created by historically significant designers and makers, raise the visibility of landscape design in the American cultural realm by putting them into our hands and mailboxes every day, everywhere. The stamps were designed by Ethel Kessler and feature photos by Allen Rokach, a former director of photography at the New York Botanical Garden.

The stamps are a reminder of the vital role the outdoors offers during the COVID-19 quarantine, says U.S. Postal Service Director of Stamp Services Bill Gicker. “Time spent in nature, especially a beautiful and cared for garden landscape, can be very uplifting and rejuvenating—just what many people can use at this time,” he says.”


Finding Chaucer's true love growing in the woods is a buzz | The Guardian

“Herb Paris is the trewelove herb of Chaucer’s Miller’s Tale, combining an aphrodisiac with qualities of piety from medieval plant lore.”


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

1878 Today is the birthday of the American botanist Forrest Shreve.

We owe such a debt of gratitude to Shreve.

Shreve was THE preeminent botanist of North American deserts during the first half of the twentieth century.

Shreve worked out of a laboratory in Tucson, Arizona and the lab was perfectly situated for his research of the western United States and northern Mexico. Shreve relished telling the origin story of his lab:

“Of course you're familiar with the story of Andrew Carnegie, the immigrant boy who became one of America’s richest steel magnates...

Before he died, Carnegie had established an institution that divided its scientific investigations into twelve departments into widely separated parts of the country."

Shreve's Desert Laboratory was part of Division of Plant Biology and was created thanks to the Carnegie gift - which all in - totaled about $25,000,000.

In July of 1908, Shreve climbed the Santa Catalina Mountains for the very first time. The group he was with rode on horses to climb the 6,000 feet from Mount Lemmon's desert base to the summit, which is 9,100 feet above sea level.

During that climb, Shreve noticed what he called, "a continually shifting panorama of vegetation." And it was Shreve's astuteness that helped him realize the most fantastic aspect of desert mountains - which is the changes in vegetation. Those changes are drastic and abrupt; and they are compressed into a few thousand feet of elevation.

And you can almost imagine yourself there with Shreve. As you go up the mountain, you begin with seeing desert scrub, then it transitions to grassland, then oak woodland... and then finally pine-oak woodland and forest, then the pink forest, the montane fir forest, and finally subalpine forest - at the very top of the mountain. And I love how Shreve described that change: "a continually shifting panorama of vegetation."

Thanks to Shreve's mastery of the North American Desert, he was able to clearly describe and define the four distinct desert regions in the United States.

Today, each year, in Shreve's honor, the Forrest Shreve Student Research Award ($1000-2000) is given to support the ongoing research of the hot deserts of North America.


1901 Today the world lost Eva Reed, a botanist, author, and librarian with the Missouri Botanical Gardens.

In the years before she died, she had become almost entirely deaf as the result of a fever.

In a tragic accident, Reed had been sketching on the tracks of the Burlington railway, near Louisiana, Missouri, when she was hit and instantly killed by a passenger train.


1917 Today is the anniversary of the death of the Canadian artist Tom Thomson - who was a member of Canada's treasured group of artists and they were known as the Group of Seven.

Tom was born to a pioneer family. He grew up in rural Ontario on the shores of Georgian Bay. He had an idyllic childhood. He was the sixth of nine children and music filled the home that he grew up in. His mom actually read Byron to the kids every night before they went to bed.

Tom loved to fish - it would be a lifelong passion. And, although Tom had little formal schooling, the peace of his childhood home is reflected in the tranquility of his paintings. Just Google "Tom Thomson Landscape," and you'll see what I mean.

As a young man, Tom went to a business college where his excellent penmanship surfaced. Tom had outstanding handwriting and it led him to jobs as a pen artist. He followed his brother, George, to Seattle for work and stayed there for a few years. However, he returned to Toronto after breaking up with his sweetheart when she nervously laughed at his proposal.

Back in Canada, Tom met the men who would become his artist coaches. Together, they were known as the Group of Seven. One of the seven, Jim MacDonald, suggested Tom's subject should be nature. Tom took the advice to heart, and his work is almost entirely devoted to landscapes -and he prominently featured trees, water, sky, and clouds in his paintings.

Gardeners will especially appreciate Tom's paintings of trees. They are unique. And, they convey a feeling of being alive. And you can almost imagine yourself standing right there - beside Tom - in the spot where he painted his trees.

In 1912, when Tom first visited the forest at Canada's oldest provincial park, Algonquin Park, his heart was gripped by the beauty. He became obsessed with Algonquin and spent as much time as he could among the Jack Pines, Black Spruce, and Maple. At Algonquin, Tom painted his subjects on a birch panel using oil paints. And tragically, in just five short years of getting started with his paintings at Algonquin, the park Tom loved would witness his untimely death.

Tom was a mostly uneducated and untrained painter, and so each member of the Group of Seven played a role in mentoring and teaching him. You can imagine how he surprised and delighted them when his paintings improved so rapidly. Tom soaked up all of their advice. In many instances, his development as a painter was such, that he was surpassing his teachers.

Just as Tom's work was rocketing toward greatness, his artistic arc was cut short when he disappeared on this day in 1930. He was only 39 years old.

Eight days after his empty canoe was found floating in Canoe Lake, his body was found. The mystery of his death is a cold case that has never been officially solved.

In a little spot on Canoe Lake, there is a cairn for Tom with a marker. And his old friend, Jim MacDonald, wrote the inscription for it which reads:

“He lived humbly but passionately with the wild and it revealed itself to him. It sent him out from the woods only to show these revelations through his art, and it took him to itself at last."

Today, Tom's work is considered quintessentially Canadian.

Remembering his north country friend, Jim wrote,

“Tom was never very proud of his painting, but he was very cocky about his fishing."


1934 Today is the anniversary of the death of the great English-Kiwi botanist Leonard Cockayne.

Leonard died when he was 79 years old. Today he is regarded as New Zealand's most celebrated botanist.

Leonard was born in England and was raised to explore and appreciate the natural world. As a child, Leonard loved pressing flowers. In addition to Leonard, both his brother and sister were great gardeners.

In 1879, Leonard left England and made his way to New Zealand. Dominion became his home for the remainder of his life. Ever modest, Leonard once sent a letter to Kew along with a small parcel of seeds. He attached a little note which said,

"I may say I am not a nursery gardener, but merely a private individual who spends his whole time in the study of botany."

In recognition of his 30 years of tireless work in New Zealand, Leonard won the Darwin medal. Looking back on Leonard's career, Dr. Richter von Goebel and John Paulus Lotsy, two distinguished botanists from the UK, visited him in New Zealand. Those visits were real highlights for Leonard, and they inspired him to continue his work.

When he died, Leonard was buried at the open-air museum he founded, which serves as a lasting memorial. From his grave, one can see the native vegetation which had captured his heart, as well as the heights which bear his name.


Unearthed Words

We go in withering July
To ply the hard incessant hoe;
Panting beneath the brazen sky
We sweat and grumble, but we go.
— Ruth Pitter, The Diehards, 1941


Dirty hands, iced tea, garden fragrances thick in the air, and a blanket of color before me, who could ask for more?
— Bev Adams, Mountain Gardening


There is a lovable quality about the actual tools. One feels so kindly to the thing that enables the hand to obey the brain. Moreover, one feels a good deal of respect for it; without it, the brain and the hand would be helpless.
— Gertrude Jekyll, English gardener and writer


I suppose that for most people, one of the darker joys of gardening is that once you've got started, it's not at all hard to find someone who knows a little bit less than you.
— Allen Lacy, American garden writer, and columnist


The smell of manure, of the sun on foliage, of evaporating water, rose to my head; two steps farther, and I could look down into the vegetable garden enclosed within its tall pale of reeds - rich chocolate earth studded emerald green, frothed with the white of cauliflowers, jeweled with the purple globes of eggplant and the scarlet wealth of tomatoes.
— Doris Lessing, British-Zimbabwean novelist, The Habit of Loving


My garden is an honest place. Every tree and every vine are incapable of concealment and tell after two or three months exactly what sort of treatment they have had.
— Ralph Waldo Emerson, American essayist and poet


It's a comfort to always find pasta in the cupboard and garlic and parsley in the garden.
Always explore your garden and go to the market before you decide what to cook.
— Alice Waters, American chef and author


Grow That Garden Library

Paradise Lot by Eric Toensmeier

This book came out in 2013, and the subtitle is Two Plant Geeks, One-Tenth of an Acre, and the Making of an Edible Garden Oasis in the City.

Very timely book.

Publishers Weekly said,

"In this charming, true-life tale of urban regeneration and the birth of a forest garden movement, Toensmeier, famous among permaculture enthusiasts for his Perennial Vegetables and as coauthor of Edible Forest Gardens, tells the story behind the Holyoke, Mass., garden that's featured as a test case in the latter, which, in the course of eight years, he and Bates transformed it from a bare backyard wasteland into a flourishing, edible Eden.

In true permaculture fashion, the book follows not only the progression of the garden but also its influence on and relations with its creators’ lives―including a surprisingly Austen-like romantic element―their neighborhood, and the larger permaculture and forest gardening community. Bates, whose nursery business, Food Forest Farm, is an offshoot of this garden, contributes philosophical and personal essays interspersed throughout the narrative.

Fans of Toensmeier and Bates’s work will be thrilled to read the details of their experiments with polycultures, their problems with and solutions for pests and overly aggressive plants, and their idiosyncratic plant choices.

Adventurous readers with conventional gardens and lawns may be inspired to venture into the more integrated, evolutionary approach that this book so vividly and appealingly portrays."

The book is 240 pages of detailed ideas and inspiration for anyone interested in urban agriculture and permaculture.

You can get a copy of Paradise Lot by Eric Toensmeier and support the show, using the Amazon Link in today's Show Notes for around $14.


Today's Botanic Spark

1965 The Vincennes Indiana newspaper reported on a sickness caused by snakeroot:

“It was about 140 years ago, that the town of Hindustan, Indiana, was abandoned by its residents because of a plague of 'milk fever'.

This disease occurs after milk cows have eaten Wild Snakeroot.

A few years ago, a botanist [shared] that the Hindustan neighborhood still is the best place in the Midwest to collect Wild Snakeroot for laboratory work."

Wild or White snakeroot is a problem for livestock if they consume it. All parts of the plant are toxic. That toxin gets transferred through the cow's milk and that's how it becomes a concern for humans; this is known as milk sickness.

In the early 1800s, milk sickness resulted in the death of thousands of people; the most famous person to die from it was Abraham Lincoln's mother in 1818.

Thanks for listening to the daily gardener, and remember:

"For a happy, healthy life, garden every day."

The Daily Gardener
Friday Newsletter

Something went wrong. Please check your entries and try again.

Featured Book

Grow That Garden Library™ Seal of Approval 100x100 (1)

Ways to Connect with The Daily Gardener

What Listeners Say


"I just discovered you!
I googled garden podcasts and
I'm so glad I found the show.
I start every day with The Daily Gardener!"

"I love gardening.
I been gardening for over 40 years. 
A friend got me started on listening to gardening podcasts and yours just popped up. 
I am all the richer for it!"

"I've been a Still Growing podcast listener for years.

You are so welcoming and your voice is so soothing!
I love The Daily Gardener because it's different. I can't imagine how much work it is to make a show like this but I thank you for it."


"If you have a garden, a garden podcast, and a library,
you have everything you need."

Leave a Comment