July 9, 2020 Magnolia Gardens White Bridge, Cottage Garden Style, Sowing Biennial Flower Seeds, Henry Wallace Johnston, Nikolay Vavilov, George Shull, Tomato Poetry, The Backyard Parables by Margaret Roach, and Samual Smithers aka Plantman

Show Notes

Today we celebrate the man who named the lipstick tree and was known as Florida's Burbank.

We'll also learn about the incredible work of an extraordinary Russian botanist who was tragically sentenced to death on this day in 1941.

And we honor the life of the "Father of Hybrid Corn."

Today's poetry is all about a favorite summer crop: tomatoes.

We Grow That Garden Library™ with a witty and poetic book about Gardening and Life.

And then we'll wrap things up with the story of a Marvel character near and dear to gardener's hearts.

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

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

Magnolia Gardens White Bridge Damaged by Tree

"At approximately 7:00 PM last night a large tree fell in our garden. It landed on our historic and iconic White Bridge taking out most of the railing and posts on the left side ramp. There are now major structural cracks in the facia boards on both sides The deck itself is warped and we suspect major damage to the framing members underneath.

By mid-morning, the tree had been cut up and hauled away so that we could complete a visual survey. As much as can will be preserved. Replacements must be made in wood nearly impossible to find in any dimension and will require exceptional work to reproduce the profiles of moldings and trims. This bridge dates to the 1840s. It was installed by the Rev John Grimke Drayton as an element in a romantic garden that he was creating for his Philadelphia bride. With that as its founding love story, it can only grow grander in this forced restoration. Until such time as work is completed, the bridge and trails immediately adjacent to it will be closed to the public. We apologize for any inconvenience that this might create."


What is Cottage Garden Style? And How to Achieve It... | The Middle-Sized Garden

"And, as for garden plants – well, it has been difficult to source exactly the plants we want. We have had to compromise on color and style. Friends have been saying things like ‘I wouldn’t normally buy scarlet pelargoniums, but they were the only ones I could find.’

In theory, cottage garden style started when low paid farm workers filled their gardens with vegetables, herbs and fruit trees for their own use.

What are the rules of cottage garden style?
There aren't any. That's the whole point. There's no need to plant in threes and fives, or in drifts or to think about color combinations – unless you want to."

The Middle-Sized Garden: if your garden is bigger than a courtyard but smaller than an acre.


Sowing Biennial Flower Seeds In June And July | Higgledy Garden

"The biennials in the Higgledy Seed Emporium have all be chosen to be admirable in the vase. We also have a strong leaning to the old fashioned.

*Honesty (Common name) or Lunaria (so named because it's pale seed pod discs resemble the moon).

*Sweet William. Sweet Williams just rock! That's all there is to it. They smell amazing…look amazing and are all-round good eggs. Like all biennials, they are a piece of cake to grow from seed.

*Foxgloves. Once again, a white foxglove 'Alba 'is a pretty essential bit of kit for the home florist... Don't be without it.

*Hesperis. I love this flower…one of my favorites of all the flowers I have ever grown. Simple…pretty…easy to grow…"


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

1926 The Green Bay Press-Gazette posted an article titled, "Ice Cream Grown on Vine in the yard of Former Kentuckian."

The article was about the fabulous Colonel Henry Wallace Johnston, who, until the age of 50, had operated a hardware store in Lebanon, Kentucky. At midlife, he moved to Homestead, Florida. And, in 1912, Henry created a 20-acre estate he called Palm Lodge Tropical Grove.

Henry was a character. He enjoyed dressing the part of a tropical explorer, wearing a tropical outfit complete with a white helmet, and looking as if he had just finished playing Jumanji.

Henry became known as the Wizard of Palm Lodge or Florida's Burbank (a nod to California's Luther Burbank), and he added over 8,000 incredible specimens of tropical fruits and flowers - many not found anywhere else in America. Truly, Palm Lodge gained Henry worldwide recognition. And, although Henry never traveled outside the United States, he was a natural marketer, and Palm Lodge's impressive reputation brought the plants to him. Henry's story includes the following spectacular facts:

  • He grew almost all of his plants from seed.
  • He coined the name "lipstick tree".
  • He grew a rare flower that produces a perfume called the "Scent of Lilith."
  • He grew the Dumb Cane tree or dieffenbachia from Cambodia. He would tell folks that if they bit into the leaves, their tongue would be paralyzed for six weeks.
  • He successfully cultivated rubber plants. Harvey Firestone and Henry Ford brought back rubber plants from Madagascar, but only Henry's plants had survived.
  • He grew the Palestine Tree, and he wrapped the fruit in cellophane while on the tree to protect against insects. The fruit was used in religious rituals by rabbis, and Henry would send it to them.
  • He grew the Gingerbread Palm, and the palm's fruit tasted of gingerbread.
  • He furnished almost all of the plants for the State of Florida's tropical exhibit at the Chicago World's Fair.
  • He produced nearly 300 different types of fruits and jellies and packaged all of them at Palm Lodge.
  • He was a master of the aloe vera plant, and he planted a 15-acre aloe field. By 1920, Henry was regularly harvesting the leaves and bringing them to Miami, and each one had to be individually wrapped to stop the spines from making the jelly ooze out.
  • He loved to tell about a plant he called "the ice cream vine," botanically known as the Monstera Deliciosa. The fruit resembles a giant ear of corn minus the husk and tastes like a combination of banana, strawberry, and pineapple.

Henry's Palm Lodge of Florida was a showplace, and there was no charge for admission. Homestead Florida's chamber of commerce advertised that 30,000 people, including botanists, visited the Lodge every year. And, one day, after 2,000 or so guests had passed through the gardens, the register revealed that Henry Ford had visited, unnoticed in the crowd.


1941 Today a Soviet court sentenced the extraordinary twentieth-century Russian botanist Nikolay Vavilov to death by firing squad.

Worried about the world's plant biodiversity, Vavilov became a dedicated plant collector, and he had the foresight to build the world's first seed bank in St. Petersburg. Nikolay's life's mission was something he called a "mission for all humanity" and it was tied directly to his drive to build the seed bank: Vavilov wanted to end world hunger and famine, and he planned to accomplish this ambitious goal through science. And he hoped to breed super plants that would be both nutritious and hardy so that they could be grown even in the most challenging locations on the planet.

During his life, Vavilov had enjoyed Lenin's support. Vavilov's big ideas knit perfectly together with Lenin's desire for a socialist utopia. But after Lenin died, Vavilov was on the outs. His family was made up of accomplished scientists, and they were considered part of the bourgeoisie and scorned.

The events that lead to Vavilov's sentencing and ultimate death had to do with Vavilov's critique of a fellow scientist. Vavilov had publicly criticized a geneticist named Lysenko, who had Stalin's backing. And so, on this day in 1941, Vavilov was sentenced to die.

But Vavilov never faced the firing squad. Instead, he died of starvation two years after receiving his sentence.

Today, the Vavilov Institute houses over a quarter of a million specimens and is a living monument to Nikolay Vavilov ― the scientist who wanted food security for all of humanity, yet ironically died of starvation in the basement of a Soviet prison.


1942 Today newspapers announced the retirement of the "father of hybrid corn," George Shull.

An Ohio farm kid, George was a noted botanist who taught at Princeton University for 27 years.

George's work resulted in a one hundred and fifty million-dollar increase in the value of US corn as a result of his crossing pure line varieties with self-fertilized corn. George's uber-productive hybrid yielded ten to forty percent more than ordinary corn.

Like many plant breeders, George never made a penny from his creation.


Unearthed Words

Today's poetry features a favorite summer plant: the Tomato (Solanum Lycopersicum)


You know, when you get your first asparagus, or your first acorn squash, or your first really good tomato of the season, those are the moments that define the cook's year. I get more excited by that than anything else.
— Mario Batali, American chef and writer


It's difficult to think anything but pleasant thoughts while eating a homegrown tomato.
— Lewis Grizzard, American writer and humorist


Homegrown tomatoes, homegrown tomatoes
What would life be like without homegrown tomatoes
Only two things that money can't buy
That's true love and homegrown tomatoes.
— John Denver, American singer and songwriter, Home Grown Tomatoes


Now, you see, the poetry I like is... experimental.
'Doesn't have the rhyme' kind of stuff.
Like this famous poem by Walter Charles Walter.
The poem is called: 'They Were Delicious'.

(Mr. Simmons begins reciting the poem while Harold steals Mr. Simmon's lunch and starts to eat it.)

I have eaten
the tomatoes,
that were on
the window sill

were you
them for
a special occasion

I apologize
they were delicious
so juicy
so red

— Walter Charles Walter, They Were Delicious
From Hey Arnold by Craig Bartlett. Read by Mr. Simmons
(This Walter Charles Walter poem is a parody of William Carlos Williams' poem This is Just to Say)


Grow That Garden Library

The Backyard Parables by Margaret Roach

This book came out in 2013, and the subtitle is Lessons on Gardening and Life.

And one of my favorite cookbook authors, Anna Thomas, said,

"As I read this witty, revealing, sometimes poetic confessional I felt I understood for the first time what a garden could be - a work of art, a source of pleasure and solace, an object of beauty, a provider of nourishment. And why Margaret calls the plot she tends 'my monster.' This is the story of a real relationship: Margaret and her garden, a love story."

This book is 288 pages of Margaret's stories about gardening - culled from thirty seasons of growing and learning what works and what does not.

You can get a copy of The Backyard Parables by Margaret Roach and support the show, using the Amazon Link in today's Show Notes for around $3.


Today's Botanic Spark

1963 Today the Marvel comic botanist Samuel Smithers became Plantman when lightning struck his plant raygun, giving it the power to control and animate all plant life.

After losing his duel with the Human Torch in the botanical garden, Plantman was taken to prison.

In his last storyline, Plantman transformed into a giant plant monster and attacked the city of Los Angeles in retaliation for humans polluting the world. In his final moments, Plantman was defeated by Ironman.

Here's one of Plantman's more famous lines:

"Do not speak to the Plant Man of power! Mine was the genius that gave the semblance of life to unthinking plant tissue! There can be no greater power than that!"

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