July 17, 2020 A Hot Tip for Hydrangeas, the B-Line Network for Pollinators, Charles Theodore Mohr, George William Russell, Arthur Koehler, Sir Geoffrey Jellicoe, Dog Days Poetry, How to Make a Plant Love You by Summer Rayne Oakes, and Poppy Art at the Tower of London

Show Notes

Today we celebrate one of Alabama's first botanists and the poet who went by the pseudonym AE.

We'll also learn about Wood Expert and xylotomist ("xy·lot·o·mist") who solved the crime of the century.

We celebrate one of the 20th century's leading landscape architects.

We also celebrate the Dog Days of summer through poetry.

We Grow That Garden Library™ with a book about plant passion and inspiration to "Cultivate Green Space in Your Home and Heart."

And then we'll wrap things up with the story of a touching 2014 botanical art installation around the Tower of London.

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

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Curated News

New National Wildflower Network Opens Major Routes Across UK for Pollinating Insects | The Independent

"A national network of linked wildflower highways has been launched this week to provide more habitat for the UK’s vital pollinating insects, including bees, butterflies, hoverflies, and moths.

The newly completed B-Lines network for England has been launched by conservation charity Buglife with support from Defra.

The scheme will create a vast interconnected web of potential and existing wildflower habitats across the whole country.

Catherine Jones, pollinator officer at Buglife, said: “A complete England B-Lines network is a real landmark step in our mission to reverse insect declines and lend a helping hand to our struggling pollinators. We hope that organizations and people across England will help with our shared endeavor to create thousands of hectares of new pollinator-friendly wildflower habitats along the B-Lines.”

Buglife is asking people to grow more flowers, shrubs, and trees, let gardens grow wild and to mow grass less frequently, not to disturb insects, and to try not to use pesticides.

Almost 17,000 tonnes of pesticides are sprayed across the British countryside each year.

The country has lost 97 percent of its wildflower meadows since the 1930s and 87 percent of its wetlands. Both of these habitats support a huge array of wildlife."


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


1901  Today is the anniversary of the death of botanist Charles Theodore Mohr.

Although he was born in Germany and educated in Stuttgart, Charles became one of Alabama's first botanists. He emigrated to the United States in 1848.

A trained pharmacist, Charles traveled the world before settling in Alabama, and he especially enjoyed collecting plant specimens in Surinam. Charles's travel log shows that he even participated in the California gold rush and lived Mexico, Indiana, and Kentucky before settling in Alabama.

In 1857, Charles started Chas. Mohr & Son Pharmacists and Chemists in Mobile, Alabama. Charles spent his entire life collecting and organizing his specimens. In fact, by the time his book on the plants of Alabama was published, Charles was seventy-seven years old.

After Charles died, his herbarium specimens were donated to the University of Alabama Herbarium (15,000 specimens) and the United States National Herbarium (18,000 specimens).


1935  Today is the anniversary of the death of the poet George William Russell, who went by the pseudonym AE.

Russell attended the Metropolitan School of Art in Dublin. There he met a lifelong friend - the poet William Butler Yeats.

Russell became the editor of The Irish Homestead.

His famous quotes include the following:

"Our hearts were drunk with a beauty our eyes could never see."

"You cannot evoke great spirits and eat plums at the same time."


1967  Today is the anniversary of the death of Wood Expert and xylotomist Arthur Koehler.

Xylotomy is preparing little pieces of wood and then examining them under a microscope or microtome. Koehler worked as a chief wood technologist at the Forest Products Laboratory in Madison, Wisconsin.

Koehler's expertise led him to become one of the very first forensic botanists.

When the Lindbergh baby was kidnapped in 1932, a homemade ladder was used to access the nursery.

Koehler, along with 38,000 others, sent letters to the Lindbergh's offering prayers and assistance. Yet Koehler's expertise would become the linchpin to convicting the man accused of the crime, making Koehler one of the world's first official forensic botanists.

Forensic botany is simply using plants to help solve crimes.

Three months after the crime was committed, samples of the ladder were sent to Koehler. Koehler studied the pieces through his microscope discovered that four different kinds of wood were used to make the ladder—Douglas Fir, Ponderosa Pine, Birch, and North Carolina pine.

In an interview with the Saturday Evening Post, Koehler was quoted saying,

“I’m no Sherlock Holmes, but I have specialized in the study of wood. Just as a doctor who devotes himself to stomachs or tonsils … so I, a forester, have done with wood.”

A year later, Koehler was invited to see the ladder in person, and that in-person visit was revealing. Koehler discovered the ladder was handmade. He measured each piece to the nose, getting exact measurements. He understood how each piece was cut, how the pieces would have fit into a car, and then assembled at the Lindbergh home. Incredibly, Koehler was able to determine the origin of the piece of North Carolina pine used to build the ladder - it was sold in the Bronx.

Ransom notes from the case lead police to hone in on the same area. Koehler was convinced the suspect would have the woodworking tools required to build the ladder.

In the Lindbergh case, the wood from the ladder helped identify a carpenter named Bruno Richard Hauptmann. When the police arrested Hauptmann, they not only found $14,000 of ransom money but the evidence Koehler could link to the ladder: the saws used to make the cuts, the particular nails used to build the ladder and a missing floorboard from Hauptmann's attic that was clearly used in the construction of the 16th rail of the ladder.

In fact, when the rail was removed, it slipped perfectly back into place in Hauptmann's attic - right down to the nail holes and nails on the board. Koehler estimated the chances of someone else supplying the lumber for the ladder to be one in ten quadrillions.

Koehler's knowledge and testimony during the trial were vital to Hauptmann's capture and conviction. The "Crime of the Century" solved by carefully studying the only witness - a "wooden witness."

It was Arthur Koehler who said,

“In all of the years of my work, I have been consumed with the absolute reliability of the testimony of trees.

They carry in themselves the record of their history.

They show with absolute fidelity the progress of the years, storms, drought, floods, injuries, and any human touch.

A tree never lies.”


1996  Today is the anniversary of the death of one of the 20th century's leading landscape architects, Sir Geoffrey Jellicoe.

Jellicoe was multi-talented, but his true passion was landscape and garden design, which he described as "the mother of all arts." He was a founder member of the Landscape Institute.

Over his 70-year career, Jellicoe designed more than 100 landscapes around the world. Jellicoe designed the John F Kennedy memorial site by the River Thames in Berkshire.

Jellicoe's final and most ambitious project was the Moody Gardens in Galveston, Texas. Jellicoe imagined a design where visitors could walk through the history of the landscape, from the Garden of Eden and the gardens of ancient Egypt to a design inspired by Thomas Mann's novel The Magic Mountain (1924).

As the Moody Garden website acknowledges, "It was the culminating work of his design career but has not, as yet, been implemented. We live in hope."

Jellicoe's favorite garden was the gardens he designed in Hemel Hempstead. Jellicoe designed the Hemel Hempstead Water Gardens to improve the quality of life for the townspeople. Jellicoe designed a canal with dams and little bridges to take visitors from the town parking lot to shopping.

Jellicoe designed the canal after seeing one of Paul Klee's paintings of a serpent. Jellicoe said,

“The lake is the head and the canal is the body,” wrote Jellicoe in his book Studies in Landscape Design. “The eye is the fountain; the mouth is where the water passes over the weir. The formal and partly classical flower gardens are like a howdah strapped to its back. In short, the beast is harnessed, docile, and in the service of man.”


Unearthed Words

Here are some words about the Dog Days of summer - which officially started on July 3rd and runs through August 11th.


How hushed and still are earth and air,
How languid 'neath the sun's fierce ray -
Drooping and faint - the flowerets fair,
On this hot, sultry, summer day.
— Rosanna Eleanor Leprohon ("Lew-Pro-awn"), Canadian writer and poet, An Afternoon in July


Cool in the very furnace of July
The water-meadows lie;
The green stalks of their grasses and their flowers
They still refresh at fountains, never dry.
— John Drinkwater, British poet and dramatist


Summer is the time when one sheds one's tensions with one's clothes, and the right kind of day is jeweled balm for the battered spirit. A few of those days and you can become drunk with the belief that all's right with the world.
— Ada Louise Huxtable, architecture critic and writer


A ladder sticking up at the open window,
The top of an old ladder;
And all of Summer is there.
Great waves and tufts of wistaria surge across the window,
And a thin, belated blossom
Jerks up and down in the sunlight;
Purple translucence against the blue sky.
"Tie back this branch," I say,
But my hands are sticky with leaves,
And my nostrils widen to the smell of crushed green.
The ladder moves uneasily at the open window,
And I call to the man beneath,
"Tie back that branch."
There is a ladder leaning against the window-sill,
And a mutter of thunder in the air.
— Amy Lowell, American poet, Dog Days


"Ah, summer, what power you have to make us suffer and like it."
— Russel Baker, American journalist and satirist


Grow That Garden Library

How to Make a Plant Love You by Summer Rayne Oakes

This book came out in July of 2019, and the subtitle is Cultivate Green Space in Your Home and Heart.

Michael Brune, the Executive Director of the Sierra Club, said,

"I don't care what color your thumbs are —Summer Rayne Oakes will not only inspire you to connect with nature by taking care of plants but open your eyes to how even the humblest of them take care of us."

Summer keeps over 500 species of live houseplants in her Brooklyn apartment. She's an environmental scientist, an entrepreneur, and (according to a New York Times profile) the icon of wellness-minded millennials who want to bring nature indoors.

The book is 208 pages of plant passion and inspiration. It covers both plant styling and care.

You can get a copy of How to Make a Plant Love You by Summer Rayne Oakes and support the show, using the Amazon Link in today's Show Notes for around $15.


Today's Botanic Spark

2014  The outdoor public art piece called Blood Swept Lands and Seas of Red was installed in the moat around the Tower of London.

The work commemorated the centenary of the outbreak of World War I and was made up of 888,246 ceramic red poppies, one for each British or Colonial serviceman killed in the War.

The title, Blood Swept Lands and Seas of Red, refers to the first line of a poem by an unknown soldier in World War I.

For this magnificent piece fo public art, Paul Cummins designed the ceramic poppies, and Tom Piper handled the conceptual design.

Almost one million of Paul's ceramic red poppies appeared to burst forth from the Tower and then flow across the moat. Poppies seeped out of the Weeping Window and cascaded down a wall. Almost 20,000 volunteers helped with the installation. And, although it was started on this day in 2014, it was not completed until November 11th of that same year.

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