July 20, 2020 Thomas Rainer’s Garden Tips, David Nelson, Gregor Mendel, Daylilies, Brian Shaw, Katharine White, The Garden as Sanctuary, Shrubs by Andy McIndoe, and Katharine White

Show Notes

Today we remember the beloved botanist who served on Captain Cook's third South Seas trip.

We'll also learn about the Austrian botanist and monk who pioneered the study of heredity.

We celebrate the usefulness of daylilies.

We also honor the life of a young man who was killed paying his florist bill and the life of the garden writer who wrote for The New Yorker.

We'll hear some poems that highlight the Garden as a sanctuary, a holy place to heal and be refreshed.

We Grow That Garden Library™ with a book about Gardening in Your Front Yard - it's packed with ideas and projects for big and small spaces. It's an idea that is gaining popularity and acceptance thanks to stay-at-home orders and physical distancing - one of the positive effects of dealing with the pandemic.

And then we'll wrap things up with remembering Katharine Stuart and the people who loved her the most.

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

Unconventional Wisdom: 8 Revolutionary Ideas for Your Garden from Thomas Rainer - Gardenista

“When you meet landscape architect Thomas Rainer he comes across as a pleasant, mild-mannered fellow… not at all the type to be traveling around the world, as he does, spouting revolutionary ideas calculated to upend years and years of conventional gardening wisdom. As he writes in his preface to Planting in a Post-Wild World, the 2015 book he wrote with Claudia West, his ideas come from his time as a boy in suburban Birmingham, Alabama where he spent countless happy hours roaming a stretch of indigenous Piedmont forest near his home."

This article reveals a list of Thomas's dos and don'ts for growing an earth-friendly garden that he says produces better results with less work. Here's a high-level overview - be sure to read the article for the full scoop.

1. Amending the Soil: Don't
2. Double Digging: Don't
3. Soil Testing: Do
4. Mulching: Don't
5. Planting Cover Crops: Do
6. Curbside Planting: Do
7. Buying A Lot of Plants: Do
8. Experimenting and Having Fun: Do


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

1789  Today is the anniversary of the death of the British botanist David Nelson.

David served as the botanist on Captain Cook's third South Seas trip; William Bligh was the Sailing Master.

After gathering many new specimens, David spent the bulk of his time caring for over 500 breadfruit plants that Bligh was transporting to the West Indies.

Breadfruit is a reference to the texture of the cooked fruit, which is similar to freshly baked bread. And, breadfruit tastes like potato.

A likable fellow, David had traveled on another expedition with Captain Charles Clerke of the ship Discovery, who said David was "one of the quietest fellows in nature."

As you might recall, the Captain Cook expedition suffered a mutiny on April 28, 1789. For his protection, David was kept below deck and under guard.

David decided to go with William Bligh and his followers to Timor. The 3,500-mile voyage was grueling, and David died on this day, just 54 days after the mutiny.

David's death was a blow to Bligh and his crew. To honor this mild man of botany, Bligh conferred full naval honors for his funeral service.

Three years later, Captain Bligh visited Tasmania. He named "Nelson's Hill," the highest point on the island, in David's honor. Today Mount Nelson is the Hobart location of Tasmania University.


1822  Today is the birthday of the Austrian botanist and monk Gregor Mendel.

Gregor discovered the basic principles of heredity through his experiments with peas in his garden at the Augustinian monastery that he lived in at Brno ("BURR-no") in the Czech Republic.

Or, as I like to tell the kids, Gregor learned about heredity when he gave peas a chance. (Sorry, couldn't resist!)

During seven years in the mid-1800s, Gregor grew nearly 30,000 pea plants, and he took note of everything: their height and shape and color. And, his work resulted in what we now know as the Laws of Heredity, and to this day, most kids study this in school. And it was Gregor who came up with all of the genetic terms and terminology that we still use today, like dominant and recessive genes.


1960  On this day, the Chicago Tribune ran an article about the daylily, saying that they were "tops" in usefulness.

Here are some highlights:

"Because they combine exquisite charm with extreme hardiness, daylilies are without doubt nature's most useful flower...

Their usefulness derives from their ability to thrive lustily under virtually any circumstances, which makes them particularly adaptable to so-called problem areas where the gardener may have experienced difficulty growing other flowers.

For the weekend-gardener with a large tract to work, daylilies are the answer for far corners which ...never [get attended] to. The abundant foliage [of the daylily] will tend to keep the areas free from weeds, too."


1974  On this day, the IRA murdered Brian Shaw. Brian was just 21 years old when he was killed. A former soldier, Brian, had become a truck driver and had just married a girl from Belfast. Two weeks after their wedding, Brian disappeared when he went to pay the florist bill for flowers they had used at his wedding. And poignantly, the bill was still in his pocket when his body was found.


1977  Today is the anniversary of the death of the garden writer Katharine White.

Now, Katharine was married to Andy - but most of us probably know him as E.B. White, the author of three beloved children's books, Stuart Little (1945), Charlotte's Web (1952), and The Trumpet of the Swan (1970).

In the early 1930s, Katharine and Andy bought a farmhouse in North Brooklin, Maine. By the end of the decade, they left their place in New York for good and moved to the farmhouse permanently.

It was Katharine White who once wrote:


"From December to March, there are for many of us three gardens - the garden outdoors, the garden of pots and bowls in the house, and the garden of the mind's eye."


Katharine began writing garden pieces for The New Yorker in 1958.

In 1979, Katharine's book Onward and Upward in the Garden was edited and published posthumously by her husband, Andy. Gardeners especially enjoy Andy's tenderly written preface to his gardener wife. Anatole Broyard gushed about Katharine's book in his review saying,

“It is itself a bouquet; the final blooming of an extraordinary sensibility.”

Now, Katharine carried on a marvelous correspondence with another garden writer: Elizabeth Lawrence. And, their letters convey a warmth and curiosity that I thought you would find delightful:


July 2, 1958 [Katharine to Elizabeth]

Dear Miss Lawrence,

I am in New York for the moment, so it was on my desk here at The New Yorker that I found today your book, “The Little Bulbs”... Already I have dipped into it with delight. I shall carry it back with me to Maine next week and study it and consult it ... for years...

The varieties [of bulbs] I have established ...are the obvious ones I’m afraid: the two colors of scylla, snowdrops, snowflakes, crocuses, white and blue grape hyacinths, and among the small tulips only Clusiana and Kaufmanniana. Your book will help me to expand, I hope…


June 15, 1959

Dear Elizabeth,

Here I am back again with a question, in spite of my promises.

...Do you know the address of Jan de Graaff and does de Graaff bring out a catalog? I have been studying the lily offerings for the autumn of this year and every one of them, both in specialists’ catalogs and in those of the big nurseries, of course, brags of lilies from the great de Graaff.

P.S. It is 48 degrees here today and has been this for 48 hours. Discouraging. (Note the date!)


October 8, 1959

Dear Elizabeth,

Speaking of gourds, for the first time my small decorative gourds did not mature in time for me to wax and polish them while watching the World Series. I am a baseball fan, I hate to confess — and I have loved baseball since I was a child.


November 1959 Friday morning

Dear Katharine,

I don’t know anything about modern flowers that have lost their fragrance.
I think some hybrid roses are as sweet as old ones. At the fall flower show, I was intoxicated by the scent of one flower of Sutter’s Gold...

How in the world do you accomplish all you do?
I have been interrupted five times since I came to my desk an hour ago, the last by a friend who wouldn’t take the plants I offered on a day I was in the garden and would like to have them right now. I told her to come on. If she doesn’t she will choose a still worse time.


Aren't those letters magnificent?


You can read all of Katharine and Elizabeth's letters in detail in a wonderful book called Two Gardeners: Katharine S. White and Elizabeth Lawrence--A Friendship in Letters by Emily Herring Wilson.


After Katharine died, her husband Andy sent a little verse he had written to their close friends and family. It said simply:


To all who loved my lovely wife.
To all who spoke their sorrow,
I send this printed card of thanks
so l can face tomorrow.

I’d hoped to write a full reply
To each, to say “I love you.”
But I’ll reveal the sticky truth:
There’s just too many of you.


Unearthed Words

Here are some inspiring verses that highlight the Garden as a sanctuary, a holy place to heal, and be refreshed.


God made a beauteous garden
With lovely flowers strown,
But one straight, narrow pathway
That was not overgrown.
And to this beauteous garden
He brought mankind to live,
And said "To you, my children,
These lovely flowers I give.
Prune ye my vines and fig trees,
With care my flowers tend,
But keep the pathway open
Your home is at the end.
― Robert Frost, American poet, God's Garden


If words are seeds,
let flowers grow
from your mouth,
not weeds.
If hearts are gardens,
plant those flowers
in the chest of the ones
who exist around you.
— R.H. Swaney, American poet


For flowers that bloom about our feet;
For tender grass, so fresh, so sweet;
For song of bird, and hum and bee;
For all things fair we hear or see;
Father in heaven, we thank Thee!
— Ralph Waldo Emerson, American essayist and poet


Grow That Garden Library

Shrubs by Andy McIndoe ("MAC-IN-doe")

This book came out in February of 2019, and the subtitle is Discover the Perfect Plant for Every Place in Your Garden.

Gardens Illustrated said this about Andy's book,

"McIndoe is a devoted and knowledgeable ambassador for shrubs…His advice is clear, practical, and honest: the sort of counsel every gardener needs. The book will be an invaluable addition not only to the bookcases of gardeners but also those of garden designers seeking to broaden their plant palette."

This is one of my favorite books on shrubs, and it's 337 pages of fabulous photos and detailed shrub profiles - all shared with today's gardener in mind.

You can get a copy of Shrubs by Andy McIndoe and support the show, using the Amazon Link in today's Show Notes for around $14.


Today's Botanic Spark

After researching Katharine White, I discovered some touching correspondence that occurred between her husband, Andy, (the author of Stuart Little and Charlotte's Web), and her friend and fellow garden writer Elizabeth Lawrence.


In July 1979, Elizabeth wrote to Andy about Katharine's book (after Katharine died):


Dear Andy,

Thank you for having the publisher send me Onward and Upward (it really is). I have been re-reading and re-reading ever since, with great pleasure and great sorrow. I can’t bear not [being] able to tell Katharine what a wonderful book [she wrote]…

[I am writing] to ask for permission to quote a paragraph from a letter you wrote to me [a while ago. You wrote:]

“Katharine just spent three days in bed, in pain, caused by aback injury brought on by leaning far out over a flower bed to pick one spring bloom— the daffodil Supreme. It seems a heavy price to pay for one small flower. But when she is in her garden, she is always out of control. I do not look for any change, despite her promises."

I am not sure about your [species], whether it is the daffodil supreme, or the daffodil Supreme, Rijnveld, 1947, 3a. But I don’t think it likely that any Observer will know the difference. I thought the paragraph fits in with your loving introduction [to Onward and Upward in the Garden].

[. ..] I am having a miserable time trying to say something worthy of the book in the space allotted to me.

Aff, Elizabeth


On March 24, 1980, Andy concluded a letter back to Elizabeth with these words:


Tired snow still lies about, here and there, in the brownfields, and my house will never look the same again since the death of the big elm that overhung it. Nevertheless, I manfully planted (as a replacement) a young elm. It is all of five-and-a-half feet high.

By Katharine’s grave, I planted an oak. This is its second winter in the cemetery, her third.



Five years later, Andy died at home in Maine. He is buried next to Katharine in the Brooklin Cemetery.


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