Today we remember the founding of a garden that inspired the book Alice in Wonderland.
We'll also learn about the botanist remembered with the Forsythia genus.
We'll salute the Lake poet who likened plant taxonomy to poetry.
We also revisit a diary entry about a garden visitor and a letter from a gardener to her sister.
Today's Unearthed Words feature an excerpt from a July Afternoon by Walt Whitman.
We Grow That Garden Library™ with a book about the unloved flowers as they have been referred to Weeds.
And then we'll wrap things up with an unforgettable story of flowers and a performance called "A Case of Floral Offerings" from 1874.
But first, let's catch up on some Greetings from Gardeners around the world and today's curated news.
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.
“Mark Redito (“Ra-DEE-toe”) is an L.A.-based electronic music producer who, it turns out, is also the proud plant parent to over 40 houseplants. He visually couples his earthy soothing sound with heavy plant imagery, from short snippets of him tenderly caring for plants to abstract videos of 3-D modeled flora. Redito’s aesthetic is the seamless marriage between the ambient digital world and a tangible natural ecosystem. You can find short teaser videos of thumping tracks playing over footage of sped-up plant growth and gardens, photographs of technology blended with nature, and updates of his own garden developments on his Instagram account @markredito.
Originally from Manila, Redito moved to L.A. in 2008. He became a full-time producer in 2013 and released his full-length album “Desire.” Plants have a calming influence in Redito’s life, which he says he tries to emulate when creating music. We interviewed him as part of Plant PPL, our new series about people of color in the plant world. If you have any suggestions for PPL to include in our series, tag us on Instagram @latimesplants. This interview has been lightly edited for length and clarity.
My hope is that when people listen to my work, they would be inspired to go outside and experience nature or start their own garden. My upcoming album to be released this summer, “Natural Habitat,” is all about that — the interconnectedness and innate connection we have with nature and with plants.
What’s your best tip for gardeners and new plant parents?
Ease into it and remember to take it slow. When I started getting into plants, my collection grew from five plants to about 30 in a month. As much as I enjoyed having plants and taking care of them, it was a lot of work for one guy to water and tend to 30-plus plants on one Saturday morning.”
Are you growing, Cleome?
My daughter just had her senior pictures taken, and I took some cuttings from the garden for her to hold during her photoshoot. For one of the images, I had her hold just one large white blossom in her hands. It looked like a giant puffball, and it had a very ethereal quality about it.
Cleome is beautiful - but it is also sticky - so keep that in mind if you handle it.
I know some gardeners have no trouble sowing cleome directly into their gardens, but some gardeners complain that it can be an inconsistent germinater.
I like to sow cleome right now since the seeds like intense light to get going. Sometimes cleome can benefit from staking - so keep that in mind as well.
And, if you are planning a cutting garden, it is hard to beat cleome. The blooms are a show-stealer in any arrangement.
Go to a local farmers market - not for the produce - for the knowledge.
The growers at the farmer's market have expertise in growing, which is often an untapped resource. Plus, the growers are so generous with Information.
It's always a pleasure to talk to someone who has first-hand knowledge about growing plants.
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.
1621 The Botanic garden at Oxford, also known as the Physic Garden, was founded on this day in 1621 at precisely 2 pm. It was a Sunday.
The garden is the oldest in England. When the garden was founded, its primary purpose was to be a medicinal garden. Henry Danvers, the first Earl of Danby, funded the garden by giving Oxford University 250 pounds. Unfortunately, the land they purchased was flood-prone. The 5-acre tract was mostly pasture land and lined the banks of the River Cherwell. So, to protect the garden from flooding, the ground for the garden was built up. Records show a Mr. Windiat brought in 4,000 loads of "mucke and dunge" to elevate the area that we now know as the Oxford Botanic Garden.
During the founding ceremony, dignitaries of the University walked in a procession from St. Mary's church to the garden. Mr. Edward Dawson, a physician, and Dr. Clayton, the Regius Professor of Medicine, each gave a speech and a stone was placed in the garden gateway by the Vice-Chancellor himself.
The Garden has a fascinating history, and there are at least two father-son connections to the Garden.
Bobart the Elder and his son, Bobart the Younger, established the herbarium.
Both William Baxter and his son served as curator.
Lewis Carroll, who was a math professor at Oxford and he visited the garden with a young Alice Liddell, which inspired Alice in Wonderland.
J.R.R. Tolkien, who also taught at Oxford, loved the gardens and could be found sitting beneath his favorite tree: an ornamental black pine.
In 1941, after the discovery of the dawn redwood tree, a dawn redwood seed was planted in the garden. The tree still grows at the Oxford Botanic Garden.
In 2019, Oxford University's gardens, libraries, and museums attracted over 3 million visitors. The Garden and Arboretum had a record-setting year with over 200,000 visitors, which was an increase of 23%.
And, today, the garden is continuing to prepare for its 400th anniversary in 2021. Planting projects and garden redesigns are all being worked on to give visitors a stunning welcome next year. In addition, some of the beds are going through a bit of a time machine; they are being planted according to their 17th-century prescriptions so that visitors can glimpse how the garden looked when it was established four centuries ago.
1804 Today is the birthday of the Scottish botanist William Forsyth.
William trained as a gardener at the Oxford Physic Garden and was an apprentice to Philip Miller, the chief gardener. In 1771, Forsyth himself took over the principal gardening position.
Three years later, he built one of the very first rock gardens with over 40 tons of stone collected from the land around the Tower of London and even some pieces of lava imported from Iceland. The effort was noted for posterity; the garden was a bust.
Forsyth was also the founding member of the Royal Horticultural Society. The genus, Forsythia, was named in his honor by Carl Peter Thunberg. There are several different varieties of Forsythia, which also goes by the common name golden bell. A member of the olive family, Forsythias are related to the Ash tree. And, the Forsythia is a vernal shrub. Vernal shrubs bloom in the spring.
1834 Today is the anniversary of the death of the English poet Samuel Taylor Coleridge.
Along with his friend, William Wordsworth, he helped found the Romantic Movement in England and was a member of a group called the Lake Poets.
As a poet, Coleridge recognized the inherent rhythm of taxonomy, and he likened it to poetry when he said that taxonomy was simply "the best words in the best order."
In his poem called Youth and Age, Samuel Taylor Coleridge wrote,
Flowers are lovely.
Love is flower-like.
Friendship is a sheltering tree.
Coleridge wrote a 54-line poem about a Mongolian emperor's summer garden at Xanadu. The emperor was Kubla Kahn.
Coleridge's Kubla Kahn is one of his most famous works. The poem begins by describing Kahn's palace and the garden contrasted with the setting of an ancient Mongolian forest.
And there were gardens bright with sinuous rills,
Where blossomed many an incense-bearing tree;
And here were forests ancient as the hills,
Enfolding sunny spots of greenery.
It was Samuel Taylor Coleridge who said:
Summer has set in with its usual severity.
1938 On this day, the Canadian Naturalist Charles Joseph Sauriol ("Sar-ee-all") wrote about sharing his garden with a toad.
"One particular toad has taken quite a fancy to the Wild Flower garden. His den is alongside the Hepatica plant. There he sits half-buried, and blinks up at me while I shower water on him."
1946 On this day Elizabeth Lawrence wrote to her sister:
I am going to send you, as soon as they are ripe, some seeds of Campanula americana, which came to me from one of my delightful farm women correspondents. I asked Mr. Krippendorf if he knew it, and he said yes, it was his favorite weed.
Scatter them as soon as you get them along the drive. Along the fence at the foot of the terrace, and on the other side near the tiger lilies.
Then in the spring, I will send (or maybe fall) some roots of the day lily Margaret Perry. It will spread all along, and bloom with the campanula and the lilies. ...The campanula is an annual but it will self-sow, and the combination will make a mass of bloom for six weeks or more.
Then I am going to send you seeds of Cassia marilandica (“The virtuous and beloved dead need neither cassia buds nor myrrh”) to scatter lower down on the driveway. ...
I expect that you will have more lycoris. Mine are still coming, and I dash out very quickly to stake each one before Mr. Cayce can get to it. Mr. Krippendorf wrote that his were coming out fast, but that he did not expect them to last long as he was bringing out his granddaughter’s boxer to spend a week with his, and he thought the two of them would break off thousands. Mr. Krippendorf feels as I do about dogs. But Bessie does not. ...
The summer has been so cool and green, and so many of the choice and difficult amaryllids have bloomed.
So am I as the rich, whose blessed key
Can bring him to his sweet up-locked treasure,
The which he will not every hour survey.
For blunting the fine point of seldom pleasure.
[Shakespeare sonnet 52]
The fervent heat, but so much more endurable in this pure air —
the white and pink pond-blossoms, with great heart-shaped leaves;
the glassy waters of the creek, the banks, with dense bushery, and the
picturesque beeches and shade and turf;
the tremulous, reedy call of some bird from recesses, breaking the warm, indolent, half-voluptuous silence;
an occasional wasp, hornet, honey-bee or bumble
(they hover near my hands or face, yet annoy me not, nor I them, as they appear to examine, find nothing, and away they go) —
the vast space of the sky overhead so clear, and the buzzard up there sailing his slow whirl in majestic spirals and discs;
just over the surface of the pond, two large slate-colored dragon-flies, with wings of lace, circling and darting and occasionally balancing themselves quite still, their wings quivering all time, (are they not showing off for my amusement?)—
the pond itself, with the sword-shaped calamus;
the water snakes—
occasionally a flitting blackbird, with red dabs on his shoulders, as he darts slantingly by—
the sounds that bring out the solitude, warmth, light and shade—
the squawk of some pond duck—
(the crickets and grasshoppers are mute in the noon heat, but I hear the song of the first cicadas;)—
then at some distance, the rattle and whirr of a reaping machine as the horses draw it on a rapid walk through a rye field on the opposite side of the creek—
(what was the yellow or light brown bird, large as a young hen, with a short neck and long-stretched legs I just saw, in flapping and awkward flight over there through the trees?)—
the prevailing delicate, yet palpable, spicy, grassy, clovery perfume to my nostrils;
and over all, encircling all, to my sight and soul, and free space of the sky, transparent and blue—
and hovering there in the west, a mass of white-gray fleecy clouds the sailors call "shoals of mackerel"—
the sky, with silver swirls like locks of tossed hair, spreading, expanding—
a vast voiceless, formless simulacrum—
yet may-be the most real reality and formulator of everything—
— Walt Whitman, American poet and the Father of Free Verse, A July Afternoon by the Pond
Grow That Garden Library
This book came out in 2012, and the subtitle is In Defense of Nature's Most Unloved Plants.
The author Richard Holmes said, "[A] witty and beguiling meditation on weeds and their wily ways….You will never look at a weed, or flourish a garden fork, in the same way again."
And, if you thought your garden was full of them, this book is chock-full of 336 pages of weeds.
Today's Botanic Spark
1874 On this day, the Opelousas Courier shared an incredible story called "A Case of Floral Offerings."
The story was from Berlin, it told of an actress who was playing the role of a female Hamlet.
She wanted to have bouquets and wreaths thrown to her at the end of her performance.
When a man told her that the flowers would cost $20, the actress said that it was too much for one night.
But, the gentleman had an idea. He said twenty dollars would be sufficient for two nights.
And he explained how it would work. He said,
"Today, I and my men will throw the bouquets to you from the first tier. After the performance is over, I shall take the flowers home with me in a basket [and] put them in the water... Tomorrow night [we will toss them at your feet again].
No one in the audience will know that the bouquets have been used before."
The actress liked the man's ingenious plan, and she happily paid him the money.
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