July 26, 2020 How to Grow Blueberries, Garden Self-Care in the Heat, Roland Hallet Shumway, George Bernard Shaw, Aven Nelson, July Folklore, Once Upon a Windowsill by Tovah Martin, and Winthrop Mackworth Praed

Show Notes

Today we remember a pioneering seedsman out of Rockford, Illinois, whose company became the world's largest mail-order seed company.

We'll also learn about an Irish playwright and critic who had a unique writing hut in his garden.

We recognize the botanist who botanized in Yellowstone for an entire summer.

We also revisit some July Folklore in Unearthed Words.

We Grow That Garden Library™ with a book about the History of Indoor Plants by one of my favorite authors.

And then we'll wrap things up with the story of an English writer and politician who used humor in his work.

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

How to Grow and Care for Blueberry Bushes for Buckets of Sweet Blueberries | Stephanie Rose over at Garden Therapy

“Blueberries are easy to grow, look beautiful in the garden, taste fabulous, and are well-known to be good for you. If you have just a bit of space and some sun, plant a blueberry bush or two as gorgeous landscaping and enjoy the many benefits of sun-ripened blueberries picked straight from your garden.

Here are a few other known health benefits of blueberries:

  1. Blueberries are low on the glycemic index, which means that they do not cause your blood sugar to spike.
  2. They are considered to be a very nutritious fruit, supplying high levels of fiber, vitamins, and minerals.
  3. Studies show that they help improve memory.
  4. Numerous studies have shown that blueberries help lower blood pressure.
  5. Blueberries are closely related to cranberries and may help prevent urinary tract infections.

Add a few blueberry plants to your landscape for their white, bell-shaped blooms in the spring and the bright globes of blue in the summer. But the REAL show happens in the late fall when the bushes turn bright red, neon pink, orange, or red-purple. Blueberry bushes make a great edible alternative to short growing shrubs like boxwood. Imagine a row of blueberries lining the fence and how many berries you will have! And you know garden-grown food always tastes better than grocery store-bought food.”


Work early, and stay cool.

To avoid the high temps, potential sunburn, and bug bites, I go out in the morning, work for no more than a two-hour stint and wrap up no later than 10 am. For self-care, I set up a sports umbrella for shade, and I bring a massive fan around with me to stay cool. The fan also keeps the bugs at bay; mosquitos especially are not good fliers.


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

1842   Today is the birthday of a pioneering seedsman out of Rockford, Illinois, Roland Hallet Shumway - who always went by his initials R.H.

The RH Shumway Seed Company became the world's largest mail-order seed company; their "Marketmore" seeds are especially popular.

Famous Shumway Seed customers included Bing Crosby and Perry Como.

When Roland was 19, he enlisted in the army to serve in the Civil War. He contracted bronchitis and became totally deaf during his service.

Once Roland was asked how he would like to be remembered. He gave a three-word response: Good Seeds Cheap.

Roland said that he wanted to make sure,

“That good seeds were within reach of the poorest planters“

As with any venture, hustle and heart drove Roland's success.

Roland said,

“From the beginning of the new year, until after spring planting, my industrious employees work 16 hours a day, and myself and my family 18 or more hours per day. Are we not surely knights at labor? How can we do more? Do we not deserve the patronage of every planter in America?”

In 1905, Roland donated land in Rockford for the Shumway Market on the condition that the city would preserve the Farmer's Market in perpetuity, "for the benefit of all and the poor especially. "

The market ran year-round on Tuesdays, Thursdays, and Saturdays.

This was THE place for farmers and people to gather and sell their fruits, vegetables, and flowers.

In the 1980s, Shumway Seed was sold and today the area behind the market building is a parking lot.


1856   Today is the birthday of the Irish playwright and critic George Bernard Shaw.

In 1906, when he was 50 years old, George and his wife Charlotte bought an ivy-covered brick country house set on almost four acres of land that ultimately became known as Shaw's Corner in Ayot St Lawrence. 

For over four decades, George wrote most of his work in his tiny writing shed in the garden at Shaw's Corner. Both Pygmalion and Heartbreak House were created in George's little writing hut.

Now, when George worked in his little hut, he sat in a straight back wicker chair and wrote using a black typewriter that was positioned on a little shelf-desk attached to the wall in the corner. George could communicate with the outside world using the wall-mounted phone that was above the desk. The hut had windows on the front and back sides, and there was a little bed built into the side opposite the desk. George wouldn't have had much room to move around other than to get to his desk, stand up, turn around, and then lie on his bed.

It was all very modest and humble except that his little summer house had a unique feature to distinguished itself - it was built on top of a revolving platform. This ingenious device made it so that the little hut could be turned to face the sun throughout the day.

When the Shaw's first bought the property, there wasn't much except for open land. Over the years, Charlotte and George worked to transform the place into a personal sanctuary.

At first, the Shaw's split time between Shaw's corner and their London house. However, as they grew older, they gravitated more and more to Shaw's corner. The Shaw's loved their garden. From family records, we know the Shaws especially enjoyed delphiniums, iris, and tulips.

And, every day, George and Charlotte would walk around the garden together every morning and keep tally the number of kilometers by adding a stone to a pile in the garden. At the age of 94, George was still actively gardening until his unexpected death after a fall. George had been pruning a tree and slipped off the ladder. After their deaths, George and Charlotte's ashes were spread over the garden paths they had loved to walk together.

To this day, George's July birthday is honored with performances of his plays in his garden.

It was George Bernard Shaw who said all of these gardening quotes:

I have found, after a good deal of consideration, that the best place to seek God is in a garden. You can dig for him there.

Gardening is the only unquestionably useful job.

The planting of a tree is a modest form of immortality and one of the few truly long-term expressions of hope to mortal human beings.

Except during the nine months before he draws his first breath, no man manages his affairs, as well as a tree does.


1899   Today is the 121st anniversary of the 14-week botanical expedition through Yellowstone led by the botanist Aven Nelson.

Aven had hired a student named Leslie Gooding to be the chore boy for $10 per month.

The group assembled at the University of Wyoming, where Nelsen was a new teacher.

Leslie remembered the excitement on campus at the prospect of going on the trek, saying,

“Some three or four months were to be spent in Yellowstone park collecting plants… Many students… were anxious to accompany Dr. Nelson on [the] expedition, and were willing to work for nothing just to see the Park… This was in the days when autos were much like hen's teeth and trips through the Park by stage were expensive.“

(Note: The euphemism "hen's teeth "refers to something being exceptionally rare; since hens have no teeth, it implies that something is so scarce it is virtually nonexistent. So, during the time of this expedition – no vehicles.)

In addition to Leslie, another botany student named Elias Nelsen, (no relation to Aven), joined the group.

On this day, back in 1899, Leslie and Elias had gone collecting near an area called Artist Paint Pots; it's a dangerous area with over 50 springs, geysers, vents, and mud pots. Geothermal features are some of the deadliest natural features in Yellowstone, but people often fail to realize that fact.

To this day, park rangers rescue one or two visitors, who fall from boardwalks or wander off designated paths and punch their feet through the thin earthen crust into boiling water.

Yet, drawn by curiosity, Elias ignored the warning signs and went off the path. Suddenly, he found himself with one leg sunk into boiling mud. He managed to free himself, and Aven's wife did what she could with soda and flour to bandage his wounds, and the doc at the nearest town recommend Elias return home for treatment.

Despite the challenges posed by Yellowstone, Aven Nelsen and his team collected roughly 30,000 specimens, although only about 500 species were represented. Aven had purposely gathered 20 -30 duplicates per species because he correctly assumed that institutions and collectors would want specimens from Yellowstone.

Today, Aven is remembered as the Father of Wyoming Botany, but his greatest legacy is the Rocky Mountain Herbarium created from Aven's collection of Yellowstone plants.


Unearthed Words

Here are some words from July Folklore:

  • Never trust a July sky or Never trust the sky in the month of July.
  • As July, so next January.
  • If the 1st of July be rainy weather, it will rain more or less for three weeks together.
  • If ant hills are high in July, the coming winter will be hard.
  • Whatever July and August do not boil, September can not fry.
  • No tempest, good July, Lest the corn look ruely.
  • Corn should be knee-high by the Fourth of July.


Grow That Garden Library

Once Upon a Windowsill by Tovah Martin

This book came out in 1988, and the subtitle is A History of Indoor Plants.

 This book is an oldie but goodie.

Tovah Martin is a devoted and passionate organic gardener and the author of The Indestructible Houseplant, The Unexpected Houseplant, The New Terrarium, and Tasha Tudor's Garden, as well as many other gardening books. 

This book is 312 pages of how plants moved indoors, plant lore, plant culture, and the evolution of our relationship with plants.

You can get a copy of Once Upon a Windowsill by Tovah Martin and support the show, using the Amazon Link in today's Show Notes for around $30.


Today's Botanic Spark

1839  Today is the birthday of the English writer and politician Winthrop Mackworth Praed, who is remembered for his humorous verse.

He wrote,

"I remember, I remember how my childhood fleeted by. The mirth of its December, and the warmth of its July."

At his home, Winthrop had a fine grove with beautiful grounds that overlooked a harbor. At one point, he even built an orangery.

Sadly, Winthrop died at age 37 from tuberculosis.

Yet, for many years, his fans enjoyed this little story about him:

"A man went to a bookshop and asked, "Have you, Browning?"

And the clerk replied, "No, we can't sell him. People say they can't understand him."

Then the customer asked, "Have you Praed?"

And the clerk said, "Yes, we've prayed, and we can't understand him.

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