July 31, 2020 How To Grow A Mood-boosting Garden, Daniel Defoe, Mary Vaux Walcott, Richard Morris Hunt, Francis Ledwidge, Sydney Dylan Ripley, Outstanding American Gardens by Page Dickey, and National Avocado Day

Show Notes

Today we remember the beloved English writer who was punished for treason but adored with flowers.

We'll also learn about the female botanical illustrator, who is known as the "Audubon of botany."

We celebrate the Dean of American Architecture.

We also salute the "poet of the blackbirds."

We honor the establishment of the horticulture program at the Smithsonian Gardens.

In Unearthed Words, we say goodbye to July and hear some poems about the fleeting summer.

We Grow That Garden Library™ with a book that celebrates 25 years of the Garden Conservancy through over 50 gardens from across the country.

And then we'll wrap things up with a little story about the Alligator Pear.

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

How To Grow A Mood-boosting Garden| Financial Times | Clare Coulson

Here's an excerpt:

Isabel Bannerman – who along with her husband, Julian, has created atmospheric gardens for the Prince of Wales at Highgrove [and other royalty] – is a passionate flag-bearer for good-for-you gardening. “Plants are a really good steadier. You can’t let them die, you have to keep going. Like having children, but less demanding,” she says. But as she also notes, gardens are very forgiving. “There’s always another year, another season to look forward to, to try again. There is so much beauty, such sensory pleasure, all of which feeds the soul and the psyche.”

For Bannerman, scent is key to creating gardens that transport and revive – a subject she explores in her book Scent Magic: Notes from a Gardener. Natural chemical “uppers”, including indole, are present in the fragrance of lilac and jasmine, while the calming qualities of lavender are connected to linalool. Bannerman uses their powers to envelop the home."

Garden designer Jo Thompson says it is really important to have an “enclosed garden (the hortus conclusus). “It’s really important to have a place to sit or even a retreat,” she says. “These areas are magical and inspiring. You’re in nature, there’s movement and life but you feel safe...”

American journalist and author Florence Williams has gathered and simplified the research in her book The Nature Fix, which reveals that we are hard-wired to be in the natural world. “Our brains become relaxed because these are things that we are designed to look at, hear and smell,” she says. “The frontal lobe – the part of our brain that’s hyper-engaged in modern life – deactivates a little when you’re outside, while alpha waves, which indicate a calm but alert state, grow stronger.”

Korean researchers have found that pictures of landscapes stimulate brain function in... areas associated with empathy and altruism."


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

1703  It was on this day in 1703 that the English journalist and author Daniel Defoe was made to stand in the pillory in front of the temple bar. Daniel is remembered for his popular novel Robinson Crusoe which, at the time, claimed to be second to the Bible in its number of published translations.

After Daniel was convicted of treason for one of his political writings, he was punished with time at the pillory. The pillory was essentially a stockade; the hands and head were stuck between two giant beams of wood. The person would stand in the pillory for days. It was a horrible punishment, and it was usually reserved for hideous crimes.

While Daniel was in the pillory, the crowds did their best to show their support; they sang songs, shouted encouragements, and threw flowers at his feet instead of mud.

In 1830, a biography of Daniel said that his stocks were adorned with garlands and that drinks were provided to celebrate Daniel's release.

The image of Daniel standing with his head and hands in the stocks surrounded by an adoring audience was memorialized in an 1862 painting by Eyre Crowe. Gardeners will especially notice the flowers strewn on the ground in the foreground. On the right, there are two women struggling to hold on to a large basket of flowers as they are being pushed away by the red coats. Behind the women, a man has managed to attach a small bouquet to the tip of a spear that he is attempting to give to Daniel, who is standing calmly in the pillory.


1860 It's the birthday of the botanical illustrator Mary Vaux Walcott who born in Philadelphia on this day.

Gardeners appreciate Mary for her meticulously accurate watercolors of plants and flowers. For this reason, Mary is regarded as the "Audobon of Botany."

Mary began her career as an illustrator one summer after being challenged to paint a rare blooming Arnica. Although her effort was only a modest success, it encouraged her to pursue art. In the pursuit of her art, Mary met Charles Doolittle Walcott. They were both doing fieldwork in the Canadian Rockies, and they found they were equally yoked. They married the following year.

At the time, Charles was the secretary of the Smithsonian; that's how Mary was tapped to develop the Smithsonian process printing technique.

Mary created hundreds of illustrations of the native plants of North America.

Her five-volume set entitled North American Wildflowers showcases the stunning beauty of common wildflowers, many of which are at peak bloom right now.

In addition to her work as a botanist, Mary was a successful glacial geologist and photographer.

She was the first woman to summit a peak over 10,000 feet in Canada when she tackled Mount Stephen. Today Mary even has a mountain named after her in Jasper - Mount Mary Vaux.


1895  Today is the anniversary of the death of Richard Morris Hunt, who was an American architect during the gilded age.

Gardeners know Richard for his collaborations with Frederick Law Olmsted. They worked together on the Vanderbilt mausoleum and the Chicago world's fair. Their ultimate collaboration occurred in Asheville, North Carolina, where they worked together to design the gardens, house, and manor village for the Biltmore Estate.

Richard is often recognized as the Dean of American Architecture. He was the first American trained at the prestigious Ecole des Beaux-Arts in Paris.

If you get the chance to walk around Central Park, you'll discover a memorial to honor Richard Morris Hunt. The memorial is located on the eastern perimeter of the park, and it was created by the same man who created the monument to Abraham Lincoln in the Lincoln Memorial: Daniel Chester French.

When he was alive, Richard wanted to elevate the public taste in design and the arts, but he was also flexible enough to meet them where they were. Modern-day designers will recognize the truth of Richard's advice to other Landscape Architects. He said,

"The first thing you've got to remember is that it's your clients' money you're spending. Your goal is to achieve the best results by following their wishes. If they want you to build a house upside down standing on its chimney, it's up to you to do it."


1917  Today is the anniversary of the death of the Irish war poet and soldier Francis Ledwidge.

Francis grew up in the Irish countryside. When he became a writer, he established himself as the "poet of the blackbirds." Francis was killed in action during World War I at the Battle of Passchendaele.


When the clouds shake their hyssops and the rain
Like holy water falls upon the plain,
'Tis sweet to gaze upon the springing grain
And see your harvest born.
And sweet the little breeze of melody
The blackbird puffs upon the budding tree,
While the wild poppy lights upon the lea
And blazes 'mid the corn.
— Francis Ledwidge, A Rainy Day in April


Broom out the floor now, lay the fender by,
And plant this bee-sucked bough of woodbine there,
And let the window down. The butterfly
Floats in upon the sunbeam, and the fair
Tanned face of June, the nomad gypsy, laughs
Above her widespread wares, the while she tells
The farmer's fortunes in the fields, and quaffs
The water from the spider-peopled wells.

The hedges are all drowned in green grass seas,
And bobbing poppies flare like Elmo's light
While siren-like the pollen-stained bees
Drone in the clover depths. And up the height
The cuckoo's voice is hoarse and broke with joy.
And on the lowland crops, the crows make raid,
Nor fear the clappers of the farmer's boy,
Who sleeps, like drunken Noah, in the shade.

And loop this red rose in that hazel ring
That snares your little ear, for June is short
And we must joy in it and dance and sing,
And from her bounty draw her rosy worth.
Ay! soon the swallows will be flying south,
The wind wheel north to gather in the snow
Even the roses spilt on youth's red mouth
Will soon blow down the road all roses go.
— Francis Ledwidge, June


1972   It was on this day that the horticulture program at the Smithsonian Gardens was established by Sydney Dylan Ripley, who served as the secretary of the Smithsonian.

An American ornithologist and conservationist, Sidney had been inspired by the area around the Louvre in France as a child. With the Louvre always in the back of his mind, Sidney hoped to make the Smithsonian a bustling destination with activities to engage crowds of visitors and tourists. The horticultural services division was created to provide landscaping in and around the Smithsonian museums. Sidney knew that gardens not only attracted pollinators but people as well.

In 2010, the Smithsonian horticultural program was renamed the Smithsonian Gardens to recognize the central role that the gardens play in the visitor experience.


Unearthed Words

Today we say, "Goodbye, July. Until next year, we'll miss you." Today's words are about the fleeting summer.


Our fear of death is like our fear that summer will be short, but when we have had our swing of pleasure, our fill of fruit, and our swelter of heat, we say we have had our day.

— Ralph Waldo Emerson, American essayist and poet


You have seen the blossoms among the leaves;
tell me, how long will they stay?
Today they tremble before the hand that picks them;
tomorrow they await someone's garden broom.
—Hanshan, Chinese Tang Dynasty


Grow That Garden Library

Outstanding American Gardens by Page Dickey

This book came out in 2015 and the subtitle is  A Celebration: 25 Years of the Garden Conservancy.

This gorgeous book celebrated the 25th anniversary of the Garden Conservancy. The book highlights eight gardens preserved by the conservancy and 43 gardens that have participated in the Open Days Program.

The author, Page Dickey, is a well-known garden writer. Among her many books are Gardens in the Spirit of Place, the award-winning BreakingGround: Portraits of Ten Garden Designers, and Duck Hill Journal. She created Duck Hill, her garden in North Salem, New York, over the past 30 years.

This book is 272 pages of inspiring gardens from all around the country and photographed in a variety of seasons from spring to fall.

You can get a copy of Outstanding American Gardens by Page Dickey and support the show, using the Amazon Link in today's Show Notes for around $20.


Today's Botanic Spark

Today is National Avocado Day.

Avocado is a fruit, and it was initially called an alligator pear by Sir Hans Sloane in 1696.

And, Guinness has a giant avocado recorded at 5 pounds, 6 and ½ ounces.

Don't forget that the skin of an avocado can be toxic to cats and dogs - but the flesh of an avocado is higher in potassium than bananas.

Now, the next time the price of avocados gets you down, remember that avocados are harvested by hand. Pickers need to use a 16-foot pole to reach the hanging fruit.

And, finally, here's a little fun fact about avocados:

The conquistadors used avocado seeds to write.

It turns out, the avocado seed produces a milky liquid that changes to the color red when exposed to air.

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