Today we celebrate a historic elm tree in Boston.
And we remember the Romantic English poet who went by L.E.L.
We'll also learn about the magazine that helped launch the National Audubon Society.
We salute the Scottish nurseryman who elevated to the top echelons of British horticulture.
We also remember the Iowa botanist who dedicated her life to protecting the vanishing prairie ecosystem.
We celebrate the fleeting summer with some poetry.
And, we Grow That Garden Library™ with a book that features Audubon's masterful illustrations.
And then we’ll wrap things up with the story of a canning lid shortage back in 1975.
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.
Here's an excerpt:
We spoke to landscaping expert John McMillan from General Lawns for his thoughts and handy tips on creating the perfect landscaped garden. How can you choose the right plants, set a theme, include a deck or a water feature or know how to describe what you want into a brief?
John has 5 crucial questions to consider to build a garden fit for your home.
1. Research, Research, Research
2. Consider your lifestyle
3. Choose carefully
4. Keep a grip on the budget
5. Keep it real
Saint Werenfrid's Day (August 14)
Gardeners know that Werenfridus is the Patron Saint of Vegetable Gardens. Werenfrid is often portrayed as a priest holding a ship with a coffin in it. And, sometimes Werenfrid is displayed as a priest laid to rest in his ship.
What do these emblems - the coffin and the ship - have to do with Vegetable Gardens?
Absolutely nothing. But the coffin and ship do remind us just how beloved St. Werenfrid was by the Dutch people.
You see, as a Benedictine monk, Werenfrid tended the gardens at his monastery, and his gardens served a vital purpose: feeding the poor and the hungry. As a gardener and a clergyman, Werenfrid was a nourisher of both bodies and souls. After decades of caring for his flock in and around Arnhem in the Netherlands, Werenfrid died at the age of 90.
After Werenfrid died, two nearby towns named Westervort and Elst started fighting over Werenfrid’s body. Each town wanted the honor of being his final resting place and, of course, being blessed by his sacred remains. Although the citizens of Elst contended that Werenfrid himself said he wanted to be laid to rest in their town, the dispute continued until the two towns agreed to let nature dictate Werenfrid’s fate. According to lore, Werenfrid’s body was placed on an unmanned boat on the Rhine and fate brought Werenfrid to the shores of Elst where today, the Werenfrid Church still stands.
And so, today we remember the gentle, loving gardener monk named Werenfrid, who is often shown holding a ship carrying a coffin.
Werenfrid is also invoked for gout and stiff joints - which, if you grow vegetables, you’ll appreciate how those conditions sometimes go along with gardening.
Alright, that’s it for today's gardening news.
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1765 A crowd gathered under a large elm tree in Boston.
The group was there to protest the Stamp Act that was passed by the British Parliament.
The Stamp Act imposed a tax on paper in the American colonies, which meant that all the paper had to have a stamp on it. So, if you were publishing a newspaper, or needed a mortgage deed, or court papers, it all had to be printed on paper with a tax stamp on it.
Now, there was an old elm tree that became a rallying point for resistance against the British, and that tree became known as the Liberty Tree.
The Liberty Tree had been planted in 1646 - just sixteen years after Boston became a city. As the colonists began rejecting orders from Britain, the Liberty Tree became a bulletin board of sorts. As it's symbolism grew, protesters would share calls to action on the trunk.
When the stamp act was repealed, the Liberty Tree was THE place people went to celebrate; hanging flags and streamers, as well as lanterns from its branches.
After the war began, Thomas Paine wrote an ode to the Liberty Tree in the Pennsylvania Gazette:
Unmindful of names or distinctions they came
For freemen like brothers agree,
With one spirit endued, they one friendship pursued,
And their temple was Liberty Tree…
Four months later, in August, British troops and Loyalists descended on the Liberty Tree. A man named Nathaniel Coffin Jr. cut it down.
1802 Today is the birthday of the English poet and novelist Letitia Elizabeth Landon - and when she first started out, she signed her poems with her initials - L.E.L.
“I will look on the stars and look on thee, and read the page of thy destiny.”
Letitia’s destiny was set in motion as she explored the woods and overgrown gardens near her home. Spending time in nature actually inspired Letitia to write poetry. By the time she was 18, her governess shared her poems with a neighbor, William Jerdan, who was the editor of the Literary Gazette. Married and twice her age, Jerdan nonetheless began a relationship with Letitia. Lucasta Miller’s book, L.E.L.: The Lost Life and Scandalous Death of Letitia Elizabeth Landon tells her tragic life story - how Jerdan fathered children with Letitia but then forced her to give them all up as infants, how he stole the income from her published works and then dumped her for another younger woman. Letitia’s story ended at the age of 36 in Africa. She committed suicide shortly after she married the Governor of Ghana.
One of Leticia’s first poems was an ode to the Michaelmas daisy (Aster amellus) in the genus Aster of the family Asteraceae. Also known as Autumn Asters, the plant has narrow green leaves covered by clouds of daisy-like purple-petaled flowers with yellow centers. The name of this Aster is from the Latin word for star which is a reference to the shape of its showy flower heads that are just coming into bloom now in mid-August.
Last smile of the departing year,
Thy sister sweets are flown;
Thy pensive wreath is far more dear,
From blooming thus alone.
Thy tender blush, thy simple frame,
Unnoticed might have past;
But now thou contest with softer claim,
The loveliest and the last.
Sweet are the charms in thee we find,
Emblem of hope's gay wing;
‘Tis thine to call past bloom to mind,
To promise future spring.
— Letitia Elizabeth Landon (L.E.L.), The Michaelmas Daisy.
Letitia’s poetry was romantic and she is often referred to as the female Byron.
Here’s a verse Letitia wrote about April:
Of all the months that fill the year,
Give April's month to me,
For earth and sky are then so filled
With sweet variety!
— Letitia Elizabeth Landon, April
1873 The magazine Forest and Stream debuted.
Forest and Stream featured outdoor activities like hunting and fishing. It was dedicated to wildlife conservation, and it helped launch the National Audubon Society.
In 1930, the magazine merged with Field & Stream.
1822 Today is the anniversary of the death of the Scottish nurseryman and seedsman James Dickson.
James Dickson led a remarkable life. He was born to a poor family in Scotland. As a young boy, he began working as a gardener on the nearby estate of an Earl. The job was a perfect fit for James. One day James overheard one of his fellow gardeners inquire about the name of a plant. When another young Gardener successfully answered, James was instantly inspired to learn everything he could about plants.
After working his way up as a gardener in Scotland, James eventually moved to London where he set up a nursery business in Covent Garden ("Cuv-int"). James became a trusted authority on mosses, fungi, and grasses and he even wrote two large botanical volumes.
With his hardwon botanical knowledge and eager disposition, he became friends with both the explorer Joseph Banks and the King’s gardener, William Forsyth. These key relationships put him in the top horticultural social circles of his day.
As a nurseryman, James was hardworking and insightful. When the British Museum decided to find a new gardener, Joseph Banks asked James if he was interested in the job. James put together a modest bid to improve and maintain the landscape around the museum. Not only did James win the bid but it was a position that he held for the rest of his life.
In terms of posterity, James was a founding member of the Royal Horticultural Society as well as was one of the seven men who established the Linnean Society.
James returned to Scotland to go on botanizing expeditions many times during his life. One of his botanist peers, Sir James Edward Smith, recognized James' strengths saying he had a “powerful mind, spotless integrity, singular acuteness and accuracy” and he memorably called James “lynx-eyed” because he was so good at spotting plants in the field.
James married Margaret Park after his first wife died. This marriage also resulted in a lifelong friendship with his brother-in-law Dr. Mungo Park. James introduced Mungo to his friend Joseph Banks and that's how Mungo became a famous explorer. Mungo traveled the world in the late 1700’s - going first to Sumatra and then to Gambia. James and his family thought Mongo had died after not hearing from him for two years. but on Christmas morning in 1797 James was working at his beloved British Museum Garden. James had gotten up early to tend to the greenhouses making sure that the fires were still going.
He was tending to his work and looked up and saw Mungo. It made for a happy family Christmas. Almost 10 years later, Mungo would undertake another journey - this time to Niger. But, sadly, after this trip, James would never see his dear friend and brother-in-law again. Mungo was attacked and killed by natives in 1806.
Fourteen years later, on this day, James died at his home at the age of 84. The poor Scottish child-gardener had made a successful life for himself tending the best gardens in England and is counted among the founding pillars of English horticulture.
James requested to be buried in the churchyard where he had spent much time as a younger man collecting mosses.
James is remembered with the Dicksonia - the tree fern genus.
1880 Today is the birthday of botanist Ada Hayden.
Ada was the curator of the Iowa State University herbarium.
As a young girl growing up in Ames, Iowa, she fell in love with the flora surrounding her family’s home. Ada was a talented photographer, artist, and writer, and she put all of those skills to good use documenting Iowa’s prairies.
And, Ada became the first woman to earn a Ph.D. from Iowa State.
Ada inherited her grandparent's farm, and she often brought her botany students there to walk through the Prairie and to take notes on their observations.
Ada’s life work was to save the vanishing prairie ecosystem.
Ada loved the Prairie. She wrote,
"Throughout the season, from April to October, the colorful flowers of the grassland flora present a rainbow-hued sequence of bloom. It is identified with the open sky. It is the unprotected battleground of wind and weather.”
When Ada died, the University named a 240-acre-tract of virgin Prairie, Hayden Prairie, in her honor.
We are closing in on Labor Day. Here are some words about the fleeting summer.
Catch, then, oh catch the transient hour;
Improve each moment as it flies!
Life's a short summer, man a flower;
He dies - alas! how soon he dies!
— Samuel Johnson, English writer and poet
Give me the joys of summer,
Of Summer Queen so fair,
With a wealth of lovely flowers
And fruits and sun-kissed air!
Talk not to me of winter
With ice and frost and snow,
Nor changing spring and autumn
When howling winds will blow.
No, I will take the joys
Of Summer every time,
So to this Queen of Seasons
I dedicate my rhyme.
— Winifred Sackville Stoner, Jr., Poet, Midsummer Joys
Summer's lease hath all too short a date.
— William Shakespeare, English playwright, poet and actor
Grow That Garden Library
This book came out in 2004 and the subtitle is 150 Prints from the Birds of America.
Amazon reviews of this book are very positive:
“Beautiful book. I admired framed Audubon prints in decorating magazines and at Pottery Barn's website for a long time, but couldn't afford their prices. I finally decided to buy this book, use an Exacto knife, and cut out prints to frame myself (yes, feel free to cringe at the thought of tearing apart such a beautiful book--I did, too). I framed twelve prints in inexpensive 8x10 dollar frames from a store of a similar name.”
“I actually purchased a second copy of this book. I was so impressed with my first that I purchased a 2nd to frame individual prints (they're a perfect 8x10), and they look amazing in the grouping of twelve on my wall… Everyone thinks I paid a fortune for them!”
“Audobon's Masterpieces is simply put: gorgeous. I bought this book for the sole purpose of having a pretty book of birds to lay out on my coffee table… Please buy this for your sister, mother, nerdy bird-loving brother/father/boyfriend/hobo down the street. It brings a smile to my face every time I glance at the pretty hardback cover and randomly open up to a page of beauty. Nature is beautiful, people.”
John James Audubon was a French American ornithologist, naturalist, and painter. During his life, Audubon identified 25 new species of birds. His detailed illustrations depicted the birds in their natural habitats. His major work, a color-plate book entitled The Birds of America is considered one of the finest ornithological works ever completed.
This book is 352 pages of Audobon’s Masterwork of Bird Illustrations.
Today’s Botanic Spark
1975 The Hearne Democrat, out of Hearne, Texas, announced there was a canning lid shortage.
Here’s what it said:
"The problem has reached crisis proportions in parts of the country where home gardeners have planted crops in hopes of saving on grocery bills. As harvest begins, these home gardeners are discovering the canning lid shortage means there is no way of preserving their ripe fruits and vegetables for fall and winter use...
Part of the cause is the tremendous increase in the number of home gardeners. The federal office of Consumer Affairs estimates that 12 million new gardeners have joined the market for home canning equipment in the past two years...
Another part of the problem is that, in addition to the greatly increased number of gardeners who need lids, some home canners have been buying far more lids than they will need. Because of this hoarding for future use, the shortage has been aggravated."
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