August 20, 2020 Maximize Your Potting Soil, Sharing Your Garden, the Patron Saint of Beekeepers, Thomas Jefferson, Carlos Thays, Elizabeth Lawrence, World Mosquito Day, French Country Cottage Inspired Gatherings by Courtney Allison, and Edgar Guest

Show Notes

Today we celebrate the Patron Saint of Beekeepers

We'll also revisit the letter Jefferson wrote about gardening - it contains one of his most-quoted lines.

We remember the French Landscape Architect who designed ninety percent of the public spaces in Argentina.

We’ll eavesdrop on another letter from Elizabeth Lawrence - the garden writer - who also wrote the most wonderful letters.

We celebrate World Mosquito Day with some Mosquito poems.

We Grow That Garden Library™ with a book that will help you create some Inspired Gatherings in your garden.

And then we’ll wrap things up with one of my favorite light-hearted poets.

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

Get the Most from Your Potting Soil With These Tips | The Spruce | Jon VanZile

Here's an excerpt:

"Most soil mixes are peat-based, often made with reed or sedge peat, and ​pH adjusted with lime. They are rich and loamy fresh out of the bag, and often they are enhanced with fertilizer or water-retention crystals. If you've been gardening for a long time, though, you may notice that plants rarely thrive in these kinds of soils for too long.

This happens because peat-based soils really aren't designed for long-term use. They're not actually designed for plants at all—they're made for your convenience. They're cheaper to produce, and they are lightweight and easy to bag and sell.

As these soils decompose, a number of negative forces will affect your plants.

Take these steps to ensure your plants have the soil they need:

Improve your bagged soil. It's not a long-term fix, but you can improve on peat-based growing mixes by mixing in a few handfuls of perlite. It won't slow the decomposition rate of the peat, but it will increase aeration.

Flush the soil thoroughly every month, at a minimum. Take the plant to the kitchen sink or outside and thoroughly flush the soil to wash out accumulated salts from fertilizer and deposits from tap water.

Wick your pots. Insert a wick through the drainage hole in the bottom of the pot. This won't help with compaction, but it will wick away excess water in the pot and help drainage, thus reducing the chance of root rot.

Make your own potting mix. Many growers mix up their own potting mixes based on composted bark, coconut coir, peat, perlite, vermiculite, pumice, and other soil additives. This is a more advanced option, but it is possible to build a soil that will last for two or more seasons if you make it yourself."


Pass-Along Plants

"You don't have a garden just for yourself. You have it to share."
— Augusta Carter, Master Gardener, Pound Ridge, Georgia

Pass-along plants have the best stories, don't they?

They have history.

They have a personal history.

One of my student gardeners had a grandmother who recently passed away from breast cancer.

Her mom was no green thumb. But, when her daughter started working in my garden, she let me know that her mom had some plants, and her dad was looking for a place for them. Would I be willing to take one?

Sure. Absolutely, I said.

Next thing I knew, a few weeks later, Mom is walking up to my driveway, caring one of the largest Jade plants I’ve ever seen. The plant was in a container the size of a 5-gallon paint bucket, and the plant was just as tall.

I took the plant from her with a promise to take good care of it.

When she turned to leave, I asked her mom’s name. I like to name my pass-along plants after the people I get them from; and, that’s when the tears started.

When she left, I brought it over to the potting bench and let it sit for a few days. Then, my student gardeners and I set about dividing it and taking care of it. It was a good thing we did it - because the minute we started to take it out of the pot, it became very apparent that this plant was severely waterlogged. It wouldn’t have made it have a knot rescued it from the pot. We removed as much potting soil as we could. We split the plant in half and put them into separate clay pots, which were very heavily perlited, which was just what the doctor ordered. It’s the perfect environment, and now it’s doing fantastic.

But, I’d be lying if I didn’t say that it had a little more special meaning to me than just your typical jade plant -because of the look on this woman’s face when she gave me this plant; passing on this little, living thing that her mom had nurtured.


Pick herbs for fresh use and also for drying.

Most herbs have a more concentrated flavor if they are not allowed to bolt or flower.

Frequent harvesting will also accomplish that.

As a bonus, harvesting encourages fresh, vigorous growth and keeps them growing longer into the season.


Today is World Mosquito Day and so, today’s poems are all about the Mosquito; the Minnesota state bird. Here are a few interesting facts about mosquitos.

First, only the female mosquitoes bite.

The lady mosquitoes use blood protein and other compounds to help them produce and develop their eggs.

Second, they are attracted to Carbon Dioxide.

Mosquitos track CO2 to find their protein sources.

Three, mosquitos are terrible fliers.

Windy days keep mosquitos away. This is another reason why I drag a large fan around with me in the garden. The constant flow of air keeps the mosquitos at bay as well as any bug spray.


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

Today is Saint Bernard of Clairvaux‘s day; he was the patron saint of beekeepers.

He's also the patron saint of bees and candlemakers

St. Bernard was a doctor of the church and a French Abbot. He was apparently a fabulous preacher, with excellent speaking skills. He became known as the "honey-sweet" doctor for his honey-sweet language; he would draw people in.

When he decided to become a part of the monastery, he had to give up and get up and give a testimony. History tells us that his testimony was so compelling that thirty members of his family and his friends decided to join the monastery. That’s how he became associated with bees; all that sweet talk.

And it was Saint Bernard who said,

"Believe me, for I know, you will find something far greater in the woods than in books. Stones and trees will teach you that which you cannot learn from the masters."


1811  On this day Thomas Jefferson wrote a letter to the painter and naturalist Charles Willson Peale about his farming and gardening at Monticello ("MontiCHELLo”).

Here's an excerpt:

“I have heard that you have retired from the city to a farm, and that you give your whole time to that.
Does not the Museum suffer? and is the farm as interesting?

I have often thought that if heaven had given me a choice of my position and calling, it should have been on a rich spot of earth, well watered, and near a good market for the [produce from]the garden. No occupation is so delightful to me as the culture of the earth, and no culture comparable to that of the garden. Such a variety of subjects, someone always coming to perfection, the failure of one thing repaired by the success of another, and instead of one harvest a continued one through the year.

Under a total want of demand, except for our family table, I am still devoted to the garden. But though an old man, I am but a young gardener.

Your application to whatever you are engaged in I know to be incessant.

But Sundays and rainy days are always days of writing for the farmer.”


1849  Today is the birthday of the French-Argentine landscape architect Carlos Thays (“Tays”).

Carlos Thays took a business trip Argentina when he turned forty in 1889. His job was to design a park in Cordoba. The project was life-changing for Thays when Argentina unexpectedly captured his heart. He decided to move to Argentina and he spent the back half of his life in his adopted homeland.

If you visit Argentina today, the green spaces in the capital city of Buenos Aires are all thanks to Carlos Thays - the tree-lined streets, the parks, the paths, and the promenades.

Essentially Carlos brought the French Landscape to Argentina - one of the many reasons why the country has a strong European vibe.

It’s hard to imagine a Buenos Aires without trees, and yet, that is the sight that greeted Carlos when he arrived in 1889. Carlos recognized the immediate need for trees. You know the old saying, the best time to plant a tree is thirty years ago and the second-best time is today? Well, that, essentially is a philosophy Carlos adopted. He knew that the quickest way to transform Argentina into the lush landscape we know today meant making a commitment to planting trees. Over his lifetime, Carlos planted over 1.2 million trees in the capital city. Now, the other smart decision Carlos made was to focus on native trees for his plantings. One of the most impressive trees in all of Buenos Aires is the oldest tree in the city - a massive rubber tree that the locals call El “Gran Gomero.” The crown of Gran Gomero is over 50 meters wide.

In Buenos Aires alone, Carlos designed over ninety percent of the public spaces in and around the city. In addition, Carlos worked on hundreds of projects all across Argentina. But a project that was near to his heart was the creation of the Buenos Aires Botanical Garden that covers 8 hectares. The garden was established a decade after Carlos arrived in Argentina. Carlos considered the Botanical Garden to be his masterpiece.

It was Charles Thays who said,

“To achieve happiness, it’s better to live in a cabin in a forest, than in a palace without a garden.”


1940  On this day the garden writer Elizabeth Lawrence wrote to her sister:

"I have finished [the chapter on] Summer, and I only have [the chapter on] Fall to do—which is short. I hope I can get it done quickly, and have time to rewrite after your reading.

If you get back before I do [from a trip with Bessie and sister Ann], and can find time to look into my garden, will you see if Nerine undulata is in bloom? And if it is, pick it when all of the flowers are out, and put it in your refrigerator until I get back.

It bloomed last year while I was gone, and I have never seen it, and it is the most exciting bulb I have. I enclose a map of where it is, and of other things that might bloom.

Don’t bother about any of them—don’t look for Ridgeway [color chart]. I am taking it with me in case we get to any nurseries.…"


Nerine undulata an Amaryllis. It grows 18 inches tall and has umbels of 8-12 slender, crinkled pale pink flowers, and it blooms in autumn.


1948  Today is the birthday of the man with the last name all gardeners covet - the lead singer of Led Zeppelin, Robert Plant.


Unearthed Words

Today is World Mosquito Day and so, today’s poems are all about the Mosquito

Lovely mosquito, attacking my arm
As quiet and still as a statue,
Stay right where you are! I’ll do you no harm-
I simply desire to pat you.

Just puncture my veins and swallow your fill
For, nobody’s going to swot you.
Now, lovely mosquito, stay perfectly still -
— Doug MacLeod, Australian author and poet, Lovely Mosquito

Announcing your arrival
In a high-pitch buzzing-tone.
As a tactic for survival,
You’re seldom on your own.

Red lumps display where you have been
Often felt, but rarely seen.

But if I catch a glimpse of you,
my little vampire chum,
I’ll make sure you get what you’re due
And crush you with my thumb!
— David Sollis, English publisher and poet, Mosquito


Grow That Garden Library

French Country Cottage Inspired Gatherings by Courtney Allison

This book came out in May 2020.

In case you didn't know, Courtney is the author of the blog French Country Cottage and she also has a floral line with Balsam Hill. She also works as a freelance photographer and stylist for magazines. So, in short, Courtney was the perfect person to write this book. And, the only bummer is that the book was released during the pandemic.

Now, what gardeners will love about this book is that Courtney shares all of her secrets for creating beautiful gatherings. And, hey, nowadays we only entertain with the people we care the most about - so we might as well make it extra special.

What I love about Courtney's book is that she shares all of her gorgeous tips and tricks for elevating gatherings. she shows how to add layer and depth to all of your entertaining and her flower arrangements really set the stage. 

Here's what Courtney's editor wrote about this book:

"Courtney provides the styling expertise to host your own French Country Cottage–inspired gathering, whether in the backyard, at the beach, under an old oak tree, or in a country barn. A simple picnic; coffee by the lake; a cheese board for friends outdoors; a bistro table for two; a long table for a formal meal―each setting exhibiting Allison’s dreamy style for you to emulate. The pièce de résistance in every venue, any setting, is the gorgeous arrangements of seasonal flowers; Courtney’s bouquets will take your breath away, from spring to fall, for outdoors and inside."

This is definitely one of my favorite books for 2020.

This book is 224 pages of French Country Cottage Style for gardeners.

You can get a copy of French Country Cottage Inspired Gatherings by Courtney Allison and support the show, using the Amazon Link in today's Show Notes for around $30


Today’s Botanic Spark

1881 Today we celebrate the birthday of the poet Edgar Albert Guest.

Edgar was known as the People’s Poet during the first half of the 20th century. Edgar's poems were happy and hopeful, which is why people like them.

Here’s his poem called To Plant a Garden:

If your purse no longer bulges
and you’ve lost your golden treasure,
If at times you think you’re lonely
and have hungry grown for pleasure,
Don’t sit by your hearth and grumble,
don’t let your mind and spirit harden.
If it’s thrills of joy you wish for
get to work and plant a garden!

If it’s drama that you sigh for,
plant a garden and you’ll get it
You will know the thrill of battle
fighting foes that will beset it.
If you long for entertainment and
for pageantry most glowing,
Plant a garden and this summer spend
your time with green things growing.

If it’s comradeship you sight for,
learn the fellowship of daisies.
You will come to know your neighbor
by the blossoms that he raises;
If you’d get away from boredom
and find new delights to look for,
Learn the joy of budding pansies
which you’ve kept a special nook for.

If you ever think of dying
and you fear to wake tomorrow,
Plant a garden! It will cure you
of your melancholy sorrow.
Once you’ve learned to know peonies,
petunias, and roses,
You will find every morning
some new happiness discloses

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