Today we celebrate a son of France who developed the first natural classification of flowering plants.
We'll also learn about the young female garden writer who teamed up with an Australian botanical illustrator and turned out some fabulous garden classics.
We salute the English Poet Laureate who wrote inspiringly about gardens.
We Grow That Garden Library™ with a tour book of American Gardens that was just released this past week.
And then we’ll wrap things up with the birthday of one of the greatest plant collectors of all time.
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November 6, 1777
Today is the anniversary of the death of the French naturalist and botanist Bernard Jussieu.
We remember Bernard for developing the first natural classification of flowering plants.
And although both Bernard and his brother Antoine were botany professors in Paris, Bernard was the stronger botanist, and there's a famous story about his incredible dedication to botany:
One time, after botanizing in Lebanon, Bernard was sailing back to France. Of course, drinkable water onboard a long voyage home would have been a precious commodity. Yet, Bernard Jussieu purportedly shared his precious water with a little Lebanon Cedar seedling he was bringing home. He wanted to plant the little seedling in the Royal Garden, and he was determined to bring the little tree back alive to Paris. The French say the seedling lived to be over 200 years old and grew to eighty feet high.
As for Bernard Jussieu, in 1759, he was summoned to Versailles to develop the Royal Botanical Garden at the Petit Trianon. Unassuming and laid back, Bernard quietly began arranging the plants in the garden in a new way. Jussieu's system of organizing plants into a more natural order was revolutionary at the time, and his method was something he wouldn't disclose to others. However, Bernard did put together a catalog of the plants in his garden.
Bernard recognized a kindred spirit in his nephew, Antoine-Laurent. Bernard trained him for four years, and when he came of age, Bernard confided his methods of plant classification. As a result, Antoine-Laurent's work extended his Uncle Bernard's ideas around grouping plants.
It took Antoine-Laurent Jussieu almost twenty years of refinement and perfecting of his Uncle's work before he finally published it as the Bastille was falling in 1789. Antoine-Laurent Jussieu kept Linnaeus' binomial nomenclature in his book, Genera Plantarum, but he grouped plants by genera and then into families. He called his system natural and strived to let nature be his guide. Today, many plant families can be attributed to Jussieu.
Today, there's a metro station near the Paris botanical garden named in honor of the Jussieu family - which boasted five notable botanists in the family over several generations.
November 6, 1868
Today is the birthday of the botanist and garden writer Alice Lounsberry.
(Note: Online databases report the date of birth as 1873 - which is incorrect as Alice was already two years old on an 1870 census with her brother and parents.)
Alice was a New Yorker, and she developed a love for botany as a young girl. In her mid-twenties, she was already serving as a board member for the New York Botanical Garden (NYBG).
But Alice is best known for her botanical books written with her dear friend and collaborator - the Australian botanical illustrator Ellis Rowan. So we have Alice and Ellis - and here's the fabulous story of how they met.
In the late 1890s, Ellis decided to travel to New York. She caused a bit of a sensation during her first trip to the States a few years earlier. This trip was no different - except that Ellis contracted influenza after her arrival, and she needed to be hospitalized.
Like Alice, New Yorkers read about Ellis's illness, and they sent cards and flowers to her hospital room to cheer her. Now Alice had an enormous sense of admiration for Ellis, and she felt she needed to do something more personal for her. So, Alice decided to hand-deliver a box of fresh wildflowers she had handpicked to the hospital and gave them to Ellis's nurse. Ellis was thoroughly charmed by the bouquet and the card which read, "From one flower seeker to another - and an admirer of your work."
The following day, Alice visited Ellis. Even though Alice was twenty years younger than Ellis, the two hit it off. They spent an entire afternoon discussing botany and their work. When Alice offered to show Ellis where she liked to botanize for wildflowers, it was the incentive Ellis needed to get her health back on track. When Alice invited her to illustrate a book on Wildflowers she had been asked to write, their fates as writer and painter were jointly sealed.
Together, they produced three books:
A Guide to the Wild Flowers (1899) describing around 500 wildflowers. A Guide to the Trees (1900) describing nearly 200 trees & shrubs. And, Southern Wild Flowers & Trees (1901) where Alice wrote in the preface:
"To learn something of the history, the folklore and the uses of southern plants and to see rare ones growing in their natural surroundings, Mrs. Rowan and I traveled in many parts of the south, always exercising our best blandishments to get the people of the section to talk with us. Through the mountainous region, we drove from cabin to cabin, and nowhere could we have met with greater kindness and hospitality."
While they were working on their book on Southern Wildflowers, Alice and Ellis's time together was marred by tragedy. They were surrounded by the beauty of the Blue Ridge Mountains when a telegram came for Ellis. Her only son, Eric, had died in South Africa. He was 22 years old.
After finishing these books, the two women went their separate ways. Alice continued to write after working with Ellis - but without Ellis's artwork, her books failed to attract the same level of popularity.
In 1910, Alice wrote a book called Gardens Near the Sea. In this book, Alice shared her thoughts on the garden:
“For the garden is not only a place in which to make things grow and to display the beautiful flowers of the earth but a place that should accord with the various moods of its admirers. It should be a place in which to hold light banter, a place in which to laugh, and, besides, should have a hidden corner in which to weep. But above all, perhaps, it should be a place of sweet scent and sentiment.”
After suffering a stroke, Alice Lounsberry died at the age of 81 on November 20, 1949.
A garden that you make yourself becomes associated with your personal history and that of your friends, interwoven with your tastes, preferences, and character, and constitutes a sort of unwritten, but withal manifest, autobiography. Show me your garden, provided it be your own, and I will tell you what you are like.
– Alfred Austin, British poet laureate, The Garden That I Love, 1894
Grow That Garden Library
This book came out just last week, and the subtitle is 100 Contemporary Designs.
In this book, the beloved British horticulturist Monty Don and world-class photographer Derry Moore take us on a diverse and mesmerizing tour of American Gardens. Monty and Derry take us on a garden adventure: from Jefferson's Monticello ("MontiCHELLo”) to Longwood Gardens in Delaware to Middleton Place in South Carolina, to Central Park in New York, Bob Hope's Palm Springs garden, Frank Lloyd Wright’s garden, and the Seattle Spheres, and many many more.
This book will leave you with a richer understanding of some of America's top gardens with beautiful photography and fascinating garden stories.
This book is 224 pages of gorgeous American Gardens, and I think it would make a wonderful gift for the holidays.
Today’s Botanic Spark
November 6, 1885
Today is the birthday of the British plant collector and explorer Frank Kingdon Ward.
During the beginning of the twentieth century, Frank Kingdon Ward went on twenty-four Indiana-Jones-like expeditions throughout Tibet, China, and Southeast Asia to search for rare and elusive species of plants.
Among his many accomplishments, Frank found the legendary Tibetan blue poppy.
Frank’s accounts of his adventures are captivating. In 1942, he arrived in New Delhi after a 500 hundred mile walk over mountains and through jungles. The newspaper account said:
"A thin, wiry little man in his 50s, Captain Kingdon-Ward...decided that the Japanese were getting too close for comfort, so he loaded two 60-pound bags of rice on two mules... But instead of taking the short road through the Chaukan pass, [he] decided to travel the 500-mile mule trail through Tibet...
[Frank tramped] knee-deep in the snow [and] crossed the Himalayas at the 14,500-foot pass...
[Frank said] "It was a pleasant walk and [my] reward is in the finding of dazzling flowers never seen before. You know [these flowers] may always blush unseen — unless you manage to take them back [home] and make them grow where others can admire them. They are a little bit of the enchantment of Asia transplanted into England or America. It is satisfying enough, if you can feel in an industrial age like the present, that you have brought home a little beauty for others to enjoy."
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