November 23, 2020 Fibonacci in the Garden, Nathaniel Ward, Alexander Anderson, Roald Dahl, Gladys Taber, The Farm by Ian Knauer, and How to Care for Your Poinsettia

Show Notes

Today we celebrate one of the first successful uses of the Wardian Case on a ship in 1833.

We'll also learn about the Minnesota botanist who discovered a fun new cereal.

We’ll remember the beloved British children’s author who wrote in his garden shed.

We salute the various ways trees drop their leaves… or not - in a verse by an American writer.

We Grow That Garden Library™ with a cookbook for gardeners with a mix of old and new takes on garden to table goodness. 

And then we’ll wrap things up with a grower’s tips on Poinsettia care.



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Curated News

The Beauty of the Fibonacci Sequence in the Garden | Empress of Dirt |  Melissa J. Will

Today is Fibonacci “fee-bo-NA-chee” Day!


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Important Events

November 23, 1833  
On this day, the ship Captain Charles Mallard wrote a letter to Nathaniel Bagshaw Ward.

Four years earlier, in 1829, Nathaniel developed the first terrarium when he accidentally grew a fern in an insect jar. A fern spore had gotten into a jar Nathaniel was using to observe insect behavior. Nathaniel suddenly realized that if plants were enclosed in airtight glass cases, they could survive without water for long periods.

Nathaniel constructed his Wardian cases out of wood and glass. Nathaniel’s little portable greenhouses sat on the deck of a ship where they could absorb as much sunshine as possible.

The inside of the box would have some soil on the bottom. The plants would be in pots, and a series of battens would stop the plants from rolling around inside the case. After the plants were watered and safely tucked inside, the case was nailed shut, and all the seams were painted with tar to seal the case.

Wardian cases were a game-changer for plant explorers who needed to keep plants alive during long voyages. Snug inside the Wardian Case, plants often lived on ships for 6 to 12 months.

And so, it was on this day in 1833 that Captain Charles Mallard excitedly shared that Nathaniel’s cases worked like a charm. He wrote:

“Your experiment for [keeping] plants alive… has fully succeeded.”

Before the Wardian case, saltwater and sun killed most plants before they reached England. With the Wardian case, plantation crops like tea, rubber, and sugar, and medicinal and ornamental plants - could be moved among the Botanic Gardens of the British Empire.


November 23, 1862 
Today is the birthday of the American plant physiologist, botanist, educator, and inventor Alexander Pierce Anderson.

Alexander grew up in rural Southeastern, Minnesota. His cousin, John Lind, became the governor of Minnesota.

After getting a degree in botany, Alexander went on to teach at Clemson. Three years later, he went to work for the New York Botanical Garden in research. This unassuming position would lead Alexander to a fantastic discovery.

Suspecting that microscopic amounts of water existed inside the nucleus of starch crystals in rice, Alexander worked on finding a way to get the water out. Alexander’s experiment produced “puffed rice,” and breakfast cereal was changed forever.

Alexander shared his discovery at the 1904 St. Louis World’s Fair. By the end of the fair, Alexander had sold over 20,000 pounds of puffed rice, and he had won the world’s attention.


November 23, 1990
Today is the anniversary of the death of the beloved British children’s author, Roald Dahl.

Roald was an avid gardener, and his garden shed doubled as his writing nook, where he wrote many books, including Charlie and the Chocolate factory. As sweet as this sounds to a gardener's ears, there was a practical reason behind Roald’s writing in the garden shed. It turns out, Roald chain-smoked as he wrote, and the garden shed kept the smoke out of the house. For Roald's part, he loved the idea of using the garden shed as a place to write, especially after seeing the little writing hut used by the author Dylan Thomas.

If you are a gardener with a passion for roses, you should check out the Roald Dahl Rose, which honored Roald's love of gardening. The Roald Dahl Rose is an absolutely stunning English shrub rose bred by David Austin. With its blousy habit and scrumptious nonstop peach blooms, the Roald Dahl Rose has a lovely fragrance as well - and not many thorns, so that's a bonus.

Throughout his life, Roald kept a diary, and there are many marvelous entries about his garden. Roald was often inspired by his garden, which is evident in his work:

I liked The Secret Garden, best of all. It was full of mystery.
Roald Dahl, British children’s author, Matilda

There is just one small bright spark shining through the gloom in my January garden. The first snowdrops are in flower.
Roald Dahl, British children’s author, My Year

And now suddenly, the whole place,
the whole garden seemed to be alive with magic…
Roald Dahl, British children’s author, James and the Giant Peach

But Mr. Tibbs didn’t hesitate for long.
“Tell the head gardener,” he whispered,
“that I require immediately a brand new unused garden fork
and also a spade.
And for a knife, we shall use
the great sword hanging on the wall in the morning-room.
But clean the sword well first.
It was last used to cut off the head of King Charles the First
and there may still be a little dried blood on the blade.”
Roald Dahl, British children’s author, The BFG

Mary, Mary, quite contrary
How does your garden grow?
“I live with my brat in a high-rise flat,
So how in the world would I know?”
— Roald Dahl, British children’s author


Unearthed Words

Weather conditions are the same for all of them,
one is no more sheltered than another,
and they are the same age, judging by their size.

I like to think one tree
decides to keep summer a bit longer
and one impetuously responds to
the tide of incoming autumn.

Trees are not remotely like people,
but I reflect that I know some
people who have never let summer go
and others who begin
to think winter thoughts in July.

Perhaps it is all temperament.
—Gladys Taber, American writer and columnist,


Grow That Garden Library

The Farm by Ian Knauer

This cookbook came out in 2012, and the subtitle is Rustic Recipes for a Year of Incredible Food.

This cookbook is a compilation of fantastic original recipes from Ian Knauer ("Ka-NOW-ur").

His publisher writes:

When Ian Knauer was a cook in the Gourmet test kitchen, he quickly became known for recipes so stupendously good that they turned the heads of the country’s top food editors. His effortless combinations made the best of seasonal produce from the Pennsylvania farm that has been in his family since the eighteenth century.”

Ian’s home and fresh recipe innovations are rooted in the garden. Cold-Spring-Night Asparagus Soup and Brick Chicken with Corn and Basil Salad will have you revising your plant list for 2021 and scouring your freezer for your stockpiles.

Ian’s ideas will strike a chord with gardener-cooks.

“You’ll find recipes that incorporate all parts of the vegetable, like Pasta with Radishes and Blue Cheese, which incorporates the radish leaves as well as the root, and spritely Swiss Chard Salad. You’ll learn how to make great food from simple ingredients you have on hand, like Potato Nachos. You’ll discover recipes for less-familiar produce from your market or your backyard, such as Chicken with Garlic Scape Pesto and Dandelion Green Salad with Hot Bacon Dressing.”

This book is 256 pages of Ian’s masterpieces along with Knauer family secret recipes, and all are simple, distinctive, and satisfying, getting the best food to the table in the least amount of time.

You can get a copy of The Farm by Ian Knauer and support the show using the Amazon Link in today's Show Notes for around $2


Today’s Botanic Spark

Reviving the little botanic spark in your heart

November 23, 2005 
On this day, the Arizona Republic newspaper shared tips on Poinsettia care from Jay Harper of Harper’s Nurseries & Flower Shop.

Jay grows Poinsettias from cuttings in his nursery in Mesa. He advised:

  • Important factors in selecting a Poinsettia are where it was grown and how long it had to travel…
  • Your plant should be sturdy, not wilted-looking.
  • Make sure it has not dropped any leaves, which can occur while kept in boxes for shipment.
  • Once you get your Poinsettia home, keep it away from drafts. They don't like the heater draft or the cold air from the door being opened or closed. 
  • Don't put your Poinsettia right inside the doorway either. They are breakable in any high-traffic area if you walk by and brush against them.
  • Place your Poinsettia on a table or in a corner of the room with good bright light and away from the fireplace or other heat sources.
  • Poinsettias are members of the Euphorbiaceae family and produce a milky sap that can be an irritant.
  • For years Poinsettias were considered extremely poisonous, but research has shown that is not the case. While eating the plant may not be lethal, it can make someone sick.
  • If your Poinsettia comes wrapped, either remove the plant from the wrapping and water, or poke a hole through the bottom of the wrapping to allow water to escape.
  • They don't like to dry out too much. Poinsettias do better kept a little bit on the moist side.


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