Today we celebrate the man who proved plants have a circadian rhythm.
We'll also learn about the nurseryman who helped establish Rochester, New York, as a “City in a Forest.”
We’ll remember the pioneer seedsman who started the largest mail-order seed company in the world.
We celebrate Thanksgiving with some verses about this time of year.
We Grow That Garden Library™ with a beautiful book of fruit prints.
And then we’ll wrap things up with the story of a woman who discovered the importance of biological diversity to water health.
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November 26, 1678
Today is the birthday of the French geophysicist, astronomer, and most notably, chronobiologist Jean-Jacques d'Ortous de Mairan.
Mairan's job as a chronobiologist is a job one rarely hears about these days.
In 1729, Mairan put together an experiment showing the existence of a circadian rhythm in plants.
Mairan took a Mimosa pudica ("poo-DEE-cah")plant - the heliotrope commonly called the sensitive plant - and put it in constant darkness in a cupboard. All the while, he recorded the plant's behavior. And what do you know? The plant had a natural rhythm of opening and closing its leaves - even if it couldn't absorb sunlight. Now, Mairan didn't think that the plant had an internal clock, but he DID believe that it could attune itself to the sun - even if the plant was blocked from it.
No matter the accuracy of Mairan's conclusions, his work was on to something, and it established the foundation for chronobiology or the internal circadian clock.
November 26, 1906
Today is the anniversary of the death of the German-American horticulturist and nurseryman George Ellwanger ("El-WANG-ur").
In the mid-1800s, George Ellwanger and his Irish business partner and experienced nurseryman, Patrick Barry, claimed their Rochester, New York nursery was the largest in the world. Built on 650 acres along Mount Hope Avenue, George started his business on land that boasted an old pear orchard.
A renaissance man, George also started writing books on a variety of topics - from gardening and gastronomy to poetry. A perpetual seeker, George returned to Europe to hunt for fine trees to propagate in America.
The fruit of George’s vision is evident throughout Rochester but perhaps no more so than in the grand European beeches that dot the city streets and parks. The beeches include several unique species like fern-leaved, copper, purple, and weeping beeches. Today, Rochester has 168 different trees within the city limits, and Charles Sprague Sargent dubbed Rochester the “City in a Forest.”
George and Patrick were also known for their fruit trees. In 1900, Mount Hope Nursery exhibited 118 varieties of pears at the Paris Exhibition, which won them a gold medal diploma.
In 1888, George and Patrick donated 20 acres of their Mount Hope Nursery along with hundreds of plants to the City of Rochester, which resulted in the creation of beautiful Highland Park. In a Noah’s-Ark-like gesture, George and Patrick donated two of every tree specimen in their nursery toward the effort to create Highland Park.
Twelve years after George died on this day, The Mount Hope Nursery closed for good.
Today, Highland Park is home to an annual Lilac Festival. Each year visitors stroll the grounds to smell the lilacs, visit Warner Castle and experience the Sunken Garden.
Here are some words George wrote about beech trees from his lovely book called The Garden’s Story:
“If we take yellow alone for the color-standard, the beech is without an equal. A beech, indeed, is always beautiful.
Its colors still remain attractive in late November, varying from rich Roman ochre to deep-brown bronze and from pale rose-buff to lustrous, satiny gray.
Its harmony is of marked loveliness in winter, a faded elegance clinging to it like a chastened autumnal memory.”
And here’s a thought from George regarding mushrooms from his book called The Pleasures of the Table:
"Mushrooms are like men - the bad most closely counterfeit the good."
November 26, 1915
Today is the anniversary of the death of the pioneer seedsman and founder of the Burpee seed company, W. Atlee Burpee - the “W” stood for Washington.
Atlee died at 57; just two days after Thanksgiving in 1915.
As a young boy, Atlee immigrated from England with his parents. The Burpees settled in Philadelphia, and when Burpee started his business, it was at 219 Church Street in the city of Brotherly Love. Although his father was disappointed that Atlee didn’t follow in his footsteps to become a doctor, Atlee’s mother was sympathetic to her son’s interests. The family loved to tell how Atlee started in business selling poultry with $1,000 seed money from his mother.
Atlee handled every aspect of his seed business - from writing descriptions and creating the seed packaging to create a unique catalog every year. Before Atlee, sweet peas were imported from England. By WWI, Atlee sold more sweet peas than anyone else in the world, and he even outsold British seed companies in England. Overtime, Burpee became known for Atlee’s famous motto: Burpee Seeds Grow. As a result of his dedication to quality and innovation, Burpee became the world’s largest mail-order seed company.
The spring of 2020 brought a new milestone to Burpee. As people worldwide experienced lockdowns due to COVID-19, Burpee sold more seed than any time in its 144-year history.
And here’s a little-remembered fact about the founder of Burpee seeds: he was cousins on his mother’s side with the legendary American botanist, horticulturist, and pioneer Luther Burbank.
It looked like the world was covered in a cobbler crust of brown sugar and cinnamon.
— Sarah Addison Allen, American author
Chestnuts are delicacies for princes and a lusty and masculine food for rustics and make women well-complexioned.
— John Evelyn, English writer, gardener, and diarist
T Thanks for time to be together, turkey, talk, and tangy weather.
H for harvest stored away, home, and hearth, and holiday.
A for autumn's frosty art and abundance in the heart.
N for neighbors, and November, nice things, new things to remember.
K for kitchen, kettles' croon, kith, and kin expected soon.
S for sizzles, sights, and sounds, and something special that abounds.
That spells THANKS for joy in living and a jolly good Thanksgiving.
— Aileen Fisher, American writer, children’s book author, and poet, All in a Word
Grow That Garden Library
This book came out in 2019, and the subtitle is Ready to Frame Vintage Redoute Fruit Prints: 30 Beautiful Illustrations to Transform Your Home.
In this book, Barbara shares thirty beautiful fruit illustrations by Pierre-Joseph Redouté (1759-1840), the renowned painter and botanist from the Southern Netherlands.
The images feature grapefruit, plums, cherries, figs, raspberries, quince, pomegranate, and other fruits from France that were painted between 1801-1819.
Each 7” x 10” image is ideal for framing and can be easily removed from the book by cutting along the lines.
This book is 66 pages of vintage fruit illustrations by Redouté.
Today’s Botanic Spark
Reviving the little botanic spark in your heart
November 26, 1907
Today is the birthday of the botanist Ruth Myrtle Patrick.
Ruth developed new methods for measuring the health of freshwater ecosystems. Today, the Patrick Principle measures the biological diversity of a stream; the greater the diversity, the greater the health of the water.
Ruth learned much from her botanist father, Frank. Looking back on her childhood, Ruth said,
“I collected everything: worms, mushrooms, plants, rocks.
I remember the feeling I got when my father would roll back the top of his big desk in the library and roll out the microscope...
it was miraculous,
looking through a window at the whole other world."
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