Show Notes

Today we celebrate the German botanist who used gardens as classrooms.

We'll also learn about the botanist who was a passionate advocate of forests.

We’ll recognize the efforts of a key founder of the Linnean Society.

We’ll hear a quote about December from the creator of Peter Pan.

We Grow That Garden Library™ with a book that helps you maximize your smallest spaces.

And then we’ll wrap things up with the story of a witty English-American writer and illustrator who wrote about cats and the natural world.

 

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Important Events

December 2, 1707  
Today is the birthday of the German theologian and educator, Johann Julius Hecker.

Johann recognized that a classical education didn't work for everyone, so he founded secondary schools in Germany that prepared students for practical jobs and callings.

Johann referred to his schools as "the seed-beds of the state, from which the young, like trees from a nursery, could be transplanted in their proper places."

Johann's work attracted the attention of the king of Prussia, Frederick the Great. King Frederick encouraged Johann to expand his efforts. So, Johann installed gardens near his schools to teach hands-on botany. Johann’s gardens included vegetables, herbs, and fruit trees. After realizing that the production of silk and the care of silkworms would probably impress the King, Johann strategically added the mulberry tree to his list of crops. Like the Monarch butterfly and milkweed, silkworms biologically evolved with their only food source: the Mulberry tree. Thanks to Johann’s vision to grow the school garden, both the teachers and his students tended to a large mulberry plantation and mastered the culture of silk and mulberries.

 

December 2, 1858
On this day, the Scottish botanist Nicholas Alexander Dalzell was preparing to leave Karachi, the capital of the province of Sindh, Pakistan.

Before he left, Nicholas sent a box containing nearly 80 plant specimens collected in Sindh to William Joseph Hooker.

He also described a drug from India that he had received for the Karachi museum known as 'Kala mooslee' or 'black root.' Nicholas drew a sketch of black root for Hooker, and his drawing looked a bit like a jellyfish. Nicholas explained that black root was highly valued as an aphrodisiac and had puzzled several botanists in the past. After studying the sample, Nicholas concluded the specimen was actually the root of Calla aromatica. Today, we know this aromatic rhizomatic plant is a perennial herb native to India’s sub-Himalayan regions. The rhizomes contain a fragrant essential oil that is used in perfumes and cosmetics. And in India, the plant is used to treat joint pain and skin infections.

Finally, Nicholas ends his letter with a little critique of William Hooker’s son. Nicholas had received a copy of Joseph Dalton Hooker's Flora Indica. He wrote:

“I am rather angry. Tell Dr. Hooker, with my best compliments, at his saying there were no large forests in Sindh.”

From his own time in Sindh, Nicholas knew firsthand that there were nearly a hundred forests in the province, with most of them averaging three miles in length and one to two miles in breadth.

Today we know that forests meant a great deal to Nicholas. In fact, Nicholas Dalzell is remembered for his efforts to conserve forests. Nicholas was one of the first botanists to recognize the link between forests and rainfall. As forests were eliminated, Nicholas realized that the evaporation cycle was disrupted, which resulted in less rainfall and drier conditions over the surrounding areas, sometimes leading to drought.

 

December 2, 1759 
Today is the birthday of the English botanist and founder of the Linnean Society, James Edward Smith.

In 1784, with encouragement from Joseph Banks, James shrewdly purchased Carl Linnaeus’s entire private collection and works.

Like me, if you have ever wondered why Linnaeus’ private materials didn’t stay in Sweden and ended up in England, the answer is because of James Edward Smith.

After Carl’s death, James acted quickly and made an offer too good to refuse to Linnaeus’ widow. By the time the King of Sweden learned of the purchase, he was too late. And although the King sent his agents to intercept the ship carrying Carl’s personal repository before it reached London, he was too late.

Once the collection was securely in his possession, James founded the Linnean Society, and he also served as the first President.

The Linnean Society is the oldest biological society in the world. During the 18th and 19th centuries, the Society was an essential hub for scientific progress.

And here’s a little-remembered fact about James Edward Smith: he was the private botany tutor to England’s Queen Charlotte and her four daughters.

 

Unearthed Words

God gave us memory so that we might have roses in December.
― James Matthew Barrie, Scottish novelist, playwright, and the creator of Peter Pan

 

Grow That Garden Library

Small Space Garden Ideas by Philippa Pearson

This book came out in 2014, and the subtitle is Create Your Dream Garden on a Windowsill, Wall, Step, Staircase, Balcony, Porch, or Patio.

In this book, Phillippa writes for gardeners with small gardens, tiny gardens, or no garden at all. If you have little to no room for gardening, get inspired to makeover your minimal indoor or outdoor space with more than 40 inventive projects to grow plants where space is tight.

Philippa’s ideas are a repository of the very best indoor and outdoor garden inspiration and ideas for the severely space-challenged gardener. With Philippa’s help and some imagination, there is no reason why anyone should not garden. Best of all, Philippa’s solutions won’t break the bank - which means you’ll have more money to spend on plants.

This book is 256 pages of smart and innovative ways to make the little spaces feel bountiful and gratifying in addition to colorful and thrifty.

You can get a copy of Small Space Garden Ideas by Philippa Pearson and support the show using the Amazon Link in today's Show Notes for around $3

 

Today’s Botanic Spark

Reviving the little botanic spark in your heart

December 2, 1860  
Today is the birthday of the English-American writer, artist, and illustrator, Oliver Herford.

Oliver’s wit was sharp and came through in his writing.

He wrote:

A woman's mind is cleaner than a man's: She changes it more often.
— Oliver Herford, English-American writer, artist, and illustrator

And he also wrote,

A rolling stone gathers no moss, but it gains a certain polish.
— Oliver Herford, English-American writer, artist, and illustrator

A cat lover, Oliver wrote a few charming books about cats and kittens. Here’s a little cat-inspired verse Oliver wrote about pussy willows and bulrush:

I sometimes think the Pussy-Willows grey
Are Angel Kittens who have lost their way,
And every Bulrush on the riverbank
A Cat-Tail from some lovely Cat astray.”
— Oliver Herford, English-American writer, artist, and illustrator, The Rubáiyát of a Persian Kitten

And finally, here’s a charming verse from Oliver about the dark month of December...

I heard a bird sing
In the dark of December.
A magical thing
And sweet to remember.

We are nearer to Spring
Then we were in September,
I heard a bird sing
In the dark of December.
— Oliver Herford, English-American writer, artist, and illustrator

 

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