Today we celebrate the botanist who discovered photosynthesis.
We'll also learn about the Linnean Society Librarian, who was a botanist and explorer in his own right.
We’ll remember the judge who created a new kind of berry.
We hear a long-forgotten verse about a rose and a raspberry.
We Grow That Garden Library™ with a book about smart gardening in harsh, dry places.
And then we’ll wrap things up with adorable instructions about how to make a sugarplum tree out of pine cones.
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December 8, 1730
Today is the birthday of the Dutch physician, physiologist, and botanist Jan Ingenhousz (“ENG-in-house”).
Jan made one of the most significant botanical discoveries in history: photosynthesis.
Jan served as the personal physician to the royal Habsburg family in Austria. In 1771, Jan traveled to England with a group that included Benjamin Franklin. During their trip, the group called on Joseph Priestley, who had just made his own impressive discovery: that plant leaves absorb and emit gases.
Eight years later, Jan wrapped up his work with the Habsburgs and moved his family to England. In a fascinating turn of events, Jan started testing his ideas about plants in the same laboratory that Joseph Priestly had used - at Bowood House.
Jan extended Priestley’s work by adding light as a variable to his experiments. When Jan’s plants were placed underwater in a clear container, Jan exposed them to darkness and sunlight. In the dark, only a few bubbles appeared on the plant. A more exaggerated reaction occurred when Jan’s plants in the tank were placed in the sun: lots of little bubbles appeared on the leaves’ undersides. Jan learned that the bubbles made in sunlight contained oxygen, and the bubbles made in darkness contained carbon dioxide. Jan had proved photosynthesis.
December 8, 1800
Today is the birthday of the Scottish botanist, naturalist, and explorer David Don.
David grew up in a family with five brothers and one sister. His father, George Don, was a nurseryman. The Don’s provided plants to botanists and supplied produce to the people living near their nursery. In 1802, David’s father became Superintendent of the Edinburgh Botanical Gardens. Both David and his older brother, George Jr, became botanists.
As a young man, David moved to London and became a fellow of the Linnean Society. One of David’s first jobs was as the botanist Aylmer Bourke Lambert’s personal librarian, and Aylmer had an extraordinary personal library and herbarium. This job helped David become the Linnean Society librarian - a position he held for almost twenty years.
At the age of 35, David became the first Professor of Botany at Kings College in London. Shortly after starting his professorship, David discovered a malignant tumor on his neck. He died in 1841, two weeks short of his 42nd birthday.
December 8, 1841
Today is the birthday of the California Superior Court judge and gardener James Harvey Logan.
An avid gardener, Judge Logan enjoyed trying his hand at hybridizing. In 1881, Logan was working with blackberries. He crossed a local wild blackberry with a cultivated blackberry known as the Auginbaugh. At the same time, Logan had some Red Antwerp raspberries growing in his garden. In a completely unexpected development, Logan’s work resulted in a cross between his crossed blackberry and the Antwerp raspberry; the result was the Loganberry.
Two years later, the Loganberry was introduced to the public by the University of California.
Santa Cruz County published a feature on the Loganberry, which said:
“The vines or canes of the Loganberry grow entirely unlike either the blackberry or raspberry. They trail or grow upon the ground more like the dewberry. They are exceedingly strong growers, each shoot or branch reaching a growth of eight to ten feet in one season without irrigation...
The canes or vines are very large—without the thorns of the blackberry bushes—but have very fine soft spines, much like those of raspberry bushes… The fruit… has the combined flavor of both berries, pleasant, mild, vinous, delightful to the taste, and peculiar to this fruit alone.
It is excellent for the table, eaten raw or cooked, and for jelly or jam is without an equal. The vines are enormous bearers, and the fruit is very firm and carries well.”
A rose once bloomed in a garden,
White and dainty and fair,
By the garden wall at evenfall
It dreamed and nodded there;
And a raspberry bush climbed over the wall
And hung in a rakish pose;
"Haven't we met somewhere, my pet?"
The raspberry said to the rose.
The pure white rose turned whiter,
And trembled upon its stalk;
One of its petals slowly settled
Down on the garden walk;
"I'm not the kind of a rose,” she said,
"That blossoms in studios;
You're wicked, very, you red raspberry!"
To the raspberry said the rose.
"Be mine, be mine, O maiden rose !"
The wicked raspberry cried;
But the rose was brave and cried, "Behave!
Begone to, your raspberry bride;
The rose may only woo the rose,
The cherry espouse the cherry,
The gypsy maid gets the gypsy blade,
The raspberry gets the berry!"
"Rose, you have torn in tatters
A raspberry heart today;
To make you share my own despair,
I'll throw myself away;
And maybe you'll be sorry
And cease to be so merry
When it is said that I have wed
A horrid black blackberry !"
And just to pain a sweet little rose —
Lovers are very queer —
He made a match in the blackberry patch
And ruined his own career;
And from that shameful mating
'Twas only temporary —
Was born that wild, alluring child,
The lovely loganberry!
— Morris Bishop, American scholar, historian, biographer, essayist, translator, anthologist, and versifier, Saturday Evening Post, The Legend Of The Loganberry
Grow That Garden Library
This book came out in 2016, and the subtitle is Beautiful, Resilient Groundcovers for Terraces, Paved Areas, Gravel and Other Alternatives to the Lawn.
In this book, Olivier brings his 25 years of studying plants in the world’s driest places. The author of The Dry Gardening Handbook, Oliver, understands how to grow groundcovers in the most challenging situations.
While green lawns are the goal for most homeowners, they often look scrappy and brown due to one reason or another. Olivier’s book offers groundcover designs that are eco-friendly and so gorgeous that they redefine the boundaries between traditional lawn and innovative plant borders. Olivier drew his inspiration from the wild plant communities of Europe, the Middle East, and the U.S. By rigorously trialing plant combinations, Olivier discovered plant selections that are vigorous and hardy on terraces, paths, gravel beds, and flower borders, as well as open yard spaces. Olivier’s smart plant choices include tough new macrothermal grasses, carpeting groundcovers, and stunning wildflower mixes that thrive among gravel and stone.
And Olivier thoughtfully includes an indispensable plant directory with over 200 tough and gorgeous dry garden plants that will delight gardeners.
This book is 240 pages of lush groundcovers to help you create a sustainable and low maintenance space.
Today’s Botanic Spark
Reviving the little botanic spark in your heart
In 1935, Diana Park’s Garden Forum in The Pittsburgh Press shared an adorable suggestion from a young reader about making a sugarplum tree:
Have you thought of making a sugarplum tree out of pine cones for Christmas gifts?
Perhaps your father could drive you to a place where evergreens grow. Take a basket, and in the woods, you will probably find plenty of cones to fill it. Get all the sizes you can find, large, small, and medium, perfect, and broken.
The defective ones may be sewed into a bright colored bag for burning on Christmas eve.
Save all the seed out of the brackets and plant it in a sheltered place outdoors over winter, and perhaps you may grow some trees of your own next year.
The sugar-plum tree is made as follows: Wash the largest cone you have, drying it well, paint the tips with chocolate frosting and stick rainbow-colored gum-drops on the chocolate frosting. This makes a very colorful sugar-plum tree and will be welcomed by almost anybody as a surprise from a little girl at Christmas-time.
Then, of course, you can paint cones with gold paint and use them as Christmas tree decorations.
Hemlock cones are small and can be gilded or colored. Then glue on cards, making nice place-cards for Christmas parties.
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