Today we celebrate the Indiana botanist remembered in a particular species of Red Oak (Quercus rubra).
We'll also learn about the Red-Pole - one of the smallest birds in the finch family.
We’ll recognize the French flower breeder remembered for his work with the Lilac (Syringa vulgaris).
We hear a poem about the Winter garden from a man known as The People’s Poet.
We Grow That Garden Library™ with a book about growing perennials - but not ornamentals. This book is all about perennial edibles for your garden.
And then we’ll wrap things up with the story of a man known as Little Flower.
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December 11, 1843
Today is the birthday of the Indiana physician, naturalist, and botanist Jacob Schneck.
Jacob loved plants. He had a special passion for trees, and he spent as much time as he could in the field botanizing. And for the 1893 Chicago World’s Fair, Jacob put together a collection of various types of wood for an exhibition.
Once while he was out botanizing, Jacob's observation and general cleverness allowed him to see a distinctive feature in a species of Red Oaks. To confirm his suspicions, Jacob shared his discovery with a fellow botanist named Nathaniel Lord Britton. Britton agreed with Jacob, and to recognize his discovery, Britton named the oak in Jacob’s honor, calling it the Quercus Schneckii(ii = "ee-eye"). Today, most people just call it the Schneck Oak.
Jacob died at the age of 63.
Newspaper accounts indicated Jacob had been battling pneumonia but as a physician, he had still gone out on horseback to tend to his patients. Jacob's efforts probably cost him his life. It's no wonder that Jacob's funeral was reported to be the largest ever held in Mount Carmel, Illinois. Jacob's obituary said,
“No man in Wabash county had endeared himself to so many people as had Dr. Schneck. Year after year he had gone about in our midst, quietly doing his great work for humanity, turning away now and then to investigate some scientific question, especially in the realm of botany, his favorite study, and one in which he had acquired a national reputation.”
After Jacob died, his collection of specimens, stones, shells, and fossils was displayed at the Carnegie public library in 1934.
When he was alive, Jacob spent a great deal of time fashioning cases and containers to display his collection. Each specimen was labeled in Dr. Schneck’s impeccable handwriting.
December 11, 1855
On this day, Henry David Thoreau wrote about walking through a spruce swamp and stumbling on a flock of Lesser Redpolls (“Red-Poles”). These little birds are some of the smallest in the finch family. Lesser Redpolls are small and brown with red foreheads. If you’ve ever stumbled on a flock of birds enjoying berries during this time of year, you will be able to relate to Thoreau’s wonder at birds in winter.
To Holden Swamp…
For the first time I wear gloves,
but I have not walked early this season...
I thread the tangle of the spruce swamp,
admiring the leaflets of the swamp pyrus…
the great yellow buds of the swamp pink,
the round red buds of the high blueberry,
and the firm sharp red ones of the panicled andromeda.
Slowly I worm my way amid the snarl,
the thicket of black alder, blueberry, etc.,
see the forms, apparently of rabbits, at the foot of maples,
and cat-birds' nests now exposed in the leafless thicket.
though in this bare November landscape,
I am reminded of the incredible phenomenon of small birds in winter,
that erelong, amid the cold, powdery snow,
as it were a fruit of the season,
will come twittering a flock of delicate, crimson-tinged birds,
to sport and feed on the seeds and buds
just ripe for them on the sunny side of a wood,
shaking down the powdery snow there in their cheerful social feeding,
as if it were high midsummer to them.
These crimson aerial creatures have wings
which would bear them quickly to the regions of summer,
but here is all the summer they want.
What a rich contrast!
tropical colors, crimson breasts, on cold white snow...
I am struck by the perfect confidence and success of Nature...
The winter with its snow and ice is not an evil to be corrected.
It is as it was designed and made to be…
December 11, 1911
Today is the anniversary of the death of the French flower breeder Victor Lemoine ("Loom-one"), who died on this day in 1911.
Victor enhanced the beauty of so many flowers in our gardens: Lilacs, Mock-Oranges, Phlox, Peonies, Gladiolus, Tuberous Begonias, Geraniums, and Deutzias.
Around the year 1850, Victor borrowed money from his gardener father and began a nursery that survived three generations thanks to his son Emile and his grandson Henri. The Lemoine nursery thrived on land bought in Nancy, France (pronounced "non-cee"). A few years after starting his nursery, Victor created his first double-flower on the Portulaca grandiflora or the Moss Rose. As with so many of Victor's creations, the double-flower created double the beauty.
In 1854, Victor turned the original five-petaled single blossom of the geranium into a double-flowered stunner he named after his hometown, called "Gloire de Nancy" or "Glory of Nancy."
And Northern gardeners owe Victor a debt of gratitude for his work with peonies. Victor crossed the Paeonia wittmanniana with the Siberian albaflora; creating a peony that could withstand a winter freeze. It was Victor Lemoine who created some of our most memorable heirlooms: the white Le Cygne or Swan peony, the Primevere with creamy white outer guard petals, and packed with canary yellow petals inside, the blush-colored Solange peony, the pink Sarah Bernhardt, La Fee the Fairy peony, and the creamy-white Alsace-Lorraine peony.
But, it is the Lilac that will forever be associated with Victor Lemoine. Incredibly, Victor didn't start working on Lilacs until he was almost fifty. That said, Victor's wife, Marie Louise, was his tireless assistant when his eyes and fine-motor skills were failing. Marie Louise hand-pollinated the little lilac flowers, helping both her husband and her son with hybridizing.
Victor worked magic with his Lilacs. He made them bloom earlier and later. Victor improved the quality of the bloom, and he expanded their color spectrum. And Victor Lemoine grew the very first double Lilac. By the time the Lemoine nursery closed its doors in 1968, Victor and his family had bred 214 new Lilac cultivars.
Gray skies above us, and the snow
Blankets the frozen earth below.
Where roses bloomed, the drifts lie deep.
The hollyhocks are fast asleep.
The cedars green are wearing white
Like rich men’s wives on opera night.
The elm tree strangely seems to throw
A lean, gaunt shadow on the snow.
The last brown leaves of twig and stem
Have found the storms too much for them.
Winter, the tyrant of the land,
Once more is in supreme command.
— Edgar Albert Guest, British-American poet, Winter in the Garden
Edgar was known as The People’s Poet during the first half of the 20th century. Edgar's poems were happy and hopeful, which is why people liked them.
Grow That Garden Library
This book came out in 2019, and the subtitle is A Field Guide to Raising Resilient Herbs, Fruits, and Vegetables.
In this book, the regenerative farmer, climate activist, and organic market gardener Acadia Tucker shares her passion for growing perennial food crops.
Inspired by farming pioneers like Eliot Coleman, Acadia has grown over 200 hardy food crops. And Acadia knows that perennials are an investment crop that yields dividends many times over in their resiliency, taste, nutrients, and maintenance.
Besides sharing her ten steps for helping perennials thrive, Acadia’s field guide is loaded with detailed profiles of popular perennial herbs, fruits, and vegetables. Each plant profile offers Acadia's specific directions regarding planting, growing, harvesting, storing, and preserving the harvest - in addition to recipes.
This book is 280 pages of passion for perennial food crops from a woman with hands-on experience. It’s like Acadia’s right there with you - explaining, encouraging, and giving you all the information for investing in perennials in your own market garden.
Today’s Botanic Spark
Reviving the little botanic spark in your heart
December 11, 1882
Happy birthday to the Little Flower, aka Fiorello LaGuardia, born on this day in 1882 on Sullivan Street in Greenwich Village.
During his lifetime, Mayor LaGuardia was often referred to as the Little Flower (Fiorello means little flower in Italian). And although the reference could have been construed as a slight for LaGuardia’s short stature (he was only 5’2”), it ultimately became an ironic endearment as LaGuardia had a larger than life, take-charge personality. Little Flower is remembered for his desire for justice and fairness; he was a champion of the working class and immigrants.
Fiorello LaGuardia, Little Flower, died at age 64.
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