Today we celebrate the English garden writer who fell in love with one of the world’s first science fiction writers - and she turned out to be a woman.
We'll also learn about the Connecticut botanist and conservations who created a new undergraduate degree program he called Human Ecology.
We’ll hear a delightful interview with the month of December in today’s poem.
We Grow That Garden Library™ with a book that helps us turn our cupboards into our very own kitchen apothecary through recipes that help and heal us.
And then we’ll wrap things up with the state flower of Alabama - the Camellia.
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Archie Thomas stumbled across solitary windfall fruit that could be a cross between a cultivated apple and a European crab apple.
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December 14, 1843
Today is the anniversary of the death of the Scottish botanist, garden designer, and author John Claudius Loudon.
A prolific garden writer and publisher, John coined the term arboretum. There are two stories I love to tell about John. One is his love story with his wife Jane, and the other is a famous miscommunication he had over some beech trees.
Well, John’s love story with his wife was made for movies. The two met when John insisted on meeting the fantastic new sci-fi author of a book named The Mummy by Henry Colburn. When John went to meet with Henry, he discovered Henry was a nom de plume for Jane. The two fell in love and married a year later.
Now the second story I like to tell about John is about his letter to the Duke of Wellington and what happened next is like a Shakespeare comedy. John had written the Duke to ask if he could inspect the Waterloo Beeches. These gorgeous beech trees had been planted as a memorial to the battle of Waterloo. Unfortunately, when the Duke got John’s note, he misread the signature at the bottom of the letter. Instead of JC Louden, the Duke mistakenly believed the note was from CJ London or the Bishop of London. Compounding this problem, the Duke misread the word beeches as “BREECHES.” And so, the Duke thought the Bishop of London wanted to inspect his pants.
So, the Duke wrote the Bishop back, saying:
"My dear Bishop of London,
It will always give me great pleasure to see you…
Pray whenever it suits your convenience, whether I am at home or not.
My servant will receive orders to show you so many pairs of breeches of mine as you wish, but why you should wish to inspect those that I wore at the battle of Waterloo is quite beyond [my] comprehension."
From that day forward, the incident became known as the story of the "Waterloo Breeches.” And, we wouldn't have it - without John Claudius Louden.
John and his wife Jane were considered high society, and their friends included Charles Dickens.
As he grew older, John’s arms stopped working after an attack of rheumatic fever. As a result, Jane became his arms, handling most of his writing. When his arms got so bad that surgeons needed to amputate his right arm, they found him in his garden, and he told his doctors he wanted to return to the garden immediately after the procedure.
Two weeks before Christmas in 1843, John was dictating his final book called, A Self Instruction to Young Gardeners. Around midnight, he suddenly collapsed into Jane’s arms and died.
Jane completed the book on her own.
December 14, 1910
Today is the birthday of the American botanist and conservationist Richard Hale "Dick" Goodwin.
Reflecting on how he decided to pursue botany in college, Richard wrote,
“I loved the outdoors and wild places and had the thought that by entering that field I might be able to contribute toward the rehabilitation of devastated country,”
A Harvard grad, Richard went to work at Connecticut College in 1944 as a professor of botany. The job intrigued Richard because it came with an additional role: serving as the Director of the College Arboretum. Together with a fellow professor named William Niering, Richard began a pioneering undergraduate program that brought together science and public policy, and he called it Human Ecology.
Richard and his wife Esther bought a 100-acre farm in East Haddam, Connecticut. Over the years, they continued to add on to the property, and by the time they donated the land to the Nature Conservancy, their gift had encompassed 1,200 acres with an impressive ecosystem of diverse trees, plants, and wildlife.
In a 1991 interview, Richard spoke about the preserve:
"You hear about the enormous complexity of the tropical forest, but even this place in our backyard is highly complex.”
And, then right in the middle of his commentary, Richard spotted a new flower…
"There it is," he said, "a ragged fringed lily."
In 2002, Richard wrote his memoir and called it A Botanist's Window on the Twentieth Century.
I sat with chill December
Beside the evening fire.
"And what do you remember,"
I ventured to inquire,
"Of seasons long forsaken?"
He answered in amaze,
"My age you have mistaken;
I've lived but thirty days."
— John Bannister Tabb, American poet, and priest, An Interview
Grow That Garden Library
This book came out in 2017, and the subtitle is Transform Everyday Ingredients into Foods and Remedies That Heal.
In this book, Rosalee teaches us how our cupboards can be a source of relief for that next cold, scrape, headache, digestive issue, stressful day, or sleepless night. Imagine purposefully making food and beverages to make yourself feel better. For example, make a Cinnamon Tea for a sore throat, eat Garlic Hummus to boost your natural immunity, and make a simple cayenne salve for body aches and soreness.
An herbal consultant and educator, Rosalee teaches us how to see our pantries in a whole new light - transforming everyday ingredients into foods and remedies that heal. By turning your cupboards into your personal kitchen apothecary, Rosalee teaches us how to make remedies that are inexpensive and straightforward. While using herbs can often seem complicated or costly, Rosalee teaches us to learn about herbs in an affordable and straightforward way - it's just like cooking dinner.
This book is 384 pages of taking off your chef hat and putting on the herbalist’s mantle - making personalized food and drink to help you feel better and stay healthy.
Today’s Botanic Spark
Reviving the little botanic spark in your heart
December 14, 1819
On this day, Alabama became the 22nd state to join the Union.
Forty years later, the Camellia ("kah-MEE-lee-ah") became the official state flower of Alabama. Before that, Alabama's state flower was the Goldenrod.
Camellia is an evergreen plant in the tea family. The flower size of Camellias can range from 1 centimeter to dinner plate size.
Camellias have made their way into stories in books and on the movie screen, symbolizing love, affection, and admiration. In Harper Lee's 1961 Pulitzer Prize-winning novel, To Kill a Mockingbird (which is set in Alabama), Mrs. Dubose’s Camellia is the ‘Snow on the Mountain’ Camellia, also known as the ‘White Doves’ or the ‘Mine-No-Yuku’ Camellia.
Shallow-rooted, Camellias need well-drained, acid soil. The older the Camillia, the more water-wise and drought-tolerant the plant.
Like peonies, Camellias are long-lived plants in terms of age, and they can easily live to be 100 years old or older. In mature forests, wild camellias can grow to be more than 50 feet tall.
There are two small villages in Tuscany that host the Ancient Camellias festival. This part of Tuscany offers a perfect habitat for Camellias with cool, shady woodlands and flowing waters.
Finally, the Camellia was the favorite flower of the French fashion designer and businesswoman Coco Chanel. Coco’s favorite Camellia was the Alba Plena. Although she adored the bloom, she loved that the flower had no scent because it never competed with her trademark perfume - Channel No. 5.
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