Today we celebrate one of the world’s best composers and his intense appreciation of nature.
We'll also learn about the botanist who cracked the code on pollinating vanilla and came up with a new word for the cyclical nature of things.
We’ll recognize the incredible written work of a daughter of Indiana - and yes, she is famous.
We Grow That Garden Library™ with something light and enjoyable - a New York Times Best Selling Fiction Novel from 2012.
And then we’ll wrap things up with a little mistletoe history that is sure to leave an impression - it’s not about kissing - but it will definitely give you something to talk about around the dinner table over Christmas break.
To listen to the show while you're at home, just ask Alexa or Google to
“Play the latest episode of The Daily Gardener Podcast.”
And she will. It's just that easy.
The Daily Gardener Friday Newsletter
Sign up for the FREE Friday Newsletter featuring:
- A personal update from me
- Garden-related items for your calendar
- The Grow That Garden Library™ featured books for the week
- Gardener gift ideas
- Garden-inspired recipes
- Exclusive updates regarding the show
Plus, each week, one lucky subscriber wins a book from the Grow That Garden Library™ bookshelf.
Send your garden pics, stories, birthday wishes, and so forth to Jennifer@theDailyGardener.org
If you'd like to check out my curated news articles and original blog posts for yourself, you're in luck. I share all of it with the Listener Community in the Free Facebook Group - The Daily Gardener Community.
So, there’s no need to take notes or search for links.
The next time you're on Facebook, search for Daily Gardener Community where you’d search for a friend... and request to join.
I'd love to meet you in the group.
December 17, 1770
Today is the baptism day of the German composer and pianist Ludwig Van Beethoven.
Beethoven grew up loving nature. Living along the Rhine, little Ludwig would take walks with his father.
Beethoven turned to nature for inspiration when he wrote his sixth symphony - which is why the subtitle for the sixth symphony is called “Pastoral.” After coming up with the idea that each movement would reflect a complete day in the country - from sunrise to sunset - Beethoven used music to imitate nature. In his music notes, Beethoven even added little headlines like “storm” or “scene at a brook” to make certain that the musicians understood the link between the notes they were playing and nature.
Once, while walking with a friend, Beethoven pointed at the water and said,
“Here I composed the ‘Scene by the Brook,’ and the yellowhammers up there - the quails, nightingales and cuckoos ‘round about - composed with me.”
And Beethoven wanted listeners of his music to recognize the powerful link between nature and our feelings. As Beethoven sought out nature to inspire his 6th Symphony, at one point, he simply wrote: “effect on the soul” in his notes.
And it was the manor house of Dolna Krupa where Beethoven is presumed to have written his Moonlight Sonata. A hundred years later, the Countess Maria-Henrieta Chotek, known as "The Countess of Roses," established Dolna Krupa as one of the world's top three rose gardens.
And here’s a fun side note: Beethoven's last name is a combination of “beet,” which translates to beet (as in the vegetable), and “hoven,” which means farm. So the blended meaning of his last name is beet farm.
December 17, 1858
Today is the anniversary of the death of the Belgian botanist and horticulturist, and Director of the Jardin botanique de l’Université de Liège ("lee-EZH”) Charles François Antoine Morren.
Charles made some very significant contributions to botany.
First, Charles discovered how vanilla was pollinated. Before Charles Morren, the pollination of Vanilla was a mystery. Although Hernán Cortés brought vVanilla to Europe, for over 300 years no one knew how to pollinate the flower. Charles discovered that a Native bee of Mexico - the Melipone (“meh-lip-in-ah”) bee, a social and stingless bee, was the only pollinator for Vanilla. Like Monarchs and Milkweed (Asclepias), the Melipone bee and Vanilla co-evolved. At the same time, Charles discovered the bee, the Museum of Paris came up with a way to pollinate Vanilla by hand using a blade of grass or a pointed stick (like a toothpick). Today almost all Vanilla is pollinated by hand using this method.
In addition to discovering how Vanilla was pollinated, Charles Morren coined the term phenology. Derived from a Greek word that means "to show or make to appear," Phenology is the study of cyclic and seasonal natural phenomena, especially concerning climate and plant and animal life. Gardeners who keep a phenological journal record the first and last days of events in the garden (i.e., the first snow, the first robin, the first frog, etc.)
In 1849, Charles used the term phenological during a lecture at the Academy of Brussels. Four years later, Belgium had an unseasonably warm winter, which prompted Charles to write a paper called Phenological Memories of the Winter 1852-1853. In the paper, Charles describes how plants responded to the unusual weather that winter.
Finally, Charles and his son wrote 35 volumes of an exceptionally beautiful journal that shared the beauty of horticulture in Belgium. All the 35 volumes of "The Belgique Horticole" are available digitally for free at the Biodiversity Heritage Library.
December 17, 1901
Today is the birthday of the Indiana environmentalist, newspaper columnist, and author Rachel Peden.
Rachel was the wife of an Owen county cattle farmer named Dick. Her father, Benjamin Franklin Mason, was a fruit farmer, growing peaches, apples, and strawberries. Ben developed a reputation as a breeder when he created a peach called the Shipper’s Late Red. Rachel referred to her dad as “the orchardist” in her writing.
A self-described Hoosier farmwife, Rachel’s byline was "Mrs. RFD” (for “Rural Free Delivery”), and her longtime columns in The Indianapolis Star and The Muncie Evening News charmed her readers with stories about nature and farm life.
And yes, Rachel loved to garden. Rachel wrote:
“[I love] the therapy of working in [the garden], and the acquaintance of my neighbors from the natural world that I meet there.”
When I was researching Rachel, I stopped to read her memorial on Find a Grave. I’m not sure who wrote it, but I loved their appeal to the folks at Find A Grave. They wrote:
“Find A Grave has determined that Rachel does not meet their criteria for being "famous", but they are wrong.”
The author of three books published by Knopf publishing, Rachel wrote: “Rural Free: A Farmwife’s Almanac of Country Living” in 1961, “The Land, the People” in 1966 (which earned her the Indiana University Authors Award), and “Speak to the Earth” in 1974.
Keep Rachel’s love and awe for the natural world in mind as you listen to this excerpt from “The Land The People”:
"Snow was falling softly
as if from a coarse sifter being turned
from very high above the earth.
It had been going on a long time;
leafless trees were whitened,
weeds and tangled raspberry canes in the garden
had become a great heap of foamy white lace.
A sparrow created a miniature snowstorm
when he alighted on a delicate peach twig.
The twig quivered under his weight,
the sparrow rose,
snowflakes sparkled and fell on the snow-toppled woodpile
under the peach tree."
And Rachel wrote one of my favorite quotes about summer and roses,
"The serene philosophy of the pink rose is steadying.
Its fragrant, delicate petals open fully and are ready to fall,
without regret or disillusion,
after only a day in the sun.
It is so every summer.
One can almost hear their pink, fragrant murmur
as they settle down upon the grass:
'Summer, summer, it will always be summer.”
The garden is completely winterized except for the roses, which need more hay, and the four small box yet to be covered with burlap. We have a sentimental feeling for these box. Once many years ago, on a holiday with the children, we were driving to North Carolina. We stopped at Mount Vernon and bought four seedlings, cuttings of George Washington's original box hedge. They were $0.25 each, and now they are nearly two feet tall. Every fall, Bob builds a little covered patio of burlap around each one.
— Jean Hersey, American writer and author, The Shape of a Year, December
Grow That Garden Library
This book came out in 2012, and this is a fictional novel.
And Vanessa's book was a New York Times Best Seller, and it features the Victorian language of flowers.
This is one of the books I always keep on the nightstand in our guest bedroom.
The Amazon description of this book says:
“The Victorian Language of Flowers was used to convey romantic expressions: honeysuckle for devotion, asters for patience, and red roses for love. But for Victoria Jones, it’s been more useful in communicating mistrust and solitude. After a childhood spent in the foster-care system, she is unable to get close to anybody, and her only connection to the world is through flowers and their meanings. Now eighteen and emancipated from the system with nowhere to go, Victoria realizes she has a gift for helping others through the flowers she chooses for them. But an unexpected encounter with a mysterious stranger has her questioning what’s been missing in her life. And when she’s forced to confront a painful secret from her past, she must decide whether it’s worth risking everything for a second chance at happiness.”
This book is 334 pages of garden-inspired fiction featuring newfound love as well as heartache.
Today’s Botanic Spark
Reviving the little botanic spark in your heart
December 17, 1948
On this day, The Kansas City Times shared a story about Mistletoe.
Mistletoe is the common name of hemiparasitic plants in the order Santalales. Mistletoe attaches to a host tree or shrub with a structure called the haustorium. Then, the Mistletoe extracts water and nutrients from the host plant. And, apparently, in 1948, young boys used to shoot it down from trees...
“The Druids of early English history made a great ceremony of cutting the mistletoe. After a sacrifice, the Arch Druid cut the [Mistletoe] out of an oak tree with a golden knife, taking care that it did not touch the ground, and carried it away in a white cloth.
The South Missouri youth uses a squirrel rifle instead of a golden knife and would as soon shoot [Mistletoe] garland out of a pecan tree as an oak. If he Is lucky enough to catch it before it hits the ground, his object is to keep the berries from shattering. [Why?]
[Because] the spray with the most berries... will bring the greatest returns, either commercially at the florists or personally elsewhere.
[There is] historical precedence for his method of gathering mistletoe.
In Switzerland, it has been the custom to shoot [Mistletoe] down with bow and arrow catching it with the left hand as it falls.
In Sweden, it must be shot out of a red oak.
A similar custom prevailed in Wales until the early part of the nineteenth century.”
Thanks for listening to The Daily Gardener.
"For a happy, healthy life, garden every day."
What Listeners Say
KIND WORDS FROM LOVELY LISTENERS
"I just discovered you!
I googled garden podcasts and
I'm so glad I found the show.
I start every day with The Daily Gardener!"
"I love gardening.
I been gardening for over 40 years.
A friend got me started on listening to gardening podcasts and yours just popped up.
I am all the richer for it!"
"I've been a Still Growing podcast listener for years.
You are so welcoming and your voice is so soothing!
I love The Daily Gardener because it's different. I can't imagine how much work it is to make a show like this but I thank you for it."
SI HORTUM IN HORTORIA PODCASTA IN BIBLIOTEHCA HABES, NIHIL DEERIT.