Show Notes

Today we celebrate an iconic tree of England - a holy tree with biblical and cultural significance.

We'll also learn about a botanist whose last name is similar to the surname of Carl Linnaeus’s in-laws - and that has caused some confusion over the years.

We’ll take a look back at some unflattering words about the winter garden from a man who was a close personal friend of Nathaniel Hawthorne.

We’ll hear a little secret to making Hyacinths look fabulous when forcing Hyacinth Bulbs indoors.

We Grow That Garden Library™ with one of my favorite books - part of a new set that features garden poetry.

And then we’ll wrap things up with the wassailing of apple trees - a delightful ceremony that takes place on the 12th night of Christmas (that would be tonight.)

 

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How to Make a White Berry Wreath | Better Homes & Gardens | BH&G Crafts Editors

 

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Important Events

January 5, 1786
On this day, a winter-blooming hawthorn- the iconic Glastonbury Thorn - blossomed.

In all previous years, the beautiful Glastonberry Thorn, Crataegus monogyna 'Biflora' (“Cra-TAY-gus Mon-uhj-EYE-ah”) had flowered on Christmas Day. But by 1786, Britain had adopted the Gregorian calendar, which affected the bloom time, and so the tree bloomed eleven days past schedule.

Unlike other hawthorns, the Glastonbury Thorn miraculously flowers twice a year. The first bloom occurs in winter around Christmas time, which is why it has long been considered sacred. The second flush occurs in spring around Easter - hence the name ‘biflora.’ And every Christmas, a budded branch is sent to the Queen.

Legend has it that the original plant - widely called the holy thorn - was planted in Somerset, more than 2000 years ago, by the Uncle of Jesus Christ, Joseph of Arimathea. And so the legend says that after the crucifixion, Joseph visited the area and pushed his walking staff into the ground where it rooted and became the holy thorn.

In 1986, the Glastonbury Thorn was featured on a beautiful Christmas stamp. But the recent history of the tree is not so happy.

In 2010, vandals removed almost every branch from the Glastonbury Thorn. Thankfully, Kew’s arboretum team arrived in time to take cuttings from some of the damaged branches. With the help of these skilled arborists, the mother tree was replaced, and sister trees were planted in other secret locations throughout England.

 

January 5, 1780
Today is the anniversary of the death of the English academic, attorney, politician, and gardener, who sat in the House of Commons, Robert More.

A passionate amateur botanist, the botanist Philip Miller, named the plant genus Morea (“Mor-AY-ah”) in honor of Robert More. But later, Carl Linnaeus altered the spelling to Moraea (“mor-ah-EE-uh”) to honor his wife’s maiden name.

And in 1803, the Belgium painter Pierre-Joseph Redouté created one of the most beautiful early illustrations of Morea.

Morea is a rare and delicate plant in the Iris family. Moreas are not as hardy as the common iris. And instead of growing from rhizomes or bulbs, Moreas grow from corms.

Unlike bulbs, corms are a little different because they don’t have a bulb’s layered scales. Corms produce little cormlets that can be broken away from the parent plant for propagation. Familiar plants that grow from corms include gladiolus and crocus. 

Like bulbs, corms thrive in nutrient-rich, well-draining soil. Most corm perennials prefer sunny locations and when you plant them, make sure to plant them with the pointed side up at a depth about four times the size of the corm - that's a good rule of thumb.

In case you’re wondering, you can find Morea in some specialty bulb catalogs.

 

January 5, 1874
On this day, the English merchant and author Henry Arthur Bright recorded a rather bleak comment about winter gardens in his famous book called Year in a Lancashire Garden.

“A ‘winter garden’ is generally nothing more than a garden of small evergreens, which, of course, is an improvement on bare soil, but which is in itself not singularly interesting.”

 

Unearthed Words

The January 1860 garden column of the famous fashion magazine the New Monthly Belle Assemblee recommended the Hyacinth Bottle and Flower Support as being ideal for growing [Hyacinths] indoors.

The slender bottle with bulbous base was nothing new; hyacinths were often grown in water, not soil, in these small glass vases, which usually came in a variety of colors from cranberry red to cobalt blue, but the supporting wire was an innovation, designed to support the stem with its heavy bloom and keep it all neat and tidy.
— Mandy Kirkby, gardener and garden writer, A Victorian Flower Dictionary

 

Grow That Garden Library

A Nature Poem for Every Day of the Year by Jane Hunter

This book came out in 2018, and it’s one of my favorite books.

In this book, Jane has selected 365 of the most beautiful poems ever written.

“From William Wordsworth’s springtime daffodils and Christina Rossetti’s birdsong to John Keats's autumnal odes and Longfellow’s “Woods in Winter,” these poems pay tribute to the beauty of nature and the changing seasons.

Works from such beloved writers as William Blake, Robert Burns, Emily Dickinson, Ralph Waldo Emerson, John Keats, Amy Lowell, and Shakespeare take you through the year, along with 12 evocative black-and-white line drawings.  

Enjoy Thomas Hardy’s “Birds at Winter Nightfall,” Robert Frost’s “Spring Pools,” Rudyard Kipling’s “The Glory of the Garden,” Elizabeth Jennings’s “Song at the Beginning of Autumn,” and many more.”

I carry this beautiful book around in my backpack, and I refer to it all the time.

This book is 496 pages of inspiring poems about the natural world curated for every day of the year.

You can get a copy of A Nature Poem for Every Day of the Year by Jane Hunter and support the show using the Amazon Link in today's Show Notes for around $16.

 

Today’s Botanic Spark

Reviving the little botanic spark in your heart

In England, tonight, there’s an ancient custom - an old pagan ritual - that involves waking up the apple cider trees with wassailing on the 12th night of Christmas.

The written folklore around wassailing says that if you wassail apple trees on January 5th, the 12th day after Christmas, you’ll reap a bountiful harvest in the year.

Apples fall under the rose plant family, which also includes other fruits like peaches, pears, plums, and cherries.

Now, Cider apples are not great eating apples. They tend to be small, not especially attractive, and bittersweet - which may be why Benjamin Franklin famously said,

“It’s bad to eat apples. It is better to turn them all into cider.”

If you’ve ever bobbed for apples and wondered why apples float - it’s because they’re made up of 25 percent air.

Thus it takes roughly 36 apples to make a single gallon of apple cider.

And do you store your apples in a bowl on the table? If so, bear in mind that apples can ripen up to ten times faster when stored at room temperature instead of being kept in the fridge.  

Although it takes most apple trees on average four to five years to produce fruit, an average tree yields 840 pounds of fruit once they start producing.

Now wassail means “good health,” and by wassailing the trees, you wish for good tree health, fertility, and productivity.

Tonight's wassail tradition involves many elements. There's someone dressed as a Green Man - a man of the earth - who usually leads the festivities. There’s the crowning of a King and Queen of the wassail. Then the King and Queen lead the wassailers to the orchard or a special apple tree.  

At the tree, cider is poured on the soil around the tree, a symbolic return of the fruit's blessing. Then, bread is dipped in cider and left on the branches for the robins and other creatures in nature.

Then toasting the tree with a traditional song that goes:

Old apple tree we wassail thee
And hope that thou will bear
For the Lord doth know
Where we shall be
Come apples another year.

For to bloom well
And to bear well so merry let us be
Let every man take off his hat
And shout out to the old apple tree.

For to bloom well
And to bear well so merry let us be
Let every man take off his hat
And shout out to the old apple tree.

Chant:

Old Apple tree, we wassail thee,
And hope that thou will bare

Hatfuls! Capfuls! Three-bushel bagfuls!
And a little heap under the stairs!

Hip Hip Hooray! Hip Hip Hooray! Hip Hip Hooray!

Then there’s the clanging of pots and pans, hooting and hollering, and shooting off cap guns and shotguns to scare away all the evil spirits - the final step in a thorough wassail of an apple tree.

 

Thanks for listening to The Daily Gardener.
And remember:

"For a happy, healthy life, garden every day."

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