Today we celebrate the founder of the influential Curtis Botanical Magazine.
We'll also learn about the traditional start of the agricultural year.
We’ll hear about a beautiful plant called Wintersweet from one of my favorite gardeners.
We Grow That Garden Library™ with a book about home through the eyes of a passionate plantsman.
And then we’ll wrap things up with a fun story about a young botanist and disciple of Carl Linnaeus.
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January 11, 1746
Today is the birthday of the botanist, entomologist, and founder of the influential Curtis Botanical Magazine, William Curtis.
William had started life as an apothecary, but in short order, he discovered that it could not hold his interest.
Sir James Edward Smith recalled that William loved being a naturalist more than working in the city. He wrote,
“The Apothecary was soon swallowed up in the botanist, and the shop exchanged for a garden!”
William was a founder of the Linnean Society, and he also authored a book about the botany of London called Flora Londiniensis.
In 1779, William transformed his Lambeth garden into the London Botanic Garden. William wanted his garden to be a place where visitors could learn all about plants and their uses - not just for food - but in medicine and cooking as well.
William was, at heart, a pragmatist. When William heard from visitors that they needed a resource to help grow the plants they were acquiring, William came up with the idea for his magazine.
On February 1, 1787, the very first Curtis Botanical magazine was published,
“for the... ladies, gentlemen, and gardeners ... who wish to become scientifically acquainted with the plants they cultivate."
The Curtis Botanical Magazine made William wealthy, and he often remarked that it had brought him "pudding and praise.”
As for William's magazine, the reason it was so successful is that, early on, William vowed to provide his readers with helpful illustrations. Hence, William brought in incredible artists, like James Sowerby, and they helped ensure the magazine's success.
In addition to his legacy left by his garden, flora, and magazine, the genus Curtisia honors William Curtis.
January 11, 1850
Today is the birthday of the American pioneer botanist, plant pathologist, and mycologist, Joseph Charles Arthur.
Known for his work with a group of plant fungus known as rusts, Joseph became the first department chair for Botany and Plant Pathology at Purdue University. Joseph held the chair position for half a century.
During his time at Purdue, Joseph built a repository of over 40,000 rust specimens. Although Joseph kept these rust specimens at Purdue, he felt the collection belonged to him because he paid for them with his own personal funds. Despite Joseph’s private investment, Purdue insisted the collection belonged to the University.
So, in the middle of the night, Joseph packed up his entire herbarium - cabinets and all - putting everything into moving vans. In a single night, the entire Arthur herbarium was moved into Joseph's house.
After a long standoff, an agreement was reached, and Purdue paid Joseph $1,450 - a paltry 3 cents per specimen - for the magnificent Arthur herbarium.
And here's a fun side note about Joseph Charles Arthur:
In addition to his work in botany, Joseph was a musician. In 1902, in happier times at the University, Joseph wrote the music for a school song called Vive Purdue.
January 11, 2021
It's official; the holidays are truly over - today is Plough Monday.
Plough Monday is regarded as the traditional start of the agricultural year and the official end to the holiday season. Plough Monday is always the first Monday after the 12th night of Christmas, and in the not-too-distant past, Plough Monday represented the day that men officially went back to work.
Plough Monday has agricultural etymology - it was the day that farmers returned to their fields after Christmas break.
And, on Plough Monday, farmers would bring their ploughs to church so that they could be blessed.
One day 27 years ago, long before I became an enthusiastic gardener, my husband came home with a bush of wintersweet, given to him by an old lady from her garden. [The woman] said it would not flower for seven years and then forever after would do so generously. She was right.
I always appreciate its wonderful scent and bring small sprigs indoors on Christmas day and all through January. Slowly it has been growing over one of our drawing-room windows, which is now completely covered.
The decision has been made; it must be pruned down to windowsill level. So I have been cutting long luxurious branches covered in buds and open flowers, and we have reveled in the fragrance of the rather sinister waxy yellow and red flowers.
Will it flower next year after such drastic pruning?
Only time will tell, and I hope that the kind old lady, now dead, will intercede for us and it.
— Rosemary Verey, gardener and garden writer, A Countrywoman's Year, January
Grow That Garden Library
This book came out in 2017, and the subtitle is Timeless Southern Charm.
In this book, interior and garden designer James Farmer of Perry, Georgia, takes us on a tour of eleven incredible Southern homes.
Alongside the gorgeous photography, James shares charming personal stories.
This is one of my favorite decorating books because James has such reverence for both home and garden. As the best-selling author of A Time to Plant, a James Farmer interior always incorporates natural and floral elements. Layered with rugs, art, collections, and florals, James makes warm and inviting interiors.
This book is 208 pages of beautiful interiors with timeless Southern charm styled by a garden living and entertaining expert.
Today’s Botanic Spark
Reviving the little botanic spark in your heart
January 11, 1732
Today is the birthday of the Swedish-speaking Finnish explorer, naturalist, botanist, and an apostle of Carl Linnaeus, Peter Forsskål ("Pee-ah-tur Forsh-COOL").
Peter was the naturalist on the Royal Danish Expedition to Arabia. During his short lifetime, Peter identified a large number of species. Peter’s plant descriptions were thorough and detailed, showing his sensitivity to Arabic culture and language.
Sadly, Peter died of malaria in 1763 in Yemen. In fact, almost all the members of this expedition tragically died on the trip.
Out of mourning for his young student, Linneaus named Forsskaolea tenacissima ("Forsh-COOL-ee-ah Ten-ah-CY-uh-mah") to honor Peter. Linnaeus said this plant, a member of the non-stinging nettles genus, was as stubborn and persistent as Peter himself.
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