Today we celebrate the man who bought a forested property and wrote Winnie the Pooh.
We'll also learn about the poet who found fame and then gardening on a grand scale.
We’ll hear some wonderful words about thistles.
We Grow That Garden Library™ with a behind-the-scenes look at one of the World’s top gardens.
And then we’ll wrap things up with the bizarre story of the Maple image that was used on Canadian currency.
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January 18, 1882
Today is the birthday of the English author, best known for his books about a teddy bear named Winnie-the-Pooh, Alan Alexander Milne.
In 2015 the garden historian Kathryn Aalto wrote a book that explored the iconic landscape around Alan’s second home, Cotchford Farm in England.
Surrounded by fields and Ashdown forest, Cotchford was the perfect place for Alan’s young son, Christopher Robin, to spend weekends and holidays and imagine adventures with his favorite toys Pooh, Piglet, Tigger, Eeyore, Kanga, and Roo.
As an adult, Christopher later described it this way:
"So there we were - in 1925 - with a cottage, a little bit of garden, a lot of jungle, two fields, a river, and then all the green, hilly countryside beyond, meadows and woods, waiting to be explored..."
Finding inspiration at every turn, the group of pine trees on the other side of the main road became the fabled Six Pine Trees, and the bridge became Pooh-sticks Bridge.
The trees of Ashdown forest played an important role in the Winnie-the-Pooh series.
A Beech (Fagus) tree was Piglet’s house. Owl’s house was one of Christopher Robin’s favorite trees because he could walk on one of the limbs (in the story, it said that it had its “elbow on the ground”)
An Alder (Alnus glutinosa) tree shaded poor Eeyore, as Pooh sat nearby on a rock.
Although he lived in a large, old walnut tree, Pooh’s favorite tree was naturally the “Bee Tree,” the source for his precious honey.
Finally, Piglet and Pooh followed the tracks of a Woozle through a thicket of Larch (Larix "LAIR-iks") trees. Larches are conifer trees like pines because they have needles instead of leaves. However, unlike pines, Larches are not evergreen; they are deciduous. So, every autumn, the needles of larches turn yellow and fall from the branches. And Larch seeds grow in cones.
And here's a little fun fact about the illustrator of Winnie-the-Pooh, Ernest Howard Shepard:
he drew the trees of the forest first and added the characters last to help create the feeling of the enormity of the forest.
It was Alan Alexander Milne who wrote:
"Flowers give a prolonged delight to all, both in the garden and out of it, and though one can buy cut flowers, one cannot buy the happiness which they give us as they grow."
And he also wrote,
“Weeds are flowers too, once you get to know them.”
Today Ashdown Forest is a protected nature area.
January 18, 1936
Today is the anniversary of the death of the English journalist, short-story writer, poet, and novelist, Rudyard Kipling.
One of England’s most famous writers, Rudyard, purchased a property called Bateman’s in East Sussex in 1902. Rudyard called it his “good and peaceable place.”
From the onset, Rudyard envisioned Bateman’s to be preserved in perpetuity. To help ensure his vision would become a reality, Rudyard purchased 300 acres of land surrounding the property.
When Rudyard became the first English writer to win the Nobel Prize for Literature, he spent all the prize-money on his garden.
The gardens at Bateman are a delight. In addition to the beautiful ornamental pond and orchard, there is a pergola, a walled mulberry garden, a walk, a rose garden, a secret door, and a sundial inscribed with the words “It’s later than you think.”
When Rudyard was alive, his garden was a favorite for his guests and visitors. The Lily Pond was a special attraction. And we get a glimpse of Rudyard's playful side, knowing that he even had a little boat that was anchored to the edge of the pond. Rudyard built the boat for his children, and they would float around the pond on imaginary adventures. And apparently, other people had adventures in Rudyard's Lily Pond, too. If you look in the Kipling family visitor’s book - after some of the names - Rudyard Kipling added the letters F.I.P. for Fell in Pool.
Today, as Rudyard had hoped, Bateman’s is under the care of the National Trust.
In 1911 Kipling wrote his famous Garden poem called, The Glory of the Garden.
Our England is a garden that is full of stately views,
Of borders, beds and shrubberies and lawns and avenues,
With statues on the terraces and peacocks strutting by;
But the Glory of the Garden lies in more than meets the eye.
For where the old thick laurels grow, along the thin red wall,
You’ll find the tool- and potting-sheds which are the heart of all
The cold-frames and the hot-houses, the dung-pits and the tanks,
The rollers, carts, and drain-pipes, with the barrows and the planks.
And there you’ll see the gardeners, the men, and ‘prentice boys
Told off to do as they are bid and do it without noise ;
For, except when seeds are planted, and we shout to scare the birds,
The Glory of the Garden it abideth not in words.
And some can pot begonias, and some can bud a rose,
And some are hardly fit to trust with anything that grows;
But they can roll and trim the lawns and sift the sand and loam,
For the Glory of the Garden occupieth all who come.
Our England is a garden, and such gardens are not made
By singing:-” Oh, how beautiful,” and sitting in the shade
While better men than we go out and start their working lives
At grubbing weeds from gravel-paths with broken dinner-knives.
There’s not a pair of legs so thin, there’s not a head so thick,
There’s not a hand so weak and white, nor yet a heart so sick
But it can find some needful job that’s crying to be done,
For the Glory of the Garden glorifieth every one.
Then seek your job with thankfulness and work till further orders,
If it’s only netting strawberries or killing slugs on borders;
And when your back stops aching and your hands begin to harden,
You will find yourself a partner In the Glory of the Garden.
Oh, Adam was a gardener, and God who made him see
That half a proper gardener’s work is done upon his knees,
So when your work is finished, you can wash your hands and pray
For the Glory of the Garden that it may not pass away!
And the Glory of the Garden it shall never pass away!
Tough and durable, defiant against aggressors: the thistle embodied qualities that the Scots saw as their own, and the flower became their national emblem.
There is a well-known legend of a Viking who stood on a thistle: his cry of pain alerted sleeping Scottish clansmen just in time to hold back the attack.
The Order of the Thistle, a chivalric order founded by King James VII, has a famous motto: Nemo me impune lacessit or ‘No one harms me without punishment’ - evoking the prickly aggressiveness of the plant.
— Mandy Kirby, gardener and garden writer, A Victorian Flower Dictionary, The Thistle
Grow That Garden Library
This book came out in 2004, and it’s a great way to learn about Kew.
In this book, you get the chance to see what a year is like at the real Kew Garden in England.
This book offers a unique, private tour of this magnificent botanical garden. You’ll get to meet the world-class experts that work at Kew’s greenhouses, labs, and libraries. The monthly chapters also offer a review of the flurry activities at Kew, from what is blooming and what is getting planted to the special events and exhibitions.
In addition, every month, one of the curators shares their fascinating work and career at Kew.
This book is 192 pages of the behind-the-scenes programs, plants, and people of Kew and would make a wonderful gift for any gardener.
Today’s Botanic Spark
Reviving the little botanic spark in your heart
January 18, 2013
On this day, Reuters published an article about the new Canadian dollar bill.
The article, by Randall Palmer, was called, Canada put "wrong" Maple leaf on new Canadian 20-dollar bill.
Here’s an excerpt:
“Canada is known for the Sugar Maple, emblazoned on its red-and-white flag, but the Bank of Canada has put what one careful botanist says is a foreign Norway Maple leaf on its new currency.
The untrained eye might not at first spot the difference between the Maple leaf on the new $20, $50, and $100 bills and the North American Sugar Maple.
But it is clear to Sean Blaney, a botanist who tracks plants for the Atlantic Canada Conservation Data Center in New Brunswick.
“The Maple leaf (on the currency) is the wrong species,” he told Reuters on Friday.
Sean said the Norway Maple has more lobes or sections and has a more pointed outline than the Sugar Maple, and the lobe that rises in the center is shorter than the Sugar Maple.
The Norway Maple was imported from Europe and is now also common in North America.
Sean said, “It has naturalized to Canada, but it’s not the grand Sugar Maple.”
The Central Bank said the image on the new bills was purposefully designed not to represent any specific species but rather to be a combination of various kinds.
“It is not a Norway Maple leaf. It is a stylized Maple leaf, and it is what it ought to be,” said Bank of Canada currency spokesman Julie Girard.
She said the banknote designers created the image with the help of a dendrologist, a botanist who specializes in trees and shrubs.
Blaney is not buying the explanation. “I think it’s just an after-the-fact excuse,” he said.
“That may have been their intention, to not have it be a specific species of Maple, but they should have drawn it differently if that were the case because the Maple that they’ve drawn is quite clearly a Norway Maple.”
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