Today we celebrate the man who discovered the queen bee had ovaries, and he also said the head of the colony was not a king - but a queen.
We'll also learn about the family behind the ubiquitous Jackman Clematis - it's the one with the large dark purple flowers with yellow centers.
We hear words from Florida’s pioneer naturalist: Charles Torrey Simpson.
We Grow That Garden Library™ with a magnificent book about Desert Gardens - this is one of the best.
And then we’ll wrap things up with the sweet story of a gardener poet who made one of the first romantic gardens.
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February 12, 1637
Today is the birthday of the Dutch biologist and entomologist Jan Swammerdam (Yahn SWAH-MER-dam).
Before Jan's work, people believed that insects were created spontaneously. Jan proved that insects were born from eggs laid by the female species and that the larva, pupa, and adult, were just different forms of the same species.
After Jan dissected a female bee and discovered it had ovaries, he pronounced the head of the colony to be a queen bee "hitherto looked upon like a king."
And here was Jan's description of the male bees:
"[The hive] tolerates, during summer days of abundance, the embarrassing presence... of three or four hundred males, from whose ranks the queen about to be born shall select her lover; Three or four hundred foolish, clumsy, useless, noisy creatures, who are pretentious, gluttonous, dirty, course, totally and scandalously idle, insatiable, and enormous."
And, Jan's description of the hive's survival abilities is still as vibrant and relevant today as it was when he wrote:
"Should disaster befall the little Republic;
Should the hive or the comb collapse;
Should man prove ignorant or brutal;
Should they suffer from famine, from cold or disease, and perish by thousands,
it will still be almost invariably found that the queen will be safe and alive beneath the corpses of her faithful daughters.
For they will protect her and help her escape;
their bodies will provide both rampart and shelter;
for her will be the last drop of honey, the wholesomest food.
Break their comb twenty times in succession, take twenty times from them their young and their food, you still shall never succeed in making them doubt of the future."
February 12, 1869
Today is the anniversary of the death of the English nurseryman, pomologist, florist, and Clematis hybridizer George Jackman. George died at the age of 68.
Now today, I thought you'd enjoy learning about the Jackman family because that really is the story behind George Jackman and the multigenerational family behind the ubiquitous Jackman Clematis - it's the one with the large dark purple flowers with yellow centers. And, just an FYI, you can prune the Jackman back in the fall without hurting next year's bloom - so don't sweat it; you can't hurt it with an end of the season cleanup.
Now, with multiple George's in the family, this George Jackman was always referred to as George I.
Now, George I, and his brother Henry, were born into a nurseryman's family. In 1810, their father, William, founded Jackman Nursery on 150 acres in Woking ("Woe-king"), Surrey.
George I and Henry grew up learning the business alongside their dad. And by 1830, Willliam had turned the business over to his sons. After a few years, Henry decided he wasn't interested in running the struggling nursery, and he left it for George I.
In the fall of 1834, George married Mary Ann Freemont. He was 33 years old. In a little over three years, George II was born.
The beginning of the year 1840 was a terrible time for George I. He lost his wife Mary in January and his father, William, in February. In the span of twenty-five days, George I and his 3-year-old son, George II, were alone. Needless to say, the nursery became the center of their world.
Now, the start of Clematis hybridizing began in 1835, about 35 miles from the Jackman nursery. The site was London's Pineapple Nursery, run by John Andrew Henderson, and he was the very first person to create a Clematis hybrid. John called his creation the Clematis Hendersonii, and there’s no doubt that George I took notice.
When George II was 13 years old, the great plant explorer, Robert Fortune, brought Clematis lanuginosa ("LAN-you-jee-NO-sah") to England. Native to China, the blooms on this Clematis were larger than any ever seen before. If Clematis blossoms were going to get bigger, the lanuginosa was the linchpin.
By this point, George I was employing 35 men and six boys at the Jackman Nursery. George II shadowed every aspect of the business, and he grew to be a shrewd owner/operator.
As a young man, George II was energized at the thought of clematis hybridizing. And when he was just 21 years old, George II crossed Fortune's lanuginosa with Hendersonii along with the climber atrorubens. In less than six months, they had 300 seedlings, and George Jackman II had an instant hit on his hands.
The plant was hardy, it quickly produced long-lasting impressive flowers, and the rootstock lasted for many years. The year was 1858, and Clematis jackmanii (ii = "ee-eye") was born.
And from George II's notebook, we see that he wrote:
"Seedlings about 300 — results of hybrids: very robust growers, abundant in flower of rich deep purple and maroon."
Clematis jackmanii went on to receive the Award of Garden Merit from The Royal Horticultural Society. And George II co-authored a book with Thomas Moore, the Secretary of The Royal Horticultural Society, and the the book was called Clematis as a Garden Flower. George II and Thomas Moore dedicated the book to HRH Princess Mary, the Duchess of Teck. The Clematis was one of her favorite flowers.
When George I died on this day in 1869, he had raised his son and had turned his nursery into a success. He had served as chapelwarden for his church - the church of St. John - for over two decades. He had started serving a few years after losing his wife, Mary, Mrs. George Jackman.
The Gardener's chronicle said he died after a gout attack and was by all accounts a "beloved… kind-hearted, genial Christian." It went on to say that his "workmen (several of whom had been [with him] for 20, 30, or 40 years)," followed his coffin to the churchyard for burial.
In 1967, the Jackman Nursery was sold by a Jackman descendant, Roland Jackman.
Simpson, a light sleeper, often dosed during the day and was too alert for sleep at bedtime. On these occasions, when the balmy, humid air equaled body temperature, he would give his household fair warning and stroll nude in his garden. He relished the moonlight glimpsed through a vista to the bay or brushing with silver the feathery leaves of Bamboos and Palms.
To walk in one garden at night is to discover a new world; the trees are larger, their forms have changed, and their well-known branches are shapeless blots against the sky. Unexpected noises startle and almost terrify one. The day birds have gone to rest, and a new and different set has taken their place, as if Nature were working her employees in shifts.
— Elizabeth Ogren Rothra, Florida’s Pioneer Naturalist: The Life of Charles Torrey Simpson
Grow That Garden Library
This book came out in 2018.
In this book, we get a tour of twenty-one gardens by Steve Martino. Martino’s gardens are works of art that incorporate color, native plants, plants with dramatic shapes, and man-made elements in contrast with the backdrop of the desert.
Martino has evolved his signature garden design style to include native plants, and he’s allowed his love of the desert to guide his approach. Over and over again, Martino contrasts man-made pieces with the untamed desert.
"Gardens consist of two worlds, the man-made and the natural one. I've described my design style as 'Weeds and Walls' — nature and man. I use native plants to make the transition from a building to the adjacent natural desert."
The New York Times Book Review of this book said,
“Part of Martino’s trick is setting plants that have few flowers but fabulous shapes against geometric slabs of deeply colored walls. The crimson hues in a Phoenix garden must be as much of a draw for the hummingbirds as the mirrored surface of the water trough. Blue concrete pyramids, magenta poles, yellow awnings, and fiberglass panels — these are all elements in Martino’s playful, imaginative designs."
This book is 240 pages of Steve Martino’s inspiring work - a treasure of vivid color, plants, design, and custom structures.
Today’s Botanic Spark
Reviving the little botanic spark in your heart
February 12, 1724
Today is the birthday of the poet and gardener William Mason.
The Reverend William Mason was also a writer, artist, and garden designer. Mason is remembered for creating the romance of the country house garden. Here's how he did it:
In 1775 at Nuneham ("NEW-Num"), near Oxford, England, Mason designed a flower garden for his friend Lord Harcourt. This garden was a turning point to many and marked the beginning of what came to be known as romantic flower gardening.
What Mason accomplished was a radical change; straight lines in borders and beds were out. Circular beds were in. With new elements in gardens like island beds, the plants were located away from the house. Instead, plantings and beds were situated near outdoor garden buildings like temples, orangeries, or a seating area.
The garden at Nuneham became a model for others. Mason's creation set the trend for English gardening, and Mason broadcast his ideas about romantic gardening in a very, very, very long poem called "The English Garden." It was released in chunks over the span of a decade, between 1772 and 1781.
Mason's target audience was the wealthy garden owners of his time. He was speaking directly to them when he wrote:
"Waste is not grandeur,"
"A garden is the purest of human pleasures; it is the greatest refreshment to the spirit of man."
Mason made many appeals to country estate owners, but his overall message was to throw out formal gardens in favor of romantic landscapes.
Now, the word romantic simply means a landscape that is wild or natural. During this time, people referred to these romantic, natural, or wild landscapes as the picturesque garden.
Today, gardeners delight in this little verse from Mason's poem. It offers simple, resonate advice from William Mason to you:
Take thy plastic spade,
It is thy pencil.
Take thy seeds, thy plants,
They are thy colors.
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