Today we celebrate the birthday of a man who appreciated simplicity and knew that we would, too.
We'll also learn about the Indiana State Flower - it’s not a native - but it sure is beautiful.
We hear some words from a 1997 Garden Chore list.
We Grow That Garden Library™ with a beautiful book that takes us on a tour of more than seventy English gardens and then shares the elements that make the English garden style so beloved.
And then, we’ll wrap things up with an old article that asked Virginians to plant more of the State Flower: the dogwood, and we’ll review some little-known Dogwood facts that will make you think about this genus a little differently...
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February 24, 1955
Today is the birthday of the founder of Apple, Steve Jobs.
A lover of simplicity and elegance, Steve once said that,
“The most sublime thing I’ve ever seen are the gardens around Kyoto.”
To Steve, the ultimate Kyoto garden was the Saiho-ji ("Sy-ho-jee") - and most people would agree with him. The dream-like Saiho-ji garden was created by a Zen priest, poet, calligrapher, and gardener named Muso Soseki ("MOO-so SO-sec-key") in the 14th century during the Kamakura ("Comma-COOR-rah") Period.
The Saiho-ji Temple is affectionately called koke-dera or the Moss Temple - a reference to the over 120 moss species found in the garden.
Steve Jobs wasn’t the only celebrity to find zen at Saiho-ji - David Bowie was also a huge fan.
And when it comes to design, there’s a Steve Jobs quote that garden designers should pay attention to, and it goes like this:
“Design is a funny word.
Some people think design means how it looks.
But... if you dig deeper, it's really how it works.”
And here’s a little fun fact for gardeners: When Steve needed his garden designed at his Tudor-style home on Waverley Street in Palo Alto, he selected the great English garden designer Penelope Hobhouse to install a traditional English cottage garden - a garden she could have, no doubt, designed in her sleep.
Nonplussed by the request, Penelope’s son implored her to make room for the job. And when Penelope first met Steve, he made a unique first impression by rolling into the restaurant where they had agreed to meet on rollerblades.
Although Penelope designed Steve’s garden, she never actually saw it. Yet she did write about the project in an article for Hortus - it was called, "Malus californica: or, A New Garden for Mr. J."
February 24, 2001
On this day, The Daily Journal out of Franklin, Indiana, shared an article called, Selection of State Flower Deserves Much Thought by "Bayou" Bill Scifres ("Sy-fers"). The article discusses the desire to change the State Flower of Indiana.
“Well, we are at it again. Again we are embroiled in the state flower hassle, and rank-and-file legislators are telling us they have more important things to do than uproot the Peony as the state flower.
Changing the state flower from the Peony to Fire Pink would be as simple as adopting either Senate Bill 57 or House Bill 2053, or both, to get the matter to the desk of the governor.
But wait a minute. Is it really that simple? That cut-and-dried? Is this what we really want? Is the Fire Pink Hoosierland's best flora representative?
Not native. That's the big rub proponents of the Fire Pink have with the peony. Foreigner. And they are right.
Let's face it. We all are foreigners.
Is it worse for a wildflower to have come from someplace else than it is for men?
The thing that most concerns me is the state flower hassle revolves around the importance of nativeness.
The real criteria should be the P&Ps of the issue, pulchritude, and proximity.
Certainly, our state flower should be a raging beauty, but even more important, it should be accessible, very common, and be seen by many people, including non-Hoosiers who are just visiting.
Fire Pink certainly is beautiful, but not so beautiful as the Cardinal Flower (also native to the state). And neither Fire Pink nor Cardinal Flower are even remotely as common as are several of the other candidates, especially the native spring beauty.
Other Indiana Academy of Science candidates were White Nodding Trillium, Blue Phlox, Bluebell, Butterfly Milkweed, Bloodroot (a spectacularly beautiful flower, but not widely seen), Aster, Wood Poppy, Shooting Star, Wild Columbine, and Yellow Trout Lily.”
Well, this effort was unsuccessful because today, the Peony remains the State Flower of Indiana. And there are many fun facts about this beautiful plant.
In addition to being the Indiana State Flower, Peonies are the flower for China where the peony is called the sho-yu, which translates to “most beautiful.”
When Marco Polo first spied the Peony, he wrote that the large blooms looked like "Roses as big as cabbages."
As a symbol of wealth and a happy marriage, it’s fitting that the Peony is the 12th wedding anniversary flower. It’s also worth noting that a single peony plant could provide a century’s worth of flowers. Impressively, peonies can live to be 100 years old.
If you receive a bouquet of Peonies, make sure to keep the vase filled with fresh water. Peonies are thirsty cut flowers.
As for Peony plants, make sure to plant them high and have plenty of patience - Peonies can be slow to get growing.
If you wondered why grandma had you plant your banana peels under the Peony bushes, it’s because Peonies love potassium. Potassium helps Peonies stay healthy and develop stronger stems.
And if you want to help your Peony store up more energy for the following year, you can cut off the seed pods after your peony is finished flowering.
Now, medicinally, Peonies were thought to help with pain, and they were used to treat everything from headaches to childbirth. And the childbirth connection to the Peony has roots in Greek mythology. The story goes like this:
Asclepius was the god of healing and medicine, and he had a student named Paeon who discovered a root that could alleviate labor pain. This discovery brought Paeon notoriety, and Asclepius could not hide his jealousy, and he grew vengeful. Sensing trouble, Zeus stepped in and turned Paeon into a flower - the peony - and thereby saved his life. And to this day, Paeon, through the peony, helps ease the pain of childbirth.
- Visit a greenhouse in a nearby botanic garden for an early spring.
- Go to your local bookstore to see the new spring gardening books.
- Survey your tools, prepare them for their new season, and replace any that no longer do their job.
- While your plants are still dormant, prune summer-blooming shrubs, fruit trees, grapevines, and berry bushes.
— The Gardener’s Almanac, 1997, February Chores
Grow That Garden Library
This book came out in 2019, and the subtitle is From the Archives of Country Life Magazine.
In this instant classic, Kathryn shares her masterpiece that revels in the glories of English gardening.
The publisher said this of Kathyrn’s book,
“An unprecedented in-depth look at the English garden by one of Britain's foremost garden writers and authorities…
Kathryn Bradley-Hole--the longtime garden columnist for Country Life--takes a fresh look at more than seventy gardens from across England and distills the essence of what makes the English garden style so sought after.
Seasonal photographs capture the gardens--some grand, some personal, some celebrated, some rarely photographed--at their finest moments, accompanied by sparkling, insightful text.
Featuring photographs from the unparalleled archives of Country Life, the full story of the English garden is here, from medieval monastery gardens to the Victorians and the Arts and Crafts movement to the twenty-first century.”
And the Wall Street Journal review of this book said,
“At a time when the very idea of travel is inconceivable, what a gift to be taken on an armchair tour of the great English gardens.”
This book is 492 pages of the over seventy spectacular English gardens by one of the best garden writers on the planet.
Today’s Botanic Spark
Reviving the little botanic spark in your heart
February 24, 1957
On this day, The Times-Dispatch out of Richmond, Virginia, ran a piece by Pat Perkinson that called on all gardeners to plant the Dogwood (Cornus florida) during the Virginia State Flower Anniversary.
“Aside from their significance as the state flower of Virginia, Dogwood trees also are symbolically remindful of the colonists who first found them growing so prolifically here in the 17th century. Not only did they enjoy the bushy trees, but they also put the bark to medicinal use... combatting the effects of malaria.
To get an idea of the conditions preferred by Dogwood, we have only to observe the situations in which they grow in nature. As you drive along the highways you will notice that Dogwood flourish in the shade of the taller trees of the forest. Perhaps you would like to situate young trees a short distance from the house where they will be partly shaded and where they may be enjoyed from the windows.”
And here are some fun Dogwood facts:
- In addition to being Virginia’s State Flower, the dogwood is the state tree of Virginia, Missouri, and North Carolina.
- Native Americans used the Dogwood as a phenological guide, and they planted their corn crop when the Dogwood bloomed.
- Both the roots and the bark of the Dogwood tree have been used to treat malaria.
- In Floriography ("FLOOR-EE-ah-grah-FEE") or the language of flowers, Dogwood flowers are a symbol of rebirth.
- Dogwood shrubs and trees are in the Cornus genus, and Cornus comes from the Latin Cornu, for horn, which references the dogwood being a hardwood tree.
- Many old botanical reference guides say that the tree used to be called the dagwood - as in dagger - again, another reverence to hardwood.
- Dogwood trees actually have a hard white wood that used to be harvested to make skewers for cooking. So again, this is another neat tieback to the dag or dagger reference. This is also how the Dogwood got one of its ancient common names: The Skewer-wood.
- Another ancient reference has to do with the dogwood's fruit, which used to be called dogberries. And as one might suspect, a dogberry was not all that good, and the name implied that the berry wasn’t even good for a dog. Today we know that Dogwood berries can irritate a dog’s tummy. In addition, handling Dogwood or touching the bark can be a skin irritant - so wear gloves when you prune. This brings me to my last point...
- As with so many flowering trees and shrubs, when it comes to the dogwood, prune time follows bloom time. Every June, after the tree has finished blooming, you can prune the tree back to encourage it to set more flower buds. Never prune your Dogwood after winter ends or before your dogwood has bloomed because then you are just removing the bracts (flowers) before they can bloom in the spring. So with Dogwoods, just remember: prune time follows bloom time!
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