Today we celebrate the first woman to describe Fungi ("funj-eye") using the Linnaean system of classification.
We'll also learn about a little-known prolific nature and floral writer from the 1800s.
We hear a little recollection by a garden writer who received an armload of Forsythia from a friend named Alice, just when she needed it most.
We Grow That Garden Library™ with a book that encourages you to garden confidently - putting anxieties and fear behind you and creating the space of your dreams.
And then we’ll wrap things up with the roots of roses - they’re deeper than you think.
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March 1, 1717
Today is the birthday of the German artist, children's book author, translator, editor, and pioneering female botanist Catharina Helena Dörrien (“Durr-ee-in”).
Catharina was born into an intellectual family in Hildesheim, a community Southeast of Hannover. Her father, Ranier, believed that while beauty fades, ignorance can be a lifelong affliction. And so, Rainier made sure that his daughter Catharina was educated. After the death of her parents and her brother, Catharina sought work as a governess nearly 200 miles away in the town of Dillenburg. Catharina worked for the Erath (“AIR-rit”) family - Anton was an attorney and scholar, and Sophie was a childhood friend to Catharina.
Catharina could not have found a more like-minded household to her own family than the Eraths. Like her own parents, Anton and Sophie wanted both their sons and their daughters to be educated. Ultimately, the Eraths would become Catharina’s second family.
As a teacher, Catharina turned to nature to teach about all subjects and life as well. Realizing there were few resources for teaching women or children, Catharina wrote her own textbooks, which were heavily focused on botany and the natural world. It was rare enough that Catharina was teaching children and women about the natural world; it was nearly miraculous that she could research and write her own instructional guides.
As the Erath children grew, Catharina was able to focus on her botanical work. Anton helped Catharina gain membership to the Botanical Society of Florence - something unheard of for women of her time. Catharina would go on to be a member of the Berlin Society of Friends of Nature Research and the Regensburg Botanical Society.
During Catharina’s time, Dillenburg was part of the Orange-Nassau principality, and she gradually came to the idea of creating a Flora for Orange-Nassau. Using her spare time to travel throughout the region, Catharina visited most areas at least twice to capture plant life in different seasons. During the winter months, Catharina dedicated her focus on the smallest plants: lichen, mosses, and fungi ("funj-eye").
In 1777, Catharina published her 496-page flora, which used the Linnaean system to organize and name each specimen. Catharina’s flora was remarkable for the 1700s - not only for using the Linnaean system and for the inclusion of new plants and plant names but also for the sheer fact that it was the work of a woman. Catharine became the first woman to name two new fungi ("funj-eye") during the 1700s.
During her fieldwork, Catharina created over 1,400 illustrations of local flora and fauna. Yet, these masterpieces never made it into her flora. Instead, Catharina’s botanical art became an heirloom that was passed down through the generations of the Erath family. In 1875 a few pieces of Catharina’s work were shown at an exhibition.
However, fifteen years later, a large collection of paintings by a man named Johann Philipp Sandberger was bought by the Museum of Wiesbaden. Johann was a dear friend of Anton Erath’s, and today, his work is considered to be copies of Catharine's original watercolor masterpieces. And yet, Sandberger’s pieces are precious because they give us a glimpse of Catharine’s breadth and depth of talent. Without Sandberger, all would be lost because the bulk of Catharine’s work has been lost to time. The curator Friedrich von Heinbeck once said that the precision of Catharine’s brush strokes was like that of an embroiderer who stitched with only the finest of thread.
From a historical standpoint, Catharina became an invaluable part of Dillenburg's history when she created drawings and drafts of the destruction of Dillenburg Castle. It seems her interests extended beyond botany to the world around her. Catharina was a true Renaissance woman.
Following in the fifty-year-old footsteps of botanical artists like Maria Sibylla Merian and Elizabeth Blackwell, Catharine managed to distinguish herself not only by her exquisite botanical art but also by her botanical work and in the naming two plants - two little lichens, she named major Doerrieni (“Durr-ee-en-ee”) and minor Doerrieni.
Over the past three decades, Catharine’s life story has been rediscovered. In 2000, Regina Viereck wrote a biography of Catharina called "Zwar sind es weibliche Hände: Die Botanikerin und Pädagogin Catharina” Helena Dörrien (1717-1795) or "They are the hands of a woman” - the botanist and educator Catharina Helena Dörrien.
And in 2018, Catharina’s story became the subject of an elaborate musical by Ingrid Kretz and debuted in Dillenburg; it was called Catharina Dörrien - A Life Between Love and War.
March 1, 1877
Today is the birthday of the children’s author, volunteer, poet, and teacher Lenore Elizabeth Mulets.
Born Nora Mulertz in Kansas, Lenore’s mother died when she was just ten years old. Raised by her uncle’s family, Lenore left for Chicago’s Wheaton College to become a teacher. She found a position in Malden, Massachusetts, and then served as a YMCA canteen worker during WWI in Germany and France.
I pieced together Lenore’s life story by reading the letters she sent to her sister Mildred during her time in Europe. Mildred shared the letters with the local Wellington Kanas newspaper.
In addition to teaching, Lenore was a marvelous children’s author. Her books were always charming and uplifting. Her titles include Stories of Birds, Flower Stories, Insect Stories, Tree Stories, and Stories of Trees, just to name a few.
In the preface to Flower Stories, Lenore wrote,
“When the flowers of the field and garden lift their bright faces to you, can you call them by name and greet them as old acquaintances? Or, having passed them a hundred times, are they still strangers to you?
In this little book of "Flower Stories," only our very familiar friends have been planted. About them have been woven our favorite poems, songs, and stories.”
Regarding the seeds, Lenore wrote,
A wonderful thing is a seed;
The one thing deathless forever;
Forever old and forever new;
Utterly faithful and utterly true –
Fickle and faithless never.
Plant lilies and lilies will bloom;
Plant roses and roses will grow;
Plant hate and hate to life will spring;
Plant love and love to you will bring
The fruit of the seed you sow.
And long before Twitter, in her book Stories of Birds, Lenore wrote:
Such a twittering and fluttering there was when this news came.
My first winter in this country was long and bitterly cold, and I was desperate for spring, which I then was used to seeing appear far earlier. One day a new friend brought me an armful of Forsythia branches still covered with half-melted snow — sensing my homesickness, she had denuded one of her bushes for me. I had nowhere cold and bright in the apartment in which we were living, so that Forsythia had to be put in a hot, unlighted hall. But this particular present came to me late in the season and at a time when Forsythia will flower even when forced under intolerable conditions.
And when it last in this strange country, something came to life through my efforts. I began to feel that here was truly home. Now each year, as the Forsythia flowers again for me indoors, I remember that incident as the turning point in my feelings about this country, and I recall with deep affection the sensitivity of that friend.
— Thalassa Cruso, British-American gardener, writer, TV presenter and ''the Julia Child of Horticulture”, To Everything There is a Season, Alice and Forsythia
Grow That Garden Library
This book came out in January of 2021, and the subtitle is Be Bold, Break the Rules, and Grow What You Love.
In this book, the woman behind the website, The Danger Garden, teaches us how to live on the edge and in the beds of our Gardens without fear or anxiety.
Loree lives to “inspire people to look at plants differently and see their gardens through new eyes—to treat gardening as an adventure, to embrace the freedom to explore a new type of plant, and then to plant it just because they want to.”
The roots of horticulture in academia have provided a framework of do’s and don’ts cloaked within a fortress of botanical nomenclature and complex terminology. It’s no wonder gardeners feel anxious.
As Loree says,
“Why not surround yourself with plants you love? Who cares if they’re not supposed to be planted together, might eventually crowd each other, or aren’t everyone’s cup of tea? It’s your garden and you should love it; you should be having fun.
Remember, there's always room for one more plant…”
This book is 256 pages of gardening without a rulebook or guilt or all the should’s and oughta’s from a woman who made her garden her own way through courageous experimentation, zone-pushing, an artistic eye, and an adventurous spirit.
Today’s Botanic Spark
Reviving the little botanic spark in your heart
March 1, 1979
On this day, The Call-Leader out of Elwood, Indiana, published an article called The Roots Of Roses Go Back Many Years.
“If you were to trace the ancestry of today's rose, you'd have enough "begats" to fill a book, maybe two!
In fact, a fossilized rose found at Crooked River, Oregon, some years ago established that this particular species grew on our continent 35 million years ago.
And some paleobotanists believe the rose dates back to the Cretaceous Age 70 million years ago. This would make the rose older than any known civilization ... and a forerunner of the Garden of Eden.
Since 1979 has been designated "The Year of the Rose," perhaps a little rose history is in order, says John A. Wott, Purdue University extension home environment horticulturist.
Briefly, all of our roses came from species. Cross-species gave us a new hybrid type of rose, and crossing of types provided another new type.
Rosa gallica, the Adam of roses native to the western hemisphere, crossed with Rosa moschata begat the Autumn Damask;
Rosa gallica, crossed with Rosa canina, begat the Alba, and crossed with Rosa Phoenicia begat the Damask.
The Damask, crossed with Alba, begat centifolia, and on and on... All of these western hemisphere crosses yielded roses with an annual flowering, except for the Autumn Damask.
In the late 1700s, botanists discovered everblooming roses growing in the gardens of the sub-tropics in China. Because of their tea-like fragrance, they became known as Tea Roses.
When these tea roses were crossed with descendants of the gallica, the first result was the bourbon. And bourbon, crossed with a tea, produced hybrid perpetual.
Hybrid perpetual, crossed back to tea, begat hybrid tea, and... Now for some interesting facts about roses:
Did you know no rose species are native to any land areas south of the equator?
Did you know the name rose appears in no fewer than 4,000 published songs?
Did you know the rose is the official state flower of New York, Iowa, Georgia, and North Dakota?
Did you know that in all polls ever taken to determine the most popular flower, the rose is the overwhelming favorite?
Did you know the rose has been sniffed by royalty for centuries?
We owe much to Empress Josephine of France for our modern-day roses… [It was Josephine who] assembled the leading hybridizers of her time and sponsored their experiments to develop new strains and varieties.”
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