Today we celebrate a woman who made botanical art through her pioneering photography.
We'll also learn about a man who discovered something new and gave it a name that we are all too familiar with today: the virus.
We hear an excerpt from a book about one of the world’s top floral designers and gardeners and what it was like to have a flower shop during the height of WWII.
We Grow That Garden Library™ with a fantastic book about garden design - it doesn’t get much better than this incredible book.
And then we’ll wrap things up with a little story about the Trailing Arbutus or Mayflower.
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March 16, 1799
Today is the birthday of the English botanist and photographer Anna Children Atkins who was born on this day, March 16th in 1799.
Anna is often regarded as the very first person to have published a book that was illustrated with photographs. Anna's photographs were extraordinary, and she used a type process that produced images onto cyan blue paper. And in case you're wondering, that is the etymology for the term blueprints.
Today, there are just a handful of copies of Anna's 1843 work Photographs of British Algae. Sadly, although none of her specimens have survived, we at least have her beautiful prints.
Back in 2015, on the occasion of her 216th birthday, Anna was honored with a Google Doodle. And if you have kids, please check out a wonderful book of photography that Fiona Robinson wrote called The Bluest of Blues: Anna Atkins and the First Book of Photographs.
Now, a fun activity that you can do to accompany learning about Anna Atkins is making sun prints with botanical specimens. Sun prints are an easy project and only require a few simple steps.
First, you want to go out and gather items that you want to use for your artwork - this can be fern leaves, or little flowers that you pick, or even leaves from a tree.
Then you're going to need a tray, and on the tray, you'll place your sun print paper that you can get from Amazon. Next, place your botanical items on top of the Sun Paper.
Now, if you have plexiglass, you can place that over the top. If you don't have plexiglass, it's not a windy day; that’s just fine. You just need to bring your tray out into a sunny spot. And let it sit for about two minutes.
Soon you'll notice that the paper will begin to turn a pale blue everywhere that's not covered by one of your botanical specimens. (The areas that are covered by the specimens will remain a dark blue.)
After about two minutes, it's time to remove all of your items off of the paper. Then you just remove the paper and gently slip it into a tray of water. This step is essential because the water is going to stop that exposure process.
And you don't need to leave the paper in the water very long - only for about a minute. Next, you can just take the paper out of the water after about a minute and then set it on a table or other flat surface to dry.
This sun print activity is wonderful to do with kids in the summertime on a hot summer day when kids are looking for something to do. Then when it's all done, you will have these beautiful, fun prints that you can put on display - and they make beautiful gifts.
It is a fun activity to do with little gardeners this summer in your 2021 garden.
March 16, 1851
And today is the birthday of the Dutch microbiologist and botanist Martinus Beijerinck ("By-a-rink”).
Now Martinus was a very smart man - a very brilliant botanist - and he was searching for the reason that tobacco plants were dying. And to do his research, Martin ground up some diseased tobacco leaves, and then he pressed the juices through a bacteria filter.
And you can imagine his surprise when the filtered, bacteria-free liquid still spread the disease. It was only after reviewing his experiment that Martinus correctly deduced that a microorganism smaller than a bacteria was causing the problem, and he called this very little thing a virus, which is the Latin word for poison.
Now before 2019, two of the most common viruses in humans were the flu and the common cold. But today, of course, there's only one virus on all of our minds, and that is the Coronavirus or COVID 19.
But, you know, plants suffer from viruses as well. And here's a top 10 list voted on by plant virologists associated with molecular plant pathology:
- Tobacco mosaic virus (TMV)
- Tomato spotted wilt virus (TSWV)
- Tomato yellow leaf curl virus (TYLCV)
- Cucumber mosaic virus (CMV
- Potato virus Y (PVY)
- Cauliflower mosaic virus (CaMV)
- African cassava mosaic virus (ACMV)
- Plum pox virus (PPV)
- Brome mosaic virus (BMV)
- Potato virus X (PVX)
When the London Blitz began in September of 1940, she continued to struggle up to London on erratic trains to the shop where a skeleton staff kept the show going. She feared people would think her crazy to keep a flower shop open during a war. Was it frivolously unpatriotic? The city was heavily hit by bombs, and she arrived one morning to find a near miss had shattered the glass, and the shop floor was under water from the firemen's hoses.
The whole place was in a dim half-light because of the broken and boarded up windows [she wrote]. A customer came in early for flowers, and because of the friendliness, which was one of the features of those times, everyone gathered around to talk. As she left, we thanked her and apologized for so much confusion; she gave an indifferent glance at the mess around her and a smiling down at the flowers she carried, and she remarked that in her view, flowers made one feel normal.
— Sue Shepherd, The Surprising Life of Constance Spry, Chapter: The Spry Wartime Household
Grow That Garden Library
This book came out in 2020, and the subtitle is A Hundred Lessons From the World's Finest Designers on the Art of the Garden.
This book is absolutely fantastic. In fact, last night, I shared a video that I found on YouTube, where Carl is introducing the topics that he describes in his fabulous book. And this book is the perfect follow-up to Carl's other book, Interior Design Masterclass. In this book. Carl continues to do what he does so very well: curating a hundred landscape architects and garden designers to have them share their own answers to top gardening questions. And every single response is illustrated with photographs from each designer's work, which is what makes this book so very special.
And I love compilation books like this because it's so very rare to have someone like Carl who has that breadth of garden design knowledge. This book is truly a classic in the making.
This book is 288 pages of thoughtful yet masterful teachings from the experts, and they're sure to inspire all gardeners regardless of experience.
Today’s Botanic Spark
Reviving the little botanic spark in your heart
March 16, 1927
It was on this day that a woman named Nelva Weber wrote a letter to the editor of The Pantograph - the newspaper out of Bloomington, Illinois. Here's what she wrote.
Before the winter snow has left the pine-clad New England slopes, one may find that tiny harbinger of spring, the Trailing Arbutus. This little flower has a rosy, wax blossom, and a long trailing stem, and weathered leaves.
Whittier was a lover of this little flower, and it was he who wrote,
Creeps the Trailing Arbutus over hillock and hollow,
Through leafage whose greenness and glory are fled.
And an interesting Indian legend is told about this flower. It was said that the warrior who wore a wreath of perfect Arbutus leaves would never be defeated nor suffer death.
Winona, the beautiful Indian maiden, found a spray of perfect leaves, and she wove them into a wreath for her father. He was successful in combat. But when his daughter eloped with a warrior from another tribe, he was overcome with grief. His tears fell upon the Arbutus leaves and weathered them. After that, no perfect leaves were to be found.
Now Winona wished to find a wreath of perfect leaves for her husband. And they wandered hand in hand in search of the leaves. But instead of perfect leaves, they found the charm of love and perfect happiness.
And we who travel life's pathway are in search of our own metaphorical wreath of flawless Arbutus leaves. And, of course, we search in vain. We do not find our perfect spray of Arbutus in this life. But if we are kind and thoughtful of others along every step of our journey, we shall receive the charm of love and happiness as a reward for our search.
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