March 18, 2021 The Chrysanthemum Comeback, Johnny Appleseed, Percy Thrower, The Left Hand of Nature, Garden Design Workbook by John Brookes, Harriet Barnes Pratt and Gardens on Parade

Show Notes

Today we celebrate the birthday of a man many of us have heard about, but the details of his life story are even more compelling than the legend that is part of his legacy.

We'll also learn about a gardener and broadcaster who was beloved by millions and who started off his lifelong career as a gardener at Windsor Castle.

We hear an excerpt today from one of my favorite meditation books on nature.

We Grow That Garden Library™ with an oldy but goody - a classic workbook on garden design.

And then we’ll wrap things up with the story of a philanthropic gardener who left a mark with her garden, her work at the New York Botanical Garden (NYBG), and the 1939 World’s Fair.



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Sarah Raven on Why the Chrysanthemum is Having a Comeback | Home & Garden | Sarah Raven


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Important Events

March 18, 1845
Today is the anniversary of the death of John Chapman - better known as Johnny Appleseed - who died on this day at the age of 70.

Johnny was born in Massachusetts. In fact, the street where he was born is now called Johnny Appleseed Lane. As a young man, Johnny became an apprentice to an orchardist named Crawford.

Now the image that most of us have is of Johnny traipsing through the country; planting one apple tree at a time is off-base.

That's not actually how things went for Johnny.  

Johnny actually traipsed through the country planting entire apple orchards. And then, after he planted an orchard, he would protect the grove by building a fence around it. And then, he'd arrange a deal with a neighboring farmer to sell trees from the orchard in exchange for shares. It was a genius setup.

And every time I think of a community garden or hear about a school or a city that rejects a community garden, I always think of Johnny's ingenuity.  Why? Because Johnny knew how to overcome the oft-cited objection of who's going to take care of this garden-  and he incentivized people to do just that.

Now during his life, Johnny had a particular high regard for, and relationship with, Native Americans who regarded Johnny as a medicine man.

At the same time, Johnny wanted early American settlers to succeed. In fact, Johnny often acted as a one-man welcome wagon. He'd often show up at the door of a family who had just settled in the area, and he'd give them a gift of herbs as a welcoming gesture.

And most people are surprised to learn that Johnny was an expert in more plants than just apple trees. In fact, Johnny was one of our country's first naturalists and herbalists.

And Johnny regularly used many herbs for healing. Such as Catnip, Whore-Hound, Penny Royal, Rattlesnake Weed, and Dog Fennel. In fact, Dog Fennel (Eupatorium) was also called "Johnny weed"  because Johnny planted it, believing it was antimalarial.

Whenever I hear the word Eupatorium, I always think of Joe-Pye Weed, a plant that is closely related to Eupatorium or Dog Fennel. And like the Dog Fennel. It is a prolific spreader in the garden. Unfortunately, Dog Fennel is not something you want in your garden as it is a noxious weed.

Toda,y the Johnny Appleseed Center is located on Urbana University's campus in Urbana, Ohio, and it holds the most extensive collection of memorabilia and information on Johnny Appleseed. In 1999, seedlings from the last-known surviving Johnny Appleseed tree were transplanted into the courtyard around the museum.  

Now I thought I would end this little segment on Johnny Appleseed by sharing some fun Apple facts with you.

First, the crab apple is the only apple that's actually native to North America.

A medium apple is about 80 calories, and apples are fat, sodium and cholesterol-free.

And the old saying, “An apple a day keeps the doctor away,” is actually from an old English adage that went like this:

“To eat an apple before going to bed,
we'll make the doctor beg for his bread.”

Apples are members of the Rose family, and the science of apple-growing is called pomology.

And apples come in all shades of reds, greens, and yellows.

Now in terms of photosynthesis, it takes the energy of fifty leaves to produce a single apple.

And back in 1647, America's longest-lived apple tree was planted by Peter Stuyvesant in his Manhattan orchard. It was still bearing fruit when a derailed train struck it in 1866.

And finally, here's my favorite little-known fact about apples. In colonial times, an apple was known by two charming common names: the winter banana and melt-in-the-mouth.


March 18, 1988
And today is the anniversary of the death of the British Gardner broadcaster and writer, Percy Thrower.

As a young boy, Percy wanted to grow up to be a head gardener - just like his father. After spending his entire childhood learning from his dad, he became a journeyman gardener at Windsor Castle at the age of 18. Along with 20 other gardeners. Percy worked at Windsor for five years, and he eventually married the daughter of the head gardener, Charles Cook.  

By the time Percy and Connie Cook were married, he worked for Queen Mary as the head gardener at Sandringham. In honor of his wedding, Queen Mary gifted the couple a beautiful set of china.

During World War II, Percy became a major voice for the “Dig for Victory” campaign. Additionally, Percy put on educational seminars at the local parks, and he spent hours working as a volunteer.

And in 1946, at the tender age of 32, he was made the Park Superintendent of Shrewsbury. This was a watershed event; Percy was the youngest Park Superintendent in the history of England.

Percy’s job as superintendent was very big. Percy had a staff of about 35 gardeners to manage. And while most people thought he would stay in position for only about four or five years, he actually ended up holding this post for almost thirty years.

It was during his time at Shrewsbury that he made his very first television appearance. Of course, during the episode, he featured his garden. This appearance led to a long career in television and broadcasting for Percy. In fact, the great Alan Titchmarsh credits Percy with inspiring him to pursue gardening.

Sadly toward the end of Percy's career, he was dropped by the BBC after agreeing to do some commercials for a group called Plant Protection. The move marked a milestone for Percy, and it was bittersweet. Percy later recalled that his deal with Plant Protection was the best contract he'd ever signed.

Toward the end of his life, Percy began taking people on tours of European gardens. He even established the Percy Thrower Floral Tours company. When he wasn't taking people on trips to Europe, he spent his weekends showing people English gardens. On one of these trips, Percy's health took a turn for the worse, and he was diagnosed with Hodgkin's disease. He made his final recording from the hospital a week before he died on this day, March 18th, 1988.

And I thought you'd enjoy hearing the one little story that I came across in researching Percy's life. When he was first working at Windsor Castle, he found 50 old fuchsias in the greenhouses. Seeing those established fuchsias gave him an idea, and he decided to propagate them -  taking cuttings from the first rootings, and then he began to even root side shoots. Well, the net-result was Percy had over 5,000 new fuchsias to plant around Windsor Castle. And I bet that was something to see.


Unearthed Words

The word nature comes down to us from the Latin natura. It is derived from natus, “birth,” and in its original usage, it simply meant physical kinship — the innate characteristics and traits shared among family members as a result of their common genetic heritage. We use this sense of the word today when we refer to “human nature” or to the “nature of things.” But natura was also used in Latin to differentiate the natural world — the world of born — from the manufactured world — the world of made — and it is the twist we have given to this alternative meaning that has gotten us into trouble. For the Romans, the second meaning was a logical extension of the first... For us, it has become a separation between two radically different types of reality, the works of God on one hand and the works of technology on the other. We look at our cities and our automobiles and our computers and our TV dinners and think we have created something.  We have not. All we have done is used pre-created rules to put pre-created things together in new ways.
— William Ashworth, The Left Hand of Eden, (From the prologue)


Grow That Garden Library

Garden Design Workbook by John Brookes

This book came out in 1994, and the subtitle is A Practical Step-by-Step Course.

Well, this book is a garden classic. It's an oldie, but goodie. And if you're just starting out in garden design. This is really a book that you should have.

John is really a master designer. And in his book, he includes many helpful hints and instructions for creating practical designs for your own garden.

Back in the early 2000s, I first bought this book when I became interested in landscape design - so my copy is dog-eared and all marked up. And it's a little bit of a trip down memory lane when I flipped through the pages.

This book is 72 pages of learning how to design a garden, including learning how to draw a garden and learning the basic principles of structure. If you want to learn how to draw designs for your garden, then John's book is exactly what you're looking for.

You can get a copy of Garden Design Workbook by John Brookes and support the show using the Amazon Link in today's Show Notes for around $1.25


Today’s Botanic Spark

Reviving the little botanic spark in your heart

It was on this day, March 18th in 1969, that the philanthropist and gardener Harriet Barnes Pratt died.

Harriet had married Charles Pratt, the son of the Pratt Institute's founder and a founder of Standard Oil, which became Exxon.

Now Harriet and Charles had a beautiful estate in Glen Cove, Long Island.

During their free time, the two worked together to install and design their gardens. Charles would site the locations, and Harriet would design the gardens and select the plants.

The Pratts called their garden Welwyn, and it was important to them to have continuous bloom throughout the growing season. In this regard, they often referenced something that Sir Francis Bacon had said,

“There ought to be gardens for all the months of the year.”

Harriet did tremendous work with the New York Botanical Garden throughout her life, and she spearheaded many initiatives - like a beautiful flower show in the museum building back in 1915.

But in terms of her horticultural achievements, Harriet is remembered for coming up with the idea for Gardens on Parade - a half-acre, stunning display for the 1939 World's Fair.

In addition to pulling together the fifty gardens that made up Gardens on Parade, Harriet led the effort to secure funding for this magnificent exhibition.

Now in today's show notes and over on the Facebook group for the show, I've included a link to a website that includes many, many photos of Harriet's beautiful Gardens on Parade, which was described in the Herald Tribune at the time as the most stupendous, most magnificent, most gorgeous exhibition of flowers, shrubs, and other horticultural beauties ever assembled.

And today, there are many wonderful quotes from people who had the honor and the privilege of viewing Harriet's Gardens on Parade. One person raved,

“I visited the Gardens on Parade at the New York World's Fair this morning. They are delightful. Mrs. Harold Pratt and all the other ladies connected with the gardens were very charming. And they sent me away with a sweet little corsage of carnations, which gave off the most delicate perfume all the way back to Washington.”


Thanks for listening to The Daily Gardener.
And remember:

"For a happy, healthy life, garden every day."

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