Today we celebrate one of American’s earliest botanists.
We'll also learn about a fantastic English flower painter who was mentored by Nathaniel Wallich after meeting him in Cape Town - they happened to be staying at the same hotel.
We’ll hear a little poem about budding trees.
We Grow That Garden Library™ with a book getting back to the basics Growing all the food you need with just four hand tools. No-fuss, no-muss.
And then we’ll wrap things up with some fun; it's National Chia day.
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March 23, 1699
Today is the birthday of the one of American’s earliest botanists, horticulturists and explorers: John Bartram.
John founded the first botanical garden in America and Linnaeus called John the "greatest natural botanist in the world." Like many botanists of his time, John was born into a Quaker family on a farm in Pennsylvania.
Here’s how John, who always thought of himself as a farmer first) described the moment he decided to pursue a career in botany:
"One day, I was very busy [ploughing]… and being weary I ran under a tree to repose myself.
I cast my eyes on a daisy; I plucked it mechanically and viewed it with more curiosity than common country farmers are wont to do, and observed ... many distinct parts, some perpendicular, some horizontal.
What a shame/ said my mind, that [you have spent] so many years in tilling the earth and destroying so many flowers and plants without being acquainted with their structures and their uses.
I thought about it continually, at supper, in bed, and wherever I went....
On the fourth day I hired a man to plough for me and went to Philadelphia, though [I didn’t know what to look] for, I ingeniously told the bookseller my errand, who provided me with such as he thought best, and a Latin grammar.
Next I applied to a neighboring schoolmaster, who in three months taught me Latin enough to understand Linnaeus...
Then I began to botanize all over my farm.
In a little time I became acquainted with every vegetable that grew in the neighborhood.
[Over the] years I acquired a pretty general knowledge of every plant and tree to be found on our continent.
In... time I was [contacted by] the old countries, [where] I… sent many collections [every year].”
John regularly corresponded with the top botanists of his day. And, like many of us, he had his preferences when it came to his garden. When he wrote to Philip Miller who was in charge of the Chelsea Physic Garden in England, he indicated his desire for variety in the garden. He said,
"One or two is enough for me of a sort."
Later in the letter, he shared his dislike for plants that weren't hardy in Pennsylvania, saying,
"I don't greatly like tender plants that won't bear our severe winters but perhaps annual plants [reseed] will do with us."
In 2015, John’s garden became an American Society for Horticultural Science (ASHS) Landmark.
The prestigious award was first presented to Monticello, home of President Thomas Jefferson. Other recipients include Longwood Gardens, Missouri Botanical Garden, New York Botanical Garden, Arnold Arboretum, and Fairchild Botanical Garden.
Now you may be wondering how John Bartram’s gardens have managed to stay preserved all these years?
Well, I did too.
It turns out that a man named Andrew McCalla Eastwick (1806-1879) bought the 46-acre Bartram estate from John Bartram’s granddaughter, Ann Bartram Carr. An engineer and the inventor of the steam shovel, Andrew had banked a personal mint after building railroads for Czar Nicholas I of Russia.
Anyway, when he bought the Bartram property, he made extra sure that John’s historic garden was kept intact. He vowed not to harm “one bush” planted by the Bartrams. Andrew even kept the Bartram family homestead as a memorial, building his own mansion beside Bartrams.
For many gardeners, the idea of leaving a much-loved garden is unbearable. But as gardeners we can leave a legacy as well. Planting long-lived perennials like black-eyed susans, hosta, daffodils, peonies, lilacs, russian sage, and daylilies have enormous staying power - and some, like the peony - will likely even outlive us.
March 23, 1817
Today is the birthday of the English flower painter Arabella Elizabeth Roupell.
Arabella joined her husband when he was stationed in South Africa for his work with the East India Company. To occupy herself, Arabella painted the flora and fauna of the Cape. In a complete stroke of luck, the great botanist Nathaniel Wallich happened to be staying the the same hotel in Cape Town. Anyway, Nathaniel sees Arabella’s work and he loves it. The two hit it off and then he introduces Arabella to a couple - Thomas Maclear and his wife Mary. Then the four of them go on botanizing trips together and Arabella and Mary become lifelong friends.
Nathaniel Wallich played a very important role in Arabella’s life. After he retired from the Calcutta botanic garden, he shared her work with William Jackson Hooker - who also fell in love with Arabella’s illustrations. In a849, these two men paved the way for 10 plates of Arabella’s flower paintings which were published in a folio called Specimens of the flora of South Africa by a Lady. Arabella dedicated the work to Nathaniel Wallich saying,
“To Nathaniel Wallich M.D. F.R.S.
Corresponding member of the French Institute
knight of both crosses
of the royal danish order of dannebrog
under whose flattering encouragement
and scientific guidance
this collection of plants
The authoress dedicates
with every feeling of grateful
and affectionate esteem.”
Today Arabella’s book is highly collectible and very difficult to obtain since only around a hundred copies were ever printed.
I love thee when thy swelling buds appear
And one by one their tender leaves unfold,
As if they knew that warmer suns were near,
Nor longer sought to hide from winter's cold.
— Jones Very, American poet, essayist, clergyman, and mystic, The Tree
Grow That Garden Library
This book came out in 2006, and the subtitle is Growing Food in Hard Times.
In this book, Steve shares everything you need to know to get growing organically, such as how to make and tend a garden, start composting, select seeds, and grow whatever your heart desires. Steve provides his hard-won wisdom as a gardener and nurseryman - sharing his own stories of gardening, saving seeds, growing what you like to eat, and paying attention to what grows well in your garden.
This book is 360 pages of solid garden information from a man who writes with humor and wisdom.
Today’s Botanic Spark
Reviving the little botanic spark in your heart
Today is National Chia Day.
This day recognizes the ubiquitous, highly marketed, tiny-yet powerful chia seed - of the most nutrient-rich foods on the planet.
And I know what you’re probably thinking right now - the little earworm we all remember from the 80s: “Ch-ch-ch-chia”
Who knew that those little clay Chia pets would still be top sellers and that the Chia would become known as a superfood. And it’s worth mentioning that every year half a million chia pets are sold as novelties in the United States.
Both the Maya and Aztecs used Chia medicinally and recognized the ability for Chia to heal and provide energy. The etymology of the word "chia" is derived from the Aztec word “chian”, meaning oily
Chia seeds are bland and virtually tasteless, which makes them easy to add to any recipe to add a nutrient boost.
And gardeners might be surprised to know that the Chia seed actually comes from an herb - a Salvia plant (Salvia hispanica L.) This plant was named by Linneaus. Today the Chia seed market is worth $4.7 billion.
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