Today we celebrate a remarkable English naturalist and artist.
We'll also learn about the man known as the Rocky Mountain botanist.
We hear a journal entry about bloodroot.
We Grow That Garden Library™ with a book about place and how location, location, location is just as important to gardens as it is to real estate.
And then we’ll wrap things up with the story of a Landscape Gardener that broke away from the style used by his mentor Capability Brown - and he even coined the term “Landscape Gardener.”
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March 24, 1682
Today is the baptism day of the little-known English naturalist, adventurer, explorer, and artist. Mark Catesby - his exact birthdate has been lost to time.
Way back when the United States was a British colony, Mark made two trips to the new world. On his second trip, he traveled to the southeastern part of the country. He was around 30 years old, in the prime of his life, and he thoroughly explored and documented everything he saw in nature in the new world.
After returning to England, Mark published his masterpiece, the very first account of flora and fauna of North America in two large folios called The Natural History of Carolina, Florida, and the Bahama Islands.
Published in French and English, Mark’s magnificent book gave Europeans a glimpse at the magnificent biodiversity across the pond. Mark was unique in that he not only wrote the text, but he also created the masterful illustrations and etchings, which are outstanding. Mark talked about the Carolina climate, soil, water, and crops that were grown. Mark also displayed birds and plants together - in their native habitat; that was another unique aspect of his work.
Mark also painted living subjects - he didn’t kill them as Audobon did before painting his subjects. This also meant that Mark’s depictions were more lifelike.
Now the way Mark captured the plants is also fascinating - he drew both the fruit and the flower of the plant in a single image.
And when you consider the fact that Mark was creating this incredible artwork paired with the text in two languages - all in an effort to market this content to his audience, Mark Catesby’s genius really becomes apparent.
Like Maria Sybilla Merian, once you’ve seen Mark’s work, you never forget it. There’s a fantastic video that was put together by the University of South Carolina Libraries that’s all about Mark Catesby, and it’s called Curious Like Catesby.
Now it is worth noting that the first plant that Mark dedicated a full page to was the Magnolia, and he also included a full page of text.
March 24, 1859
Today is the birthday of the American botanist, who specialized in the Rocky Mountains, Aven Nelson.
In 1899, Aven led a 14-week botanical expedition through Yellowstone. Aven had hired a student named Leslie Goodding to be the chore boy for $10 per month.
The group assembled at the University of Wyoming, where Nelsen was a new teacher.
Leslie remembered the excitement on campus at the prospect of going on the trek, saying,
“Some three or four months were to be spent in Yellowstone park collecting plants… Many students… were anxious to accompany Dr. Nelson on [the] expedition, and were willing to work for nothing just to see the Park… This was in the days when autos were much like hen's teeth and trips through the Park by stage were expensive.“
(Note: The euphemism “hen's teeth“ refers to something being exceptionally rare; since hens have no teeth, it implies that something is so scarce it is virtually nonexistent. So, during the time of this expedition – no vehicles.)
In addition to Leslie, another botany student named Elias Nelsen, (no relation to Aven), joined the group.
Once, Leslie and Elias had gone collecting near an area called Artist Paint Pots; it's a dangerous area with over 50 springs, geysers, vents, and mud pots. Geothermal features are some of the deadliest natural hazards in Yellowstone, but people often fail to realize that fact.
To this day, park rangers rescue one or two visitors, who fall from boardwalks or wander off designated paths and punch their feet through the thin earthen crust into boiling water.
Yet, drawn by curiosity, Elias ignored the warning signs and went off the path. Suddenly, he found himself with one leg sunk into boiling mud. He managed to free himself, and Aven's wife did what she could with soda and flour to bandage his wounds, and the doc at the nearest town recommended Elias return home for treatment.
DespiteYellowstone's challengese, Aven Nelsen and his team collected roughly 30,000 specimens, although only about 500 species were represented. Aven had purposely gathered 20 -30 duplicates per species because he correctly assumed that institutions and collectors would want specimens from Yellowstone.
Today, Aven is remembered as the Father of Wyoming Botany, but his greatest legacy is the Rocky Mountain Herbarium created from Aven's collection of Yellowstone plants.
I am increasing my knowledge of the subject, especially the seeding of Wild Flowers. Even yesterday, I read that Bloodroot was in danger of extermination through indiscriminate pulling up of the roots for medicinal purposes….
— Charles Joseph Sauriol, Diary, March 24, 1938
Grow That Garden Library
This book came out in 2005. It's one of my favorites because of the author, Page, who is fantastic.
And if you remember I've recommended two books by Page already this year, and her most recent one is the book Uprooted, which is all about Paige settling into her new space, her new garden. So if you're in the process of transitioning from one garden to the next, make sure you check out that book.
But today’s book is obviously an earlier book that Page wrote, and it's all about gardens that are really defined by their place in this world.
So think about environments and how environments really dictate what happens in a garden.
Now what's really cool about this particular book is that we get to tour fourteen incredible gardens that are in the United States - and we get to have Page come along as our tour guide.
So, whether you're talking about a garden on Mount Desert Island, Maine, or a Wisconsin garden, or a garden in California, you get to see all kinds of gardens and all kinds of garden ideas.
And of course. the emphasis here is how the garden relates to and is defined by its location, its environment, its surroundings. This is a wonderful topic.
Another thing that's fantastic about Page’s book is the photography. It's absolutely outstanding as per usual.
This book is 192 pages of incredible garden spaces that are defined by their place on this planet.
Right now used copies of this book go for around $8 and that's an incredible deal because new copies go for around $50. So if you're interested in getting one of those act quickly, because I know there'll be gone, if you wait too long,
Today’s Botanic Spark
Reviving the little botanic spark in your heart
March 24, 1818
Today is the anniversary of the death of the innovative and all-time great landscape gardener Humphry Repton (no ‘e’ in Humphry!).
Humphry was trained and molded by the great Capability Brown. Yet as he matured, Humphry broke out from under his mentor’s shadow and led a transformation of English gardens that was very much a departure from Capability Brown’s formal gardens.
Humphry wanted Landscapes that brought out “the natural beauty” and hid “the natural defects of every situation.”
Humphry designed over 400 gardens, and his picturesque landscapes are known for their gently rolling vistas, attractive clumps of trees, terraces, and homes nestled in amongst shrubs and foliage.
Like many successful modern Landscape Designers, Humphry was a natural marketer of his work. He created red leather portfolios by hand for his clients and his illustrations were pastoral and compelling. By using his red books (as he called them) to showcase his design ideas, Humphry’s clients would see his delightful watercolors depicting the current state of their property, and then they would lift a flap and see what their property would look like after Repton improved it.
Humphry’s before and after red books were impressive works of art. Today, the world is blessed that Humphry’s Red Books have been preserved in public and private collection. Thee gardeners lucky enough to see them - even today - are impressed with his innovative and ingenious use of page flaps showed the before and after effects of his planned design changes.
In addition to the red books, Humphry coined the term Landscape Gardener, and the term was carved into his business cards made from the bark of pine trees. (How clever!) And, if you’ve ever heard of a ha-ha wall - Repton loved to use them. A ha-ha is a sunken fence that is not noticeable until it is reached. Humphry liked them because they didn’t disrupt the Landscape the way a fence would, and so Repton landscapes incorporated ha-has to keep sheep and cattle within limits. good
When Humphry died in 1818, his remains were placed in a rose garden. Humphry personally chose his resting place, and he also wrote his epitaph:
Not like the Egyptian tyrants — consecrate,
Unmixed with others shall my dust remain;
But moldering, blended, melting into earth,
Mine shall give form and color to the rose.
And while its vivid blossoms cheer mankind,
Its perfumed odor shall ascend to Heaven.
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