Hi there, and Welcome to the Daily Gardener - a show about gardening, botanical history, and literature.
Today we celebrate the man who is remembered with the much-loved Zinnia
We'll also learn about the California Poppy and California Poppy Day, which is celebrated today.
We hear one of my favorite passages about springtime.
We Grow That Garden Library™ with a lovely book about Orchids - that’s sure to bring a smile.
And then we’ll wrap things up with the story of a wonderful botanist who did tremendous work in the Southern part of the United States, and he is remembered fondly still today.
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April 6, 1759
Today is the anniversary of the death of Johann Zinn, who died young at the age of 32.
Johann accomplished much in his short life, and he focused on two seemingly disconnected areas of science: human anatomy and botany.
From an anatomy standpoint, Johann focused on the eye. He wrote an eye anatomy book and became the first person to describe the Iris. Today, several parts of the eye are named in Johann’s honor, including the Zinn zonule, the Zinn membrane, and the Zinn artery.
As a young man, Johann was appointed the University Botanic Garden director in Göttingen (pronounced "Gert-ing-en"). He initially thought the University wanted him to teach anatomy, but that job was filled, so he took the botany job instead.
One day, Johann received an envelope of seeds from the German Ambassador to Mexico. After growing the plants, Johann wrote about them, drew the blossoms, and shared the seed with other botanists throughout Europe.
Like most botanists in the 1700s, Johann corresponded with Linnaeus. Johann’s reputation as a bright, young garden Director - and the fact that he tragically died young from tuberculosis - spurred Linnaeus to name the flower the Zinnia in his honor.
Zinnia’s are a favorite flower of gardeners and for good reasons. They come in a variety of vivid colors. They can be directly sown into the garden, and they attract pollinators like butterflies. And they couldn't be easier to grow.
Still, the early history of the flower tells a different story. One of the first peoples to see the Zinnia was the Aztecs. Now the Aztecs had a word for Zinnia, which basically translates to “the evil eye” or “eyesore.” It turns out that the unhybridized native version of the zinnia was somewhat weedy-looking with an uninspired, dull purple blossom. This is why the blossom was initially called the crassina, which means "somewhat corse" before Linnaeus changed the name to Zinnia.
It wasn’t until the French began hybridizing Zinnias that they transformed into the dazzling versions that win gardener’s hearts today. This gradual transformation of zinnias from eyesores to beauties is how Zinnias earned the common name Cinderella Flower.
And here's a little factoid: the Zinnia is Indiana's state flower.
April 6, 2010
Every year since 2010, April 6 is California Poppy Day celebrating the California State Flower.
Back in 1903, the botanist Sara Plummer Lemmon created legislation to make the golden poppy (Eschscholzia californica) the state flower of California.
The botanical name Eschscholzia comes from a last name. In 1817, a Russian expedition hired a doctor named Johann Friedrich von Eschscholtz. When the ship ended up in the San Francisco Bay, the crew’s botanist, Adelbert von Chamisso ("Sha-ME-So"), went out and explored the countryside around the Bay. He soon discovered the California poppy and named it Eschscholzia californica after his friend, Eschscholtz - the ship’s doctor.
Today on Poppy Day, Californians often celebrate by visiting bloom sites in the mountains.
Native to the United States and Mexico, the California Poppy is also known as the flame flower, la amapola (“la ah-ma-POH-la”), and copa de oro (“co-pa-day OR-oh”) (cup of gold).
Spaniards called the poppies Dormidera (“dor-ME-dair-ah”), meaning “sleepyhead” because the flowers close at the slightest change in light or even climate - the petals close every evening, on cloudy days, or even on windy days.
Today, April 6th, is California Poppy Day, and May 13th - 18th is Poppy Week.
The seasons, like greater tides, ebb and flow across the continents. Spring advances up the United States at the average rate of about fifteen miles a day. It ascends mountainsides at the rate of about a hundred feet a day. It sweeps ahead like a flood of water, racing down the long valleys, creeping up hillsides in a rising tide. Most of us, like the man who lives on the bank of a river and watches the stream flow by, see only one phase of the movement of spring. Each year the season advances toward us out of the south, sweeps around us, goes flooding away to the north.
— Edwin Way Teale, naturalist and author, North With the Spring
Grow That Garden Library
This book came out in 2019, and the subtitle is Help it Flower, Watch it Flourish.
Sarah was eminently qualified to write this book. She runs a top orchid nursery in Britain, She's helped write many Orchid books, and she's served as an orchid judge for the Royal Horticultural Society. And the list of her honors is long and impressive - especially when it comes to orchids.
As Sarah makes abundantly clear, orchids are survivors. Thriving where other plants would never make it, orchids have proven adaptable and make their home on trees, rocks, and other surfaces in all kinds of growing conditions.
With Sarah's help, you learn how to grow strong and healthy orchids. And happy orchids are healthy orchids. Watering and feeding the right way is what encourages the Orchid to flower.
Sarah's book is beautifully designed and offers clear instructions for anyone with a passion for growing orchids.
This book is 144 pages of orchid-growing goodness guided by an orchid expert.
Today’s Botanic Spark
Reviving the little botanic spark in your heart
April 6, 1899
Today is the anniversary of the death of the botanist and doctor Alvan Wentworth Chapman.
Alvan spent the last fifty years of his life in Apalachicola, in territorial Florida. Alvan adored botany and devoted all of his spare time to it - even writing a Flora of the Southern United States in 1860.
Alvan’s Apalachicola home was located at the mouth of the Chattahoochee River in Florida. It was here that Alvan’s friend, Hardy Bryan Croom, discovered the rare cedar known as the Torreya tree - This part of Florida is significant because it is one of only a handful of places in the world where the Torreya tree can be found.
Sadly, Hardy did not name the tree in Chapman’s honor - that distinction went to the great botanist, John Torrey.
Alvan was good friends with another notable Apalachicola doctor named John Gorrie. Gorrie invented the ice-making machine and is regarded as the father of air conditioning.
As for Alvan, he enjoyed his life as a doctor, but in his heart, he was truly a botanist.
Alvan once wrote to John Torrey about the difference between a botanist in the field versus a city botanist who never left the laboratory, writing,
“Your city botanists with polished boots, who rolled to your favorite haunts in steamboats [and] cars, have but a faint idea of the figure a Florida botanist cuts in these wild woods.”
Alvan also regularly wrote to Harvard’s Asa Gray. In one letter, he wrote,
“If [you are] really anxious to make discoveries… buckle on [your] knapsack and make the tour of Florida.”
Alvan was very healthy all his life - his only struggle was increased hearing loss as he grew older. Accounts of Alvan’s adventures say he enjoyed botanizing until he died on this day in 1899 at 90.
Seven years earlier, when Alvan was 83, one of his specimen labels shared that he had trekked thirteen miles to find the rare plant.
Four years later, when he was 87, one of his botanical companions observed that Alvan could handle traversing the swamps along the Apalachicola river better than botanists half his age.
The genus Chapmania honors Alvan - as does the Chapman oak (native to the Florida scrub) and the rare Chapman Rhododendron.
Back in the 1960s, there was an effort to adorn Chapman’s grave at the historic Chestnut Street Cemetery with the Chapman Rhododendron - but that never materialized, and his grave remains unadorned.
Toward the end of his life, Alvan reflected on his indifference to naming plants, writing,
“Even if I were not at the end of my work, I… prefer someone else to name [the plants]. I never did care to name species, and so many others do."
On November 6, 2020, during the first year of the Covid-19 pandemic, the Chapman Botanical Garden in Apalachicola held a plaque dedication ceremony to honor Alvan.
The plaque contains a quote from a young friend and writer, Carrie Winifred Kimball, who wrote this passage for Alvan’s obituary,
“The passing of Dr. Chapman is to this community like the fall of a mighty oak which leaves the landscape desolate.”
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