April 9, 2021 Derek Jarman on Gardening, Joseph Trimble Rothrock, Phoebe Lankester, E. J. Scovell, How to Houseplant by Heather Rodino, and Sidewalk Chalk Tree Labels

Show Notes

Today we celebrate a botanist remembered as the Father of Forestry.

We'll also learn about a 19th-century female garden writer who loved wildflowers.

We’ll recognize the broadcasting Anniversary of a popular Garden television program.

We hear words from a poet admired by Vita Sackville West, and the poem compares the iris and the tulip.

We Grow That Garden Library™ with a book about Houseplants and how to keep them happy and healthy.  

And then we’ll wrap things up with a story about sidewalk chalk labeling of neighborhood trees that caused a sensation on Twitter last year on this day,



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Important Events

April 9, 1839
Today is the birthday of the American environmentalist and botanist Joseph Trimble Rothrock.

Plagued by sickness as a child, Joseph felt called by the great outdoors,

“I just had to go to the woods. Throughout my entire life, I have sought the out of doors as a refuge against impending physical ills."

One of Joseph’s first jobs was working in the private herbarium of Asa Gray at Harvard, where he was studying natural sciences. He also befriended his geology professor Louis Agassiz, whose motto was, “study nature, not books.”

After leaving Harvard to fight in the Civil War, Joseph sustained wounds at Fredricksburg in Burnside's fight. Later, at an army hospital, he shook hands with President Lincoln.

Later in his life, someone took a photograph of Joseph and labeled it “The old white pine and the Father of Forestry.” In the photo, Joseph stands in front of a giant white pine. He has a long white beard and a kind expression, and his right-hand holds a walking stick. The photo notes say that his right little finger was amputated at Fredericksburg.

After recovering from his injuries, Joseph was planning to resume his studies at Harvard. But when he learned that his professors - including Asa Gray - were planning to serve in the war, Joseph took Professor Gray’s place and served another three months in the Civil War.

Joseph went on to teach botany, become a surgeon, go on expeditions, and write a Flora of Alaska.

After becoming a Michaux Lecturer on Forestry, Joseph took a nine-month sabbatical to study under renowned botanist Anton Debary at the University of Strasbourg in Germany.  

By 1893, Joseph was back in the States, and he began to investigate the challenges that logging posed to Pennsylvania’s forests (or "Penn's Woods,” as he called them). During this time, destructive forest fires were all too common, and long before “Smokey the Bear,” Joseph lead the effort to prevent forest fires. Joseph observed that,

“Almost every forest fire is the result of ignorance, carelessness, or crime…”

In addition to educating people about forest fires, Joseph took a stance against deforestation. He also educated the public on tree propagation and forest restoration.

In 1901, after battling farmers and timber barons, Joseph reflected,

“Twenty years ago I began agitation upon the forestry question, I have kept at it ever since; […] you have no idea of the amount of work it requires to change a generation from tree destroyers to tree restorers; it is something akin to a second birth.”

Today, Joseph Trimble Rothrock is remembered by the Rothrock State Forest in Pennsylvania, and every year his birthday - April 9th - Pennsylvania schools recognize Arbor Day.


April 9, 1900
Today is the anniversary of the death of the British botanist, author, pragmatist, and survivor, Phoebe Lankester.

Phoebe’s birthday is tomorrow. Born in 1825 as Phoebe Pope, she married the naturalist Edwin Lankester- who was a coroner and medical reformer. Together, they had eleven children. When Phoebe was 49, Edwin died; she had to keep producing work to take care of herself and her family.

Phoebe wrote under several pseudonyms. Her books were published under the name Mrs. Lankester. And for twenty years, she also wrote a syndicated column under the name “Penelope.” Her work appealed to the masses; she wrote in a friendly and conversational voice. And, she wrote about what she knew: plants, educating children about health, and being financially savvy.  Her book topics range from A Plain and Easy Account of the British Ferns(1859) to The National Thrift Reader(1880).

It was the widowed Phoebe Lankester who said,

“Often, the most thrifty persons are the most generous because they can afford to be so.”

Phoebe often partnered with illustrator James Sowerby and other Sowerby family members for illustrations in her books. For instance, Phoebe worked with James on 108 colored figures from drawings for a sweet, little book called Wild Flowers Worth Notice.

An advertisement for the book in 1861 shared her charming preface, "what flowers are not worth notice?” Reviews were positive, and Phoebe’s plant profiles were "the special delight of flower-gatherers” and included “the sun-dew, the mistletoe, the bog pimpernel, the grass of Parnassus, flax, white water-lily, fly orchis, milk-wort, and germander speedwell, etc.”

In addition to sharing her favorite plants, Phoebe included folklore, quotes, poems, along general Information.  


April 9, 1947
On this day, the first episode of Gardeners Question Time was broadcast from the Broadoak Hotel in the 'singing room' on April 9th, 1947.

The program is still broadcast today to millions of listeners and has answered over 35000 questions to date.

Originally named "How Does Your Garden Grow?" the program was an offshoot of the wartime Dig for Victory campaign. Over the years, the panel of experts has changed, but as they told the audience at their 40th-anniversary episode,

“Times change, so do people - but gardening goes on forever.”


Unearthed Words

Today's words come to us from the English poet, EJ Scoville whose birth name was Edith joy.

The great gardener and garden writer, Vita Sackville West, was a massive fan of her work.

Today's poem is called the deaths of flowers. And in this poem, EJ compares. the Iris and the Tulip - and how the flowers age and die.

I would if I could choose
Age and die outwards as a tulip does;
Not as this iris drawing in, in-coiling
Its complex, strange taut inflorescence, willing
Itself a bud again - though all achieved is
No more than a clenched sadness,

The tears of gum not flowing.
I would choose the tulip’s reckless way of going;
Whose petals answer light, altering by fractions
From closed to wide, from one through many perfections,
Til wrecked, flamboyant, strayed beyond recall,
Like flakes of fire, they piecemeal fall.
— E. J. Scovell (Edith Joy), English poet, Deaths Of Flowers


Grow That Garden Library

How to Houseplant by Heather Rodino

This book came out in 2019, and the subtitle is A Beginner’s Guide to Making and Keeping Plant Friends.

In this book, Heather covers all the bases for general houseplant care like lighting, watering, humidity, soil, repotting, and propagation. She also covers plant shopping and plant grooming.

Next, Heather details her top fifty houseplants and provides a detailed profile for each of them. Heather’s profiles include the Boston fern, the fiddle-leaf fig, the Chinese Evergreen, the Meyer Lemon Tree, the Nerve Plant, and the ZZ Plant, just to name a few.

Heather aims to help houseplant owners to feel more confident as they grow their plant collections. She even includes tips and lists for pet-friendly plants and even a top-five plant list for frequent travelers.

This book is 192 pages of houseplant basics along with favorite plants that you should consider adding to your collection.

You can get a copy of How to Houseplant by Heather Rodino and support the show using the Amazon Link in today's Show Notes for around $8


Today’s Botanic Spark

Reviving the little botanic spark in your heart

April 9, 2020
Last year, in the early days of the worldwide lockdown due to Covid-19, an English arborist started adding a charming touch to her neighborhood by labeling local trees with sidewalk chalk.

This story started gaining traction when Elizabeth Archer tweeted,

“To whomever is chalking names and descriptions of trees on the pavements across Walthamstow. I love you. This made my heart sing today.”

Over 120,000 people from all over the world liked Elizabeth’s tweet, which included two pictures that showed a label for a London Plane tree (European Sycamore) (Platanus acerifolia) which included the little snippet,

My favorite! Takes pollution out of the air.

The next picture showed a tree labeled,

Sycamore (Platanus spp.) - a real survivor. Grows anywhere!

The next day, Elizabeth posted,

Just to let you all know, I found her. (In about 10 minutes - because Walthamstow people are wonderful) it's the brilliant @curiouswilds !!!

@Curiouswilds happens to be Rachel Summers, who runs the Curious Wilds Forest School - a place to explore, connect, and have fun with nature, embracing local urban wild spaces.

A level 3 qualified Forest School practitioner and trainee level 4 Forest School trainer, Rachel was originally a primary school teacher before discovering the joy of learning outdoors. And as Rachel likes to say,

“Her hands are never quite mud-free.”


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