Today we celebrate a writer and avid gardener who, as an adult, gardened beside her mother for decades.
We'll also learn about a botanist and prolific plant collector who traveled along with her minister husband as he worked in the Philippines.
We hear some thoughts about how quickly spring goes by.
We Grow That Garden Library™ with a book about Sir Joseph Dalton Hooker.
And then we’ll wrap things up with International Plant Appreciation Day.
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April 13, 1909
Today is the birthday of the Pulitzer Prize-winning author American short story writer and novelist Eudora Welty.
An avid gardener, Eudora was inspired by nature, and her writing includes references to over 150 different plants. And Eudora’s garden writing is a delight.
In her book, Losing Battles, she wrote,
“…as Lady May gazed at him, her eyes opened all the way like vinca flowers at midday…”
In a 1972 interview with The Washington Post about the plant explorers who go to Nepal and Sikkim risking their lives to introduce Alpine flowers to gardens, Eudora said,
"Now that's something - discovering new primroses - that's worth taking trouble with, worth risking something for.”
Today Eudora Welty’s home and garden in Jackson, Mississippi, offers guided tours and interpretive museum exhibits.
The historic botanical garden was designed by Eudora’s mother, Chestina Welty, in 1925. For two decades, Eudora and her mother worked together in the garden. Today the garden is tended by volunteers who call themselves “The Cereus Weeders” - a reference to a favorite Welty plant: the night-blooming cereus. When it was blooming, Eudora would hold dusk to dawn parties in honor of the bloom.
It was Eudora Welty who wrote,
“Gardening is akin to writing stories. No experience could have taught me more about grief or flowers, about achieving survival by going, your fingers in the ground, the limit of physical exhaustion.”
April 13, 1968
Today is the anniversary of the death of the botanist and prolific plant collector Mary Strong Clemens.
When she was 19 years old, she married a minister named Joseph Clemens. Joseph was a chaplain in the United States Army, and he served in the Philippines and later in France - during World War I.
Mary was a maniacal plant collector, and wherever Joseph was stationed, she would collect plants. A faithful pastor’s wife, sometimes Mary, would offer lessons on biblical scripture or sing hymns in exchange for lodging. The years spent in the Philippines were particularly productive for Mary.
When Joseph retired, he became Mary’s assistant, and they worked together as a team. They had a system worked out; Mary collected the plants, and Joseph processed them - he dried them and then boxed them up for shipping.
Joseph and Mary traveled the world together. They spent time in Asia between the first and second world wars. And by 1935, they found themselves in New Guinea. One evening, Joseph ate some food that was contaminated by wild boar meat. The food poisoning was too much for his system, and he died on January 21st, 1936.
This past year, the New Zealander citizen scientist, Siobhan Leachman (pronounced “Sha-vonne”), tweeted that she'd stumbled on the specimen of a tree that Mary had collected six days after her husband died. In the lower left-hand corner of the specimen sheet is a label titled Flora of New Guinea. Mary labeled it M. clemensiae. There, in her own handwriting, Mary wrote:
“It was under this tree that my soul companion for over 40 years of wedded life bade me farewell for the higher life.”
In our part of the country, spring passes quickly.
If you haven't been out for five days, you find the trees in bud.
If you don't see the trees for another five days, you discover that they've put out leaves.
In another five days, they're so green you wouldn't recognize them.
It makes you wonder: Can these be the same trees I saw a few days before?
And you answer yourself: Of course they are.
That's how fast spring goes by.
You can almost see it.
From far away, it comes racing toward you.
And when it reaches you, it whispers in your ear, 'I'm here,' and then runs swiftly on.
― Xiao Hong, Selected Stories Of Xiao Hong
Grow That Garden Library
This book came out in 2010, and the subtitle is Joseph Hooker and the Practices of Victorian Science.
In this book, Jim provides a fantastic overview of a man he believes was the perfect embodiment of Victorian science. The Victorian era of science was marked by significant shifts in empire, professionalism, and philosophical practices.
An early believer in the work of his dear friend, Charles Darwin, Sir Joseph Dalton Hooker was a pioneer as a successful full-time scientist. Joseph was instrumental in getting Darwin's work published and publicized.
Joseph was an explorer, President of the Royal Society, and director of the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew.
In his position, Joseph masterfully coordinated and orchestrated the botanic gardens of the world. To Joseph, the botanic gardens were essentially laboratories to enhance the world's economy and promote trade. In 1877, Joseph was knighted for scientific services to the British Empire.
This book is 429 pages of the life of the brilliant pioneer and concise botanist Joseph Dalton Hooker.
Today’s Botanic Spark
Reviving the little botanic spark in your heart
Today, April 13th is a special day for gardeners - it’s International Plant Appreciation Day.
The therapeutic value of plants has been the subject of countless studies. The famous doctor, writer, and garden-lover, Oliver Sacks wrote,
“In 40 years of medical practice, I have found only two types of non-pharmaceutical ‘therapy’ to be vitally important for patients with chronic neurological diseases: music and gardens.”
Oliver practiced medicine across from the New York Botanical Garden (NYBG). He would often take his breaks in the garden. He reflected,
"When I worked at the hospital opposite the garden, I used to come in every day. Specifically, I would come in after seeing my patients but before writing up my notes. And, I would walk around the garden and put everything out of consciousness except the plants and the air.
But, by the time I got back, the patient's story would have crystallized in my mind [and then] I could then write it straight away. But I needed this sort of incubation in the garden and to go for a walk in the garden; that sort of thing is an essential thing for me in writing.
I think nature has a healing effect; the garden is the closest one can come to nature... and whenever people come to New York from out of town or out of the country, I say let's go to the garden. I would like to quote a couple of lines from a TS Eliot poem:
Oh, do not ask, 'What is it?' Let us go and make our visit."
Thanks for listening to The Daily Gardener.
"For a happy, healthy life, garden every day."
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