Today we celebrate a German landscape and flower painter who was forbidden to paint by her father.
We'll also learn about a self-taught botanist who spent nearly a dozen years in the Amazon rainforest.
We hear an excerpt about spring from the man who wrote A Farewell to Arms.
We Grow That Garden Library™ with a book about one of the 19th-century’s top botanical illustrators.
And then we’ll wrap things up with a little story from the 2017 Beijing Crabapple Conference.
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April 14, 1844
Today is the birthday of the German landscape and flower painter Helene Cramer who was born on this day in 1844.
Helen and her sister Molly were both painters in Hamburg, Germany. Their father, Cesar, forbade his daughters to become painters. And so, the two sisters didn’t start painting until middle age. Helen was 38 when she first picked up a brush. Her primary subject with flowers.
After studying with other artists and painters, Helen and Molly exhibited their art throughout Germany and at the 1883 World's Fair in Chicago. Most gardeners say that their favorite painting of Helene’s is her work called "Marsh Marigolds and Crown Imperials."
When Helen died in 1916, she was 72 years old. Both she and her sister are buried in Plot 27 of the "Garten der Frauen," Or the garden of women at the Hamburg Ohlsdorf cemetery.
April 14, 2020
On this day the book, A Naturalist in the Amazon: The Journals & Writings of Henry Walter Bates was published.
Unlike many of his scientist friends and peers, Henry was entirely self-taught.
Early in his career, Henry met the great English naturalist Alfred Russel Wallace. By 1848, Henry and Alfred left England to explore the Amazon Rainforest.
While Henry stayed in the Rainforest for eleven years, Alfred returned to England after four years- though all of Alfred’s specimens and notes were lost at sea on his voyage home. After the ship he was on caught fire and sank, Alfred and the crew were rescued after ten days adrift in the Atlantic.
During his eleven years in the Rainforest in Brazil, Henry collected butterflies, and he sent back a whopping 15,000 insect specimens - with over half of his collection listed as brand new discoveries.
As Henry wrapped up his time in the Rainforest, he had survived both yellow fever and malaria in addition to many other uncomfortable maladies. Toward the end, it’s not surprising to read that Henry had grown weary of the enormous challenges of life as an explorer. He wrote,
“I suffered most inconvenience from the difficulty of getting news from the civilized world down river, from the irregularity of receipt of letters, parcels of books and periodicals, and towards the latter part of my residence from ill-health arising from bad and insufficient food.”
In the end - after a dozen years away from family, friends, and civilization - Henry Bates, the great Naturalist, could not ignore what had been building in his heart: he was lonely. He wrote,
“I was obliged, at last, to come to the conclusion that the contemplation of nature alone is not sufficient to fill the human heart and mind.”
In 2014, Henry’s Amazon notebooks were digitized, and they are now online to view from the Natural History Museum Library.
And in 2018, Henry’s remarkable story was shared in an IMAX film called Amazon Adventure.
“With so many trees in the city, you could see the spring coming each day until a night of warm wind would bring it suddenly in one morning. Sometimes the heavy cold rains would beat it back so that it would seem that it would never come and that you were losing a season out of your life. This was the only truly sad time in Paris because it was unnatural. You expected to be sad in the fall. Part of you died each year when the leaves fell from the trees, and their branches were bare against the wind and the cold, wintry light. But you knew there would always be the spring, as you knew the river would flow again after it was frozen. When the cold rains kept on and killed the spring, it was as though a young person had died for no reason.
In those days, though, the spring always came finally, but it was frightening that it had nearly failed.”
― Ernest Hemingway, A Moveable Feast
Grow That Garden Library
This book came out in 2016, and the subtitle is The Enlightenment's Natural Historian.
In this book, Paul Henderson introduces us to James Sowerby - arguably one of the best botanical illustrators during the mid-18th to mid-19th centuries. One of the reasons James was such a successful artist, was no doubt due to his extremely high intellect. He was also one of the period's most knowledgeable natural historians.
Paul introduces James this way:
“This book is the story of a remarkable man. Unusual and his breath of scientific interest which he applied successfully; unusual in his desire to learn throughout his life and to impart his knowledge widely; unusual and going against the current practices by being at one - at the same time his own researcher, writer, illustrator, teacher, publisher and bookseller; unusual in his considerable output of innovative, high-quality and influential works; and unusual in becoming the patriarch of a successful line of natural historians.”
I've talked about James numerous times on the show. He teamed up with numerous botanists during his lifetime, and his illustrations Grace the pages of many of their books. As for James, his Masterpiece was called Sowerby's Botany - a detailed 36-volume reference on the plants of England. Of course, the book also included over 2,500 hand-colored illustrations.
This book is 336 pages of the first-time biography of an incredible artist and scientist: James Sowerby.
Today’s Botanic Spark
Reviving the little botanic spark in your heart
April 14, 2017
On this day, the Beijing Crabapple Conference began.
Visitors toured the Crabapple Garden during the conference, which featured many new American cultivars of crabapples like Brandywine, Cinderella, Molten Lava, Lollipop, and Madonna - all of which were created by the respected and admired nurseryman from Lake County, Ohio, Jim Zampini.
During the conference, attendees were sad to learn that Jim had passed away at the age of 85.
Today, Jim’s legacy lives on in his fantastic crabapple varieties like Centurion, Harvest Gold, Lancelot Dwarf, Sugar Tyme, and the Weeping Candied Apple.
Crabapples are small, deciduous trees with densely woven branches that feature fragrant and beautiful white, pink, or red petals when they bloom in the spring. Self-sterile crabapples rely on bees and other insects for pollination. The trees rarely grow taller than 25 feet high.
Generally speaking, it takes two to five years for a crabapple tree to bear fruit. Crabapples differ from standard apple trees in that they offer smaller fruit. Apples that are less than 2 inches in diameter are considered crabapples.
If you want to plant a mini-orchard of Crabapple trees, space the saplings 6 to 15 feet apart. Group them on the closer end of the range if you are planting dwarf or more upright varieties.
Crabapple trees are just beginning to come into bloom in our 2021 gardens. When they are in flower, few flowering trees can rival their charm.
In Polish folklore, apple trees were considered dream trees. Sleeping under apple trees was thought to create a dream-filled sleep. And, placing an apple under a maiden’s pillow could induce a dream of her future husband.
In English folklore, crabapple seeds or pips were thrown into the fire on Valentine’s Eve while chanting the name of your true love. If the pips explode, your love will be true and will last forever.
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