Today we celebrate the man who conceived of a new holiday that became Arbor Day.
We'll also learn about the man who developed the first classification system for plants based on evolution.
We’ll hear some grateful words about spring from the author Barbara Kingsolver.
We Grow That Garden Library™ with a garden cookbook that is a total gem for gardener-cooks.
And then we’ll wrap things up with a look back at the dedication of the Jacqueline Kennedy Garden.
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April 22, 1832
Today is the birthday of a Nebraska newspaper editor, Secretary of Agriculture, and father of Arbor Day, Julius Sterling Morton.
In 1867, after moving west to Nebraska from Detroit, J. Sterling and his wife Caroline were shocked by the treeless landscape. Together, they conceived of a day to promote tree planting.
The original proposal to the agricultural board of Nebraska was for a “Sylvan Day” - to promote forest trees. In Latin, “sylva” means "wood" or "forest." And Sylvanus was the Roman god of woods and fields.
J. Sterling decided that a broader celebration of all trees was in order. He proposed “Arbor Day.” The first Arbor Day on April 10, 1872, was an overwhelming success - with over a million trees planted in frontier Nebraska. Arbor Day quickly became a yearly national holiday - celebrated on April 22 to honor J. Sterling Morton's birthday.
Despite his many professional and honorable appointments at the state and federal level, J. Sterling considered Arbor Day to be the ultimate accomplishment of his life.
In 1923, the beautiful Morton family home, known as Arbor Lodge, and the surrounding property were gifted to Nebraska. Today Arbor Lodge is a historic state park.
Nowadays, Arbor Day is generally celebrated on the last Friday in April in the United States. Arbor Day 2021 will occur on Friday, April 30th.
It was J. Sterling Morton who said,
Other holidays repose upon the past;
Arbor Day proposes for the future.
April 22, 1839
Today is the birthday of the German botanist August Wilhelm Eichler.
Wilhelm developed one of the first widely used natural systems of plant classification. Most importantly, it was the first classification system based on evolution. In addition, Wilhelm divided the plant kingdom into non-floral plants and floral plants.
Wilhelm spent many years working tirelessly as a private assistant to the naturalist Karl Friedrich Philipp von Martinus. Karl had traveled to Brazil and collected over 20,000 specimens. He spent the final three decades of his life documenting his findings in a book called Flora Brasiliensis, which Wilhelm helped edit. Generally speaking, a Flora is a book describing all plants from a set geographic area.
When Karl died in 1868, Wilhelm carried on the work of Flora Brasiliensis unassisted. It was a labor of love.
After Wilhelm died, botanist Ignatius Urban continued with the project until its completion.
Today, Wilhelm Eichler Strasse (Street) in Dresden is named in Wilhelm’s honor.
Wilhelm Eichler who said,
"The felling of the first tree is the beginning of human civilization. The felling of the last is his end."
Spring is made of solid, fourteen-karat gratitude, the reward for the long wait.
Every religious tradition from the northern hemisphere honors some form of April hallelujah, for this is the season of exquisite redemption, a slam-bang return to joy after a season of cold second thoughts.
― Barbara Kingsolver, American novelist and poet, Animal, Vegetable, Miracle: A Year of Food Life
Grow That Garden Library
This book came out in 2013, and the subtitle is Celebrating the homegrown & homemade.
Jeanne is also the author of the acclaimed Blue Eggs and Yellow Tomatoes: Recipes from a Modern Kitchen Garden and Williams-Sonoma Kitchen Library Holiday Baking.
In this cookbook, Jeanne shares the recipes she developed to feature the fruits, vegetables, herbs, eggs, and even honey harvested from your own garden.
Jeanne’s simple recipes are inspiring and delicious. Whether you have a large garden, a small kitchen garden, or simply enjoy shopping for fresh ingredients from the farmer’s market, Jeanne’s cookbook will give you plenty of new ideas for every season in the garden.
Jeanne’s cookbook is cleverly divided into four main sections, spring, summer, fall & winter, and the coop & the hive.
What I love about Jeanne’s cookbook is her focus on the “greatest hits” of a traditional kitchen garden - like tomatoes, zucchini, and berries. Jeanne also shares her tips for planting a well-thought-out kitchen garden.
Jeanne offers more than 100 recipes featuring the fresh and natural flavors of whatever is in season. Some of my favorites include her shaved zucchini salad with almonds, ricotta & pea crostini, grilled ham and cheese with herb pesto, cherry tomato and thyme frittata, lettuce, butter & Radish Salad, and her summer herb drizzle with sliced tomatoes and mozzarella.
This book is 224 pages of beautiful photography, quaint illustrations of Jeanne’s garden, and a fabulous go-to cookbook for the gardener-cook.
Today’s Botanic Spark
Reviving the little botanic spark in your heart
April 22, 1965
On this day, the Jacqueline Kennedy Garden was dedicated.
Jackie did not attend the dedication. Her mother attended in her place. The dedication brought tears and smiles.
Jackie had helped design the garden - which was to be called the White House East Garden - along with her friend, the horticulturist and gardener Rachel Lambert Mellon, who always went by “Bunny.”
After the assassination of President Kennedy, the first lady, Lady Bird Johnson, reached out to Bunny to complete the East garden.
Bunny agreed to do the work on one condition: that the garden be named the Jacqueline Kennedy Garden in honor of her friend, the former First Lady.
The dedication ceremony for the garden was bathed in sunlight. First Lady Johnson gave a speech, saying:
"There could be only one name for this garden."
Jackie was not keen to have the garden named in her honor. Both the Rose Garden and the East Garden had been John’s ideas. After Lady Bird persisted, Jackie finally relented but asked that the naming be downplayed and placed inconspicuously on a bench in the garden.
In fact, there is a bench in the garden - a Lutyens bench - designed by Sir Edwin Lutyens ("Lutchins"). This bench is an iconic feature of many gardens.
The bench was placed next to the grape arbor, and on one of the posts for the grape arbor, there is an elegant, small, silver plaque - 2.5 inches square. The font for the plaque is Bunny’s own handwriting - and it says,
"This garden is dedicated to Jacqueline Kennedy with great affection by those who worked with her in the White House, April 22, 1965."
In appreciation for Bunny’s work, Jackie gifted Bunny a large folio-sized scrapbook tracing the work on both the Rose Garden and the Jacqueline Kennedy Garden. A self-taught gardener and designer, Bunny kept the book in her magnificent personal garden Library at her Oak Hill estate in Upperville, Virginia.
In fact, the basketweave brick hardscaping in the Jacqueline Kennedy Garden is a replica of Bunny’s paving at Oak Spring. To make the surface permeable, Bunny made sure there was no mortar between the bricks.
In the weeks following the dedication, a little story about Bunny’s time designing the White House gardens began circulating through newspapers.
The Morning Call out of Paterson, New Jersey reported that,
“Robert Kennedy… recalled the day that Bunny Mellon’s garden hoe cut the White House communication link with the outside world.
Mrs. Mellon did a lot of the actual spading and planting herself, Senator Kennedy noted,
“Often, during Cabinet meetings, we would see her out there in the rose garden - a little figure with a bandana around her head," he said.
One day, he recalled, there was complete consternation. Mrs. Mellon's hoe had cut right through a buried cable that connected the President of the United States with key spots around the world.
Immediately after that, a long-planned improvement and modernization of White House communication equipment was hastily commenced... Cables were moved out of the Rose garden, into another area of the grounds, and deeply buried in a vault-like structure, secure from any future woman with a hoe.
President Kennedy, who had not previously paid much attention to yards and gardens, became intensely interested in the appearance of the White House grounds and devoted a lot of thought to improving them, Robert Kennedy recalls, even in times of great crisis, "John Kennedy found time for his gardens."
JFK learned the names of most of the species and proudly reeled them off to visitors as he showed them around.
President Kennedy actually had a lot more to do with the Jacqueline Kennedy Garden, which is to be used by First Ladies and their children, than did Mrs. Kennedy. It was a consciousness of this that made the gentle Jacqueline Kennedy very reluctant to have the garden bear her name.
The new garden is an interesting contrast to the rose garden. Whereas the latter is strong and bold, with large clusters of brilliantly hued tulips, marching lines of flowering crabapple trees, and beds laid out in strong diagonal lines. The Jacqueline Kennedy Garden was deliberately planned by Mrs. Mellon to be a gentle garden.
Tulips are widely scattered and are in shades of white, yellow, and soft orange. Bed outlines are circular rather than diagonal.
This is the first time, incidentally, that an area in or around the White House ever has been named for a First Lady. The White House curator office says it can find no record that any other First Lady was so honored.
There are not many things around the mansion named after Presidents, in fact. The only present exception is the Lincoln Room.”
Thanks for listening to The Daily Gardener.
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