April 27, 2021 Groundcover Options, Thomas Church, Tulip Clusiana, The First Fine Spring Days, Lawn Gone! by Pam Penick, and Flora the Goddess of Spring

Show Notes

Today we celebrate a 20th-Century Landscape Architect who focused on his client’s desires and needs. This effort to personalize his work made him incredibly successful.

We'll also learn about a species Tulip praised for its hardiness and peppermint candy appearance.

We’ll hear some thoughts about the first fine spring days.

We Grow That Garden Library™ with a book that will help you finally replace your high-maintenance lawn with something Sustainable, inviting, and low maintenance.

And then we’ll wrap things up with the story of Flora- the Roman goddess of spring.



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Important Events

April 27, 1902
Today is the birthday of the renowned and innovative 20th-Century landscape architect Thomas Church.

Known as the “Dean of Western Landscape Architects” and the “Father of the California Garden,” Thomas - or Tommy as he was known to his clients and friends - is remembered for personalized landscape design. His 1955 book aptly titled Gardens are for Peopledrew on Tommy’s belief that gardens are personal and needed to meet his clients' needs. Tommy wrote,

“We're all different - and our gardens and what we expect our land to do for us will vary as much as our demands and our personalities. No one can design intelligently for you unless he knows what you need, what you want,  and what you are like.”

Tommy also wrote,

“The only limit to your garden is at the boundaries of your imagination.”

A pioneer of Modernism in the garden, Tommy’s approach to design came to be known as the “California Style.” Tommy’s California Style included elements that seem pretty standard today: raised beds, low-maintenance, lots of groundcovers, timber decking, kidney-shaped pools, places to sit, clean lines, and asymmetry. Tommy once wrote,

“Style is a matter of taste. Design is a matter of principles.”

Tommy’s portfolio was comprised of over 2,000 private gardens, but he did some work for Berkely and Stanford and the University of California, Santa Cruz, where Tommy famously said,

“Gentle be the hand that lays upon the land.”

In addition to his private and university work, Tommy designed the gardens for Sunset Magazine after the headquarters moved to Menlo Park in 1952.

Tommy designed the Sunset Garden to encircle an acre of lawn. The trees and plants represent the 17-State circulation area of Sunset Magazine and are grown in four distinct gardens. For instance, there was a dry Arizona desert garden and a wet garden representing the Northwest.

Today at Sunset, the redwood trees that were planted from five-gallon cans are now 100 feet tall. In all, there are over 300 varieties of trees, shrubs, and perennials in the Sunset gardens. The annual flower beds are replanted three times a year.

Now two aspects of gardening - the amount of expertise the owner had and the amount of free time available by the owner - were both taken into account by Thomas Church. His obituary said,

“[Tommy] thought it preposterous to create a garden with exotic fragile plants that need tending for busy people who just like to relax in a garden. He wanted these people to have a tranquil place they could use and enjoy without its upkeep being an albatross around their necks Thus because each garden came from his understanding of its owners -  none of them look the same though they have common elements.”

Thomas Church wrote,

“When your garden is finished I hope it will be more beautiful than you anticipated, require less care than you expected, and have cost only a little more than you had planned.”


April 27, 1952

On this day, The Knoxville News-Sentinel published a little article about a short, six-petaled, cherry-red, and white species tulip, known as Tulip clusiana - commonly called the Persian Tulip or the Peppermint Tulip.

“Pretty and charming is Tulip clusiana, named for the great botanist Clusius, who is said to have grown it in his garden in Flanders. It is known to have been cultivated for more than 300 years.

Louise Beebe Wilder says of it,

“Clusius reported that it was sent to Florence in 1606 with the statement that it had come from Persia.
Parkinson knew it as the early Persian tulip.
Sir Daniel Hall says it is now apparently wild from Chitral (“Ch-eh-trull”) (in Pakistan) to Spain...
Reginald Farrer says it is frequently found in old olive orchards about Cannes (“Can”)”

[Now the] buds are long, slender, and pointed with broad streaks of rose-red up the backs of the white petals. Because of this effect, it is sometimes called the radish tulip. Other names are candy tulip and lady tulip.”

Clusiana tulips open with the sun and close at night.  


Unearthed Words

When the first fine spring days come, and the earth awakes and assumes its garment of verdure, when the perfumed warmth of the air blows on our faces and fills our lungs, and even appears to penetrate to our heart, we feel vague longings for undefined happiness, a wish to run, to walk at random, to inhale the spring.
― Guy de Maupassant, (“Ghee-du-mo-pah-sawnt”) The Complete Short Stories of Guy de Maupassant, Part One


Grow That Garden Library

Lawn Gone! by Pam Penick

This book came out in 2013, and the subtitle is Low-Maintenance, Sustainable, Attractive Alternatives for Your Yard.

In this book, Pam Penick - one of my favorite garden bloggers - shares practical and down-to-earth advice for replacing a traditional, high-maintenance lawn with something endlessly more manageable and inviting. Pam’s book is an inspiring look at the countless options for transforming residential landscapes with low-work flowers, shrubs, ground covers, and native plants mixed with paved or mulched areas.  

If you’ve been hesitant to take the plunge and downsize or eliminate the lawn altogether, Pam offers inspiration, reassurance, helpful ideas, how-to’s, and tips.

This book is 192 pages of beautiful, low-maintenance, and inviting lawn alternatives from an intelligent and practical garden blogger.

You can get a copy of Lawn Gone! by Pam Penick and support the show using the Amazon Link in today's Show Notes for around $9


Today’s Botanic Spark

Reviving the little botanic spark in your heart

On this day, April 27, the Romans honored Flora - the goddess of flowers and spring. One of the goddesses of fertility and a goddess of eternal youth. Flora was married to the west wind god, Zephyr, and she was the mother of Carpus - a beautiful boy whose name means “fruit.” Today, carpology is the study of fruits and seeds, and a carp is the fruiting body of a fungus. The Latin term “Carpe diem” or seize the day could also be thought of as “Make the day fruitful.” Today, the word flora is a general name for the plants of a region.

Now, while the growing season starts with Flora, the goddess of spring, it ends with Pomona, the goddess of the Harvest. And so, the two goddesses - Flora and Pomona - were respectively celebrated at the beginning and end of the growing season.

In 1884, the British artist and designer Sir Edward Coley Burne-Jones created two beautiful tapestries that depicted life-sized figures of Flora and Pomona. Each Tapestry was nearly 10- feet long, and a backdrop of foliage and flowers surrounds both goddesses.

To the Romans, Flora and Pomona were deemed important enough to have their own dedicated priests, temples, and festivals. Flora’s priest was called the Floralis, and her festival was called the Floralia.

Established in 240 BCE, the Floralia was a week-long festival loaded with symbolism around renewal and rebirth and celebrated with drinking and flowers. During the festivities, even men wore flowers, and women were allowed to wear bright-colored clothing - something considered taboo otherwise.

One of the most beautiful and beloved frescos from this time depicts Flora. Beloved by many, this masterpiece highlights Flora against a green background. She’s wearing a yellow dress, and she’s walking barefoot with her back to us. Her left arm holds a cornucopia basket filled with delicate spring flowers, and her right hand is reaching to pluck a white flower from a shrub. The Flora fresco is housed at the  National Archaeological Museum in Naples, Italy (cat. no. 8834).

Finding representations of Flora in art is easy - if you know what to look for. Flora is often shown holding a small bouquet and crowned with a halo of blossoms.

And, can you guess what Flora’s special gift was?

(Here’s a hint: it was made (naturally) from flowers and was highly valued by the Romans for its medicinal and culinary uses.)



The answer is honey.


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