Today we celebrate a British garden designer, prolific Edwardian Landscape Architect, and town planner.
We'll also remember a British garden designer and architect known for his innovative gardens in Tuscany.
We hear an excerpt about a fantastical garden.
We Grow That Garden Library™ with one of the top books on Flower Gardening by a modern garden master.
And then we’ll wrap things up with the story of the Iowa State Flower.
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May 5, 1861
Today is the birthday of British garden designer, prolific Edwardian Landscape Architect, and town planner Thomas Hayton Mawson who was born in Lancashire.
When Thomas was a teenager, his dad started a nursery and fruit farm in Yorkshire. Thomas loved the orchard, but his happiness came to an abrupt end when his father died, and his mother was forced to sell the property.
But the nursery experience had left an impression on Thomas and his siblings, and at one point, they all pursued work in horticulture.
After the family moved to London, Thomas and his two brothers set up a nursery called Lakeland Nurseries. The business was a success, and it allowed Thomas to begin to focus on designing gardens - his zone of genius.
In 1900, Thomas wrote his classic work, The Art and Craft of Garden Making, which is now considered foundational to modern Landscape Architecture. The book brought Thomas influence and authority - and to give an idea of its popularity, consider that it was reprinted five times.
In short order, Thomas’s firm Thomas H. Mawson & Sons became THE firm for Landscape Architecture in England. Thomas's most famous client was William Hesketh Lever, an English industrialist, philanthropist, and politician. Thomas eventually designed many of William’s properties: Thornton Manor, Lever’s Cheshire home, Rivington Pike, and Lever’s London home, The Hill, Hampstead.
Thomas is also remembered for designing England's first purpose-built mosque, The Fazl Mosque in Wandsworth.
As his reputation grew, Thomas’s work on public spaces expanded. He was even commissioned to develop the Smokey Mountains National Park in the United States.
Thomas's most notable public work was commissioned by Andrew Carnegie: the gardens of the Peace Palace in The Hague in 1908.
May 5, 1884
Today is the birthday of the British garden designer and architect known for his innovative gardens in Tuscany, Cecil Ross Pinsent.
Cecil worked with the American art historian Bernard Berenson on his iconic estate known as the Villa I Tatti. This relationship opened doors for Cecil, and soon he was soon designing gardens for the wealthy in Tuscany.
In the 1930s, Cecil designed his masterpiece: the gardens at La Foce (“FOE-che”) in Italy, midway between Florence and Rome. Tucked in 3,500 acres of farmland with scenes of the Tuscan landscape as a backdrop, La Foce was commissioned by the writer Marchesa Iris Origo (“O-ree-go”).
In 1924, Iris and her husband, Antonio, purchased the villa, an old, rundown place. Iris reached out to Cecil, a family friend, and tasked him with creating a glorious garden.
Knowing how Iris adored the gardens of Florence, Cecil set about creating the iconic structure of the garden - a series of intimate spaces lined with double box hedging, cypress, lawns, and meadows. The lush green garden is even more striking against the background of the barren Tuscan topography.
When spring came, I dug up the garden and planted it, and weeded it, and prayed over it, and fidgeted; and almost three years of lying fallow had agreed with it because it produced radishes the size of onions, potatoes the size of melons, and melons the size of small sheep. The herb border ran wild, and the air smelled wonderful.
― Robin McKinley, American author of fantasy and children's books, Beauty: A Retelling of the Story of Beauty and the Beast
Grow That Garden Library
This book came out in 2020, and the subtitle is A Gardener's guide to growing flowers from today's favorites to unusual varieties.
Well, I remember when this book came out because I already had a copy. And of course, at the time it was published (on March 10th), many of us were in the middle of beginning our lockdowns for the pandemic. I remember thinking what a shame it was because this book is not only beautiful - and man, I mean, it is absolutely gorgeous - but it's also so helpful. It's really a wonderful reference.
Another reason I knew this book would be so good is that Matt is such a true professional. He has decades of experience with his own garden and his greenhouse, and you can read all about both of them over on his blog called Gardening With Plants. It really is a wonderful online resource. So, if you haven't checked that out, make sure that you devote a little bit of time to that.
Now, if you are someone who starts annuals from seed, you will really enjoy Matt’s book. He talks about how to start over a hundred different annuals from seed. He also talks about things like summer bulbs and vines, which is a favorite topic of mine. I not only love to use vines as a vertical element in the garden, but also I think they're wonderful just ambling through the garden as a horizontal element, almost like a ground cover. So that's fantastic.
And then Matt talks about things like blooming shrubs - one of my favorite topics. You get so much bang for your buck with blooming shrubs. They give your garden structure, and they're just so low maintenance. They're wonderful. So blooming shrubs are one of my go-to’s in the garden.
Now here's a little bit about what the publisher says about this book. You will learn little details and cultural facts about these flowers that will help you grow them. You'll find helpful tips for things like growing annual poppies and biennials, which can be a little bit challenging. You'll learn about forcing flowers for winter blooms, which is an enjoyable activity. In fact, one of the things that Matt talks about is how to force Lily of the Valley. That is a fantastic topic. And I'm sure now that I've mentioned it, it's making you very curious. If that doesn't do the trick, just trust me; this is a book that you're going to want to have in your botanical library.
This book is 240 pages of a master class on flower gardening from a true master: Matt Mattus. I love the name and really loved the book.
Today’s Botanic Spark
Reviving the little botanic spark in your heart
May 5, 1897
Today the Iowa State Flower was officially selected, and the winner was the wild rose.
In the early days of the state, Iowa pioneers often came across the wild rose as they settled on the Iowa prairie.
Although the Iowa legislature designated the wild rose as their flower, they failed to specify which wild rose was official. In Iowa, there are three native wild roses: Rosa arkansana, Rosa blanda, and Rosa Carolina.
Of the three, Rosa blanda (meadow rose) is most often regarded as the State Flower.
In 2006, a fifth-grade student Maranda Olson drew the wild rose with oil pastels and won Maranda a trip to Washington, D.C., where her artwork was displayed at the new National Garden when it opened in the fall.
The Des Moines Register reported that,
“More than 5,000 students nationwide submitted artwork for the state flower contest. One student from each state was selected by a panel of art specialists and botanists.
Art teacher Karen Skophammer… had a gut feeling Maranda might win and took a photo of the drawing before sending it to the contest. "In my heart, I knew that it was outstanding," Skophammer said. "Maranda is quite talented."
Maranda guessed why she won and acknowledged that she barely looked at the technical photo of the wild rose. "I off-centered the flowers. Most other people put it right in the middle," she said. "I looked at a picture in the beginning, but not while I was drawing or coloring it."
Scotts Miracle-Gro sponsored the contest, and company officials said they were pleased with the turnout.”
And there's just one more story that I wanted to share with you. About the Iowa state flower, the wild rose.
In 1897, Major Samuel H. M. Byers from Oskaloosa, Iowa, had worked behind the scenes with Senator Mitchell to make sure the legislation for the Wild Rose was passed.
Major Byers was remembered for his Civil War service. While he was held prisoner in Columbia, South Carolina, he wrote the words to the famous song Sherman’s March to the Sea. But in better times, Byers also wrote a poem called “Song of Iowa” that became the lyrics to the Iowa State Song, The Rose of Iowa.
Hast thou seen the wild rose of the West,
Thou sweetest child of morn?
Its feet the dewy fields have pressed,
Its breath is on the corn.
The gladsome prairie rolls and sweeps,
Like billows to the sea,
While on its breast, the red rose keeps
The white rose company.
The wild, wild rose, whose fragrance dear
To every breeze is hung,
Tho same wild rose that blossomed here
When Iowa was young.
Oh, sons of heroes, ever wear
The wild rose on your shield;
No other flower is half so fair
In love's immortal field.
Let others sing of mountain snows,
Or palms beside the sea,
The State whose emblem is the rose
Is the fairest far to me.
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