Today we celebrate a woman named after Florence, Italy, and who loved flowers her entire life.
We'll learn about the Floral Emblem of Manitoba.
We hear an excerpt about spring at Green Gables.
We Grow That Garden Library™ with a book about the relationship between people and plants.
And then we’ll wrap things up with some garden limericks for National Limerick Day.
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May 12, 1820
Today is the birthday of the English social reformer, statistician, and founder of modern nursing, Florence Nightingale.
Florence earned the moniker "The Lady with the Lamp" during the Crimean War because she would make her rounds to visit wounded soldiers with a lamp during the night.
Florence was named after Florence, Italy - the city where she was born. As a young girl, both she and her sister each had their own garden to plant and tend.
When Florence was a young girl of 13, she collected flowers with a 77-year old botanist named Margaret Stovin. Together they gathered and pressed over 100 different species of plants. This charming story was featured in a 2008 book by Richard Mendelsohn. Today the flowers that Florence and Margaret collected are housed at the Natural History Museum in London.
As an adult, Florence wrote,
Poetry and imagination begin life. A child will fall on its knees on the gravel walk at the sight of a pink hawthorn in full flower, when it is by itself, to praise God for it.
As a nurse, Florence believed flowers helped with the morale and recovery of her patients. And personally, Florence’s favorite flower was the foxglove.
And Florence received a lovely bouquet every week from William Rathbone, the man who founded the Queen Victoria Jubilee Institute for Nurses.
In 2020, during the pandemic, one of the anticipated gardens was dedicated to Florence. The year 2020 marked the 200th Anniversary of her birth, and the garden was to be called The Florence Nightingale Garden - A Celebration of Modern Day Nursing. Instead, the garden will make its debut during the 2021 Chelsea Flower Show. The garden will feature “Images from Florence Nightingale's pressed flower collection and echoes of her handwriting … on… the timber walls.”
Today Florence is remembered in the Florence Nightingale Museum in London, which celebrates the life and work of the best-known figure in nursing history. She is also honored with the Florence Nightingale rose — a pretty pale pink fragrant rose.
May 12, 1870
On this day, Manitoba became a province of Canada. In 1906, the Anemone patens, commonly known as the Prairie Crocus, was officially adopted as the floral emblem of Manitoba.
The first prairie plant to bloom in the spring, the Prairie Crocus, left an impression with early pioneers, and they called it a crocus because it reminded them of the early blooming crocus in Europe. However, the Prairie Crocus is not a crocus; it’s an anemone, and as such, it is part of the buttercup family. In 1841, Nathaniel Hawthorne wrote to his future wife,
"There has been but one flower found in this vicinity--and that was an anemone, a poor, able, shivering little flower that had crept under a stone wall for shelter."
In Floriography or the language of flowers, the Prairie Crocus is a symbol of liberty and freedom.
Spring had come once more to Green Gables — the beautiful, capricious Canadian spring, lingering along through April and May in a succession of sweet, fresh, chilly days, with pink sunsets and miracles of resurrection and growth. The maples in Lover's Lane were red-budded, and little curly ferns pushed up around the Dryad's Bubble. Away in the barrens, behind Mr. Silas Sloane's place, the mayflowers blossomed out, pink and white stars of sweetness under their brown leaves. All the school girls and boys had one golden afternoon gathering them, coming home in the clear, echoing twilight with arms and baskets full of flowery spoil.
― Lucy Maud Montgomery, Canadian author, Anne of Green Gables
Grow That Garden Library
This book came out in 1993, and the subtitle is A Botanist Looks at the Attachments Between Plants and People.
When this book was written, Peter was a research assistant at the Missouri Botanical Garden. His book, Natural Affairs, is a mix of plant information and folklore, and science over the course of human history.
Peter highlights the various interactions in time between humans and plants. For instance, the naming of passion vine comes from the Jesuit priests who felt the vines' blossom showed the passion of Christ on the cross.
Whether the relationships are highly coveted - as with saffron (the spice worth its weight it gold), or even mysterious - as with the Asian slipper orchid - plants, like people, want to survive and thrive.
This book is 225 pages of the incredible relationships we have with plants - be they quirky, charming, delightful, or serious.
Today’s Botanic Spark
Reviving the little botanic spark in your heart
Today is National Limerick Day.
Here’s a garden limerick that was featured in The Central New Jersey Home News on May 19, 1918
John soon had a fine garden growing,
And said, in a manner quite knowing,
"These beans and potatoes,
Peas, corn, and tomatoes
Will soon make a very fine showing.
And here’s one from 2020 @Paddysaurus on Twitter:
There once was a gardener named Fred
Who was struggling with his raised beds
Nothing would grow
Then a friend said, "you know,
you'd be better off fishing instead!"
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