Today we celebrate an American woman who loved plants, wrote memorable verses that have stood the test of time, and became the Godmother of Thanksgiving.
We'll also learn about a modern writer and Pulitzer Prize winner who writes in a garden shed.
We hear a memorable excerpt about killing slugs.
We Grow That Garden Library™ with an inspiring book about marvelous plant combinations.
And then we’ll wrap things up with a fun story about a gardener remembered in a rock and roll hit from 1968.
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May 24, 1830
On this day, Mary Had A Little Lamb by Sarah Josepha Hale is published by the Boston firm Marsh, Capen & Lyon.
Born in New Hampshire in 1788, Sarah was homeschooled, and she attributed all of her learning and success to her mother. She wrote,
”I owe my early predilection for literary pursuits to the teaching and example of my mother. She had enjoyed uncommon advantages of education for a female of her times – possessed a mind clear as rock-water, and a most happy talent of communicating knowledge.”
In 1848, Sarah married David Hale. He encouraged Sarah’s intellectual endeavors, and together, they enjoyed reading and study.
Their idyllic life together was cut short when David died of a stroke after nine short years of marriage. Sarah gave birth to their fifth child two weeks after David died. Sarah began writing to support herself and her five children, all under the age of seven.
In 1835, Sarah wrote Spring flowers, or the Poetical Bouquet: Easy, Pleasing and Moral Rhymes and Pieces of Poetry for Children. In the book, Sarah wrote of Mary and her little pet bird, Dicky.
“In that gilded cage, hung with Chickweed and May,
Like a beautiful palace and garden so gay.
Perhaps you're not happy, perhaps you're not well:
I wish you could speak, that your griefs you might tell;
It vexes me quite thus to see you in sorrow;
Good bye; and I hope you'll be better tomorrow."
In 1856, Sarah wrote another book that focused on flowers, and it was called Flora’s Interpreter or “The American Book of Flowers and Sentiments." This gift book featured poetry and flowers to raise American national sentiment. She opened the book with this epigraph:
“A flower I love!
Not for itself, but that its name is linked
With names I love. – A talisman of hope
By this point in her career, Sarah had established herself as a writer and editor and the Godmother of Thanksgiving. For twenty years, between 1847 and 1867, Sarah fought to make Thanksgiving a National Holiday, and she wanted a certain day for the celebration, writing,
“The last Thursday in November has these advantages -- harvests of all kinds are gathered in -- summer travelers have returned to their homes -- the diseases that, during summer and early autumn, often afflict some portions of our country, have ceased, and all are prepared to enjoy a day of Thanksgiving.”
But Sarah’s fight would not end until 62 years after her death when Franklin Delano Roosevelt made Thanksgiving Day official in 1941.
In the year before her death at the age of 91, Sarah poignantly wrote about her death in her last column:
Growing old! growing old! Do they say it of me?
Do they hint my fine fancies are faded and fled?
That my garden of life, like the winter-swept tree,
Is frozen and dying, or fallen and dead?
Is the heart growing old, when each beautiful thing,
Like a landscape at eve, looks more tenderly bright,
And love sweeter seems, as the bird's wandering wing
Draws nearer her nest at the coming of night?
May 24, 1963
Today is the birthday of the American novelist and short-story writer Michael Chabon (“SHAY-bon”).
In 2000, Michael wrote The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay, which won the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction in 2001. Michael is married to the writer, Ayelet (“eye-YEll-it’”) Waldman, and together they have four children.
They also have a writing studio - a little shingled shed in the garden in their backyard - a place that writers like Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, Roald Dahl, George Bernard Shaw, Mark Twain, and Virginia Woolf all used and enjoyed.
Michelle Slatella wrote about Chabon’s writing shed for Gardenista back in 2014. She wrote,
“After it was renovated by Berkeley design-build firm Friedman Brueggemeyer, the studio became Chabon’s exclusive retreat and the subject of his 2001 essay “A Fortress of One’s Own” in This Old House magazine.
[Ayelet said,] “We moved to that house when I had just started writing, and I hadn’t sold anything yet, so I didn’t think I deserved an office.”
[Michael countered] “Then I had terrible repetitive stress injuries, and arthritis in my pinky finger, so I got an office out of the house, but that was super lonesome.”So Michael said [to his wife],“Let’s share.”
“The studio has two separate but open work bays — [Ayelet’s] desk sits beneath a bulletin board she covered with color-coded notecards while…
[Michael] writes in an Eames Lounge and Ottoman (he rocks when he works). “First, he had a desk, but then he moved over to the Eames chair, and that invalid swing arm laptop table he has now,” says [Ayelet]. “It’s exactly like a dentist’s setup. He battles carpel tunnel syndrome, and this setup works for now.”
In his book Summerland, Michael wrote,
“Can you imagine an infinite tree?
...A tree whose roots snake down all the way to the bottomest bottom of everything?
...if you've ever looked at a tree you've seen how its trunk divides into boughs, which divide yet again to branches, which divide into twigs, which divide again into twiglings. The whole mess splaying out in all directions, jutting and twisting and zigzagging. At the tips of the tips you might have a million tiny green shoots, scattered like the sparks of an exploding skyrocket.”
Hear him now as he toils. He has a long garden implement in his hand, and he is sending up the death rate in slug circles with a devastating rapidity.
“Ta-ra-ra boom-de-ay.... Ta-ra-ra BOOM—"
And the boom is a death-knell. As it rings softly out on the pleasant spring air, another stout slug has made the Great Change.
― P.G. Wodehouse, an English author and one of the most widely read humorists of the 20th century, A Damsel in Distress
Grow That Garden Library
This book came out in 2019, and the subtitle is Design and Grow a Fabulous Flower and Vegetable Garden (Creative Homeowner) Practical Advice, Step-by-Step Instructions, and a Comprehensive Plant Directory.
This book features over 300 photographs, illustrations, and it's super easy to use. It shows how to create a productive garden by offering step-by-step instructions and pragmatic expert advice.
This book covers everything from starting a plot and selecting plants to maximizing space and building raised, and the plant directory is comprehensive. It provides information on summer flowering, annuals, herbaceous perennials, small trees and shrubs, climbers, water plants, and then your edibles, your herbs, fruits.
Then, in addition to the fantastic directory, there are also great instructions about modern-day topics, like how to build up layers of soil with mushroom compost, how to fight weeds by covering them with mulch, and how to protect your plants with nets.
This book is 240 pages of a gardening master class that's packed with tips and tools for all gardeners - whether you're a newbie or a seasoned pro. It offers way more than just the suggested combinations for flowers.
Today’s Botanic Spark
Reviving the little botanic spark in your heart
May 24, 1968
It was on this day that the Rolling Stones released their new song Jumpin Jack Flash.
Keith Richards said that he and Mick Jagger wrote it after staying at his house.
One morning they were awakened by Keith's gardener, Jack Dyer.
“What’s that noise?”
And Richards replied,
"That's jumpin' Jack."
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