May 27, 2021 Grasses, Floral Clock, Vincent Price, Yellow in the Garden, Plants by Kathy Willis, and the Run for the Black-Eyed Susans

Show Notes

Today we celebrate an old account of Linnaeus’s floral clock.

We'll also learn about the garden life of an American actor who was best known for his brilliant performances in horror films.

We hear an excerpt about the color yellow in the garden - it has the power to lift our spirits. Yellow flowers are little day-brighteners.

We Grow That Garden Library™, with a book about 250 years of plant history in England.

And then we’ll wrap things up with the story of a tradition involving Black-Eyed Susans, or maybe they aren’t Black-Eyed Susans...



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Grasses: A Sensory Experience | | Chris Howell


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Important Events

May 27, 1873
On this day, out of Pratt’s Junction, Massachusetts, there was a detailed post about how to make a floral clock.

“Please tell the girls if they think country life dull... they can pass many happy hours… studying the plants about them.

I saw it stated that Linnaeus had what he termed a floral clock, and a few of the flowers forming it were given with their time of blossoming: Yellow Goat's Beard, 3 a.m.
Chicory, 4 a.m.
Sow Thistle, 5 a.m.
Dandelion, 6 a.m. ;
Lettuce and White Water Lily, 7 a.m.
Pimpernel, 8 a.m.
Field Marigold, 9 a.m.


May 27, 1911
Today is the birthday of the American actor Vincent Price.

Known for his performances in horror films, Vincent also enjoyed gardening. He especially loved cymbidium orchids, and he had hundreds of them growing on the shady side of his California home.

He also grew wildflowers, cactus, poinsettia, and geraniums in his multi-level garden. And when he walked home in the evenings after his performances, he would keep his eyes peeled for discarded plants and trees. After bringing them back to his garden, he would nurse them back to health.

Vincent had many ponds, including an old bathtub that he had repurposed as a pond. He loved the bathtub pond so much that he placed it in the center of his garden.

But there was another unique aspect of Vincent’s garden: a totem pole. Vincent had bought the totem pole from the estate of John Barrymore.

Barrymore stole the 40-foot tall totem pole from an abandoned Alaska village. Barrymore had his crew saw the totem pole into three pieces before loading it onto Barrymore's yacht.

Once he arrived at his home in California, Barrymore removed the remains of a man that were still inside the totem. Then he reassembled it and displayed it in his garden.

After buying the totem from the Barrymore estate, Vincent put the totem in his garden. The carved images of a killer whale, a raven, an eagle, and a wolf watched over his garden until he donated the totem pole to the Honolulu Museum of Art in 1981.

The totem pole remained safe in a climate-controlled basement for generations until a University of Alaska professor named Steve Langdon tracked it down in Hawaii sometime after the year 2000. Steve learned about the totem pole after stumbling on an old photo of Vincent Price. He was standing next to the totem pole in his garden. Langdon had an immediate reaction to the photo. He recalled,

"It was totally out of place. Here's this recognizable Hollywood figure in a backyard estate with a totem pole ... that was surrounded by cactus."

By 2015, Steve was finally able to return the totem pole back to its ancestral tribe in Alaska.

When Vincent Price died from Parkinson's disease and lung cancer in 1993, his family honored his wishes and scattered his ashes in the ocean along with petals from red roses. Vincent had cautioned his family not to scatter his ashes in Santa Monica Bay. He said it was too polluted.

Instead, his family found a spot off of Point Dume. At the last minute, they had decided to include Vincent’s favorite gardening hat in the service. The hat was made of straw and had a heavy wooden African necklace around the brim, and so Vincent’s ashes were scattered on the water accompanied by red rose petals and his old straw hat.


Unearthed Words

“I nodded, appreciating the wisdom of her words.‘Yellow is the colour of early spring,’ she said, ‘just look at your garden!’ She gestured towards the borders, which were full of primulas, crocuses, and daffodils. ‘The most cheerful of colours,’ she continued, ‘almost reflective in its nature, and it is, of course, the colour of the mind.’

‘That’s why we surround ourselves with it!’ laughed Phyllis, ‘in the hope that its properties will rub off.’‘Nonsense dear,’ said Mrs. Darley dismissively, ‘Yellow light simply encourages us to think more positively. It lifts our spirits and raises our self-esteem in time for summer.’I immediately made a mental note to surround myself with the colour of the season and, like Phyllis, hoped that some of its properties would rub off on me.
― Carole Carlton, English Author of the Mrs. Darley series of Pagan books and owner of Mrs. Darley's Herbal, Mrs. Darley's Pagan Whispers: A Celebration of Pagan Festivals, Sacred Days, Spirituality, and Traditions of the Year


Grow That Garden Library

Plants by Kathy Willis

This book came out in 2015, and the subtitle is From Roots to Riches.

In this book, Kathy Willis, the director of science at Royal Botanic Gardens at Kew, writes about 250 years of England’s love affair with plants.

Kathy explores the fascinating history that accompanied some of the most important plant discoveries. Using a Q&A format, Kathy reveals the impact of 100 Objects, with each chapter telling a separate story - an important aspect of remarkable science, botany. This book shares some never-before-seen photos from Kew's amazing archives, and the stories underscore just how important plants really are to our existence and advancement as a species.

This book is 368 pages of the important history and future of plants.

You can get a copy of Plants by Kathy Willis and support the show using the Amazon Link in today's Show Notes for around $4


Today’s Botanic Spark

Reviving the little botanic spark in your heart

May 27, 1873
On this day, the First Preakness Stakes ran at the Pimlico (“PIM-luh-co”) Race Course in Baltimore, Maryland. The Preakness Stakes is named for the colt who won the first Dinner Party Stakes at Pimlico. Held on the third Saturday in May each year, the race takes place two weeks after the Kentucky Derby and three weeks before the Belmont Stakes.

The race is also the second jewel of the Triple Crown, and it’s nicknamed "The Run for the Black-Eyed Susans" in reference to the blanket of flowers placed over the winner. Black-Eyed Susans are the state flower of Maryland.

Although the Preakness is sometimes referred to as "the race for the black-eyed Susans," no Black-Eyed Susan is ever used. When race organizers realized that the race's timing didn’t coincide with the late summer to early fall bloom of Black-Eyed Susan, they found some yellow daisies and hand-painted the centers of the blossoms with a little dash of black lacquer to make them look like Black-Eyed Susans.

The Black-Eyed Susan was designated the state flower of Maryland in 1918. The Black-Eyed Susan or Rudbeckia Hirta's history begins in North America. After the flower was brought to Europe in the 1700s, Carl Linnaeus named them to honor his old teacher and mentor Olaus Rudbeck.

On July 29, 1731, Linnaeus wrote with admiration about his old professor, Rudbeck, saying:

"So long as the earth shall survive and as each spring shall see it covered with flowers, the Rudbeckia will preserve your glorious name."

Black-Eyed Susans are a favorite of gardeners. They bloom continuously from about mid-July until the first frost. The Black-Eyed Susan is a great pollinator plant. As a member of the daisy family, they offer that daisy shape and give the garden a warm yellow color that is perfect for ushering in autumn. All that Black-Eyed Susans require is the sun. All gardeners need to do is enjoy them and remember to cut a few to bring indoors; they are a fantastic cut flower. Black-Eyed Susans play nice in bouquets, and they also look great as a solo flower in a vase.

There have been new varieties of Black-Eyed Susans introduced over the past couple of decades. In honor of the 150th anniversary of the city of Denver, the Denver Daisy was introduced in 2008. It is a cross between the Rudbeckia hirta species and the Rudbeckia prairie sun.

One of my personal favorites is the Rudbeckia hirta 'Cherry brandy.' Imagine a red Black-Eyed Susan, and that's basically Cherry brandy. Simply gorgeous.

Black-Eyed Susans are important to wildlife. They offer food and shelter for birds and animals; rabbits, deer, and even slugs like to eat this plant. As most of us know that the monarch and the milkweed co-evolved together, the Silvery Checkerspot butterfly and the Black-Eyed Susan did the same. The Silvery Checkerspot lays her eggs on Black-Eyed Susans, which are the food source for the little baby caterpillars after they hatch.

In floriography, Black-Eyed Susans symbolize encouragement and motivation.


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