Today we celebrate a botanist remembered for his work collecting cinchona trees in South America. We’ll remember the French royal painter known as the "the Raffaele of flowers."
We'll also learn about the German architect who thought he’d discovered the Hanging Gardens of Babylon over a hundred years ago.
We’ll recognize the work of the British Botanist who is remembered in the name of a bamboo, an English writer who was often inspired by nature, and we’ll also take a look back at a discovery by South African botanists.
We hear an excerpt from a fun fiction book - "A compelling and human cast of characters, full of humor, heart, heartbreak, and the language of flowers make this perfect for fans of Marian Keyes."—Booklist
We Grow That Garden Library™ with a book that came out during the pandemic - The Well-Gardened Mind by Sue Stuart-Smith
And then we’ll wrap things up with a little letter from botanist David Hosack written on this day in 1806.
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September 10, 1817
Birth of Richard Spruce, English botanist and bryologist. A fearless explorer, he spent fifteen years botanizing along the Amazon river. Toward the end of his journey, he managed to smuggle out cinchona saplings, which were a promising treatment for malaria. He was most fascinated by small plants - unassuming mosses and liverworts. He wrote,
I like to look on plants as sentient beings... which beautify the earth during life, and after death may adorn my herbarium…
September 10, 1825
On this day, French King Charles X honored the Belgian painter, Pierre-Joseph Redouté, with the Legion of Honor. To test his skills, Queen Marie Antoinette once summoned Redouté in the middle of the night and ordered him to paint a cactus. He did. Redouté was also a favorite of Josephine Bonaparte and her flowers at Malmaison are the subjects of his most beautiful work. A master painter of lilies and roses, Redouté was known as "the Raffaele of flowers."
September 10, 1855
Birth of Robert Koldewey, German archaeologist. He supposedly discovered the location of one of the Seven Wonders of the World - the ancient Hanging Gardens of Babylon in southern Iraq. He also found the famous Ishtar Gate (1902), which he cut into pieces and smuggled to the Pergamon Museum in Berlin where it remains to this day.
Despite working for over two decades, the Hanging Gardens site was only half-excavated when he was forced to leave the country in 1917. His discovery of the gardens has since been refuted.
September 10, 1870
Birth of Lilian Gibbs, British botanist. When she wasn’t working at the British Museum in London, she was going on expeditions. She was the first woman and botanist to ascend Mount Kinabalu (Borneo) in February 1910. She discovered many new plants and is remembered by many plant names including Racemobambos gibbsiae ”rass-ih-MOE-bam-bos Gibbs-ee-ay" (Miss Gibbs' Bamboo).
September 10, 1903
Birth of Cyril Connolly, English literary critic and writer. In The Unquiet Grave, he wrote:
Fallen leaves lying on the grass in the November sun bring more happiness than the daffodils.
September 10, 1981
On this day, the Lancaster New Era (Pennsylvania) featured a story about the impact of hormones on plant growth:
South African botanists discovered that a birth control pill pushed into the soil next to a plant stem can produce dramatic effects on growth and improve foliage. Research has shown that hormones in the pill accelerate fertilization and development of plants.
Agapanthus and peonies in June. Scented stock and sweet peas in July. Sunflowers and sweet William in August. By the time September's oriental lilies and ornamental cabbages appeared, she wasn't hiding upstairs in the workroom anymore. She was spending more time in the shop, answering the phone, dealing with the customers. One Sunday she spent the afternoon at an allotment belonging to a friend of Ciara's, picking lamb's ear and dusty miller and veronica for a wedding, and didn't think about Michael once, but she kept remembering a Patrick Kavanagh poem she'd learned at school, the one about how every old man he saw reminded him of his father.
― Ella Griffin, The Flower Arrangement
Grow That Garden Library
This book came out in 2020, and the subtitle is The Restorative Power of Nature.
Before this book came out in 2020, I don't think Sue had any idea just how timely this book was going to be.
I remember when Sue's book was finally released, I heard an interview with her and also an urban gardener in California. The two of them together talked about the importance of gardening and for so many people who were really suffering at home during the pandemic, gardening became a way of coping - along with pets. A lot of people got pets during the pandemic. This is why it was so hard to adopt a pet on Petfinder - or source plants and seeds. In fact, we're still struggling with the repercussions of that particular year because growers not only sold their plant inventory for 2020, they often borrowed against some of the plant material that they were saving for 2021.
Of course, many of us know the healing power of gardens. But what I loved about Sue Stewart Smith is her unique take on all of this. Sue approaches gardens from her area of expertise, which is psychology. And it’s helpful that Sue is also a passionate gardener herself.
Now I love this aspect of gardening - their power to heal and help us - and I could do a deep dive on this all day. I love talking about it. I love reading about it. What I really like about Sue's book is that she offers endless examples of the power of gardening and its impact on our brains, on our thinking, on our ability to be happier, to continue to process and learn and grow, etc. It's so, so powerful.
Now it's been over a year since this book has been out. So if you're looking for used copies, there are definitely some available on Amazon.
This book is 352 pages of garden power - the power to heal, restore, and save us.
Today’s Botanic Spark
Reviving the little botanic spark in your heart
September 10, 1806
On this day, the botanist David Hosack wrote to Thomas Jefferson at Monticello about Lewis and Clark. He was hoping to gain access to any potential plant discoveries on the expedition:
If, sir, the gentlemen who are at present on their travels to Missouri discover any new or useful plants I should be very happy in obtaining a small quantity of the seeds.
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