Today in botanical history, we celebrate an English writer, an American businessman and horticulturist, and an American writer and celebrity.
We hear an excerpt from a top-rated book that became a hit movie starring Eric Bana and Rachel McAdams.
We Grow That Garden Library™ with a book that features the true story of leaving a beloved garden and starting another.
And then we’ll wrap things up with the birthday for a prolific American writer, and I’ve pulled together some garden-inspired excerpts from his many books. So fun.
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September 21, 1866
Birth of H. G. Wells (Herbert George), English writer. Although his work spanned many genres, he is remembered as one of the fathers of science fiction, along with Jules Verne and the publisher Hugo Gernsback. Growing up, H.G.’s father was a gardener, and flowers figured into many of his books. In The Flowering of the Strange Orchid (1894), an orchid collector eventually dies by orchid after cultivating an unknown predatory specimen found under the body of a dead plant explorer. In The History of Mr. Polly (1910), Uncle Penstemon was named after a flower. In The Time Machine (1895), he wrote,
And I have by me, for my comfort, two strange white flowers - shriveled now, and brown and flat and brittle - to witness that even when mind and strength had gone, gratitude and a mutual tenderness still lived on in the heart of men.
In The Secret Places of the Heart, he wrote,
All the English flowers came from Shakespeare.
I don't know what we did before his time.
There is one final example of garden kismet for H.G. Wells: his gardener, Ethelind Fearon, was also a writer in her spare time.
H.G. once wrote,
Adapt or perish, now as ever, is nature's inexorable imperative.
September 21, 1872
Birth of Robert Hiester Montgomery, American accountant, educator, and gardener. When he wasn’t busy co-founding the world's largest accounting firm, PricewaterhouseCoopers, Robert worked with his favorite plants: conifers and tropical trees. In 1930, he set up a winter home in Florida and began buying every type of palm tree grown in the state. His impressive collection of over 700 trees inspired him to call his place the Coconut Grove Palmetum. In 1936, he founded the Fairchild Tropical Garden (Coconut Grove, Florida). Seven years later, Robert died after one of his daily walks with his wife, Nell, beneath his beloved palm trees. Today, the Palmetum property is known as the Montgomery Botanical Center.
September 21, 1944
Birth of Fannie Flagg, American actress, comedian, and author. Best-known as a semi-regular panelist on the TV game show Match Game, she also wrote Fried Green Tomatoes at the Whistle Stop Cafe (1987), which was made into the movie Fried Green Tomatoes (1991). Her latest book, The Wonder Boy of Whistle Stop (2020), is about the power of returning to your roots. A daughter of Alabama, Fannie writes among the flowers of her California garden. In The All-Girl Filling Station’s Last Reunion (2014), she wrote about the natural beauty of Fairhope, Alabama:
They had arrived on a warm, balmy evening, and the soft night air had been filled with the scent of honeysuckle and wisteria. She could still remember coming down the hill and seeing the lights of Mobile, sparkling and twinkling across the water, just like a jeweled necklace. It was as if they had just entered into a fairyland. The Spanish moss hanging from the trees had looked bright silver in the moonlight and made dancing shadows all along the road. And the shrimp boats out in the bay, with their little blinking green lights, had looked just like Christmas.
What’s the date? “September 8, 1998.”
Where you from?” “Next July.”
We sit down at the table. Kimy is doing the New York Times crossword puzzle.
What’s going on next July?
“It’s been a very cool summer; your garden’s looking good. All the tech stocks are up. You should buy some Apple stock in January.”
She makes a note on a piece of brown paper bag.
“Okay. And you? How are you doing? How’s Clare? You guys got a baby yet?”
― Audrey Niffenegger, The Time Traveler's Wife
Grow That Garden Library
This book came out in 2020 (I bought my copy in November), and the subtitle is A Gardener Reflects on Beginning Again.
When Margaret Roach reviewed this book, she wrote,
An intimate, lesson-filled story of what happens when one of America’s best-known garden writers transplants herself, rooting into a deeper partnership with nature than ever before.
If you’ve ever moved away from a beloved garden, or there is a move in your future, you’ll find Page’s book to be especially appealing.
Uprooted is Page’s story about leaving her beloved iconic garden at Duck Hill - a landscape she molded and refined for thirty-four years. The new property covers seventeen acres of fields and woodland in northwestern Connecticut. The rolling land surrounds a Methodist Church, which inspired Page to call her new space Church House.
How does a seasoned gardener (at age 74) start again?
How does said gardener leave a beloved home and garden and stay open to new possibilities?
Uprooted gives us the chance to follow Page through all the major milestones as she discovers her new homeplace. We hear all about her home search, how she established her new garden spaces, and some of her revelations as she learns to evolve as a gardener.
If you’ve ever wondered how on earth you’ll ever leave your garden, Page will give you hope. And, if you’re thinking about revamping an old garden space or starting a new garden, you can learn from Page how to create a garden that will bring you joy.
As an accomplished garden writer, Page’s book is a fabulous read, and the photography is top-notch. And although the move from Duck Hill marked a horticultural turning point in her life, Page surprisingly found herself excited and reenergized by her brand new space at Church House.
This book is 244 pages of the evolution of a gardener as she transitions from Duck Hill to Church House - bringing with her lifelong love of nature, gardens, and landscape possibilities.
Today’s Botanic Spark
Reviving the little botanic spark in your heart
September 21, 1947
Birth of Stephen King, best-selling American author of horror, supernatural fiction, suspense, crime, science-fiction, and fantasy novels. In 1982, he stood for a photo by the famous gate to his property. Known as the spider gate, the custom-made gothic wrought iron masterpiece featured spiders and ravens.
I thought I’d end today’s show with some garden-related excerpts from Stephen’s work through the years. Each quote has that Stephen King edge:
From The Shining (1977)
His relationship with his father had been like the unfurling of some flower of beautiful potential, which, when wholly opened, turned out to be blighted inside.
From Night Shift (1978)
Having a breakdown was like breaking a vase and then gluing it back together. You could never trust yourself to handle that vase again with any surety. You couldn't put a flower in it because flowers need water, and water might dissolve the glue. Am I crazy, then?
From The Eyes of the Dragon (1984)
I think that real friendship always makes us feel such sweet gratitude because the world almost always seems like a very hard desert, and the flowers that grow there seem to grow against such high odds.
From It (1986)
...you could only protect your child through watchfulness and love, that you must tend a child as you tended a garden, fertilizing, weeding, and yes, occasionally pruning and thinning, as much as that hurt.
From The Institute (2019),
“Might have done better to get rid of him,” Annie said matter-of-factly.
“Plenty of room for a body at t’far end of the garden.”
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