Today in botanical history, we celebrate an Irish physician and botanist, an English poet and critic, and an African-American poet.
We'll hear an excerpt from Elin Hilderbrand.
We Grow That Garden Library™ with a book that tells the story of 3,500 acres of land and its return to the wild.
And then we'll wrap things up with an Australian-English writer, gardener, and traveler.
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September 28, 1793
Birth of Thomas Coulter, Irish physician, botanist, and explorer. He founded the herbarium at Trinity College, Dublin. He spent a year and a half studying with the great Swiss botanist Augustin de Candolle before exploring Mexico and the American Southwest in the early 1900s. Today he is remembered in the names of several plants. The Romneya coulteri or the Coulter poppy is a white-blossomed flower native to southern California and Baja California. Also called the California tree poppy, the Coulter poppy has the largest flower of any poppy.
Another Southern California specimen, the Coulter pine, is known for creating the largest pine cones in the world. Called "widowmakers" by the locals, each pinecone can weigh up to ten pounds.
September 28, 1824
Birth of Francis Turner Palgrave, English poet and critic. He compiled The Golden Treasury (1861), which featured English Songs and Lyrics. The popular anthology is still published with new editions under Francis Palgrave's name. In Eutopia, Francis wrote,
There is a garden where lilies
And roses are side by side;
And all day between them in silence
The silken butterflies glide.
I may not enter the garden,
Though I know the road thereto;
And morn by morn to the gateway
I see the children go.
They bring back light on their faces;
But they cannot bring back to me
What the lilies say to the roses,
Or the songs of the butterflies be.
September 28, 1867
Birth of James Edwin Campbell, African-American dialectic poet. In his poem, A Night in June, he wrote,
"What so rare as a day in June?"
O poet, hast thou never known
A night in rose-voluptuous June?
And in When The Fruit Trees Bloom, James wrote,
When the fruit trees bloom,
Pink of peach and white of plum,
And the pear-trees’ cones of snow
In the old back orchard blow --
Planted fifty years ago!
And the cherries' long white row
Gives the sweetest prophecy
Of the banquet that will be,
When the suns and winds of June
Shall have kissed to fruit the bloom --
Then Falstaffian bumble-bees
Drain the blossoms to the lees.
When the fruit trees bloom.
The Herb Farm reminded Marguerite of the farms in France; it was like a farm in a child's picture book. There was a white wooden fence that penned in sheep and goats, a chicken coop where a dozen warm eggs cost a dollar, a red barn for the two bay horses, and a greenhouse. Half of the greenhouse did what greenhouses do, while the other half had been fashioned into very primitive retail space. The vegetables were sold from wooden crates, all of them grown organically before such a process even had a name- corn, tomatoes, lettuces, seventeen kinds of herbs, squash, zucchini, carrots with the bushy tops left on, spring onions, radishes, cucumbers, peppers, strawberries for two short weeks in June, pumpkins after the fifteenth of September. There was chèvre made on the premises from the milk of the goats; there was fresh butter. And when Marguerite showed up for the first time in the summer of 1975, there was a ten-year-old boy who had been given the undignified job of cutting zinnias, snapdragons, and bachelor buttons and gathering them into attractive-looking bunches.
― Elin Hilderbrand, The Love Season
Grow That Garden Library
This book came out in 2019, and the subtitle is The Return of Nature to a British Farm.
In this book, Isabella (whose last name - Tree - is perfect for a book on nature) guides us through the result of a massive rewilding project in West Sussex known as the Knepp ("Nep") experiment because it took place on the Knepp Estate.
Isabelle and her husband Charlie bought the estate in the 1980s from Charlie's grandparents. After recognizing that intensive farming on heavy clay was economically unsustainable, they decided to step back and let nature take over. To mimic the large animals that roamed Britain in the wild, they introduced free-roaming cattle, ponies, pigs, and deer and let nature dictate the outcome on 3,500 acres. The animal activity turns out to be the key to kickstarting diversity in flora and fauna. They removed the infrastructure of traditional farming like drains and fencing. In a little over a decade, wildlife and plant diversity returned. Knepp became home to turtle doves, nightingales, peregrine falcons, and lesser spotted woodpeckers. The beauty of a functioning ecosystem is that it sustains and encourages life all by itself.
This book is 384 pages of a personal memoir and a nature memoir - it's hopeful, inspirational, and above all, doable.
Today's Botanic Spark
Reviving the little botanic spark in your heart
September 28, 1885
Birth of Clara Coltman Rogers Vyvyan, Australian-English writer and gardener. She used the pen names C. C. Rogers and C. C. Vyvyan. After working in the slums of East London as a social worker and a nurse in WWI, Clara married the 10th Vyvyan baronet, who was 27-years her senior and lived on a 15th-century estate known as Trelowarren. The two were quite compatible and shared eleven happy years together. Both of them enjoyed nature. One of Clara's dearest friends was Daphne du Maurier, who used Clara's centuries-old home and gardens as the setting for her novels Frenchman's Creek and Rebecca. In Friends and Contemporaries, Clara's friend A L Rowse recognized the use of the Trelowarren landscape and wrote,
The colonnade of trees in Rebecca, by the way, is the avenue of over-arching ilexes there, like a cathedral aisle.
When Daphne visited Trelowarren for the first time, she fell in love with its rugged landscape and timeless quality. She described it as "the most beautiful place imaginable." After her visit, Daphne wrote in her diary,
I simply hated leaving Trelowarren. Few places have made such a profound impression on me.
Trelowarren similarly inspired Clara, and when her husband died, she started market gardening and writing to help financially maintain her West Cornwall estate. She wrote over twenty books during her life of adventure and beauty. When she was 67, she traveled to the Alaskan Klondyke and embarked on a 400-mile walk with the aid of two guides. The result was her book Down the Rhone on Foot. Most of her books were about her beloved Cornwall and, of course, her gardens. In her Letters from a Cornish Garden (1972), she shared a collection of delightful essays about gardening. Her friend Daphne du Maurier wrote the forward.
As one grows older, one should grow more expert at finding beauty in unexpected places, in deserts and even in towns, in ordinary human faces, and among wild weeds.
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