Today in botanical history, we celebrate an old English poet, a Mexican botanist, and a British gardener and survivalist who was way ahead of his time.
We'll hear an excerpt from a beautiful Jack Gilbert poem
We Grow That Garden Library™ with a garden classic of our time from a contemporary garden expert.
And then we'll wrap things up with a fun movie that featured a botanist. It debuted six years ago today in England.
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September 30, 1669
Death of Henry King, English poet. He served as Bishop of Chichester and was close friends with John Donne. He wrote,
Brave flowers - that I could gallant it like you,
And be as little vain!
You come abroad, and make a harmless show,
And to your beds again.
You are not proud: you know your birth:
For your embroidered garments are from earth.
September 30, 1901
Birth of Helia Bravo Hollis, Mexican botanist. She was the first woman to graduate with a degree in biology in Mexico. By 29, she was curator of the National Autonomous University of Mexico (Mexico City) herbarium, where she studied cacti. Her work brought notoriety, and she became known as The Queen of the Cacti. She co-wrote her masterpiece, Las Cactaceas de México, with Hernando Sánchez-Mejorada. In 1951, she cofounded the Mexican Cactus Society, which planned to celebrate her 100th birthday in 2001, but she died four days shy of the century mark. In 1980, Monaco's Princess Grace Kelly, who was also fond of cacti, presented Helia with the second-ever Golden Cactus Award. Helia helped found the Botanical Gardens at UNAM, where she served as the director throughout the 1960s. Once, when a strike occurred at the gardens, she offset her workers' lost wages with her own savings. In 2018, Google commemorated Helia's 117th birthday with a Google Doodle. Online, there is a memorable image of Helia dressed in a skirt and blazer - with a knife in her hand - and standing next to an enormous Echinocactus platyacanthus, aka the giant barrel cactus. In Mexico, where the cactus is a native, the hairs are harvested for weaving, and a traditional candy is made from boiling the pith. Today, the Helia Bravo Hollis Botanical Garden, with more than 80 species of Cactaceae, is found at the Biosphere Reserve of Tehuacán.
Helia once wrote,
My reason for living is biology and cacti.
September 30, 1910
Birth of Edward Solomon Hyams, British gardener, French scholar, historian, anarchist, and writer. He was a gardening correspondent for the Illustrated London News and The Spectator and various horticultural journals. After WWII, he lived a self-sufficient lifestyle at Nut Tree Cottages in Molash in Kent. He planted a small vineyard and later wrote The Grape Vine in England (1949). The following year, he wrote From the Waste Land (1950), which describes the transformation of three acres at Nut Tree Cottages into a market garden that generated food and income. In The Gardener's Bedside Book (1968), he wrote,
I have never been interested in and am incapable of writing about the great hybrid garden tulips. I do not mean to condemn them or anything foolish like that; but one cannot be interested in every kind of garden plant, and that particular kind has never made any real appeal to me whatsoever. But the botanical species tulips are quite another matter.
Love is like a garden in the heart, he said.
They asked him what he meant by garden.
He explained about gardens. "In the cities,"
he said, "there are places walled off where color
and decorum are magnified into a civilization.
Like a beautiful woman," he said. How like
a woman, they asked. He remembered their wives
and said garden was just a figure of speech,
then called for drinks all around. Two rounds
later he was crying.
― Jack Gilbert, Ovid in Tears, The Dance Most of All: Poems
Grow That Garden Library
This book came out in 2020, and the subtitle is A Story of People, Plants, and Gardens.
In this book, we learn about Windcliff - one of two magnificent gardens created by the plantsman, nurseryman, and plant hunter Dan Hinkley. (Dan also created Heronswood.)
“These iconic gardens, and the story of how one gave rise to the other, are celebrated in Hinkley’s deeply personal Windcliff. In a lively style that mingles audacious opinions on garden design with cautionary tales of planting missteps, Hinkley shares his infectious passion for plants.”
In these pages, you will fall in love with Windcliff thanks to the gorgeous photography and fall even deeper in love hearing about the careful way Dan created Windcliff, from the exceptional plants he selected to his pragmatic garden advice.
This book is 280 pages of creating a garden with a modern master who loves plants and is delighted to share his stunning garden with us.
Today's Botanic Spark
Reviving the little botanic spark in your heart
September 30, 2015
On this day, The Martian, featuring Matt Damon as botanist Mark Watney premiered in England. In the movie, Mark is accidentally left on Mars and is forced to grow potatoes to stay alive until he is rescued.
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