Today in botanical history, we celebrate an American botanist, professor, and writer, an American short-story writer, and her last novel, and the amateur botanist honored with the Australian Native Plants Award.
We'll hear an excerpt from Neil Gaiman's book, Season of Mists.
We Grow That Garden Library™ with a master book on wreaths.
And then we'll wrap things up with a garden classic that came out on this day in 2013.
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October 1, 1874
Birth of LeRoy Abrams, American botanist, professor, and writer. Born in Sheffield, Iowa, he moved west with his parents as a small boy. As a graduate student, he botanized around Los Angeles. A biographical sketch of LeRoy said,
[He] crisscrossed southern California in a wagon, on the back of a mule or burrow, and on foot to make field observations... and collected specimens from Santa Barbara to Yuma, from Needles to San Diego, and from the Salton Sink prior to its flooding to the summits of Old Baldy.
He published Flora of Los Angeles and Vicinity (1904), encompassing a fifty-mile radius around LA. In 1909, LeRoy married a fellow student at Stanford named Letitia Patterson. The couple handbuilt and enjoyed their mountain cabin on the west side of Fallen Leaf Lake. When their only daughter died a few short years after her college graduation, they shouldered their grief together. LeRoy served as the director of the Natural History Museum at Stanford, where he taught botany for thirty-four years. The final volume of his four-volume work An Illustrated Flora of the Pacific States was completed posthumously. LeRoy was a loving teacher. His students called him "Father." When, at 51, the great botanist Ynes Mexia decided to pursue a career in botany, her first course was on flowering plants, and her professor was LeRoy Abrams.
October 1, 1972
On this day, The Tampa Tribune profiled American short story writer Eudora Welty and shared some backstory on what would be her last book:
Miss Welty was writing "Losing Battles" at home with her [dying mother] and two nurses and laughing a great deal (the book is beyond grief and funny as owls in heaven), and the nurses did not approve of anything. And right in the middle of it, the nematodes did in the roses, which had been packed in that garden tight as a trunk, but nothing that could be tried availed at all. Ordinarily, an attack on her roses would have brought [the older] Mrs. Welty right out of the kitchen, as they say, but she was past those battles then. Her characters in her stories are like the roses: some make it, some don't.
October 1, 2019
On this day, amateur botanist Glenn Leiper received the Australian Native Plants Award. He co-wrote a popular field guide of native plants in southeast Queensland called Mangroves to Mountains. While botanizing the area, he rediscovered the rainforest myrtle tree Gossia gonoclada a century after the plant was considered extinct. He also discovered a native violet colony. Once, he spied a fifteen-centimeter-tall from his car while driving. The unusual spotting resulted in the naming of the plant in his honor: Androcalva leiperi. Glenn acknowledges his most helpful skill for botany,
I've got good eyes.
October knew, of course, that the action of turning a page, of ending a chapter, or of shutting a book did not end a tale. Having admitted that, he would also avow that happy endings were never difficult to find: "It is simply a matter," he explained to April, "of finding a sunny place in a garden, where the light is golden, and the grass is soft; somewhere to rest, to stop reading, and to be content.
― Neil Gaiman, Season of Mists
Grow That Garden Library
This book came out in 2018, and the subtitle is Fresh, Foraged, and Dried Floral Arrangements.
In this book, Terri shares her nature-inspired wreaths. Now, if you've ever tried to make your own wreath, you know it's more complicated than it looks. Terri breaks down the fine art of creative wreath-making - playing with color, texture, natural elements, and how to use them. If you thought wreaths were just for the front door - Terri will show you how to integrate them into your home to dress up unexpected areas like chairs, centerpieces, and even books.
This book is 144 pages of wreath goodness - good ideas, good uses, and excellent form.
Today's Botanic Spark
Reviving the little botanic spark in your heart
October 1, 2013
On this day, Braiding Sweetgrass by Robin Wall Kimmerer was released. The compelling subtitle is Indigenous Wisdom, Scientific Knowledge, and the Teachings of Plants.
The book has brought her fame and opened the eyes of her readers who see the natural world in a new way - an ancient way.
Robin introduces her book on her website with this excerpt:
I could hand you a braid of sweetgrass, as thick and shining as the plait that hung down my grandmother's back. But it is not mine to give, nor yours to take.
So I offer, in its place, a braid of stories meant to heal our relationship with the world.
Robin's prose is like poetry. Her Native American roots offered a distinct and more profound way to connect with plants and with the world. As a botanist and professor of plant ecology, Robin approaches nature with a spirit of gratitude and humility.
In her book, Robin writes of gardens and gardening.
Gardens are simultaneously a material and a spiritual undertaking. That’s hard for scientists so fully brainwashed by Cartesian dualism to grasp.
“Well, how would you know it’s love and not just good soil?” she asks. “Where’s the evidence? What are the key elements for detecting loving behavior?”
That’s easy. No one would doubt that I love my children, and even a quantitative social psychologist would find no fault with my list of loving behaviors: nurturing health and well-being, protection from harm, encouraging individual growth and development, desire to be together, generous sharing of resources, working together for a common goal, celebration of shared values, interdependence, sacrifice by one for the other, creation of beauty.
If we observed these behaviors between humans, we would say, “She loves that person.”
You might also observe these actions between a person and a bit of carefully tended ground and say, “She loves that garden.”
Why then, seeing this list, would you not make the leap to say that the garden loves her back?”
A good question. A question most of us would not even consider asking.
Yet, as gardeners, the notion of finding love in our gardens may not be such a strange notion after all. Do we not find renewal and healing from the solitude offered in our gardens. Are there not moments where we find a deeper understanding of ourselves or a new wonderment about the world just from being in our gardens? And isn't renewal, healing, self-discovery, and wonder the benefits we receive from being loved?
It's something nice to consider, isn't it?
It's something Robin's thought about. In Braiding Sweetgrass, she writes,
This is really why I made my daughters learn to garden—so they would always have a mother to love them, long after I am gone.
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