Today in botanical history, we celebrate a French writer and poet, an adorable poem called Song of October that's kind of faded into obscurity, and a Forester's advice about pine needles.
We'll hear an excerpt from an English writer often called the prince of paradox.
We Grow That Garden Library™ with a lovely recipe book as we settle into fall - it's called The Flower Recipe Book.
And then we'll wrap things up with a charming little story from the Thoreaus. This one comes our way via Sophia Thoreau, the friend, and collaborator of her brother, Henry David Thoreau.
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October 13, 1878
On this day, the Chicago Tribune ran a feature article on Victor Hugo, French poet, novelist, essayist, playwright, and dramatist.
Opposed to the Second Empire of Napoleon III, Hugo was banished from his home country of France. In October 1855, the exiled Hugo was in desperate need of asylum, and he arrived on the rainy island of Guernsey seeking refuge. (Guernsey is just twenty-six miles off France's Normandy coast.)
In deep sorrow, Hugo wrote in a letter,
Exile has not only detached me from France, it has almost detached me from the Earth.
Eventually, Hugo came to see the island as his "rock of hospitality and freedom." Hugo was a prolific writer during the serenity of fifteen years of island life. It's where he completed his masterpiece Les Misérables. He also enjoyed spending time doing something he had never experienced before: working on his home and garden, the first he ever owned.
Today, the City of Paris has renovated Hugo's island garden, including a kitchen garden, fruit trees, a large fountain, and his bench of contemplation.
In 1870, Hugo planted an oak tree in the middle of his lawn, and he named it the United States of Europe. The tree was symbolic and represented Hugo's vision of European unification. He would not have been a fan of Brexit.
In 1878, the Chicago Tribune piece described the magnificent view beyond the garden visible from Hugo's 2nd-floor study.
It is impossible to conceive a finer view than one gets from this aerial room of glass... At our feet, the furthermost rocks of Guernsey plunge themselves into the sea. Everywhere the great ocean. At the extreme point of the port, we view the old castle and the red-coated soldiers of Great Britain. In front, the Islands of Herm and Sark bar the horizon like a colossal dyke. On the right, the lines of Jersey are vaguely to be seen, always in a perpetual fog. And finally, in the far, far dim distance, the coast of France. But it takes clear weather to view it. This is the magical panorama before which Victor Hugo has worked for sixteen years.
When I descended [the outdoor staircase], I found [his] old face under a huge straw hat in his garden, playing with his little granddaughter, and following with rapt attention the frolics of young George Hugo, who was blowing with terrible effort a tiny [boat] across the fountain-basin.
October 13, 1895
On this day, the Omaha Daily Bee (Nebraska) shared a little poem called An October Song from Clinton Scollard, which had been shared in the Ladies Home Journal.
There's a flush on the cheek of the pippin and peach,
And the first glint of gold on the bough of the beech;
The bloom from the stem of the buckwheat is cut,
And there'll soon be a gap in the burr of the nut.
The grape has a gleam like the breast of a dove.
And the haw is as red as the lips of my love;
While the hue of her eyes the blue gentian doth wear,
And the goldenrod glows like the gloss of her hair.
Like bubbles of amber the hours float away
As I search in my heart for regrets for the May;
Alas, for the spring and tho glamour thereof;
The autumn has won me the autumn and love.
October 13, 1995
On this day, Iowa Forester Mark Vitosh ("Vit-tosh") shared information about falling pine needles. Many folks can get alarmed by the amount of pine needle loss, and the enormous amount of shedding that takes place this time of year. Mark reminds us what is expected and what we can expect from his post via Iowa State University Extension.
I have had many calls in the last few weeks concerning the abrupt discoloration of the interior needles in many different types of conifers. The good news in most cases is that this is a normal characteristic of many different conifers in the fall and not some fatal disease.
This time of year, we are used to seeing deciduous (broad-leaved) trees showing their brilliant colors. However, when we see this on conifers, it does not appear normal and becomes alarming. Unlike their deciduous counterparts, evergreen conifers only discard a portion of their foliage each fall. For example, pine trees tend to keep 1-3 years of needles active, and in the fall, the old needles turn yellow-brown before they are shed. The pine species showing the most brilliant color change this year are white, Austrian, and Scotch. The color change is also noticeable on arborvitae and sometimes spruce. This color change occurs each year, but in some years, such as 1995, it is more eye-catching.
As long as the color change is in the inner portion of the tree and in the fall, you should have no worries. So instead of worrying, enjoy the brilliant yellow fall color of your conifer tree(s).
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."
― G. K. Chesterton, The Man Who Was October
Grow That Garden Library
This book came out in 2013. And the subtitle is 100 magical sculptural. Seasonal arrangements, and they are beautiful.
And so that's where they get the title, The Flower Recipe Book, because they're pulling these things together. And they do a marvelous job.
They dedicate the book to their nature-loving mothers, And I thought that was so touching.
And then, right upfront in the book, they introduce the flowers they will be working with. And I love this idea because, as in many cookbooks that share a master list of ingredients - That's what Elisia and Jill are doing with their book.
So, if you've struggled in the past with flower arranging, if you feel that you can just never get the look that you've been striving for., Jill and Alethea Are going to break this down, and they have three words that are their mantra for when they're creating their arrangements: base, focal, and bits.
So they start with this group of flowers and greenery- That's their base. They add in a hero flower- that's their focal point. And then they toss in a little bit of color and character - and that's their bits. And that's what fills out their arrangements.
Now, what I love about these two is that they genuinely love flowers. They start the introduction to their book this way, which tells you that they are truly kindred spirits. They write,
A patch of unruly honeysuckle makes our hearts skip a beat. The gnarled and thorny stems of garden roses call to us, despite the guaranteed hand scratches. We also have a great respect for the clean lines of Calla lilies and the simplicity of a single blooming succulent.
Now, doesn't that make them sound like gardeners? Yes, it does.
Well, I tell you what, this book is a gem for flower arranging.
It is so, so pretty. I think they have over 400 pictures in this book, along with step-by-step instructions.
So you really can't go wrong.
Jill and Alethea share the essential recipes for all of their arrangements, and just like with cooking, you can follow the recipe. Or you can add in a few substitutions; if you don't have everything, it's totally fine. You can still end up with a beautiful arrangement.
Now Alethea and Jill are truly masters. In fact, the two work together, and they created their own San Francisco-based floral design studio.
And their work has been featured in Sunset magazine, Food and Wine and Veranda; And it should, because it's absolutely gorgeous.
Over at the blog Design*Sponge, they left this review for the book.
A pitch-perfect combination of beautiful and functional. . . . Showcasing over 100 floral creations, The Flower Recipe Book breaks down flower arrangements as if they were recipes: including ingredients, how-to steps, and ideas for altering arrangements to suit your style.
So super, super friendly, and hands-on.
This book is 272 pages of simple flower recipes that will help you become the floral arranger that you've always wanted to become deep down.
Today's Botanic Spark
Reviving the little botanic spark in your heart
October 13, 1868
On this day, Sophia Thoreau inscribed this hickory leaf with a poem entitled "Fair Haven" by her older brother Henry. It is preserved in the Concord Museum.
The beautiful Fairhaven Hill, near Bear Garden Hill and the Boiling Spring, was one of Thoreau's favorite places on earth. He often went there to pick huckleberry. Today Fairhaven is only partially protected by the Concord Land Conservation Trust and The Walden Woods Project. The other part of Fairhaven has been sparsely developed for houses.
Here are the verses from Henry David Thoreau's Fair Haven poem that Sophia wrote on the Hickory leaf over 150 years ago:
When little hills like lambs did skip,
And Joshua ruled in heaven,
Unmindful rolled Musketuquid,
Nor budged an inch Fair Haven.
If there's a cliff in this wide world,
'S, a stepping stone to heaven,
A pleasant, craggy, short hand cut,
It sure must be Fair Haven.
If e'er my bark be tempest-tossed,
And every hope the wave in,
And this frail hulk shall spring a leak,
'll steer for thee, Fair Haven.
And when I take my last long rest,
And quiet sleep my grave in,
What kindlier covering for my breast,
Than thy warm turf Fair Haven.
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