Today in botanical history, we celebrate a fun little story from the White House, a New Zealand writer, and a pop culture film that debuted on this day 27 years ago today.
We'll hear an excerpt from an Eva Ibbotson book.
We Grow That Garden Library™ with a book that promotes an awareness of and appreciation for Georgia’s rich garden heritage.
And then we’ll wrap things up with an adorable little poem from one of the most prolific haiku writers who ever lived.
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October 14, 1862
On this day, President Lincoln wrote Navy Captain John Dalgren and asked him to find a gun for his youngest child, 9-year-old Tad. In the note, Lincoln specifically asked for, “a little gun that he can not hurt himself with.”
Tad was seven years old when he arrived at the White House. The following day the Civil War started, and the constant presence of soldiers and battle talk sparked the boy’s early love of the military.
He and his brother Willie played together and pretended to be soldiers in the White House, where the roof was their fort, and the attic was a prison.
One of Tad’s favorite toys was a doll he named Jack that he received from the Sanitary Commission. Jack was part of many imaginary battles and skirmishes. Jack suffered grueling amputations (which were promptly sewn back on) and injuries and was even sentenced to prison.
Julia Taft’s younger brothers played with the Lincoln boys, and she would often babysit all four of them. In her memoir of the Lincoln White House entitled Tad Lincoln's Father (1931), she tells of Jack being regularly buried with honors in the White House Gardens to the dismay of the head gardener, John Watt. Tad had already irritated Mr. Watt after eating strawberries that were intended for a White House dinner. When Mr. Watt suggested Jack might be pardoned, Tad asked his father to give Jack another chance.
President Lincoln got out a pen and paper and wrote,
The Doll Jack is pardoned by order of the President.
October 14, 1888
Birth of Katherine Mansfield, New Zealand poet, and writer. She once wrote,
The mind I love must have wild places.
Reflecting on her life, she wrote,
I want a garden, a small house, grass, animals, books, pictures, music. And out of this, the expression of this, I want to be writing.
Katherine’s book The Garden Party is a collection of short stories that cover the gamut of emotions and begins with The Garden Party. The first paragraph is a delight:
And after all the weather was ideal. They could not have had a more perfect day for a garden-party if they had ordered it. Windless, warm, the sky without a cloud. Only the blue was veiled with a haze of light gold, as it is sometimes in early summer. The gardener had been up since dawn, mowing the lawns and sweeping them, until the grass and the dark flat rosettes where the daisy plants had been seemed to shine. As for the roses, you could not help feeling they understood that roses are the only flowers that impress people at garden-parties, the only flowers that everybody is certain of knowing. Hundreds, yes, literally hundreds, had come out in a single night; the green bushes bowed down as though they had been visited by archangels.
In her poem Camomile Tea she wrote,
Outside the sky is light with stars;
There’s a hollow roaring from the sea.
And, alas! for the little almond flowers,
The wind is shaking the almond tree.
How little I thought, a year ago,
In that horrible cottage upon the Lee
That he and I should be sitting so
And sipping a cup of camomile tea!
Light as feathers the witches fly,
The horn of the moon is plain to see;
By a firefly under a jonquil flower
A goblin toasts a bumble-bee.
We might be fifty, we might be five,
So snug, so compact, so wise are we!
Under the kitchen-table leg
My knee is pressing against his knee.
Our shutters are shut, the fire is low,
The tap is dripping peacefully;
The saucepan shadows on the wall
Are black and round and plain to see.
October 14, 1994
On this day, Quentin Tarantino’s Pulp Fiction opened in theaters. In the movie, Uma Thurman’s character tells this joke:
Three tomatoes are walking down the street -
a papa tomato, a mama tomato, and a little baby tomato.
Baby tomato starts lagging behind.
Papa tomato get angry, goes over to Baby tomato, and squishes him.....
and says 'Ketchup!’"
“Gardeners are never wicked are they?' said Ruth.
'Obstinate and grumpy and wanting to be alone, but not wicked.
Oh, look at that creeper! I've always loved October so much, haven't you?
I can see why it's called the Month of the Angels.”
― Eva Ibbotson, The Morning Gift
Grow That Garden Library
This book came out in 2018, and the subtitle is A Collection of Georgia's Historic Gardens.
What a fantastic topic!
I always say that Georgia loves her gardens on a level that could rival the way England loves hers.
And of course, what I love about this book is that it's marrying the beauty of these gardens, the design, the particular elements that make them special. A little bit about the families and the people that grew up and got to live in these beautiful gardens. Along with the great history of the gardens. So I just absolutely love this book and it is so, so, so, so beautiful.
Now this book takes us back to the mid 18th century to the early 20th century - so that's the time period that we're focusing on here. And surprisingly, you're going to see all kinds of gardens in this book, not just colonial revival gardens, or country place era landscapes, but also you're going to see rock gardens, town squares, college campuses, and even an urban conservation garden.
Now the authors do a wonderful job of walking us through the history of Georgia's gardens. And by the way, all of the gardens that are featured in this book, with the exception of ten, are all public gardens, so you can go and visit them with no problem.
And, you know, another thing to keep in mind when you're reading about Georgia and Georgia’s gardens is that Georgia was a battlefield during the civil war. So even if some of these gardens managed to get through unscathed, they still had to pull themselves out of the upheaval of the time, Because you had all of the economic, social, and political factors that definitely impacted these gardens and that adds a very unique dimension to the history of these gardens as well.
But as I mentioned earlier, Georgians love gardening.
In fact, the very first garden club that was founded in the United States that was super official - complete with things like a constitution and bylaws - was the lady's garden club and it was established in Athens, Georgia in 1891.
Then, of course, you've got the garden club of America that gets formed in 1913.
And that was really through a United effort of 11 different garden clubs, including, of course, The Garden Club of Georgia. So I share all of this to underscore the deep love of gardens and gardening in the state of Georgia - and that's why, of course, this is such a wonderful book.
And it's a big book. This book is 488 pages of Georgia garden. Heritage.
Today’s Botanic Spark
Reviving the little botanic spark in your heart
October 14, 1867
Birth of Masaoka Shiki, “Masah-oh-ka Sha-KEY” Japanese poet, author, and literary critic. He died of tuberculosis at age 34 in 1902.
Regarded as one of the four haiku masters, he helped develop the modern form of haiku poetry, and he personally wrote nearly 20,000 haiku verses in his all-too-short life.
Now in researching Masaoka, I stumbled on a wonderful video by Roger Pulvers, who not only reads some of his haikus but does a masterful job explaining his most controversial haiku, which happened to be about the coxcomb. It was about a simple flower.
Now I'm not going to ruin it for you. I don't want to spoil it, but you really should head on over to the Facebook group and check out this video by Roger Pulvers, where he helps us to better understand and appreciate Masaoka’s poetry - plus I think you'll really enjoy hearing that haiku that he wrote about coxcomb.
I do not know the day
my pain will end yet
in the little garden
I had them plant
seeds of autumn flowers
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