October 15, 2021 Think Like a Landscape Architect, Helen Hunt Jackson, Iowa State College Gardens, George Russell, Thomas Merton, The Scentual Garden By Ken Druse, and Wally Scales

Show Notes

Today in botanical history, we celebrate an American poet and writer, a look back at a one-of-a-kind event at the gardens at Iowa State, and the English gardener who bred phenomenal lupins.

We'll hear an excerpt from Thomas Merton's diary entry for October.

We Grow That Garden Library™ with an award-winning modern book on scent in the garden.

And then we'll wrap things up with the legacy of a college head gardener and how his memory still lives on at the greenhouse.



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10 Things Your Landscape Architect Wishes You Knew (But Is Too Polite to Tell You) | Gardenista | Barbara Peck


Important Events

October 15, 1830
Birth of Helen Hunt Jackson, (pen name H.H.) American poet and writer. She fought for the dignity of Native Americans and wrote about mistreatment by the US government in A Century of Dishonor (1881) and Ramona (1884).

Today Helen is remembered for her light-hearted poems like:

By all these lovely tokens September days are here, with Summer's best of weather and Autumn's best of cheer.


O suns and skies and clouds of June,
And flowers of June together,
Ye cannot rival for one hour
October's bright blue weather

Her poem Vanity of Vanities is a favorite of gardeners.

Bee to the blossom, moth to the flame;
Each to his passion; what’s in a name?

Red clover’s sweetest, well the bee knows;
No bee can suck it; lonely it blows.

Deep lies the honey, out of reach, deep;
What use in honey hidden to keep?

Robbed in the autumn, starving for bread;
Who stops to pity a honey-bee dead?

Star-flames are brightest, blazing the skies;
Only a hand’s breadth the moth-wing flies.

Fooled with a candle, scorched with a breath;
Poor little miller, a tawdry death;

Life is a honey, life is a flame;
Each to his passion; what’s in a name?

Swinging and circling, face to the sun,
Brief little planet, how it doth run!

Bee-time and moth-time, add the amount;
white heat and honey, who keeps the count?

Gone some fine evening, a spark out-tost!
The world no darker for one star lost!

Bee to the blossom, moth to the flame;
Each to his passion; what’s in a name?


October 15, 1897
On this day, The Des Moines Register ran a headline from Ames Iowa: Crowd Ruins Iowa State's Flower Plots.

An unfounded rumor that flowers in the Iowa State college gardens could be had for the picking because of an expected frost led to an unprecedented display of vandalism here.

A crowd estimated at 150 to 200 persons Sunday went through the horticulture department gardens, stripping off flowers and pulling up bushes until routed by Ames police.

Officers relieved the mob of most of the flowers they had seized, but members of the horticulture department said the loss would be heavy.

Most of the flowers and plants stripped were being used for experimental work, they added, and the loss, therefore, could not be measured in dollars and cents.

Chrysanthemums sent to Iowa State by E. G. Kraus of the University of Chicago were picked clean.

The flowers were being used In tests to determine resistance to cold weather and the experiment was ruined, officials said. The college gardens are used primarily for research, and their part in campus beautification is secondary.

The college rose garden is one of 16 being used as part of a national research program. Horticulture department members said it never has been college policy to permit picking of flowers by the public, although visitors always have been welcome to come and look at any time. Signs are displayed prominently throughout the gardens warning visitors not to pick anything.

College officials were at a loss to explain how the rumor might have started and said it was the first time the gardens ever had been invaded by any sizeable number of flower pickers.

Ames townspeople and Iowa State college staff members were among those who went through the gardens on the picking spree, police said. Professor E.C. Volz reported that more than a dozen persons, some from nearby towns, stopped at his office Monday to find out where they might get flowers.


October 15, 1951
Death of George Russell, English gardener and plant breeder. He's remembered for his work with lupins and the creation of his stunning Russell Hybrids.

George was a professional gardener, but his interest in lupins was ignited after seeing a vase of the blossom at one of his clients, a Mrs. Micklethwaite. When he examined the bloom, he fell in love with the architecture and form of the flower, but he wasn't thrilled by the solid purple color. He reportedly remarked,

Now, there's a plant that could stand some improving.

Starting at age 54, George spent the next two decades cultivating five thousand lupines every year on his two allotments, and he used bee pollination to develop his hybrids. From each year's crop, just five percent were selected for their seed based on the traits George found most appealing.

For over two decades, George kept his lupines to himself. But finally, in 1935, nurseryman James Baker struck a deal with George: his stock of plants in return for a place to live for him and his assistant and the opportunity to continue his work. Two years later, George's lupines - in a rainbow of colors - were the talk of the Royal Horticulture Society flower show. George won a gold medal and a Veitch Memorial Medal for his incredible work.

After George died on this day, much of his work died with him. Without his yearly devotion, many of his lupines reverted back to their wild purple color and tendencies or succumbed to Cucumber mosaic virus.

Today, Sarah Conibear's ("con-ah-BEER") nursery Westcountry Lupins in North Devon is doing her own exciting work with this plant.  In 2014, her lupines were featured in the Chelsea Flower Show and her red lupin, the Beefeater, is a new favorite with gardeners.

Now, the history of Lupins is pretty fascinating.

The first lupins in England were sent over from the Mediterranean. Other lupins were found in the Western Hemisphere.

During his time in North America, the Swedish botanist Pehr Kalm observed that livestock left lupin alone even though it was green and "soft to the touch."

George Russell planted the variety discovered by the botanist David Douglas in British Columbia.

Lupins are a plant in motion. They follow the sun in the daytime, but Charles Darwin observed that they sleep "in three different [ways]" when they close their petals at night.

Henry David Thoreau wrote about Lupins in his book, Summer. He wrote,

Lupin seeds have long been used by the Navajo to make a medicine that not only relieves boils but is a cure for sterility.
[Lupine] is even believed to be effective in producing girl babies.


Unearthed Words

​​Brilliant, windy day—cold. It is fall. It is the kind of day in October that Pop used to talk about. I thought about my grandfather as I came up through the hollow, with the sun on the bare persimmon trees, and a song in my mouth. All songs are, as it were, one's last. I have been grateful for life.
― Thomas Merton, A Year with Thomas Merton: Daily Meditations from His Journals


Grow That Garden Library

The Scentual Garden By Ken Druse

This book came out in October of 2019, and the subtitle is Exploring the World of Botanical Fragrance.

The author Joe Lamp'l said,

"A brilliant and fascinating journey into perhaps the most overlooked and under-appreciated dimension of plants. Ken's well-researched information, experience, and perfect examples, now have me appreciating plants, gardens, and designs in a fresh and stimulating way."

Ken Druse is a celebrated lecturer and an award-winning author and photographer who has been called "the guru of natural gardening" by the New York Times. He is best known for his 20 garden books published over the past 25 years.

And, after reading this book, I immediately began to pay much more attention to fragrance in my garden.

The book is 256 illustrated pages of 12 categories of scented plant picks and descriptions for the garden - from plants to shrubs and trees.

You can get a copy of The Scentual Garden By Ken Druse and support the show, using the Amazon Link in today's Show Notes for around $40.


Today's Botanic Spark

Reviving the little botanic spark in your heart

October 15, 1959
On this day, Bloomington's Indiana University captured a photo of head gardener Hugh Wallace Scales (who always went by "Wally") hard at work with the plants in the greenhouse.

Today, in memory of Wally, greenhouse staffers have named their prized Amorphophallus titanum (a.k.a. titan arum, corpse flower) "Wally." Wally was the first manager of the Jordan Hall greenhouse, and the building now serves as home to the biology department.  In addition to collecting plants, Wally helped establish the teaching collection and conservatory.


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