Today in botanical history, we celebrate a wealthy gardener and apothecary whose garden became his legacy, a pioneering landscape architect who left his mark on the world in his all-too-short life, and the fun that can be had dying flowers - a hobby that's been around for quite a longe time.
We'll hear an excerpt from a book by a Quaker woman who spent a year tending sheep.
We Grow That Garden Library™ with a book about flowers in all their glory, and it takes us inside the Secret World of Plants...
And then we'll wrap things up with a little poem written by an American writer, and it's a little poignant - so kleenex should be on standby.
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To borrow her phrase,
I need me a garden to rest my eyes against...
November 1, 1666
Birth of James Sherard, English apothecary, botanist, amateur musician, and composer.
His older brother, William, was also a botanist.
James served as an apprentice to an apothecary named Charles Watts at Chelsea Physic Garden. He later followed his entrepreneurial instincts and started his own business, which made him quite wealthy. In August of 1716, he wrote that,
“the love of Botany has so far prevailed as to divert my mind from things I formerly thought more material.”
After retiring, he purchased three residences - two manor homes and a place in London. At his London residence, he established a garden and began collecting and cultivating rare plants.
Around the time his garden was becoming one of England's top gardens, James's brother William invited the German botanist Johann Jacob Dillenius to visit England. Dillenius created an illustrated catalog that described the plants cultivated in James's collection in London. The English botanical writer Blanche Henrey called Dillenius's book,
“the most important book published in England during the eighteenth century on the plants growing in a private garden."
Today, the walls of the Herbarium Room at the Oxford Botanic Garden and Arboretum are graced with the illustrations from Dillenius's book - so the plants in James Sherard's beautiful garden live on in that marvelous place.
November 1, 1859
Birth of Charles Eliot, American landscape architect.
In his brief career, Charles established principles for regional planning and natural systems for landscape architecture. He also helped set up the world's first land trust and the Boston Metropolitan Park System. He was a prolific writer and observer of nature and Landscapes. His work set the stage for conservancies across the world.
Charles was born into a prominent Boston family. In 1869, the year his mother died, his father, Charles William Eliot, became the president of Harvard University.
In 1882 Charles went to Harvard to study botany. A year later, he began apprenticing with the landscape firm of Frederick Law Olmsted.
As a young landscape architect, Charles enjoyed visiting different natural areas, and he conducted regular walking tours of different nature areas around Boston. In his diary, Charles made a charming list titled, "A Partial List of Saturday Walks before 1878".
Early in his career, Charles spent 13 months touring England and Europe between 1885 and 1886. The trip was actually Olmsted's idea, and it was a great training ground for Charles's understanding of various landscape concepts. During this trip, Charles kept a journal where he wrote down his thoughts and sketches of the places he was visiting. During his time in Europe, Charles's benchmark was always Boston. Throughout his writings, he continually compared new landscapes to the beauty of his native landscape in New England.
Charles's story ended too soon. He died at 37 from spinal meningitis.
Before his death, Charles had worked with Charles Sprague Sargent to plan The Arnold Arboretum. When Charles died, Sargent wrote a tribute to him and featured it in his weekly journal called Garden and Forest.
Charles's death had a significant impact on his father, Charles Eliot Senior. At times, the two men had struggled to connect. Charles hadn't liked it when his dad remarried and, their personalities were very different. Charles, the architect, could be a little melancholy.
After Charles died, his dad, Charles Sr., started culling through his son's work.
In April 1897, Charles Sr. confided to a friend,
"I am examining his letters and papers, and I am filled with wonder at what he accomplished in the ten years of professional life. I should’ve died without ever having appreciated his influence. His death has shown it to me."
Despite his heavy workload as the president of Harvard, Charles Sr. immediately set about compiling all of his son's work. He used it to write a book called Charles Eliot Landscape Architect. The book came out in 1902, and today it is considered a classic work in the field of landscape architecture.
November 1, 1883
On this day, the Brown County World (Hiawatha, Kansas) published a little blurb that said,
A distinguished botanist has found that by simply soaking the stems of cut flowers in a weak dye solution, their colors can be altered at will without the perfume and the freshness being destroyed.
On the first day of November last year, sacred to many religious calendars but especially the Celtic, I went for a walk among bare oaks and birch. Nothing much was going on. Scarlet sumac had passed, and the bees were dead. The pond had slicked overnight into that shiny and deceptive glaze of delusion, first ice. It made me remember skates and conjure a vision of myself skimming backward on one foot, the other extended; the arms become wings. Minnesota girls know that this is not a difficult maneuver if one's limber and practices even a little after school before the boys claim the rink for hockey. I think I can still do it - one thinks many foolish things when November's bright sun skips over the entrancing first freeze.
A flock of sparrows reels through the air looking more like a flying net than seventy conscious birds, a black veil thrown on the wind. When one sparrow dodges, the whole net swerves, dips: one mind. Am I part of anything like that?
Maybe not. [...]
It's an ugly woods, I was saying to myself, padding along a trail where other walkers had broken ground before me. And then I found an extraordinary bouquet. Someone had bound an offering of dry seed pods, yew, lyme grass, red berries, and brown fern and laid it on the path: "nothing special," as Buddhists say, meaning "everything." Gathered to formality, each dry stalk proclaimed a slant, an attitude, infinite shades of neutral.
All contemplative acts, silences, poems, honor the world this way. Brought together by the eye of love, a milkweed pod, a twig, allow us to see how things have been all along. A feast of being.
― Mary Rose O'Reilley, The Barn at the End of the World: The Apprenticeship of a Quaker, Buddhist Shepherd
Grow That Garden Library
Flora was also contributed to by Kew, the Royal Botanic Gardens.
This book was published back in 2018, and the subtitle is Inside the Secret World of Plants.
Well, let me tell you that when I got my copy of this book, I was so pleasantly surprised.
This is a big book - it's a coffee table book. The cover is predominantly white, and then it just has a single flower featured on the cover - and it is stunning.
I like to think about this fantastic book as a floral scrapbook. So imagine if you were to put together a book of flowers, and on each page, you feature: a different blossom, details about the plant, the history and some outstanding characteristics of the flower, and other various aspects of the plant. This book also reviews a little bit of the science behind why plants do what they do and how they do what they do. Flora is beautifully illustrated with modern photography and also some incredible botanical art from the ages. And it is just a joy to leaf through.
So whether you are a gardener or even a non-gardener, I think you would enjoy this book.
Today's Botanic Spark
Reviving the little botanic spark in your heart
November 1, 1871
Birth of Stephen Crane, American poet, novelist, and short-story writer.
Stephen started writing at the tender age of four. As a young adult, he dropped out of college at Syracuse and started working as a reporter and writer. By 1895 his Civil War novel The Red Badge of Courage won acclaim despite Stephen never having any personal experience as a soldier.
The following year he was asked to go to Cuba as a war correspondent. During the voyage, his ship, the SS Commodore, sank off the coast of Florida. Stephen survived after spending thirty hours adrift at sea in a small dinghy along with other survivors. The experience became the basis for his book called, The Open Boat.
Despite surviving the shipwreck, Stephen Crane died young of tuberculosis at the age of 28.
Today, The Red Badge of Courage is considered an American classic. But Stephen also wrote short stories and poetry. One of his biggest fans was Ernest Hemingway, who credited Stephen as a source of his inspiration.
In Stephen's poem, The Black Riders and Other Lines (1895), Stephen wrote,
There was set before me a mighty hill,
And long days I climbed
Through regions of snow.
When I had before me the summit-view,
It seemed that my labour
Had been to see gardens
Lying at impossible distances.
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