Today in botanical history, we celebrate the botanical name of the Saguaro Cactus, a Russian writer and mystic, and November potpourri.
We'll hear an excerpt from Tom Perrotta's best-selling 2011 book.
We Grow That Garden Library™ with a book that celebrates the Islamic Garden.
And then we'll wrap things up with some hip Book Recommendations from 1975.
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November 2, 1902
On this day, Nathaniel Britton, one of the founders of the New York Botanical Garden, wrote to the industrialist and philanthropist Andrew Carnegie asking for permission to name a genus of Giant Cactus native to Arizona and northern Mexico in his honor.
Three days later, Mr. Carnegie's secretary responded:
“Mr. Carnegie has yours of November 2nd and asks me to say he is greatly honored by the proposal and will do his best to live up to it.”
And so, the majestic Saguaro ("suh-GWAR-oh") Cactus, the largest cactus in the United States and a plant synonymous with the American West, was christened the Carnegiea gigantea.
Saguaros can live for over two centuries. The Saguaro root system has one large tap root accompanied by a very intricate and shallow root system that lies within the top three inches of the soil. Any precious drops of rain are guided down to the ground beneath its mighty arms. After thirty-five years of life, Saguaro's produce a white night-blooming flower that is bat-pollinated. Saguaros begin to develop their arms after reaching the age of fifty. The average Saguaro weighs three tons.
The largest Saguaro ever recorded was called "Granddaddy." Granddaddy stood forty feet tall, had over 52 limbs, and was estimated to be three hundred years old.
November 2, 1906
Birth of Daniil Andreyev ("Da-NEEL An-drave"), Russian writer, poet, and mystic. He wrote a book called The Rose of the World over eight-and-a-half years as a prisoner in a Stalin prison camp.
Daniil once wrote,
"Perhaps the worst will never come to pass, and tyranny on such a scale will never recur. Perhaps humanity will forevermore retain the memory of Russia’s terrible historical experience. Every heart nurses that hope, and without it life would be unbearable."
Daniil had uncanny powers of recall and memory. He was also a voracious reader and grew his personal library to over 2,000 books by the time he was arrested in 1947. Daniil suffered from a spinal defect and wore an iron corset while in prison to cope with the pain.
Daniil began having mystic experiences as an adolescent. His first poem was called The Garden. In 1949, at the Vladimir high-security prison, Daniil started to have regular spiritual encounters and visions. And so he used those experiences to write Rose of the World at night. He had his final transcendent revelation in November of 1953 and then finished the book after his release from prison in 1957. And then, Daniil kept the book to himself - hiding it from the government in order to keep it from being destroyed.
Daniil's Rose of the World remained hidden before finally getting published in 1991 under Gorbachev. The Rose of the World was an instant bestseller. Daniel H. Shubin wrote the latest English translation in 2018.
Shubin writes that,
“[Daniil] Envisioned the reign of rows of the world on Earth in the twenty-third century, the future Epoch being a golden age of humanity, whose essence will develop… into a close connection between God and people. It includes a society that consists of a worldwide ecclesiastical fraternity.”
Daniil himself explained Rose of the World this way:
Rose of the World can be compared to an inverted flower whose root is in heaven, while the petal bowl is here, among Humanity, on Earth. Its stem is the revelation through which the spiritual sap flows, sustaining and strengthening its petals... But other than the petals, it also has a pith; this is its individual teaching.
November 2, 1954
On this day, The Journal Herald (Dayton, Ohio) ran a little snippet on the wonder of Potpourri from the November garden.
The November garden has her odors. In most instances, they are not so beguiling as those of spring and summer, yet they are far from displeasing.
There is the sharp, vinegary tang that rises from leaves, sodden and cold.
There is the odor of soil on which frost has laid whiteness; an odor, which seems different from that of earth newly turned in spring.
There is the pungence that rises from rotting apples and pears; and the heavy fragrance which issues from the chrysanthemum leaf and blossom.
Occasionally a flower remains whose breath is that of July. Even though the hand of chill has pressed heavily on the garden, the sweet alyssum has summer perfume. And a rose, spared, has a scent which speaks nostalgically of June.
But in the main, the odor of the November garden is distinctive, sharp, penetrating, and has something of that element of age, which cannot be associated with redolence but rather with a potpourri.
She felt strong and blissfully empty, gliding through the crisp November air, enjoying the intermittent warmth of the sun as it filtered down through the overhanging trees, which were mostly stripped of their foliage. It was that trashy, post-Halloween part of the fall, yellow and orange leaves littering the ground.
― Tom Perrotta, The Leftovers
Grow That Garden Library
This book came out in 2011 - so an oldie, but goodie. (It's already ten years old.)
And here's what Emma wrote at the beginning of this book:
Even a glimmer of understanding of traditional Islamic art and architecture clearly reveals that its beauty is not simply surface decoration, but is a reflection of a deep knowledge and understanding of the natural order and of the divine unity that penetrates all of our lives. Studying Islamic art and architecture and completing a master's thesis on Islamic gardens and garden carpet at the Royal college of art opened my eyes to the meaning of art.
Understanding something of the religion of Islam in general and Islamic art in particular, it became clear that all art to a greater or lesser degree should be a vehicle of hope.
It should remind us what it means to be human of our place in the universe and our role as is said in Islam as God's vice-regent on earth.
And then she writes, and bear in mind; this is 2011:
In the increasingly difficult times in which we live, it is good to be reminded that gardens and nature, transcend nationality, race, religion, color, and ideology. The Islamic garden is not only for Muslims, it's beauty is apparent to everyone.
In her book, Emma offers an introduction to the design, the symbolism, and the planting of the traditional Islamic garden. Emma also gives some practical tips if you're interested in creating an Islamic garden for yourself.
Emma points out that we all have different starting points for our gardens. We have different garden sizes and situations (urban garden or a country garden), obviously different climates and soils, etc. And so, she spends a couple of chapters offering up ideas for plants and trees and shrubs that you might want to consider incorporating into an Islamic-inspired garden.
Now there is a pattern to Islamic gardens. They're often constructed around a central pool or fountain with four streams flowing symbolically to the earth's four corners.
My favorite part of this book is exploring the symbolism behind Islamic art and gardens. And by the way, there is a magnificent chapter in this book that is all about the prince of Wales carpet garden. It's just spectacular.
Now this book is out of print, and I predict that copies of this book will only get harder to get as time goes on. So if you have any interest, you should make sure that this one gets on your list.
Today's Botanic Spark
Reviving the little botanic spark in your heart
November 2, 1975
On this day, The New York Times Around the Garden segment recommended some new garden books.
Some bright newcomers have been added to the trowel‐watering can library. Here they are.
Masakuni Kawasumi spent three years in this country adapting his Japanese methods of bonsai growing to American species of trees. His “Bonsai With American Trees” ($10, Kodansha International) is the result, an excellent basic primer...
Tapeworm plant, living stones bead vine, spiderweb, and polka dot are a few of the off‐beat plants described in “Fun With Growing Odd and Curious House Plants” Virginie and George Elbert ($8.95, Crown). The odd‐sized book, 6½ x 11 inches, gives brief biographies and how‐to‐grow tips for many unusual house plants, delightful changes from the tried‐and‐true.
And while on the subject of fun, there is Jack Kramer's “How to Identify & Care for House Plants” ($8.95, Doubleday). The fun comes in matching line‐drawings and silhouettes to the author's organizational key. Though probably not meant to be a puzzle book, it is. ...a plant number 8‐1‐3 turns out to be none other than a cattleya orchid.
Thalassa Cruso, television “lady of the trowel” has done it again. This time she is telling about “Making Vegetables Grow” ($8.95, Knopf), one of her best with chatty helpful tips on bringing the crop in abundantly.
Light gardens are booming, especially among those who have dark apartments and want some greenery indoors. “The Complete Book of Houseplants Under Lights” by Charles Marden Fitch ($9.95, Hawthorn) updates the hobby and is full of ideas.
Joining the series of “state” books on wildflowers by John E. Klimas Jr., is “A Pocket Guide to the Common Wild Flowers of New York” ($5.95, Walker). Compact tuck in a backpack, Descriptions are in everyday language, not botanist's twang.
Environmental awareness has come full circle with “Organic Flower Gardening” by Catherine Osgood Foster ($12.95, Rodale Press). An organic gardener's book on raising flowers? Mrs. Foster explains why,
“One is for the sake of the bees, wasps and other beneficial insects and butterflies … another good reason is to protect the birds … the most important is that you avoid starting chain reactions in the environment from poisonous chemical sprays and dusts you might introduce.”
And for winter reading by the fireplace, here are a few:
“A Gardener Touched With Genius, The Life of Luther Burbank” by Peter Dreyer ($10, Coward, McCann & Geoghegan):
“The Best of American Gardening” by Ken and Pat Kraft ($10, Walker), a clip hook of garden tips gleaned from 100‐year‐old seed catalogues;
“The Plant Hunters” by B. J. Healey ($8.95, Scribners), a brief biography of discoverers of exotic species from the 17th century to the present.
And for reference; “Ornamental Grasses” by Mary Hockenberry Meyer ($9.95, Scribners), an excellent well-illustrated guide to this unusual group of plants.
“The Personal Garden, Its Architecture and Design” by Bernard Wolgensinger and Jose Daidone ($30, Van Nostrand Reinhold), beautifully illustrated with design concepts from European, Western and Japanese gardens.
“Plant A Tree” by Michael A. Weiner ($15.95, Macmillan) subtitled, “A working guide to regreening America.”
Good reference book for city planners, libraries, and schools on tree planting and care, nationwide. Florida, Texas, and California where the avocado is grown commercially, the trees do not start flowering until six years old, or sooner if grafted. One rare exception was reported by Barbara Stimson, a gardener in Maine, who wrote in a recent Letters to the Editor, Flower and Garden, that her indoor avocado did flower, but no fruit, when it was about two years old and four feet high.
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