Today in botanical history, we celebrate Laurel Hill and Root Crop Preservation in 1835.
We'll also remember the botanist who discovered the Titan arum and a little poem about the November garden by Louise Driscoll.
We'll hear an excerpt from Pomegranate Soup.
We Grow That Garden Library™ with a beautiful garden book from 2016.
And then we'll wrap things up with a look back at a charming garden column from 1999.
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November 16, 1776
On this day, around 7 am Hessian troops allied with the Britsh opened fire on the American revolutionaries on Laurel Hill in Philadelphia. Laurel Hill is not named for the plant called Laurel. Laurel Hill was originally part of the Joseph Sims estate, and Joseph went by "Laurel," the property was named Laurel Hill in his honor.
Mountain Laurel is botanically known as Kalmia latifolia in honor of the Finnish botanist Pehr Kalm.
After his expedition to North America in the mid-1700s, Pehr correctly predicted that the American colonists would eventually rebel.
Laurel Hill became America's first National Historic Landmark Cemetery.
November 16, 1835
On this day, the Hartford Courant wrote a piece called Gardener's Work For November.
It is now quite time to [preserve] the roots and ...Mr. McMahon's method of preserving roots is as follows:
Previous to the commencement of severe frost, you should take up, with as little injury as possible, the roots of your turnips, carrots, parsnips, beets, salsify, scorzonera, Hamburg, or large-rooted parsley, skirrots, Jerusalem artichokes, turnip-rooted celery, and ...horseradish…
On the surface of a dry spot of ground, in a well-sheltered situation, lay a stratum of sand two-inches thick, [the place the root crops], covering them with another layer of sand, (the drier the better,) and…continue to layer about of sand and roots till all are laid in…
then cover the heap or ridge [with] a good coat of straw, up and down as if thatching a house.
November 16, 1843
Birth of Odoardo Beccari, Italien botanist.
After growing up an orphan, Beccarri managed to get an education in his native Italy, and he eventually traveled to England to study at Kew.
Beccarri was friends with Hooker and Darwin, but he also befriended James Brooke, which meant he could spend three years exploring Borneo.
During his lifetime, Becarri traveled all over India, Malaysia, and New Zealand. But it was on a little voyage he took to central Sumatra (in Indonesia) in 1878 that Beccarri discovered the plant with which he will forever be associated: the Amorphophallus titanum - or the Titan arum - the largest flower in the world.
Seven years later, in 1885, the first Titan arum specimen bloomed at Kew, and when it happened, it created a sensation.
Today, a Titan arum bloom still draws thousands of visitors. People love to take a selfie in front of the giant blooming plant.
The flower is commonly referred to as the corpse flower as it smells like rotting flesh.
In a recent fascinating article, scent scientists identified the compounds that make up that terrible smell. The odor includes aspects of cheese sweat, rotting fish, decomposing meat, and garlic, among even worse unmentionable compounds.
The putrid smell is meant to attract beetles and other insects to move pollen between blooming plants so that it can reproduce. It takes the corpse flower a decade before it can bloom. Incredibly, the plants only bloom for 24-36 hours before collapsing.
Between that first bloom at Kew (back in 1885) and the year 2000, fewer than fifty Titan arum blooms had been recorded. But, in 2016, suddenly, dozens of corpse flowers around the world bloomed within weeks of each other. Horticulturists are still attempting to discern the reason for the clustered bloom event.
November 16, 1920
On this day, The Buffalo Times shared a poem by Louise Driscoll that had appeared in The New York Times called November Garden. Here's the first and last verse.
In my November garden,
I found a larkspur blossoming,
A lovely, radiant blue thing.
It swayed and shone,
And did not seem to know
It was alone
In my November garden.
Where dry, dark leaves are falling
And all the birds have flown.
The birds and Summer went
A way that no man knows.
But here is honey that
No bee will find.
No bird will linger at
This larkspur cup.
This grace the butterfly
Has left behind.
Summer went away
And gave it up
Yet it is bravely blue
Swinging there alone
As if to challenge you!
It is the pomegranate that gives Fesenjoon its healing capabilities. The original apple of sin, the fruit of a long-gone Eden, the pomegranate shields itself in a leathery crimson shell, which in Roman times was used as a form of protective hide. Once the pomegranate's bitter skin is peeled back, though, a juicy garnet flesh is revealed to the lucky eater, popping and bursting in the mouth like the final succumber of lovemaking.
Long ago, when the earth remained still, content with the fecundity of perpetual spring, and Demeter was the mother of all that was natural and flowering, it was this tempting fruit that finally set the seasons spinning. Having eaten six pomegranate seeds in the underworld, Persephone, the Goddess of Spring's high-spirited daughter, had been forced to spend six months of the year in the eternal halls of death. Without her beautiful daughter by her side, a mournful Demeter retreated to the dark corners of the universe, allowing for the icy gates of winter to finally creak open. A round crimson herald of frost, the pomegranate comes to harvest in October and November, so Fesenjoon is best made with its concentrate during other times of the year.
― Marsha Mehran, Pomegranate Soup
Grow That Garden Library
This book came out in 2016, and the subtitle is Exploring the Botanical World.
This book is gorgeous. You might remember it - it's got a black background and then a simple blossom design. Each of the leaves is made with a different type of fabric which makes for a magnificent cover.
Now, of course, like all Phaidon books, this book is so visually appealing from the cover to the inside of the book. The whole point is to show the beauty and the diversity of plants through 300 works of botanical art that date back from ancient times all the way to modern times.
You'll see plants and flowers and the entire botanical world portrayed using a variety of different mediums.
Phaidon did a great job of curating all of these images. This is the first book to pull together botanical art across so many different media types and from such a broad timeline and every corner of the globe.
Of course, in this book, you're going to see beautiful botanical art, but then you're also going to get lots of expert information about the pieces of art and the plants that are depicted.
Phaidon is known for putting together high-level, very specialized books. And in this case, to tackle this broad topic of plants, they pulled together all kinds of experts, museum curators, horticulturists, historians, botanists, and more. Then they had each of them contribute their expertise in creating the text for this book.
I love what Gardens Illustrated wrote about this book:
"A dazzling collection of more than 300 images of plants that brings the evolution of botanical art right into the 21st century... Alongside old favourites, such as Redoute and Mary Delany, there is much here that is both unfamiliar and arresting... An extraordinary collection."
This book is 352 pages of botanical art that gives us a new appreciation and understanding of plants and their role in our history and culture.
Today's Botanic Spark
Reviving the little botanic spark in your heart
November 16, 1999
On this day, The Columbus Telegram shared a column by Elizabeth Coblentz - an Old Order Amish woman who handwrote her column by lantern light in her Indiana home.
November is now on the calendar, and we are still having beautiful days in the 70s. The laundry is drying well out there on the clothesline, and work is continuing in our garden.
I have been taking the celery, carrots, red beets, cabbage and pumpkins out from the garden today. Hopefully, the weather will stay nice, and some vegetables will grow even larger.
To the reader who sent me radish and turnip seeds to plant: I did plant them in August, and we are now feasting on them. They are very good and tender, which was surprising considering our hot, dry summer.
I put some leftover small potatoes in the ground, and the yield was good. I should have put more sweet potato plants in the ground, but at least we have enough for a good taste this winter. We'll be glad for all this hard work in the garden during the long, cold, dark days of January when we can open those canning jars and taste the bounty of summer.
Sunday evening, we planned a favorite around here for supper: tacos.
We had a large gathering, but having family over is the best of times. Those sweet, precious grandchildren are always welcome here, so the house was full of children. We all enjoy a taco supper. The tomatoes, mangoes (peppers) and onions used on the tacos were all from our garden. Canned hamburger was browned for the tacos, and there was lots more to feast on because everyone else brought a covered dish. As the family gets bigger and older we have to use larger containers now.
Here is a good dessert to use those beets from the garden:
Red Beet Chocolate Cake
1 1/2 cups sugar
1 cup oil
1 1/2 cups cooked, pureed, fresh beets
2 (1 ounce) squares unsweetened chocolate, melted and cooled
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 3/4 cups flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
sifted confectioner's sugar
- Mix flour, soda, and salt. Set aside.
- Combine sugar, eggs and oil in mixing bowl. Stir vigorously.
(People who use electric mixers can use them here at medium speed for 2 minutes.)
- Beat in beets, chocolate and vanilla.
- Gradually add dry ingredients, beating well after each addition.
- Pour into buttered 9-inch by 13-inch cake pan.
- Bake at 350 for 25 minutes or till cake tests done when a toothpick inserted into center of cake comes out clean. Cool in pan.
- Cover and let stand overnight to improve flavor. Sprinkle with powdered sugar.
PS. You can put cream cheese icing on instead of powdered sugar.
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