Apr 26, 2021
Today we celebrate a man who is remembered for his contributions
to art and ornithology.
We'll also learn about a socialite, gardener, and garden designer whose story has been largely unappreciated.
We’ll hear some thoughts on gardening in the Carolinas.
We Grow That Garden Library™ with a book about resilient homesteading that incorporates an innovative approach to permaculture.
And then we’ll wrap things up with the incredible behind-the-scenes story of the funeral of one of the world’s greatest scientific minds: Charles Darwin.
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April 26, 1785
Today is the birthday of the ornithologist, artist, and naturalist, John James Audubon, who was born in Santo Domingo, Haiti.
John's folio series called “The Birds of America” featured 435 life-size color prints of American birds. And John’s favorite state for birding was Louisiana.
Honored as the namesake of the National Audubon Society, his birthday, today (April 26th), was designated as National Audubon Day to commemorate his birth and work. In 2011, Google celebrated his birthday with a Google Doodle.
It was John James Audobon who said,
“In my deepest troubles, I frequently would wrench myself from the persons around me and retire to some secluded part of our noble forests.”
He also said,
"When the bird & the book disagree, believe the bird."
April 26, 1873
Today is the birthday of the British socialite and garden designer Norah Lindsay.
After marrying Sir Harry Lindsay, Norah began gardening at their Manor home and garden in Oxfordshire called Sutton Courtenay - which was given to them as a wedding present from Harry’s cousin. Norah’s gardens overflowed with flowers, and she hosted regular parties and even masked balls at her estate, which also allowed her to show off her gardens.
Norah recognized the powerful draw of gardens. She once described Sutten Courtenay as having a “shining quality,” writing,
“some gardens, like some people, have a charm potent to enslave and yet as intangible as dew or vapour.”
Although she adored Italian gardens, Norah’s gardens were not formal but rather romantic and wild, relaxed and gentle. She memorably told one gardener that she “loved lilies, lazily lolling.”
Norah was influenced by William Robinson, an advocate for wild gardening, and Gertrude Jekyll, the English gardener, and writer. Like Jekyll, Norah designed her gardens with drifts of color and soft transitions. And although her gardens seemed effortless, there was a method to Norah’s approach to design. Norah had an intuitive sense of scale and impeccable taste in plants.
Beautiful, charming, and witty, Norah was sadly not a writer. Her legacy lives on in many of the gardens she created and her only daughter Nancy - who also loved gardening and horticulture.
The British gardener, garden designer, and landscape architect Russell Page referred to Norah in his book The Education of a Gardener, saying,
"Norah Lindsay could by her plantings evoke all the pleasures of a flower garden. She captured the essence of midsummer... or gave the pith of autumn… She lifted herbaceous planting into a poetic category and gave it an air of rapture and spontaneity.”
By the time Norah turned 51, her marriage and her bank account had both fallen flat. In a letter to a friend, Norah summed it up simply: "No husband, no money, no home." To provide for herself, Norah began designing gardens for her royal and wealthy friends - a career that would last for two decades.
Norah’s friends and clients were writers, gardeners, old-Hollywood stars, and politicians - and included Edward, Prince of Wales, Waldorf and Nancy Astor, Charlie Chaplin, Marshall Field III, George Shaw, and Edith Wharton. And, thanks to her wealthy clients, Norah was able to garden all over Europe - which meant that she became adept at understanding different soils, growing zones, and spaces - modifying her designs to accommodate new challenges. One of Norah’s friends and clients was the Duke of Windsor. He once remarked,
“If you had the money, she was the one to spend it.”
Yet, surprisingly, Norah’s biographer wrote that Norah lived two very different lives. By night, she often dined with the rich and powerful. By day - starting at 5 am - Norah was in the garden with her garden crew. And when her long day of garden work was done, Norah took a train back home; she didn’t own a car.
One particular friend of Norah’s worth noting was the estate owner, gardener, and garden designer Lawrence Johnston who went by Johnny. Johnny owned Hidcote Manor, “HID-cut,” and Norah helped him design the magnificent 10.5-acre garden there. Johnny was planning to leave Hidcote to Norah, but that plan was thwarted when Norah died unexpectedly at 75 - shortly after being diagnosed with kidney cancer. Once, when she was in the midst of her career, regularly buying plants for clients, Norah wrote to a friend,
“When I die, Magnolia will be written on my heart.”
Today many regret that Norah did not write books to document her work. Little remains outside of her personal letters that capture Norah’s charm, cleverness, and quick wit - and her fresh perspective on gardens and gardening. The American garden historian, Allyson Hayward, wrote an excellent biography of Norah in 2007 called Norah Lindsay: The Life and Art of a Garden Designer.
In the Carolinas, there are two growing seasons: warm and cool.
The cool season runs from about October or November through April or May (depending on where you garden).
The warm season runs from May or June through September or October.
If you plan your Carolina garden around no other guiding principle than this, you will be well in front of people who don’t.
― Katie Elzer-Peters, Carolinas Fruit & Vegetable Gardening: How to Plant, Grow, and Harvest the Best Edibles
Grow That Garden Library
The Resilient Farm and Homestead by Ben Falk
This book came out in 2013, and the subtitle is An Innovative Permaculture and Whole Systems Design Approach.
In this book, Ben shares what he's learned gardening on a hill farm In Vermont Mad River Valley. Ben shares his incredible ingenuity and intelligent approach to working the land And restoring the biosphere.
The author of A Sanctuary of Trees, Gene Logsdon, wrote this about Ben's book,
“Grow rice in New England? Yes. Heat water to 155 degrees F on cold winter days at a rate of a gallon a minute by piping it through a compost pile? Yes. How about dinner tonight of your own rack of lamb garnished with homegrown mushrooms? Yes. Your choice of scores of different vegetables and fruits even in winter? Yes. Plus, your own dairy products from your own sheep. All the while, the soil producing this magic, on a site once thought little more than a wasteland, grows yearly more fertile and secure from natural calamity."
An early adopter of permaculture principles, Ben is constantly testing ideas for better homesteading on his property in Vermont. Ben founded Whole Systems Design, LLC - a land-based response to biological and cultural extinction and the increasing separation between people and elemental things. So he’s a practitioner expert when it comes to permaculture.
This book is 320 pages of Inspiring and practical advice to create your edible sanctuary and resilient landscape.
You can get a copy of The Resilient Farm and Homestead by Ben Falk and support the show using the Amazon Link in today's Show Notes for around $25
Today’s Botanic Spark
Reviving the little botanic spark in your heart
April 26, 1882
On this day, the funeral for Charles Darwin was held at noon sharp at Westminster Abbey. Thousands attended it.
The deputy organist at Westminster Abbey, John Frederick Bridge, felt Darwin deserved to have an original funeral anthem and so, the day before the funeral he wrote original lyrics inspired by the Book of Proverbs and set them to music:
“Happy is the man that findeth wisdom, and getteth understanding.
She is more precious than rubies, and all the things thou canst desire are not to be compared unto her.
Length of days is in her right hand, and in her left hand, riches and honor.
Her ways are ways of pleasantness, and all her paths are peace.”
Bridge also wrote original funeral hymns for Robert Browning and Alfred, Lord Tennyson.
Attendees needed tickets to get into the funeral. The ten pallbearers included Sir Joseph Dalton Hooker (The son of the famous botanist William Jackson Hooker and Darwin’s closest friend), Thomas Henry Huxley (English biologist and anthropologist), Alfred Russel Wallace (British naturalist and evolutionary theorist - and a surprising friend to Darwin), James Russell Lowell (U.S. Ambassador), and William Spottiswoode "Spots-Wood" (President of the Royal Society).
Darwin was buried at the Abbey next to the eminent scientist Sir John Herschel and just a few feet away from Sir Isaac Newton.
On the Sunday following the funeral, the Bishop of Carlisle, Harvey Goodwin, said in his sermon, there is no “necessary conflict between a knowledge of Nature and a belief in God.”
One of Darwin’s pallbearers, William Spottiswoode, delivered a eulogy for Darwin at the Royal Academy a few days after the funeral, on April 29, 1882. William said:
“If patience and perseverance in good work… if a continual overcoming of evil with good in any way constitute elements of greatness, then the man of whom I speak—Charles Darwin—was truly great.”
On his deathbed, at Down House, Charles Darwin told his wife, Emma,
"I am not the least afraid of death—Remember what a good wife you have been to me—Tell all my children to remember how good they have been to me."
And he told repeatedly told his children,
"It's almost worthwhile to be sick to be nursed by you.”
Darwin’s beloved dog, Polly, died naturally, two days after her master.
Today, gardeners can visit Down House and explore the home and gardens of Charles Darwin.
And, if you would like to pay homage to Darwin in your own garden, you can purchase one of David Austin’s favorite and best-selling roses: Charles Darwin.
The Charles Darwin yellow rose is gorgeous and wonderfully fragrant - with notes of soft floral Tea and pure lemon.
Thanks for listening to The Daily Gardener.
"For a happy, healthy life, garden every day."