Dec 21, 2020
Today we celebrate the Scottish botanist who is remembered for
the phenomenon known as Brownian Motion.
We'll also learn about the woman remembered as the Queen of the Traditional English Country Garden.
We’ll have a little mini-class on Mistletoe and the etymology of its name.
We’ll listen to a verse from a garden writer and forager who grows wild plants during the winter.
We Grow That Garden Library™ with a book that features a dozen gardens of an incredible modern garden designer.
And then we’ll wrap things up with a century-old article that shared a new way to water plants.
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Curated Garden News
6 Healthy Winter Vegetables That Don’t Require a Whole Lot of Space To Grow | Well + Good | Emily Laurence
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December 21, 1773
Today is the birthday of Scottish botanist Robert Brown.
Robert made important contributions to botany and (science in general) through his pioneering use of the microscope.
In particular, Robert is best known for being the first to notice the natural continuous movement of minute particles. Today we call that phenomenon of movement Brownian Motion.
Now how did Robert come up with this?
Well, for his 1827 experiment, Robert looked through his microscope at pollen immersed in water, and he started to notice subtle movements of the pollen - even though the water was still.
He's what he wrote about it,
“These motions… arose neither from currents in the fluid, nor from its gradual evaporation, but belonged to the particle itself”
Now, at the time, Brown was unable to explain why the particles moved. It wasn’t until 1905 that Einstein was able to understand the cause of Brownian motion fully. Einstein suggested that this motion was due to the movement of water particles - in essence, little atoms in the water that were bumping into the pollen. And I thought you'd get a kick out of this: Einstein also famously said,
"If I could remember the names of all these particles, I’d be a botanist."
Today, Brownian Motion helps explain the "spin" from black holes.
Robert Brown also coined the term nucleus in living cells. In Latin, the term nucleus means "little nut."
Robert Brown was the first person to recognize the difference between angiosperms (flowering plants) and gymnosperms (non-flowering plants like conifers).
And houseplant enthusiasts will appreciate knowing that Robert named the Hoya plant genus after his friend and fellow botanist Thomas Hoy who was also a gardener for the Duke of Northumberland.
Now, Robert also worked closely with Ferdinand Bauer - one of the world’s most accomplished natural history artists. Together they joined Captain Matthew Flinders on a ship called Investigator. The Flinders expedition was the first to circumnavigate Australia.
With the assistance of Peter Good, who was hunting for viable seeds and live plants for Kew Gardens, Robert amassed a large collection of specimens during his years in Australia.
And as a result of all his time and work in Australia, Brown published the remarkable survey on Australian flora, which he called The Prodromus. The Prodromus opened doors for Robert Brown when it attracted the attention of Joseph Banks. The two became great friends, and Banks asked Brown to serve as his personal botanical librarian. When Banks died in 1820, he left his home, collections, and library to Robert Brown - along with a large yearly allowance.
December 21, 1918
Today is the birthday of the English garden designer, lecturer, prolific garden writer, and one of the greatest gardeners of the 20th century, Rosemary Verey.
Regarded as the "Queen of the Traditional English Country Garden," Rosemary’s garden masterpiece is a blend of nature and geometry, traditional and cottage. You'll see graceful draping of wisteria, blousy roses, warm stone, and symmetrical chimneys create Rosemary’s intimate, timeless, and genteel garden that has been described as a bucolic dream.
And I thought you'd enjoy hearing Rosemary’s thoughts on the winter garden:
"I love the garden in winter, almost as much as the summer."
“Winter's palette is clear and spare, restrictive enough to curb the excesses of even the most daring gardeners.”
“A garden in winter is the absolute test of the true gardener.”
The seeds of Rosemary’s magnificent garden were sown in her relationship with a young Landscape Architect named David Verey. After marrying David in 1939, the couple moved into his ancestral home Barnsley House - a Cotswold-stone manor house - near Cirencester in Gloucestershire.
Unlike garden designers who cut their teeth on other people’s gardens. Rosemary honed her skills as a gardener and developed her signature style in her own backyard at Barnsley House. After a while, Rosemary went on to work with many famous clients. Rosemary helped design Elton John's gardens at Woodside, and she also worked with Prince Charles.
Rosemary Verey’s book Classic Garden Design (1984) gives us insight into how much she learned from studying gardens of the past, with their topiary, knot gardens, and box-edged beds. Many classic elements exist in her Barnsley garden: she mixes formal style with roses and herbaceous perennials, which softens and adds interest - even in winter. One of the reasons Rosemary’s garden garnered so much attention was because it was a departure from the formal style of English gardening that was so popular during the 1970s.
And just to give you an example of how popular Rosemary's gardens were: She opened her garden for a single day in 1970, and it became so popular that the garden was open every day except Sunday and visited by over 30,000 people every single year.
One of the most significant elements of Rosemary's Barnsley House garden is the yellow Laburnum Walk. Laburnums are small European ornamental trees that have hanging clusters of yellow flowers. Rosemary had seen Russell Page’s Laburnum Arch, which was the likely inspiration for her Laburnum Walk. If you ever see it, Rosemary’s walk is a vision. The laburnums romantically drape over a sea of allium parted by a concrete walkway texturized with pebbles. It is absolutely glorious. That's why many consider Rosemary’s Laburnum Walk to be one of the most iconic garden plantings of the last fifty years.
And it was Rosemary Verey who introduced and popularized the potager. Today’s Rosemary’s potager garden is one of the favorite attractions to the visitors of the fabulous grounds of Barnsley House.
Today, you can go to Barnsley House because it's no longer a family home. It has transitioned from the Verey family home to a boutique hotel and spa.
And Rosemary once said this about Barnsley House,
“Although I arrived here more than fifty years ago, I constantly try to see the garden with new eyes. This is the wonderful thing about gardening; trees are ever-growing taller, shrubs developing, ground cover taking over. Then scene changes and every year has its own character, influenced by frost, rainfall, and sunshine – elements over which we have no control; but we can aim to plan so that each season has its moments of interest, with winter scent, spring blossoms and bulbs, summer exuberance and autumn color.”
December 21, 1997
On this day, The Saskatoon Sun, out of Saskatchewan, Canada, shared an article about the tradition of mistletoe.
“Mistletoe is especially interesting botanically because it is partially parasitic. As a parasitic plant, it grows on the branches of trees, sending out roots that penetrate into the branches to take up nutrients.
Mistletoe's common name is derived from the ancient belief that the plant was propagated from bird droppings. This belief was related to the then-accepted principle that life sprang spontaneously from dung. Mistletoe is derived from an old English word Mistletan. Mistel is the Anglo-Saxon word for dung, and tan is the word for twig, so mistletoe translates to "dung-on-a-twig.”
By the 16th century, botanists had discovered that the plant's sticky seeds tended to cling to the bills of birds so that they were left on branches where birds rubbed their bills to clean them.”
Most weeds don't make it through winter.
They need warm rain and steady sun.
Frozen soil inhibits root growth;
snowfalls discourage sprouts.
Even watercress, which usually positions itself in flowing water, gets hurt by a freeze.
If you live in an area where the snow falls over several months,
you know that small sigh of sadness when you go out to gather wild things,
and frost has taken over.
This year I've been cultivating weeds indoors to ease those winter doldrums.
I've got Chicory, Dandelion, and Poke Roots potted in buckets in a kitchen corner.
I've got Watercress stretching out of a pot standing in freshwater.
I've got Chickweed daily going to seed three months early on the window sill.
While my wild Winter Garden doesn't provide the abundance of the outdoors,
it grows leaves enough to garnish winter meals
with sprigs of wild flavor, nutrients, and color.
— Susan Tyler Hitchcock, garden writer, and forager, Gather Ye Wild Things
Grow That Garden Library
The Gardens of Luciano Giubbilei by Andrew Wilson
This book came out in 2015, and it is the second edition.
In this book, Andrew showcases the incredible work of the garden designer Luciano Giubbilei (“Lou-CHAN-no JOO-bee-lay”).
Known for the understated elegance of his garden designs, Luciano utilizes the composition of space and evolves his approach to suit his clients and his maturing ideas.
This book spotlights a dozen gardens from Luciano’s portfolio. And every detail is shared: from Mood boards to final plantings.
Andrew’s book thoughtfully includes pages on nursery production, site development, sourcing plants, the artists that Luciano works with, Luciano’s working methods, and how Luciano finds inspiration - And I love that level of detail.
This book is 240 pages of Luciano Giubbilei’s work - it's a coffee table book - and a celebration of a magnificent dozen of his creations - along with planting plans, archival documents, and gorgeous photographs from garden photographer Steven Wooster.
You can get a copy of The Gardens of Luciano Giubbilei by Andrew Wilson and support the show using the Amazon Link in today's Show Notes for around $47
Today’s Botanic Spark
Reviving the little botanic spark in your heart
December 21, 1917
On this day, The Weekly Tribune out of Cape Girardeau, Missouri, shared a little story about the Right Way to Water Plants.
Now back in 1917, the concept of watering plants via wicking was new and confusing. Here’s a little glimpse into how it was introduced to the general public:
“Lucien Daniel, a French botanist, has discovered that young hothouse plants and slips of vegetables, as well as flowers, thrive far better by a system of continuous watering than by drenching the soil at stated periods.
The new method depends upon the law of capillary attraction.
Near each plant is placed a jar containing water, into which is dipped one end of a strip of linen or cotton, whose other end lies near the plant.
With this uninterrupted supply of water, drop by drop, the plants thrived, greatly outdistancing other plants, which were submitted to an intermittent drenching.”
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