Jan 30, 2020
Today we celebrate the botanical illustrator who was wrongfully
fired from his first job and the French botanist who spent a month
in California with a boatful of Russians.
We'll learn about the botanical name of the city where people leave their hearts, and we’ll fall in love with a classic garden writer from Bronxville, New York.
Today’s Unearthed Words feature an English poet who loved gardens and wrote many poems about them.
We Grow That Garden Library™ with a book that talks about the revolution that will save our food.
I'll talk about a garden item that I have WAY too many of - but, then again, can you really have too many? I digress.
And, then we’ll wrap things up with the story of the woman who wrote a flora dictionary anonymously - signing her work very mysteriously with the words “by a Lady.”
But first, let's catch up on a few recent events.
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Good Decisions by @papaver
Good Decisions in the garden -Alison Levey ("Lee-Vee") - The Blackberry Garden
" I planted them and whispered to the nearby ants 'when you wake up, take the seeds and spread them throughout the garden.'”
The Plight of the African Violets — In Defense of Plants
The Plight of the African Violets — In Defense of Plants —
"their numbers in captivity overshadow a bleak future for this genus in the wild. Many African violets are teetering on the brink of extinction."
Now, if you'd like to check out these curated articles for yourself, you're in luck, because I share all of it with the Listener Community in the Free Facebook Group - The Daily Gardener Community.
There’s no need to take notes or search for links - the next time you're on Facebook, search for Daily Gardener Community and request to join. I'd love to meet you in the group.
1708 Today is the birthday of the botanist and the incomparable botanical illustrator Georg Dionysius Ehret.
Georg was born in Heidelberg, Germany, to Ferdinand Christian Ehret, who was a gardener and also had a talent for drawing. He taught his son both skills- gardening and drawing - before he died.
Georg made his way to Regensburg. There, he met an apothecary who hired him to draw of specimens from his herbarium and garden. Georg earnestly took on the job, creating over 500 pieces in one year. Taking advantage of his young employee, the apothecary fired Georg and told him he should have completed 1,000 drawings. It was basically the apothecary's way of avoiding paying Georg.
After this dreadful experience, Georg made his way to England and worked at the significant botanical gardens - Including Chelsea Physic.
Isaac Rand, the first director of the Chelsea Physic Garden in London, told Georg to paint the rare plants in the garden. The uniqueness of the specimens added to the demand for Georg's work. As a result, Georg was on friendly terms with the plant collectors and naturalists of his time. Chelsea was formative professionally and personally for Georg; He married the head gardener's sister-in-law, Susanna Kennet.
In The Art of Botanical Illustration, Wilfrid Blunt noted that,
“By the middle of the century he had become a popular figure in London society: the highest nobility in England clamored to receive instruction from him,”
Indeed, the wealthiest woman in England, Margaret Cavendish Bentinck (the Duchess of Portland), gladly retained Georg as a drawing instructor. Struck by the luminescence of his work, and ultimately she would buy over 300 of his paintings.
In 1737, Georg was hired to draw by Sir Charles Wager, First Lord of the Admiralty. In August of that year, Wagner's personal garden is where Georg first observed the Magnolia grandiflora flowering. The bloom was so inspiring that Georg walked for an hour each way, from Chelsea to Wagner's house (in Fulham), to see and sketch every stage of the Magnolia grandiflora; from bud to full flower. Georg's work provided the world with the first Magnolia to be illustrated in England.
Beyond his work in England, Georg traveled throughout Europe in pursuit of his craft. He met Linnaeus in Holland when he was visiting the botanical garden in Leiden.
Linnaeus taught Georg exactly how he wanted plants to be dissected and drawn. By this time, Georg felt that his drawings were already aligned with Linnaeus, but the calibration didn't hurt; Georg's work made it possible for Linnaeus to show the differences between plants for his books. When Linnaeus released his catalog of rare plants, "Hortus Cliffortianus," in 1737, it featured 20 meticulous plates made by Georg.
As a result of partnering with Linnaeus, Georg understood plant structure on a level that rivaled most botanists. Georg's style of drawing is referred to as the Linnaean style.
Ehret's father could have never predicted the impact of teaching his son both gardening and drawing, but the two skills had come together in Georg in an extraordinary way. One expert wrote that,
"[Ehret] was the greatest artist-illustrator that Linnaeus had."
Today, Georg's work is difficult to source. Given the rarity of an Ehret drawing, they are expensive to acquire; pieces generally start around $1k (if you can find one.)
Just this past year, the NYBG organized an exhibit called "Georg Ehret: The Greatest Botanical Artist of the 1700s.” They featured 48 Ehret watercolors and engravings.
1781 Today is the birthday of French-German poet, naturalist, and botanist Adelbert von Chamisso ("Sha-ME-So").
Born into a French Noble family, Chamisso’s family fled to Germany after the French Revolution. Chamisso is remembered for a number of different accomplishments. His creativity was captured in a novella called Peter Schlemihl’s Wonderful History, published in 1814. The story is about a naturalist who travels around the world thanks to a pair of seven-league boots and who sells his shadow to the devil in exchange for a bottomless wallet. Seven-league boots were a common part of European folklore and allowed the wearer to walk seven times further than an average stride, making the wearer possess super-human speed.
Chamisso established himself as a Romantic poet with his poem Frauenliebe und leben, The poem’s English translation is A Woman's Love and Life and is actually a series of poems describing a woman’s love for a man from their first meeting, through their married life together and ultimately to the time after his death. Robert Schumann later set Chamisso's poem to music in his Opus 42. It takes a soprano opera singer 30 minutes to sing all the poems in the Opus from start to finish.
After surviving the french revolution and the war between France and Prussia, Chamisso eagerly joined a round-the-world voyage aboard a Russian ship called the Rurik. It would be the greatest adventure of his life. The trip was financed by a Russian Count named Nikolay ("NEE-co-LIE") Rumyantsev ("Roo-myan-sev"), who was eager to find a route around North America by water - which would later be called the Northwest Passage. Chamisso was the ship’s naturalist, and Johann Friedrich Eschscholtz was the ship’s doctor and botanist.
When the Rurik ended up in the San Francisco Bay area in 1816, Chamisso and Eschscholtz ended up exploring in California for about a month. One of his discoveries was the California poppy, which he named Eschscholzia California after his friend, the botanist Johann Friedrich Von Eschscholz.
In return, Eschscholz named a bunch of plants after Chamisso - a little quid pro quo. The California Wild Rose (Rosa californica Chamisso and the California Blackberry (Rubus vitifolius Chamisso) are named for Chamisso.
In 1903, the botanist Sarah Plummer Lemmon put forth a successful piece of legislation that nominated the golden poppy (Eschscholzia californica) as the state flower of California.
During his three year Journey on the Rurik, Chamisso collected over 12,000 species of plants. Today his collection is preserved at the Russian Academy of Sciences in St Petersburg.
It was Chamisso who said,
“In pain, a new time is born.”
1847Today the city of Yerba Buena ("YAIR-Bah Byoo-Nah") is renamed San Francisco.
San Francisco was originally known as Yerba Buena - Spanish for "good herb" - a small mint-like plant early explorers found.
Over the years, people have left their hearts in San Francisco.
The author Rudyard Kipling said,
"San Francisco has only one drawback – ’tis hard to leave."
Paul Kanter of Jefferson Airplane said,
"San Francisco is 49 square miles, surrounded by reality."
Ashleigh Brilliant, author and cartoonist, said,
"There may not be a Heaven, but there is San Francisco."
The writer William Saroyan said,
"If you’re not alive, San Francisco will bring you to life."
1878 Today is the birthday of one of America's greatest Garden writers and one of the 20th Century's most famous horticulturists, Louise Beebe Wilder.
Louise was born into a wealthy family in Baltimore. After marrying an architect named Walter Wilder, they bought a country place - a 200-acre estate in Pomona New York; they called BalderBrae. Louise set about adding fountains, terraces, arbors, walled gardens, and pathways. Her book called "My Garden" shared Louise's experiences learning how to garden at BalderBrae, where one of her first flower beds was bordered with clothespins.
At BalderBrae, Louise and Walter created a garden and a stone garden house that was made famous in Louise's book "Color in My Garden" - which came out in 1918 and is generally regarded as her best work.
In the book, Louise was the first garden writer to write about gray as a garden color. Louise was also the first person to write about Moonlight Gardens, and she wrote about looking at plants under the light of the Moon.
After World War I, Walter and Louise settled in suburban Bronxville, New York. Louise created a personal Eden on a single acre of land complete with stone pillars and a long grape arbor. It was here that Louise began rock gardening. After 1920, most of her garden writing focused on rock gardening. Louise inspired both women and men to rock garden.
By 1925, Louise founded a local Working Gardeners Club in Bronxville, and she also had steady work as a garden designer and as a garden writer. Her experiences gave her material for her writing. Louise included so many people from Bronxville in her writing that her columns were referred to by locals as "a Bronxville Family Affair."
In all, Louise wrote eleven books about gardening. Her voice is pragmatic and pointed, which is why they were popular; gardeners appreciated her no-nonsense advice.
For instance, Louise was not a fan of double flowers. In her book, "The Fragrant Path" from 1932, she wrote:
“Some flowers are, I am sure, intended by a wise God to remain single. The hyacinth doubled, for instance, is a fat abomination.”
Louise wrote for a number of publications, and her writing was published in many prominent periodicals like the Journal of The Royal Horticultural Society of England and the New York Times. House and Garden alone published close to a hundred and fifty articles by Louise. Many of Louise's columns were collected and published as books.
A year before she died, Louise was honored with the Gold Medal for Horticultural Achievement from the Garden Club of America. It was the pinnacle moment in her career, and it came as Louise and her children were still grieving the loss of her husband. In the Spring of 1934, Walter had committed suicide after a long battle with mental illness.
Louise wrote prolifically about gardening and plants. Her experiences resulted in increasing the awareness of different plant species, gardening practices, and she helped shape the gardens of her time. Louise gave us many wonderful garden quotes.
On Snowdrops: “Theirs is a fragile but hardy celebration…in the very teeth of winter.”
On Rosemary, “It makes a charming pot plant, neat, svelte, with its dark, felt-lined leaves held sleek against its sides. The smell… is keen and heady, resinous, yet sweet, with a hint of nutmeg.”
On Roses: “Over and over again, I have experienced the quieting influence of rose scent upon a disturbed state of mind.”
On gardening: “In the garden, every person may be their own artist without apology or explanation. Each within their green enclosure is a creator, and no two shall reach the same conclusion.”
Louise is buried with her parents in lot 41 in Lakeside Cemetery in Wakefield, Massachusetts. It was a shock to read that her grave is unmarked and to see that it is completely unadorned - without any flowers - nor does it rest under the shade of a tree.
1782Today is the birthday of the English poet and literary critic Ann Taylor. Her sister Jane was a poet as well. Ann famously said,
“The most important thing is to wear a smile.”
Here's a collection of poems about the garden by Ann Taylor.
Come And Play In The Garden
Little sister, come away,
And let us in the garden play,
For it is a pleasant day.
On the grass-plat let us sit,
Or, if you please, we'll play a bit,
And run about all over it.
But the fruit we will not pick,
For that would be a naughty trick,
And very likely make us sick.
Nor will we pluck the pretty flowers
That grow about the beds and bowers,
Because you know they are not ours.
We'll take the daisies, white and red,
Because mamma has often said
That we may gather then instead.
And much I hope we always may
Our very dear mamma obey,
And mind whatever she may say.
The Gaudy Flower Poem
Why does my Anna toss her head,
And look so scornfully around,
As if she scarcely deigned to tread
Upon the daisy-dappled ground?
Does fancied beauty fire thine eye,
The brilliant tint, the satin skin?
Does the loved glass, in passing by,
Reflect a graceful form and thin?
Alas! that form, and brilliant fire,
Will never win beholder's love;
It may, indeed, make fools admire,
But ne'er the wise and good can move.
So grows the tulip, gay and bold,
The broadest sunshine its delight;
Like rubies, or like burnished gold,
It shows its petals, glossy bright.
But who the gaudy floweret crops,
As if to court a sweet perfume!
Admired it blows, neglected drops,
And sinks unheeded to its doom.
The virtues of the heart may move
Affections of a genial kind;
While beauty fails to stir our love,
And wins the eye, but not the mind.
The Field Daisy
I'm a pretty little thing,
Always coming with the spring;
In the meadows green, I'm found,
Peeping just above the ground,
And my stalk is covered flat
With a white and yellow hat.
Little Mary, when you pass
Lightly o'er the tender grass,
Skip about, but do not tread
On my bright but lowly head,
For I always seem to say,
"Surely winter's gone away."
Grow That Garden Library
The Seed Underground: by Janisse Ray
The subtitle of this book is: A Growing Revolution to Save Food.
“There is no despair in a seed. There's only life, waiting for the right conditions-sun and water, warmth and soil-to be set free. Every day, millions upon millions of seeds lift their two green wings.”
Ray's book takes us to the frontier of seed-saving. She shares beautiful stories from gardeners around the country who are working to preserve our food by growing old varieties, heirlooms, and eating them.
Gardeners will love this book because, as a gardener, Ray is relatable, and her stories feature ordinary gardeners who are trying to save open-pollinated varieties of old-time seeds - the true treasures in our Gardens.
Ray's book is not just about gardening, but also about preserving our food by saving seeds before they disappear. Ray helps us understand why seeds are under threat and why a lack of seed diversity is something that should concern all of us.
Ray is a writer, naturalist, and poet. This is one of my favorite books on this topic, so I hope you'll check it out.
You can get a used copy of The Seed Underground: A Growing Revolution to Save Food by Janisse Ray and support the show, using the Amazon Link in today's Show Notes for under $4.
Great Gifts for Gardeners
Stonebriar 9 Inch Clear Glass Dome Cloche with Rustic Wooden Base, Antique Bell Jar Display Dome, For Plants, Succulents, Fairy Lights, Photos, Medals, Decorative Fill, and More, Medium $31.99
Add a rustic touch to your home decor with Stonebriar's clear glass bell-shape cloche with a wooden base. This cloche features a clear glass dome with the decorative knob so you can easily remove it. The rustic wooden base measures 6.1 inches in diameter and is the perfect size to display your favorite pillar candles, flowers, succulents, medals, photos, and fairy lights.
This glass cloche is small enough to use in any room in your home but big enough to make a statement. Add your favorite filler and create a unique centerpiece for your kitchen or dining room or place filled cloche on your mantel for a little added decoration.
This cloche is also the perfect party decoration. Buy multiple cloches for rustic tabletop display.
Today’s Botanic Spark
1784Today is the birthday of the American Floral Dictionary writer, Elizabeth Wirt.
Elizabeth was the second wife of William Wirt, who served as an attorney general of the United States. They had ten children.
In 1829, Elizabeth wrote her floral dictionary. She published it anonymously, using the very mysterious name ‘by a Lady.’ Wirt featured lovely tidbits in her dictionary - quotes and prose by poets and writers accompanied the information for each plant. Her dictionary also included extraneous information that would be of interest to gardeners in the early to mid-1800s: the Structure of Plants, the Structure of Flowers, and a sketch on the Life of Linnaeus. Elizabeth shared all she knew about the history of each flower she featured in her dictionary. Gardeners adored her book. It was republished every two years. In the 1835 edition, Elizabeth finally felt confident enough to publish the book using her name "Mrs. E. W. Wirt of Virginia.”The final edition of her book was published in in 1855 it was the first book of its kind in the United States to feature colored plates.
You can see a copy of Wirt's dictionary online for free.