May 24, 2022
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The Friday Newsletter | Daily Gardener Community
1794 Birth of William Whewell ("Hyoo- uhl"), English polymath, scientist, and Anglican priest. He was Master of Trinity College, Cambridge.
William was a unique blend of right and left brain aptitudes. As a university student, he was recognized for his work in both poetry and mathematics.
In Elizabeth Gilbert's The Signature of All Things, she wrote of William's signature accomplishment - devising the word "scientist."
...the word scientist had been coined, by the polymath William Whewell.
Many scholars had objected to this blunt new term, as it sounded so sinisterly similar to that awful word atheist;
Why not simply continue to call themselves natural philosophers?
Was that designation not more godly, more pure?
But divisions were being drawn now between the realm of nature and the realm of philosophy.
Ministers who doubled as botanists or geologists were becoming increasingly rare, as far too many challenges to biblical truths were stirred up through investigation of the natural world.
It used to be that God was revealed in the wonders of nature;
now God was being challenged by those same wonders.
Scholars were now required to choose one side or the other.
1819 Birth of Queen Victoria, Queen of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland from June 20, 1837, until she died in 1901. Her reign of 63 years and seven months was longer than any previous British monarch and is known as the Victorian era.
In 2019, Kensington Palace celebrated the bicentenary, the 200th anniversary, of Victoria's birth with a large floral display in the sunken garden. The display included blossoms from the Victorian era, such as heliotropes, cannas, pelargonium, and begonias.
The humble violet was Queen Victoria's favorite flower.
Today many plants are named for Queen Victoria, including the Victoria agave and the giant waterlily, Victoria amazonica.
1861 It was on this day that 45-year-old Anne Frobel, who lived outside of Alexandria, Virginia, not far from Mount Vernon started her Civil War diary with these words,
I never saw 'Wilton' my dear old home looking more lovely and inviting.
The trees and plants had put on their loveliest spring attire, and the garden was resplendent with the bloom of rare and brilliant flowers, and the fields were all smiling with a bright prospect of an abundant harvest.
The following day, Anne's farmhouse, like many homes in Alexandria and all along the Potomac, was ceased by Union soldiers looking for quarters. Anne shared her home with her sister Lizzie. The two women never married.
Anne's journal gives a glimpse of what it was like for Southern women of the Civil War era to endure four years of occupation as troops and scavengers used their land for firewood, food, and water.
One day, Anne recounted how a Union officer shared a story over dinner at her table about how he had destroyed the last turnips.
My very blood boiled!
1905 On this day, the banker H. Howard Pepper of Providence, Rhode Island, wrote a letter to the magazine Country Life in America,
I have had the gardening fever for three summers.
...All the work in the garden is done by myself, and it takes about two hours a day.
We started with these objects in view:
Our lot is the average city size, fifty by one hundred feet.
The house is twenty feet from the street line, where there are two
large elm trees
that shade the lawn and beds in front. While these trees are beautiful and we would not part with them, yet they are great deal of trouble,
They require spraying each spring, and their roots fill ... the drainpipes, causing much annoyance and expense. I should never plant elm trees near
flowerbeds or drain pipes.
The backyard is surrounded by a five-foot board fence on the north and east and picket fence on the south. Climbing nasturtiums cover
the picket fence, and [we want] to have climbers hide the board fence, which is covered with wire netting hung on hooks In case the fence is to be painted, the vines and netting can easily be laid down. A woodbine trumpet-vine and Clematis paniculeta are already established,
The single tuberous begonias are the best bedding plants I know; they bloom all summer.
Last year's hollyhocks were affected with blight; we have overcome that disease by spraying with ... One ounce of carbonate of copper made into a paste with one• half pint of water; slowly add one-half pint of strong ammonia water (twenty-six degrees}; water, nine gallons. Our spraying outfit consists of a wooden pail and whisk broom. The broom is far ahead of the ordinary syringe, as it is not so wasteful.
The sweet-pea bed, or No. 5, is twelve feet long and three and one-half feet wide. Last year, by planting the peas four inches deep in the middle of October and giving them heavy covering during the winter, we had flowers on May 24th.
Early in the fall the sweet peas and nasturtiums were removed to make way for the homemade cold- frame, with a second-hand sash that cost us one dollar. In this frame six by three feet are two hundred small plants of oriental poppies, foxgloves, cardinal flowers, and pansies, also three hundred cuttings of phlox, wisteria, hibiscus, snow-ball, althea, and roses.
We have seventy-five rose bushes, mostly vigorous hybrid perpetuals. Last winter we carried over a number of hybrid tea roses by covering them with nail kegs filled with leaves, the kegs having one stave removed for ventilation. When the ground freezes, the rose beds receive a three-inch coating of fresh cow manure, part of which is forked in in the spring.
Our greatest difficulty in gardening has been to keep the roses free from aphids. We have tried almost everything advertised but fall back on spraying with the hose. The roses receive weekly applications of liquid manure, two quarts to a plant, from the time the buds appear until they show color. It is usually
applied after a rain or when the ground is wet, to prevent burning the roots.
We have two piazza boxes. Last fall one was filled with snowdrops, scillas, chionodoxas and crocuses; the other with hyacinths and tulips; they were buried in a vacant lot near by, As soon as the ground thawed in the spring they were placed in position. The bulbs were succeeded by tuberous begonias.
We have raised hundreds of hardy plants like cardinal flowers, foxgloves, Boston ivies, and Oriental poppies in small candy and cigar bases
placed on the walk in the rear of the house. Tin marshmallow boxes are excellent for this purpose, as they hold moisture longer than wooden boxes.
Our chief error in growing seedlings has been in giving them too much sun.
WHY WE HAVE A GOOD LAWN
We take great delight in the back lawn because we have overcome SO much in getting it into its present condition.
The weeds are removed from the lawn at least twice a year. The grass is cut once in ten days and the clippings are not raked up.
Grow That Garden Library™ Book Recommendation
Cultivated by Christin Geall
This book came out in 2020, and the subtitle is The Elements of Floral Style.
This book is so highly rated on Amazon. There are almost 400 reviews, and this is a five-star book.
I like to think of this book as a masterclass In floral design.
The arrangement on the cover of this book is stunning.
An excellent floral design book is so essential. It's a good thing to brush up on those skills - especially this time of year as we're wrapping up spring. We've got beautiful blossoms, like lilacs and peonies, and the roses are just starting to bud.
And then, as we get into early summer, there is just an entire buffet of beautiful blossoms that you may want to cut and bring indoors.
Just because you're a good gardener doesn't mean that you're a good floral designer or arranger. Like gardening, floral art is a skill that you can learn and get better at.
Now I thought I would just give you a quick overview of how Christin has this book laid out. Because very quickly - you'll be able to deduce that Christin is truly a pro. She is a conscious-competent and when it comes to working with flowers. And that's precisely the kind of expert that you want.
So Christin begins by talking about finding the flowers and the plants you want to work with.
Now you can source many of these things right from your backyard or your patio as a gardener, or you can even supplement some of those with items that you forage or purchase when you're out and about.
Then next, Christin has a section that she calls Gearing Up. Here, what she walks you through is everything from,
Where are you going to work? (Do you have a potting bench or a room or part of your kitchen that you'll use when you're creating with cut flowers.)
What are the vessels or the containers that you're planning on using?
What are the tools you plan to use? (What Christin calls the mechanics).
And then she has an entire section Where she talks about color.
When I think about color, I think about both the art and the science of color.
So if you're not good with picking colors, if you struggle with what color to paint a room or what colors to accessorize with, that struggle can translate into your work with flowers.
Conversely, if you have a knack for choosing color or working with color, this section will be a slam dunk. But there is a science to it for those of us who struggle with color.
And just like with gardening, you can get better and more confident in your work with color.
Now two things I want to call out here that Christin talks about in her book that I think are especially helpful is she spends some time talking about two colors, in particular, which can be a true challenge for your work putting together floral designs.
One is the color red. Red is such a bold color.
And then the other color is green.
While you might be thinking about green: how can green be a problem or a challenge?
It's because there are different tones and shades of green, and believe it or not; there are times when the green you might be working with can conflict, get dragged down, or just be a little bit off with the rest of your floral work. So you do have to pay attention to the greens you're using.
Now the following four sections that are covered in Christin's book, to me, are really where her expertise is. This is Christin in her wheelhouse.
She talks about shape and shaping your work. There are so many ways to mold and take control of the form of your floral design. So I loved this section.
And then she has one that's called learning from the past. And here is where she looks at garden history, and she looks at some of the best garden artists that have ever lived and how they composed with flowers. So she takes a look at, in particular at the Baroque style, what the Dutch masters were doing with their flowers and their flower paintings, the Rococo style, and SO on.
Next, she features a little section on design, creativity and style, restraint, and constraint.
And then, finally, she brings it all together by talking about how you can deepen your work: How you can know your why when it comes to creating with flowers. She spends a little bit of time talking about how to photograph flowers - a topic near and dear to my heart.
Now I wanted to take one second here. And just share a little bit from what Christin writes in the introduction to this book.
Christin is a gardener. She is a writer. She's a garden writer. And
at one point, she found herself serving as a florist in residence on an estate in Scotland. And she had absolutely no experience as a florist. So, here's what she wrote.
If you'd asked me at the time what I was doing in that shed in Scotland, the professor in me would have had an answer, but I myself might not have believed it: I was serving as a florist in residence on the estate.
What does such a person do? I didn't know entirely, even after I pitched the idea to the owners and head gardener. They just let me get on with it, assuming I knew what "it" was.
So I roamed around with a borrowed bucket and wheelbarrow looking for flowers to pick in the dark days
of October. I begged vessels and an old folding card table from the house manager. I tried to put together color palettes. I sought out places to photograph my arrangements. And I silently questioned my every move.
One thing in my favor: I knew plants. I'd spent thirty years learning about them, growing them, selling them, and loving them.
So I made a deal with myself to do at least one arrangement a day, no matter what, and photograph it as best I could. I had no tripod, SO most of my pictures were blurry, and because of the latitude and time of year, there was very little light. I had no idea where my designs might take me from one day to the next, but no matter what, I got started. And that starting, that instinct to begin without a doubt, is what matters most.
That's predominantly what this book is about-discovering how to see flowers. My magpie tendencies have thankfully suited me well; in this book you'll find color theory and discussions of fashion, form, and style but also ruminations on gardening and seasonality that I feel are fundamental to an appreciation of the art.
This book is rated a best-of-DIY book on Amazon. It is 224 pages of a fresh and thoughtful guide to flower arranging for gardeners.
You can get a copy of Cultivated by Christin Geall and support the show using the Amazon link in today's show notes for around $14.
1884 On this day, the Russian composer Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky ("chai-kaaf-skee") threw out his work on Suite No. 3 in G major, Op. 55 - and began all over again.
Weeks earlier, he had written in his journal that he had gone out to his garden and found inspiration for the melody. He wrote,
In the forest and indoors I have been trying to lay the foundation of a new symphony but - am not at all satisfied.... Walked in the garden and found
the germ, not of a symphony, but of a future Suite.
Prone to self-doubt and angst, Tchaikovsky was tender-hearted and easily wounded by critics of his work. Tchaikovsky's most popular music was often written for ballets like Swan Lake (1877), The Sleeping Beauty (1889), and The Nutcracker(1892), featuring a favorite melody on many gardener's playlists, The Waltz of the Flowers.
Tchaikovsky was a nature lover and a gardener. He loved flowers and spent much of his free time cultivating his flowers. He wrote in a letter on June 1 (13th), 1888.
Just now I am busy with flowers and flower-growing. I should like to have as many flowers as possible in my garden, but I have very little knowledge or experience. am not lacking in zeal, and have indeed taken cold from pottering about in the damp. Now, thank goodness, it is warmer weather; I am glad of it, for you, for myself, and for my dear flowers, for I have sown a quantity, and the cold nights made me anxious for them....'
Later that same summer, on July 25 (August 6), 1888, Tchaikovsky wrote his patron once more,
The real summer weather has not lasted long, but how I enjoyed it! My flowers, which I feared would die, have nearly all recovered, and some have blossomed luxuriantly. I cannot tell you what a pleasure it has been to watch them grow and to see daily- even hourly-new blossoms coming out. Now I have as many as - want.
When I am quite old, and past composing, I shall devote myself to growing flowers.
Today, the Tchaikovsky House and Museum still stands at his final country home in Klin ("Kuh-lin"), 85 kilometers northwest of Moscow. Tchaikovsky loved his place in Kiln. He once wrote,
It is impossible to suggest a better a more suitable way of living than in the countryside. After each new trip to Moscow I come to realize more and more how city life ruins me. Each time I return here I'm completely ill, but I immediately recover in my quiet corner.
Never before have I reveled so much in the beauty of spring, the awakening vegetation, birds returning home – in short, everything which is brought by the Russian spring, actually the most beautiful and jovial spring on earth.
Tchaikovsky's garden was essentially an idealized forest garden - a little wild and wooly - with a winding path and a gazebo. Tchaikovsky loved wildflowers and woodland flowers. One of his favorite flowers was the lily of the valley. He even wrote a poem about it, telling his brother Modest that, like his musical compositions, he was "terribly proud of this poem."
There he is!
I pluck the wondrous gift of the enchantress Spring.
O lily of the valley, why do you so please the eye?
Where lies the secret of your charms?
...Your balmy fragrance,
Like flowing wine, warms and intoxicates me,
Like music, it takes my breath away,
...I am happy while you bloom.
Fittingly, after Tchaikovsky's death at 53, his brother Modest planted lilies of the valley all around the garden at Kiln. Modest also grew other favorites enjoyed by his brother, like violets, forget-me-nots, and bluebells. Today, the garden also boasts roses, begonias, gillyflowers, phloxes, sweet tobacco, and a large statue of Tchaikovsky sitting on the end of a garden bench. You can get your picture taken beside him among the flowers.
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And remember: For a happy, healthy life, garden every day.