May 26, 2022
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The Friday Newsletter | Daily Gardener Community
1669 Birth of Sébastien Vaillant ("Vy-yaw"), French botanist.
Appointed to the King's garden in Paris, Sebastien loved organizing and cataloging plants. Biographical accounts say Sebastian showed a passion for plants from the age of five.
His masterpiece, forty years in the making, Botanicon Parisienne, was a book about the flora of Paris. It wasn't published until five years after his death.
Sebastian's work on plant sexuality inspired generations of botanists and set the stage for Linneaus to develop his sexual system of plant classification. Linnaeus used the male stamens to determine the class and the female pistils to determine the order.
And like Sebastion, Linnaeus often compared plant sexuality to that of humans. Linnaeus wrote,
Love even seizes... plants... both [males and females], even the hermaphrodites, hold their nuptials, which is what I now intend to discuss.
Sebastian caused a sensation at the Royal Garden in Paris on June 10, 1717. On that day, he presented a lecture titled, Lecture on the Structure of the Flowers: Their Differences and the Use of Their Parts.
He began by reinforcing the idea that the flower is the most essential part of a plant - essential to reproduction - and then he began to lead his scientific colleagues into a deep dive on plant sexuality - at six in the morning, no less. Before Sebastian's lecture, the topic of sex in the plant world had only been touched on lightly, allowing flowers and blossoms to maintain their reputation as pure, sweet, and innocent.
Today, we can imagine the reaction of his 600-person audience as he began using fairly explicit language and the lens of human sexuality to describe the sex lives of plants.
A 2002 translation of Sebastian's speech was presented in the Huntia - a Journal of Botanical History. Sebastian started his lecture with these words,
Perhaps the language I am going to use for this purpose will seem a little novel for botany, but since it will be filled with terminology that is perfectly proper for the use of the parts ... I intend to expose, I believe it will be more comprehensible than the old fashioned terminology, which — being crammed with incorrect and ambiguous terms [is] better suited for confusing the subject than for shedding light on it.
Sebastian's discussion of the plant embryos was rather poetic:
Who can imagine that a prism with four faces becomes a Pansy;
a narrow roll, the Borage;
a kidney, the Daffodil;
that a cross can metamorphose into a maple;
two crystal balls intimately glued to each other, [Comfrey], etc.?
These are nevertheless the shapes favored in these diverse plants by their lowly little embryos.
1742 On this day, Horace Walpole wrote to Horace Mann, in part describing his visit to Ranelagh ("Ron-ah-lay") Gardens in Chelsea. Ranelagh had opened just two days prior, and it was one of several pleasure gardens opened around this time.
Today calls itself May the 26th, as you perceive by the date; but I am writing to you by the fireside, instead of going to Vauxhall. If we have one warm day in seven, "we bless our stars, and think it luxury."
And yet we have as much waterworks and fresco diversions, as if we lay ten degrees nearer warmth.
Two nights ago Ranelagh-gardens were opened at Chelsea; the Prince, Princess, Duke, much nobility, and much mob besides, were there. There is a vast amphitheatre, finely gilt, painted, and illuminated, into which everybody that loves eating, drinking, staring, or crowding, is admitted for twelvepence.
The building and... gardens cost sixteen thousand pounds.
Twice a-week there are to be ridottos... [entertainment] for which you are to have a supper and music. I was there last night, but did not find the joy of it. Vauxhall is a little better; the garden is pleasanter, and [you arrive] by water...
Horace must have come to prefer Ranelagh. He later wrote,
It has totally beat Vauxhall...
You can't set your foot without treading on a Prince, or Duke of Cumberland.
Finally, it was Horace Walpole who wrote,
When people will not weed their own minds, they are apt to be overrun by nettles.
1811 On this day, Thomas Jefferson wrote to his granddaughter, Anne, who was visiting her in-laws:
Nothing new has happened in our neighborhood since you left us.
The houses and trees stand where they did.
The flowers come forth like the belles of the day, have their short reign of beauty and splendor, and retire like them to the more interesting office of reproducing their like.
The hyacinths and tulips are off the stage, the irises are giving place to the belladonnas, as this will to the tuberoses etc.
Thomas was not able to garden much during the summer of 1811. His arthritis had flared, and he found himself almost entirely bedridden.
1921 On this day, Kate Lancaster Brewster resigned as editor of the bulletin she funded and started for The Garden Club of America for its first six years.
At the time of her resignation, Kate reported,
Cost of Publishing the Bulletin (including postage) between July, 1920 and May, 1921 totaled $4038.
Number of paid subscribers... 55
Number of lapsed subscribers... 21
2 Paid subscribers have become Members-at-Large.
I Paid subscriber has become a member of the GARDEN CLUB OF AMERICA.
As for Kate Lancaster Brewster, she had a beautiful Italianate garden in Lake Forest, Illinois. She was friends with most of the prominent gardeners and garden writers of her time, including Mrs. Francis King (Louisa Yeomans King). When Louisa published The Little Garden Series, Kate wrote one of the books called The Little Garden for Little Money.
Kate and her husband Walter were ardent art collectors and loved to travel. The couple helped establish the Chicago Art Institute. During WWI, Kate left her service work in Chicago, California, and New York to go to France. There, she assisted her friend, the indefatigable Mabel Boardman of the American Red Cross, with hospital work.
Grow That Garden Library™ Book Recommendation
The Thoughtful Gardener by Jinny Blom
This book came out in 2017, and the subtitle is An Intelligent Approach to Garden Design.
Well, Piet Oudolf has high praise for Jinny Blom. He writes,
The most romantic, creative person in garden design I know.
So that's high praise right there from one of our top modern garden designers. Like Piet Oudolf, Jinny Blom is a force all her own. She's designed well over 200 gardens, and they represent a diverse range of garden styles - proving that Jinny Blom really is The Thoughtful Gardener.
Now, one of Jinny's superpowers is to take a look at the current landscape, look at the setting, look at the surrounding ecosystems and communities, and then determine what vision best fits that landscape. And, of course, she has to throw in client desires and other challenges that might come up in the creation of that garden.
And whether it's topography challenges or resource constraints, Jinny has indeed seen it all. Through her myriad experiences, she's come up with six different steps to help you become a thoughtful gardener too.
Now I think one of the things that Jinny does almost unconsciously at this stage in her career is that she really thinks through what she's trying to accomplish in any given landscape.
And I don't care what you're trying to accomplish; you will definitely do a better job of reaching your anticipated goals if you take the time to do your homework and truly think things through.
The six different sections in Jinny's book are understanding, structuring, harmonizing, rooting, and liberating.
Jinny also has another superpower that I think really helps her when it comes to her garden design skills, and that is that she can see gardens as they will look when they are mature, and that's a particular skill for garden designers.
I remember the first time I interviewed the Renegade Gardener, and he said the same thing to me. He said that he was a successful garden designer because he could imagine what a plant would look like at maturity or in any particular setting in the future. And so he knew what to plant where - and how it would look when it was all grown up. And so his goal as a designer was not to make sure that the garden would look good immediately - although that was a temporary concern and a nice to have - he was more concerned with his ultimate goal, which was to be able to drive by these properties that he had designed, especially early in his career and see their mature beauty in the fullness of time. Jinny also has that ability.
Now Paula Deitz, Editor of The Hudson Review, wrote the forward to Jinny's book.
And here's what she wrote,
Rare is the garden book, like this one, that makes the reader feel personally included as a friend in a long conversation with the writer.
Like Lancelot 'Capability' Brown, whom she lauds for his estate management in the 18th century, Blom is herself a cultural geographer who scopes out the historical features of paths, gates and antiquated farm buildings on a given property prior to drawing up a plan that proceeds almost instantaneously, a process fascinating to follow. Whether in town or country, with either single or multiple garden areas, Blom establishes architectural enclosures, like Cotswold drystone walls, prior to the overlay of her signature, beautifying horticulture, thus creating what she calls environments for intimate experiences'.
And that is the quintessentialJinny Blom landscape.
Now, this is how Jinny herself describes this book.
So this book is about how I've developed my way of working over the last twenty years in progression from apprentice to journeyman to
It takes a long time and I've learned at the elbow of countless masters, not in a schoolroom.
I choose plants with compatibility in mind, appropriate materials arise from their locale, and I consider the people who will live in the garden, the wildlife, the weather. I'd like to share some of what I think about when designing, in the hope that it kindles the fires of excitement in others.
I've climbed a big mountain to get to this point and hope there's a view worth sharing.
From the reviews of this book, the Amazon ratings, and the commentary by her peers, I can tell you that Jinny Blom definitely has a view worth sharing. She's hit it out of the park - out of the garden - with this beautiful book called The Thoughtful Gardener.
You'll get to see images from so many of Jinny's gardens. You'll see her thoughtfulness and creativity in action certainly. But most of all, you'll get to know Jinny. She is funny and intelligent, and she thinks about plants and gardens and landscapes on a level that very few garden designers do. It feels like she's always one step ahead, and I think that's because Jinny does such a thorough job of researching and thinking about her garden designs - so that by the time you see the final product, it just seems so effortless. But I suppose that is Jinny's method behind the madness at the end of the day.
This book is 256 pages of learning garden design with one of our modern masters, Jinny Blom.
You can get a copy of The Thoughtful Gardener by Jinny Blom and support the show using the Amazon link in today's show notes for around $16.
1847 Birth of Edgar Fawcett, American poet.
Edgar wrote some famous garden verses.
[A]ll life budding like a rose and sparkling like its dew.
Come rambling awhile through this exquisite weather
Of days that are fleet to pass,
When the stem of the willow shoots out a green feather,
And buttercups burn in the grass!
Edgar's poems often remind us of the value of all green living things.
We say of the oak "How grand of girth!"
Of the willow we say, "How slender!"
And yet to the soft grass clothing the earth
How slight is the praise we render.
My favorite Edgar Fawcett verses feature trees.
Here's one about lovers speaking to each other using the language of birds:
Hark, love, while...we walk,
Beneath melodious trees…
You'd speak to me in Redbreast;
I would answer you in Wren!
Thanks for listening to The Daily Gardener
And remember: For a happy, healthy life, garden every day.