Oct 28, 2019
Today we celebrate the Swiss botanist known as the father of geographical botany and the American botanist who went on a 500-mile nature walk for her honeymoon.
And, just in time for Halloween, we'll learn about the botanist who followed in her father's footsteps to study slime mold.
And, we're coming up on the 200th anniversary of the botanist who climbed Pike's Peak and discovered the Blue Columbine, also known as the State Flower of Colorado.
We'll hear one of my favorite poems about Octob er with the line, "The leaves by hundreds came."
We Grow That Garden Library with a beautiful book from one of the country's top gardens: Philadelphia's Chanticleer.
I'll give you some helpful tips to attract birds to your garden over the winter, and then we'll wrap things up with a Scottish garden that is also a living work of art.
But first, let's catch up on a few recent events.
The St. Louis Post-Dispatch shared last week that the Missouri Botanical Garden is gearing up to break ground this January on a $92 million brand new visitor center.
It will be called the Jack C Taylor Visitor Center in honor of the Taylor family, who donated the lead gift for the project. Jack Crawford Taylor founded the Enterprise Rent-A-Car Company. Taylor left a legacy of philanthropy. Taylor gave a $30 million gift to the Missouri Botanical Garden to fund global plant research - which is the most significant gift ever given to a U.S. botanical garden. The new Jack C Taylor Visitor Center is slated to open in the Spring of 2022.
California's Department of Resources Recycling and Recovery (CalRecycle) has a fantastic tradition of environmental stewardship.
Last week they put together a great video with tips on how to get started with composting.
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. So there’s no need to take notes or track down links - just head on over to the group - and join.
#OTD Today is the birthday of the botanist Alphonse Pyramus de Candolle, who was born on this day in 1806 the year Linnaeus died.
He was the son of the Swiss botanist Augustin Pyramus de Candolle.
Candolle's ground-breaking book, Origin for Cultivated Plants begins,
"It is a common saying, that the plants with which man has most to do, and which rendered him the greatest service, are those which botanists know the least [about].”
Candolle set about correcting that gap in understanding, which had persisted for 50 years. In 1885, The Glasgow Herald reminded readers,
"At the commencement of the present century but little was known respecting the origin of our cultivated plants.... Alexander von Humboldt in 1807 said :
'The origin, the first home of the plants most useful to man, and which have accompanied him from the remotest epochs, is a secret as impenetrable as the dwelling of all our domestic animals. We do not know what region produced spontaneously wheat, barley, oats, and rye. The plants which constitute the natural riches of all the inhabitants of the tropics the banana, the papaw, the manioc, and maize have never been found in a wild state. The potato presents the same phenomenon.'"
Candolle named growing regions and came up with climate classifications. Gardeners use them today when we refer to growing zones. Alphonse Pyramus de Candolle is known as the father of geographical botany, and Harvard botanist Asa Gray remarked,
"De Candolle's great work closed one epoch in the history of the subject and [Sir Joseph] Hooker's name is the first that appears in the ensuing one."
Alphonse devised the first code of botanical nomenclature - the International Code of Botanical Nomenclature is its descendant. These laws ensure that no two species of plants have the same name. The botanical name is always in Latin.
#OTD Today is the 175th birthday of the botanist Katherine Brandagee who was born on this day in 1844.
Brandagee was the third woman to enroll at Berkeley’s medical school and the second woman to be professionally employed as a botanist in the US.
While getting her MD at Berkeley, Kate had learned that plants were the primary sources of medicine. Botany intrigued her, so she dropped the mantle of physician to pursue botany. Five years later, she was the curator of the San Francisco Academy of Sciences herbarium. There, Kate personally trained Alice Eastwood. When Kate moved on, Alice was ready to take her place; Kate was a phenomenal mentor.
During her time at the academy, in surprise development at the age of 40, Kate had “fallen insanely in love” with plantsman Townshend Brandegee. Equally yoked, their honeymoon was a 500-mile nature walk - collecting plant specimens from San Diego to San Francisco. The couple moved to San Diego, where they created a herbarium praised as a botanical paradise.
In 1906, when an earthquake destroyed the Berkley herbarium, the Brandegees single-handedly restored it by giving the school their entire botanical library (including many rare volumes) and their plant collection, which numbered some 80,000 plants. Thanks to Townshend's inheritance, the couple was financially independent, but they were also exceptionally selfless. The Brandegee’s followed their plants and books to Berkley, where Townshend and Kate worked the rest of their lives pro bono.
Botanist Marcus Jones said of Kate,
“She was the one botanist competent to publish a real [book about the native plants of California].”
But Kate had delayed writing this work. Kate was 75 when she fell on the University grounds at Berkley - she broke her shoulder. Three weeks later, she died.
#OTD Today is the birthday of the original Queen of Slime Molds, Gulielma Lister, who was born on this day in 1860.
Gulielma was born into a Quaker family in England, and her family and friends called her Gulie. Her mom and dad were a classic match of opposites. Her mother was a right-brained creative - an artist - and her father was a left-brained scientist who was the world authority on slime mold.
Gulie studied at home and learned from both her parents.
The Lister family home was called Sycamore House, and it was located on Leytonstone High Road. She spent her summers at the family summer house in Lyme Regis. Both houses just happened to be near nature areas rich with slime mold. Slime molds are pulsing giant amebas that slowly move through soil or along the tree trunks hunting for their food. Gulie called them “[her] creepies”!
Gulie ended up shadowing her father, and she became very involved with his work. Together, Gulie and her father prepared the world's primary study on Slime Mold. Drawing from skills she learned from her mom, Gulie painted many gorgeous watercolors of her slime mold specimens. When her father died in 1908, Gulie was ready to fill his shoes as the world authority on slime mold.
Over her lifetime, Gulie helped found the British Mycological Society and served as it's president twice in 1912 and 1932. Gulie was among the first women fellows of the Linnean Society.
#OTD Today is the anniversary of the death of the botanist Edwin James who died on this day in 1861
As a young man, James compiled the very first Flora of Vermont plants.
James went on one of the first expeditions of the American West from Pittsburgh to the Rocky Mountains. He discovered the mountain Columbine, Aquilegia caerulea, which ultimately became known as the Colorado Blue Columbine and the State Flower of Colorado.
An account of James' climb of Pikes Peak on July 13, 1820, stated:
"A little above the point where the timber disappears entirely, commences a region of astonishing beauty . . . covered with a carpet of low but brilliantly flowering alpine plants. . ."
James' words, "a region of astonishing beauty," became the title of a 2003 book on the botanical history of the Rocky Mountains by Roger Lawrence Williams.
After the expedition, James married and settled in Burlington, Iowa. His home was part of the Underground Railroad. James died in 1861 after an accident. There is a monument to James on Pike's Peak, and the Des Moines County Medical Society planted Rocky Mountain Blue Columbine on his grave in the Rock Springs Cemetery. Newspaper accounts said the location of Edwin James' grave was in the most picturesque part of southeastern Iowa.
"October gave a party;
The leaves by hundreds came-
The Chestnuts, Oaks, and Maples,
And leaves of every name.
The Sunshine spread a carpet,
And everything was grand,
Miss Weather led the dancing,
Professor Wind the band."
- George Cooper, American Poet
George Cooper remembered for his happy song lyrics, which were often set to music written by Stephen Foster.
Today's book recommendation: The Art of Gardening by R.William Thomas & The Chanticleer Gardeners
This lovely book came out in 2015, and the subtitle is Design Inspiration and Innovative Planting Techniques from Chanticleer.
Chanticleer is a 35-acre public garden outside of Philadelphia, and it is regarded as one of America's top gardens. Chanticleer has a staff of six gardeners, and each gardener is responsible for the design, planting, and maintenance of a section of the garden. Thus, this book was written by all of the different gardeners. As the garden's Executive Director likes to say, “Chanticleer is essentially a large demonstration garden. Our guests take away ideas on how to garden in their own home spaces.”
This is the perfect book for the off-season. It's a book that is loaded with beautiful photos and fantastic ideas that are great for planning next year's new landscaping projects. This is a beautiful book for browsing and dreaming - and would make a lovely gift for the holidays.
I love what the Executive Director R William Thomas says in the introduction about the value of walking through the garden. He wrote:
"[The son of the garden's founder, Adolf Rosengarten Junior, began each day with a walk around the garden accompanied by his corgi. He greeted the staff, encouraged them to work hard, grabbed a snack at the Apple house, and reviewed the property. I, too, begin each day with a walk around the garden with my corgi. It’s much more than a lovely stroll. It’s an inspection tour, a remembrance of what the property was, and most important, a meditation on what it can be.
I stop frequently looking both up close and into the distance. What does this part of the garden look like to a first-time guest? Is it as good as it can be? How will the area look in a month? In three months? A year? In a decade? Could this bed be better? Is it time to try something new? Should this path be moved? Is that tree going to block the view in 20 years? Would a tower draw guests up the Bulb Meadow, the hill above the Asian Woods? Can we illuminate steps to improve accessibility? Do all the garden areas hold together as one garden? I also pull a few weeds clear the spillways, prune an occasional branch, pick up the litter, and check the restrooms."
Great questions and a great practice to follow in our own gardens.
Today's Garden Chore
It's time to start planning food and feeders for winter birds.
This is a great week to get your feeders ready to go before the holidays set in.
One of the best tips I ever received from a fellow birder was to invest in a variety of feeders and foods; the diversity will draw a community of birds to your garden in the winter.
Right as I'm putting away the Halloween decorations, I'll make a point to wash and set up my feeders. During the summer, I'm more focused on providing sources of water. But in the winter, I try to make sure my feeders are in spots that I can get to - especially if I need to make a path with the snowblower.
A few other considerations would be to purchase a de-icer for your birdbath. I have a friend that likes to use a heated dog dish as a source of water instead of a birdbath. I've used both and either work great.
And here's a final tip for you. My folks always save smaller dead trees, shrubs, or brush to position near their feeders so that the birds have a nearby place to take cover. Evergreens, branches, and twigs provide needed shelter and protection.
Finally, pat yourself on the back if you've incorporated berry-producing trees and shrubs like serviceberry, dogwood, and viburnum. You'll be rewarded with even more birds over the years, like the Cedar Waxwing - one of my favorites.
Reviving the little botanic spark in your heart
Today is the birthday of the Scottish poet, artist, and gardener Ian Hamilton Finlay who was born on this day in 1925.
Finlay created a one-of-a-kind garden that incorporated sculptures, words, architecture, and poetry. Finlay named his garden Little Sparta and the garden itself is considered a living piece of art.
Finlay's poetry is incorporated into the art at Little Sparta. One especially poignant piece is a one-word poem with a long title - a form of poetry Finlay pioneered. In the garden, there is a small engraved plate that shares the long title, followed by a single word that makes up the poem. Here it is:
"One orange arm of the world's oldest windmill
Thanks for listening to the daily gardener,
"For a happy, healthy life, garden every day."