Oct 6, 2022
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The Friday Newsletter | Daily Gardener Community
Today is Garlic Lovers Day
Garlic, or stinking rose, is a member of the lily family. Onions, leeks, and shallots are also in the family. All alliums are reactive to the amount of daylight they receive, so a great way to think about the garlic life cycle is that it matures during the longest days in the summer.
This is why Autumn is garlic-planting time in most areas, and many gardeners wait until after the fall equinox in the back half of September. (This year's autumnal equinox is Thursday, September 22, 2022).
By planting garlic in the fall, your garlic gets a headstart on the growing season, which means that when spring arrives, your little garlic shoots will be one of the first plants to greet you in the April rain.
Garlic has antibiotic properties and helps reduce blood pressure and cholesterol. Herbalists recommend garlic as a remedy for colds.
And Gilroy, California, is known as the World's Garlic Capital.
Most of us know and love garlic as a culinary staple - a must-have ingredient for most savory dishes.
Alice May Brock, American artist, author, and former restaurateur, once wrote,
Tomatoes and oregano make it Italian; wine and tarragon make it French. Sour cream makes it Russian; lemon and cinnamon make it Greek. Soy sauce makes it Chinese; garlic makes it good.
And Anthony Bourdain, in Kitchen Confidential: Adventures in the Culinary Underbelly, wrote:
Garlic is divine. Few food items can taste so many distinct ways, handled correctly. Misuse of garlic is a crime...Please, treat your garlic with respect...Avoid at all costs that vile spew you see rotting in oil in screwtop jars. Too lazy to peel fresh? You don't deserve to eat garlic.
1794 Birth of Charles Wilkins Short, American botanist and doctor.
A Kentuckian, Charles wrote a flora of Kentucky in 1833. He had one of the largest, most valued private herbariums with 15,000 plant samples, and his massive garden covered several acres.
Charles was honored in the naming of many plants, including the Oconee bell named the Shortia galacifolia. The location of the plant became a mystery during the 1800s.
In 1863, Charles Short died, and at the time, the Shortia plant still could not be found.
But finally, in May of 1877, a North Carolina teenager named George Hyams sent an unknown specimen to Harvard's top plant expert, the knowledgeable Asa Gray, who could be heard crying 'Eureka' when he finally saw the Shortia specimen.
Two years later, Asa and his wife, along with his dear friend, the botanist John Redfield, the director of the Arnold Arboretum Charles Sprague Sargent, and the botanist William Canby got to see the Shortia in the wild in the spot where George Hyams knew it was growing. The scientists all stood around the little patch of earth where the Shortia grew in oblivion, and the long search to find the Shortia, named for Charles Wilkins Short, was over.
1799 Death of the English botanist geologist, physician, and chemist William Withering.
William was a doctor and the first person to study Digitalis - most commonly known as Foxglove. The story goes that one day, he noticed a person suffering from what was then called dropsy, an old word for a person suffering from congestive heart failure. William observed that the patient in question showed remarkable improvement after taking an herbal remedy that included Digitalis or Foxglove. Today William gets the credit for discovering the power of Digitalis because after he studied the various ingredients of this remedy, he determined that Digitalis was the key ingredient to addressing heart issues.
In 1785, William published his famous work, An Account of the Foxglove and Some of its Medical Uses.
Foxgloves are a beautiful plant often seen in ornamental or cottage gardens. Foxgloves produce beautiful tall flower spikes, and each spike can contain 20 to 80 purple to pink tubular blossoms that are whitish on the inside.
Foxgloves are toxic, and eating any part of the plant can result in severe poisoning. And this is important to know because when Foxglove first emerges from the ground, it can be confused for Comfrey or Plantain. Since both of those plants are used as edible plants by many people - it's important to distinguish them and remember where you're planting Foxglove in your garden. Foxglove is actually in the Plantain family.
Before flowering, Foxglove can also be confused with Great mullein (Verbascum thapsus).
In addition to the Foxglove common name, Digitalis has many adorable common names, including Fairy Fingers, Fairy Thimbles, Rabbits Flower, and Scotch Mercury.
And there are many delightful stories about the Foxglove. One foxglove origin story says that fairies gave blossoms to a Fox who needed to put the flowers on his toes to muffle the sound of his feet as he hunted for prey. This would account for the little markings inside the flowers.
Another fun fact about the Foxglove is that it's a cousin to another beloved cottage garden flower: the Snapdragon or Antirrhinum majus ("ant-er-EYE-num MAY-jus").
The toxicity of the Foxglove is a common concern. But, the gardener and garden writer, Katharine S. White, still enjoyed them in her gardens. She wrote,
At a very early age, I remember, I was to recognize what plants are to be avoided completely. At a very early age, I remember I was taught how to recognize and stay away from deadly nightshade, poison ivy, and poison sumac. (I was, just as early, taught the delights of chewing tender young checkerberry leaves and sassafras root.)
To me, it would be ridiculous, though, not to grow monkshood, foxglove, hellebore, larkspur, autumn crocus, poppies, lilies of the valley, buttercups, and many other flowers now present in my borders just because they have some poison in them.
So Foxglove is in good company when it comes to toxic plants.
And when the botanical illustrator Walter Crane painted the Foxglove, he did not draw it alone - he drew a Foxglove family. Walter loved personifying flowers, and of his Foxgloves, he wrote,
The Foxgloves are a happy group, comprised of cousins and brothers and sisters.
Finally, the English author and poet Meta Orred wrote a sweet little verse called In Memoriam - a poem for a deceased friend - that included the Foxglove. Meta wrote,
Her lips, like foxgloves pink and pale,
Went sighing like an autumn gale;
Yet, when the sunlight passèd by,
They opened out with half a sigh..
Her eyelids fell, and not in vain-
The stars had found their heav'n again;
The days come round, the days go by-
They see no more earth's agony.
So lay her back to take her rest,
' Our darling,' for we loved her best
Her small hands crossed upon her breast,
Her quiet feet unto the west.
1858 Birth of Jean-André Soulié ("Jahn-Ahn-Dray Soo-lee-aye"), French Roman Catholic missionary herbalist, healer, and botanist.
Like many of the first plant collectors, Jean-André was a Catholic missionary working for the Paris Foreign Missions - an organization that sent millions of plant and animal specimens back to the National Museum of Natural History in Paris for scientific study.
Jean-André alone collected over seven thousand specimens of dried plants and seeds during his twenty years in Asia, where he had become so fluent in the different Chinese dialects that he could pass as a local.
Plant collecting in China was a dangerous task. Collectors encountered not only tricky terrain but also political upheaval. The Opium Wars and the ongoing dispute with Tibet increased distrust and hostility toward foreigners.
In 1905, in retaliation for an invasion of Tibet by a British explorer named Francis Younghusband, Jean-André was a victim of the "lama revolt" and was abducted by Tibetan monks. He was kidnapped in the field while packing his plant specimens. Jean-André was tortured for over two weeks before finally being shot dead by his captors.
The church Jean-André helped to build was destroyed during the revolution. However, it was rebuilt in a new location and still stands today - in a community where Catholics and Tibetan Buddhists live peacefully.
Jean-André Soulié is remembered for discovering the Rosa soulieana and the butterfly bush (Buddleja davidii). He also has a Rhododendron, a Lily, and Primula named in his honor.
1860 Birth of Rosamund Marriott Watson, English poet, nature writer, and critic.
Known as Rose to her family and friends, Rosamund wrote under the pseudonyms Graham R. Tomson and Rushworth (or R.) Armytage.
Rosamund was a prolific gardener and garden writer. Her writings were put together and published in The Heart of a Garden (1906) which began with this verse from one of her original poems:
I dreamed the peach-trees blossomed once again,
dreamed the birds were calling in the dew,
Sun-rays fell round me like a golden rain,
And all was well with us and life was new.
The Heart of a Garden was organized by seasons. In the early fall chapter called The Breath of Autumn, Rosamund wrote,
But one should not SO much as breathe the name of frost as yet; it is in a sense a tempting of Providence, and late summer has many good days in store for us still. The swallows skim, now low, now high, above the rose garden, the sun-dial has daily but a few less shining hours to number, bats flit busily in the dim blue dusk, and roses are in bloom. It is far too early even to dream of frost.
Grow That Garden Library™ Book Recommendation
Creating a Garden Retreat by Virginia Johnson 0914
This book came out in 2022, and the subtitle is An Artist's Guide to Planting an Outdoor Sanctuary.
And I want you to key in on that word artist because Virginia is an artist, and here's what Workman, the publisher, wrote about Virginia's book:
Through ethereal illustrations, textile designer and artist Virginia Johnson takes the reader on her own garden journey, from blank slate to dreamscape.
Over the years, she has transformed a small, narrow city lot into a garden that is personal, carefree, wild, and welcoming. It all began with a fence to allow her children to play freely... [Virginia] explains her process with ease and clarity, bringing her ideas to life through words and illustrations so that readers can be encouraged and empowered to start their own garden journeys. This book is organized into clear chapters: trees and shrubs, vines, flowers, seasons,
edibles, and more.
What I like best about this book is that it feels like I am reading Virginia's garden journal. It's so friendly. From the handwriting font to the beautiful sketches, this is truly an artist putting together a garden book. And so, the art in this book - the watercolors - is just gorgeous. They're breezy. They're casual. And they accompany every single page and
they make this book such a joy to read.
The other thing that I love about what Virginia did with this book is she personalizes everything. She doesn't just talk about a plant. She talks about the plant and her family, and her life.
Let me give you an example. Here, she's talking about her trees and shrubs, and she has this little section on Magnolia with beautiful watercolors of Magnolia.
I think these are the prettiest trees on the planet, but would they be too big for my garden?
The classic saucer magnolia grows to 30 feet high and wide, but the magnolias in the US National Arboretum's "girls" series grow only 15 feet high. It being mid-May, they were in flower and quite irresistible. I love the teacup shape of their blossoms. I love their architectural profile, too: multistemmed, with graceful, outreaching branches. chose the deep-magenta-blooming 'Ann' to remind me of my grandmother.
See what I mean? Virginia's talking about the Magnolia; she shares this great tip about the smaller, more compact Magnolias available. And then, she personalized the Magnolia by telling us which one she picked and her emotional connection to that plant.
Another aspect that I like about Virginia's book is that you can tell that she is cultured - that
she has done some living. She's a traveler, a reader, and yes, she is a romantic. (You can
tell by the flowers she picks for her garden).
I wanted to share another little snippet, and this one is from a little section where she talks about vines.
Vines have always had romantic associations for me. Trailing vines, climbing vines: the words themselves are lyrical and promise not just growth but a plant that wants to wriggle away like a child, to explore and attempt daring feats, scaling walls and structures and houses all while showing off.
Trail, trail went Mrs. Wilcox's dresses through the garden in E. M. Forster's novel Howards End. Trailing vines are their own kind of loveliness, less about exploring than falling gracefully over the side of an urn or doorframe. And they're so fun to paint; you have to get the feeling of them,get inside them, capture their abundance and movement.
Virginia is also practical and thrifty, and that's a beautiful counterpoint to her artistic and evocative side.
As a beginner gardener and a pragmatist, I spend my energy on perennial plants, not annuals. Who wants to plant a bunch of things that won't come up again next year? Of course, I do buy a few annuals, but only for pots. I know that they will look pretty and add color and that at the end of the year, they'll have completed their lives. But because I wanted a garden that would come up by itself, without my having to replant every spring, I researched mainly perennials.
I also wanted blooms staggered throughout the growing season, so I took into account what was already in place: pear blossoms and lilacs in May, climbing hydrangeas in July and August. The peonies and roses would flower in June, but at different times, while the hollyhocks would peak in July and August. It would all be a leap of faith.
Well, leap, she did. Virginia is one of us. She is a gardener through and through. This book contains many wonderful relatable moments and delightful little snippets that make you laugh, smile, and nod in agreement.
I want to share one final little excerpt. And this is where she's talking about dining Alfresco. And I thought this was great because, hopefully, we will have a few more opportunities to eat outside with family and friends before fall gives away winter.
Here's Virginia Johnson on dining Alfresco.
On a vacation in Greece, during a long drive through the mountains, our kids were ravenous, but the nearest village was closed for afternoon siesta. Where to eat? My husband approached a taverna, explaining our situation in halting Greek. The cook
fired up the stove and soon emerged with a steaming frittata, which my picky kids gobbled up.
Ever since then, the frittata has become a family staple. Eggs, potatoes, salt, and a sprinkling of rosemary from our garden:
that's it. We re-create the memorable meal and enjoy it in our own backyard, wearing our straw hats and imagining we're back in that Greek village.
Well, this book is 192 pages of beautiful memories like that, and it's all built around the garden and being a gardener.
You can get a copy of Creating a Garden Retreat by Virginia Johnson and support the show using the Amazon link in today's show notes for around $14.
1943 Birth of Gilles Clément ("Jeel Clee-mon"), French gardener, agronomist, garden designer, botanist, entomologist, and writer.
Gilles started experimenting in his garden at La Vallée ("La Val-lay"). There Gilles lives in a simple hut home that he built using native materials sourced on the property.
During his long career, Gilles devised many landscaping concepts, including the garden movement (Jardin en Mouvement), the global garden (Jardin planétaire), and the third landscape (tiers paysage).
To Gilles, the term garden movement was inspired by the physical movement of plants in the garden. For example, in the garden, a gardener must decide whether to allow the plants to spread or to control them.
The global garden reflects that gardens are inextricably part of life on the planet, and they are confined by the limits of their environment. Today, garden environments are experiencing radical changes as the earth confronts climate change. As the earth goes, so go our gardens.
While many gardeners still think of gardens as enclosed spaces - often fenced off from their surroundings, Gilles says that,
The "planetary garden" is a means of considering ecology as the integration of humanity - the gardeners - into its smallest spaces. Ecology itself destroys the notion of the 'enclosed' garden. Birds, ants, and mushrooms recognize no boundaries between territory that is policed and space that is wild. Ecology's primary concern is nature in its entirety, and not the garden in particular. The enclosure was always an illusion; a garden is bound to be a planetary index.
Finally, Gilles's concept of a third landscape borrows its name from an Abbé Sieyès term - the "third estate," - a term coined during the French Revolution to identify people who weren't part of nobility or clergy. To Gilles, the third landscape represents the low places, the ordinary places - everyday places that are forgotten, derided, ignored, or abandoned by man. These misfits or orphaned areas lie outside agroforestry or land management. Third Landscapes are made up of edges and odd-shaped parcels. They can be abandoned sites or neglected spaces along the margins of daily life - think of highway shoulders, riverbanks, fallow areas, wastelands, etc. Gilles sees the third landscape as unembraced treasure - offering unique biological riches and limitless potential for reinvention.
As for the garden, Gilles once wrote,
[A garden] is territory where everything is intermingled: flowers, fruit, vegetables.
I define the garden as the only territory where man and nature meet, in which dreaming is allowed.
It is in this space that man can be in a utopia that is the happiness of his dreams.
Thanks for listening to The Daily Gardener
And remember: For a happy, healthy life, garden every day.