Today we celebrate the pardoned outlaw who donated the land for the Oxford Botanic Garden.
We'll also learn about Carl Jr. - Linnaeus’s son - Linnaeus filius, who surely felt some pressure growing up in his father’s shadow.
We’ll hear one of my favorite letters from the garden writer Elizabeth Lawrence.
We Grow That Garden Library™ with a delightful book of hope and grace for gardeners and for anyone - an excellent book for 2021.
And then we’ll wrap things up with the story of the first female botanist in America.
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January 20, 1643
Today is the anniversary of the death of Henry Danvers, the 1st Earl of Danby.
In 1621, Henry founded the Oxford Botanic Garden, but planting didn’t start until the 1640s
As a young man, Henry was an English soldier who was outlawed after killing a rival family’s son. The Danvers and the Longs had feuded for generations. Along with his brother and a few friends, Henry ambushed Henry Long as he was dining at a tavern. And that’s when Henry Danvers shot and killed Henry Long and became an outlaw.
After the shooting, Henry and his gang fled to France, where they honorably served in the French army. Four years later, the King of France interceded on the men’s behalf and secured a pardon for them.
After returning to England, Henry regained favor for his service and ultimately became a Knight of the Garter and the lifelong governor of Guernsey's isle.
Henry never married, but he created a lasting legacy for himself when he donated five acres of land to the University of Oxford. Henry had the flood-prone land along the river raised and enclosed with a high wall. The massive stone gateway to the garden was designed by a peer and friend to Inigo Jones, a master mason named Nicholas Stone. The Danby gateway is inscribed: Gloriae Dei opt. max. Honori Caroli Regis. In usum Acad. et Reipub. and the frieze inscription is Henricus Comes Danby D.D. 1632 - or “In honor of King Charles, for academic use and the general welfare by the Earl of Danby 1632."
January 20, 1741
Today is the birthday of the Swedish naturalist Carl Linnaeus the Younger, the son of the great Carl Linnaeus or Carl von Linné.
To distinguish him from his famous father, he was referred to as Linnaeus filius, Latin for Linnaeus, the son. For botanical purposes, he is referred to with the abbreviation L.f. for Linnaeus filius.
Carl Linneaus learned of his son’s birth while he was away in Stockholm. He wrote a letter straight away to his wife Sara Lisa, saying:
“How excited I was when I received the news I had been longing for…
I kiss the gracious hand of God ... that we have been blessed with a son.
Take care to avoid changes of temperature and draughts, for carelessness of that sort might harm you.
I remain, my dearest wife, your faithful husband,
Greetings to my little Carl.”
When he was just nine years old, Linnaeus filius enrolled at the University of Uppsala and taught by great botanists like Pehr Löfling, Daniel Solander, and Johan Peter Falk.
Eleven years later, Linnaeus filius backfilled his father’s position as the chair of Practical Medicine at the University. Unfortunately, Linnaeus filius was resented by his peers after favoritism played a role in the promotion. At the tender age of 22, Linnaeus filius got the job without applying or defending a thesis.
Twenty years later, Linnaeus filius was in the middle of a two-year-long expedition through Europe. When he reached London, Linnaeus filius became ill and died from a stroke. He was just 42 years old.
January 20, 1945
... I can’t imagine anything worse than a square of dogwoods back of the house. I thought your idea was that you wanted to clear that all out (except for the serviceberry, which is to one side) so you could look out of the kitchen window and up the mountainside instead of being hemmed in? If you want to put dogwoods there, I would suggest putting them to the left side (as you look up the mountainside) in a group near the fence. And not so as to hide the prettiest view of the woods, to frame it if possible. If you keep the apple tree, you might have a seat under it. ...
I don’t know what you mean by spider lilies, but I am sure that you won’t hurt whatever they are if you take a big ball of earth and do not disturb the roots. The point is not to break them when they are growing. I feel sure that white pines will be the best and quickest screen for the pigsty. ... If you order any, be sure to have your holes all dug before they come. Dig three feet deep and four in diameter, and fill in with woods mold, and put a good mulch of leaves over it, and if you have it where you can water, I think everyone would grow soon and make a screen. Be sure to write to me before you do anything drastic. ...
Bessie and I took a salad and a pan of rolls and went to have supper with your family last night. We had Blanche’s walnuts for dessert. And Robert and I made Cleopatras, not so good, somehow, as the ones at Christmas.
I must put the puppy to bed before he chews up all the files of Gardening Illustrated
— Elizabeth Lawrence, gardener and garden writer, letter to her sister Ann, January 20, 1945
Grow That Garden Library
All Along You Were Blooming by Morgan Har…
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I fell in love with this book when I saw the beautiful cover that features botanical art.
With over a million followers on Instagram, Morgan’s fans love her beautiful artwork and inspiring thoughts about life.
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Today’s Botanic Spark
Reviving the little botanic spark in your heart
January 20, 1756
On this day, Peter Collinson wrote to John Bartram about Jane Colden.
"Our friend, Colden's daughter, has… sent over several sheets of plants, very curiously anatomized after [Linnaeus's] method.
I believe she is the first lady that has attempted anything of this nature."
Peter Collinson was one of the first botanical experts to recognize Jane Colden as the first female botanist in America.
Like our modern-day plant swaps, Jane took part in something called the Natural History Circle - an event where American colonists and European collectors exchanged seeds and plants.
Jane’s father was the Scottish-American physician, botanist, and Lieutenant Governor of New York, Cadwallader Colden (CAD-wah-LIDDER). Aside from his political endeavors, Cadwallader enjoyed botany and practiced the new Linnaean system.
A proud dad, Cadwallader wrote to his friend Jan Gronovius,
"I (have) often thought that botany is an amusement which may be made greater to the ladies who are often at a loss to fill up their time…
Their natural curiosity and the pleasure they take in the beauty… seems to fit it for them (far more than men).
The chief reason that few or none of them have applied themselves to (it)… is because all the books of any value are (written) in Latin.
I have a daughter (with) an inclination... for natural philosophy or history…
I took the pains to explain to her Linnaeus's system and put it in English for her to use - by freeing it from the technical terms, which was easily done by using two or three words in the place of one.
She is now grown very fond of the study… she now understands to some degree Linnaeus's characters [even though] she does not understand Latin.
She has already (written) a pretty large volume in writing of the description of plants."
Cadwallader gave Jane access to his impressive botanical library; he even shared his personal correspondence with her and allowed her to interact with the many botanists who visited the family's estate.
In 1754 at Coldenham, when Jane was 30 years old, she met a young William Bartram who was less than half her age at just 14 years old. She also met with the Charleston plantsman Alexander Garden who was only 24 years old.
In 1758, Walter Rutherford wrote to a friend after visiting the Colden home, Coldingham, and he described Cadwallader, his house, and his 34-year-old daughter Jane this way:
"We made an excursion to Coldingham...
From the middle of the woods, this family corresponds with all the learned societies in Europe…. his daughter Jenny is a florist and a botanist. She has discovered a great number of plants never before described and has given their properties and virtues [in her descriptions].... and she draws and colors them with great beauty…
She (also) makes the best cheese I ever ate in America."
Today the genus Coldenia in the borage family is named after Jane's father, Cadwallader Colden.
After Jane discovered a new plant, the Coptis trifolia, she asked Linneaus to name it in her honor Coldenella - but he refused. With the common name Threeleaf Goldthread, Coptis trifolia is a woodland perennial plant in the buttercup family with glossy evergreen leaves.
The long golden-yellow underground stem gives the plant the Goldthread part of its common name. Native Americans used to dig up the yellow stem and chew on it as a canker sore remedy, which is how it got its other common name: canker-root.
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