Today we celebrate a poet who loved flowers and became the beloved poet-son of a country that celebrates him still today.
We'll also learn about an orchid that inspired a fabled true story about Charles Darwin.
We’ll hear about some fascinating vegetable history that is celebrated every year on this day.
We Grow That Garden Library™ with some incredible exotic flower photography.
And then we’ll wrap things up with the garden and the Three R’s of Renovation.
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January 25, 1759
Today is the birthday of the Scottish poet and lyricist Robert Burns.
Widely regarded as the national poet of Scotland and celebrated worldwide, tonight is Burns Night. Each year Burns Night commemorates Robert, the beloved poet born into a poor Scottish family of farmers.
A typical Burns Night includes live music, poetry readings of Burns masterpieces, and a traditional Scottish meal of Haggis, Neeps, and Tatties.
Now, gardeners have a soft spot for Robert Burns.
His 1794 poem 'Red Red Rose' starts out with the familiar verse:
"O my Luve's like a red, red rose..."
And gardeners have always loved Robert's poem “To a Mountain Daisy.” with the line,
“Sweet floweret of the rural shade!
By love's simplicity betrayed”
Of course, the way to end a fantastic Burns Night Celebration is to sing Robert’s most famous poem, which has now been set to music: Auld Lang Syne.
January 25, 1862
On this day, the English naturalist, geologist, and biologist Charles Darwin received a box of Orchids.
Now after sorting through all of the flowers, one Orchid, in particular, caught Charles' attention: the Angraecum sesquipedale ("ang-GRAY-kum ses-kwah-puh-doll-lee"), commonly called Darwin's Orchid, the Christmas Orchid, the Star of Bethlehem Orchid, or the King of the Angraecums.
An epiphyte (meaning a plant that grows on other plants), the Darwin Orchid, was initially discovered by the French botanist Louis-Marie Aubert du Petit-Thouars in 1798.
When Charles first laid eyes on this Orchid, he suspected that a then-unknown moth with an almost 14-inch long proboscis must have co-evolved with the Orchid to pollinate it. Many people scoffed at this - a moth with a 14-inch tongue?!
Sadly, Charles didn't live long enough to see his prediction come true. It wasn’t until 21 years after his death, in 1903, that a moth was discovered with a proboscis that could perfectly reach the 13.5-inch nectary, and Charles’s prediction was proved to be correct.
Once the moth was officially discovered it was named predicata
for "the predicted one"
Incredibly, it took nine more decades for scientists to observe the moth pollinating the orchid.
In 1992, a German entomologist named Lutz Thilo Wasserthal traveled to Madagascar, where he captured two moths.
After placing the moths in a cage with the orchid, Lutz photographed them pollinating the flower - and it happened just as Charles Darwin imagined it would, after receiving the orchid on this day, over a century earlier.
"Neep” is the Scots term for the rutabaga, the root vegetable known as swede in Britain. Neeps and tatties (dialect for mashed potatoes) are the traditional accompaniment to haggis, served on Burns Night (January 25). Recipes vary, but butter and a little spice such as nutmeg or powdered ginger are common additions. All, of course, must be washed down with a glass of whiskey.
— Lorraine Harrison, garden writer, A Potted History of Vegetables
Grow That Garden Library
Botanica Magnifica by Jonathan Singer
This book came out in 2009, and the subtitle is Portraits of the World's Most Extraordinary Flowers and Plants.
In this out-of-print book, Jonathan Singer shares 250 of his stunning photographs of rare and exotic plants and flowers "in large scale and exquisite detail, in a manner evocative of Old Master paintings."
“The original edition of Botanica Magnifica, consisting of five lavishly hand-bound volumes, was limited to just ten copies, the first of which was donated to the Smithsonian Institution.
Botanica Magnifica is one of the few natural history works ever to rival Audubon's magnum opus in its scope and artistry.
Singer’s remarkable images are bound together in this beautiful hardcover with slipcase, baby-elephant folio of Botanica Magnifica.
This volume is organized into five alphabetically arranged sections, each introduced by a gatefold page that displays one extraordinary plant at a luxurious size.
Each pictured plant is accompanied by a clear and accessible description of its botany, geography, folklore, history, and conservation.”
This book is 356 pages of one of the most impressive volumes of botanical photography ever printed.
You can get a copy of Botanica Magnifica …
Today’s Botanic Spark
Reviving the little botanic spark in your heart
January 25, 2002
On this day, the Vancouver Sun shared an article by Steve Whysall called Three R’s Hold the Key to Garden Renovation.
The three R’s are: Restore, Renovate, and Revitalize.
Here’s an excerpt:
“To pull it off, you have got to be honest. You need to look at your garden without sentiment or romanticism and admit (painful as this may be) that things have not worked out as planned and that changes are needed.
For help, you could call in an expert. Someone like Nenagh McCutcheon, of Langley, is now a specialist at renovating and upgrading gardens that have gone astray.
At one time, Nenagh was a copywriter in advertising… She is now one of Vancouver's ace garden designers.
For example, in West Vancouver, she came to the rescue of a waterfront garden grossly overgrown by red roses and mugo pines.
"Most of it had to go," says Nenagh. "To renovate, it's usually a case of digging up 80 percent of what's there, everything that can be lifted and turfing what you don't want, replanting what is worth recycling, and then bringing in new stuff."
What are the signs that a garden needs a makeover?
Loss of structure is the most obvious, Nenagh says.
"It's a sign things are wrong when trees and shrubs are too big for their location. Or paths are overgrown. Or arbors and arches are lost under mounds of foliage. All these are symptoms that a garden has lost its identity."
Loss of color is another clue.
"Perhaps a tree that once had a small canopy now casts so much shade that instead of growing roses, you have to start planting hostas."
Or perhaps plants that were once a comfortable distance apart have grown too close, and the effect is jarring, she says.
The loss of a sense of peace and tranquility is another sign.
"And, of course, there is always the fact that you may be simply bored with how your garden looks."
Step one is to evaluate what plants are worth keeping.
Some will be too big to move.
Some can be "shovel pruned" dug up and tossed out.
The next step is to prune.
Intelligent pruning can change things dramatically. Not only can you end up with a more attractive plant, but the pruning will also let in more light and air so other plants can thrive.
[Another step is to remove old or unwanted plants.]
"When you lift plants, it gives you the opportunity to revitalize the soil. Over time old soil can become sour and compact. When you renovate, you empty the border and can bring in new soil."
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