Eccentric Enthusiasts from the Brooklyn Botanic Garden
Miss [Gertrude] Jekyll, revered for her perfection of the herbaceous border, engaged in some unique gardening practices. A witness to her planting method for Lilium giganteum (now called Cardiocrinum giganteum) bulbs once deemed Jekyll a sorceress. On that day, having dug a sizable hole and added some leaf mold and sand, the famed gardener also tossed in a freshly killed rabbit. Then she counseled, "Now, always seat the bulbs clockwise," a task she accomplished with a firm rightward twist before filling in the hole with topsoil. Four months later, she apparently had lilies just a hare under five feet tall.
Once, ostensibly to entertain her niece, she organized an elaborate tea party for her six cats and kittens with written invitations, an elegantly set table, and a selection of kitty delicacies artistically arranged on saucers. Guests were seated on stools, paws resting on table, except for Miss Maggie, a cat who evidently felt it discourteous to put her feet on the tablecloth. The event was apparently well received, as, according to one biographer, "a grand purring and washing of faces" followed.
Of decidedly different temperament was William Robinson, popularizer of the trend of natural gardening. At age 21, while working in the greenhouse of a large Irish country estate, he was entrusted with the care of some tender plants that had been lovingly nurtured from seed. On a bitter cold night, after an equally bitter quarrel with his superior, Robinson allowed the greenhouse fires to die out and, after flinging the windows wide open, hotfooted it off to Dublin, never to return. Whether he was intentionally negligent was never quite determined, but after making his fortune, Robinson banned greenhouses from his own garden forever.
Read the rest of Eccentric Enthusiasts — Stories from the Far Side of the Garden at the Brooklyn Botanic Garden site.
The Botanical Garden page on Patron Plant Scientists enlarges on the accomplishments of the 68 scientists who populate the frieze and window tablets that decorate the Administration Building. Who are They and why were they so honored?Read, too, about Maud I. Purdy: "In 1951, Montague Free, one of the most popular horticulturists of the day, pronounced Maud H. Purdy (1873–1965) the "best botany illustrator in America." Purdy was then 78 years old and had been retired for six years from her position as staff artist at Brooklyn Botanic Garden. For 32 years, she had collaborated with Brooklyn Botanic Garden's botanists and horticulturists to produce an extraordinary visual complement to their work. As their contributions to science and horticulture were eclipsed by more current discoveries and trends, however, Purdy's paintings, which were so closely associated with their work, were forgotten. Furthermore, Abstract Expressionism was the art of mid-century America, representational art was scorned, and botanical art was hardly considered art at all. Now, 60 years later, Brooklyn Botanic Garden's goal in digitizing 235 of Purdy's paintings, illustrations, and sketches is to rescue the artist's original, often daring work from obscurity and make it available for study and appreciation by a public almost entirely unacquainted with it."
Finally, enjoy a crossword puzzle entitled Flowers of EvilRead More...
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