Archives for January 2021

How many hybrids of one plant do we need?

I love the weigela shrub.

At the edge of our front lawn the old-fashioned weigela florida has bloomed each spring for many years.

Did you know, according to Michael Dirr’s Manual of Woody Landscape Plants, there are 170 varieties of this shrub available on the market?

Most of them come from Holland and Canada.

My question is: who needs so many varieties of one plant?

In my Garden

I am happy our weigela florida shrub continues to provide color outside the front door. [below]

This Weigela grows right outside my front door. [photo by Ralph Morang]

History of the Weigela

Robert Fortune (1812–1880), the Scottish plant collector, introduced it in 1845 from China to England, where it first grew at the gardens of the Horticultural Society.

This shrub, with its reddish-pink bell-shaped flowers, was named after the German botanist Christian von Weigel.

Soon American nursery catalogs listed it as the newest exotic plant from England.

In 1848, the English garden periodical Curtis’s Botanical Magazine wrote that it grew in the Royal Gardens of Kew and other botanical gardens in Great Britain.

Weigela florida grows four to five feet high and just as wide, and is valued as a specimen or border plant.

The leaves are two to five inches long, and usually have one end narrower than the other, a pointed tip, and a notched edge. The flowers measure an inch and a half in length. The inner envelopes of the flowers are usually a white, pink, or red color.

This shrub does well in most fertile soils, but prefers a moist, well-drained soil in sun or partial shade.

It blossoms in springtime, mostly during May, April, and June.

What I like about it also is that this shrub is easy to grow and maintain.

A question

I need to ask you a question nonetheless.

How many hybrids of one plant do we need?

Share

Nineteenth Century Commercial Botanical Artist: Dellon Marcus Dewey

To sell seeds and plants in the nineteenth century the garden industry had to rely on botanical art to persaude a customer.

The commercial botanical artist like Dellon Marcus Dewey (1819-1889) provided colorful illustrations for the plant sales person.

When the customer saw the image of beautiful flowers or shrubs in the plant peddler’s book of illustrations, it was just a matter of time before he (or possibly she) decided to purchase.

Nineteenth Century Rochester, NY

Rochester, New York had received the name ‘Flower City’ in the mid nineteenth century because of its number of garden companies that sold seeds and plants.

The botanical artist played a key role in selling them.

Rochester’s D. M. Dewey was one such artist.

Historian and librarian Karl Kabelac wrote an article for the University of Rochester Library Bulletin called “Nineteeth Century Rochester Fruit and Flower Plates.”

Kabelac writes “His [Dewey’s] premises in the Reynolds Arcade [in downtown Rochester] were spacious and convenient.

“Here not less than thirty artists and others are employed in making drawings, paintings, etchings, photographs, etc.

“And in reproducing the same either for the trade regularly, or to fill special orders from Nurserymen or Horticultural Societies.”

Dewey had already painted 275 plates by 1859, when he began his own business.

Twenty years later he offered over 2300 plates including this pear. [below]

Dewey plate 1860. Courtesy of U of Rochester

Dewey’s Book

In 1872 Dewey published a book of his botanical art work with the title: The Nurseryman’s Pocket Specimen Book, Colored from Nature. Fruits, Flowers, Ornamental Trees, Shrubs, Roses, etc.

Cultural historian Charles Van Ravenswaay in his book about the art work of Joseph Prestele Drawn from Nature praised Dewey.

Van Ravenswaay wrote, “Dewey used several different techniques, including his distinctive hand-painted work, to produce a popular art of more than average quality.

“This tireless man with his fertile, inventive mind, exploited to its full potential the nurseryman’s plate business and dominated it throughout its best years.”

Dewey proved to be an extraordinary artist who helped people see the potential of improving the home landscape with just the right plant.

Share

Last Year Saw a Rise in Gardening

What amazed me in the last few days was the number of articles I read about an increase in gardening over the past year.

The Boston Globe ran a story with the title “Sowing Seeds of Climate Action in the Garden” by Leah C. Stokes.

The focus in the story was the number of people who took up gardening during the past year of the pandemic.

People had a lot of time on their hands and gardening became one way to keep busy.

For Stokes, however, as it turned out, it was more than just a past time.

She already was convinced of the importance of gardening, but she went deeper in appreciating the value of the soil.

Her gardening became a real way to relate to the earth, a thought totally unexpected on the part of so many gardeners.

Stokes says, “Gardening gives us another way of living with the earth.”

She had been gardening before, but now saw new opportunities with her status as confined to her home.

Her appreciation of the soil increased for sure.

She writes, “I found my ambitions growing under quarantine and wanted to try large-scale composting.” And she did just that.

Children too took up gardening

On the website Kids Gardening we learn about gardening with young people.

During 2020 many of them took up gardening for the first time.

Emma Shipman, Executive Director of Kids Gardening, writes that Sadie, age 6, was introduced to gardening during a Zoom call.

Shipman writes “Her teacher used our lesson plans to inspire the kids in her class to get outdoors during the Spring quarantine.”

Sadie planted her first garden in an old raised tub that her sister painted.” [below]

Courtesy of Kids Gardening

Stokes writes, “This year’s gardening trend could be like a seed: the beginning of something much bigger.”

Learning about Gardening

So, whether you were a beginner in the garden, or someone who already had a deep passion for gardening, the past year opened up the garden gate in new ways for so many people.

Share