Monday, August 14, 2017

Old Photo - Proud of Their Wheat Crop

This photo falls into the "Proud" category!    For years my husband and I have collected and posted what we call "Proud Man" of someone standing with their outboard motor being obviously pleased to have it.  Once in awhile we get a vintage photo, mostly we get our friends.

It looks as if I could start sharing vintage photos of plant proud people as well.  I have to admit these folks don't have the big grin that make some of this sort of photo so amusing...but they are farmers, they were probably too tired!  

Tuesday, July 25, 2017

1887 - Turkey Tangle Frogfruit!: #9 of Root's Bee Plants

OK, I'll confess, A. I. Root's seed list called it lipia nodelfolia. 

But when I read its alternative common names I could not resist Turkey Tangle Frogfruit! Sawtooth fogfruit (yes, fog...that is not a typo) and plain frogfruit aren't bad for interesting common names, but you have to admit Turkey Tangle Frogfruit wins :-)

I really like the looks of the plant.  The ring of white flowers climbing the bract are fun and look absolutely yummy from a honeybee's point of view, while the low foliage is a good ground cover or edging for a casual garden.  It is really for warmer zones, but I was wondering if I could treat it as an annual.  It is becoming the ground cover of choice in warmer places, working really well in urban areas as it does not need mowing and supports pollinators.   The blog, The Illustrated Plant Nut posted a nice piece on it focusing on how people deal with names.

Back to past opinions, my reading showed that the plant was heralded in 1891 as a ground cover of choice as well.  I wonder why it didn't become more common.  The University of Arizona Agricultural Experiment Station in 1891 was very enthusiastic reporting the plants did great in Tucson with only 2 inches of rain over 8 months!!  
Sibthrop, J., Smith, JE, Flora Graeca, Vol. 6: p. 43, t. 553 (1826)

I did not find any mention of it for bees before 1900, however.

The next report I read mentions it being fond in moist soils  (?? ) but also dry places. 

The Western Honey Bee: Devoted to the Interests of the Beekeepers, 1918, ...

Lippia (nodiflora), commonly called carpet grass or mat grass, is becoming a prominent honey plant along rivers and in low, overflowed land.
It is a low creeping plant, covering the ground with a dense mass of foliage, smothering out other weeds and grasses and gradually taking entire possession of the ground. When desired it can he destroyed by cultivation. It is being used along the river fronts to protect levees against erosion and is spreading slowly over much of the overflow country in these counties.
Lippia blooms from May until October, yielding a large amount of honey of good quality. It favors moist soil, but may be found growing on dry roadsides throughout the summer. Starts readily from cuttings except during cold weather.

Lippia nodiflora, mat grass or fog fruit, is native to California, and, according to Richter, is the principal source of surplus honey in the vicinity of Sacramento. Three-fourths of the surplus honey from Sutter County he reports as from this source. There it begins to bloom in May and lasts till frost. ... The honey is said to be light in color, mild in flavor, and to granulate readily.

American Honey Plants

Frank Chapman Pellett

Wednesday, July 19, 2017

1838 - Mr. Cuthill's Advice on Sowing and Raising Mignonette in Pots

On the Culture of the Mignonette

By James Cuthill

MIGNONETTE is considered a very simple plant to grow, and so it is in fashion. We generally see it during winter; but a celebrated grower of forced flowers for Covent Garden told me that he never had but one really good crop of mignonette, and by it he made a good sum of money. 

After four winters' sowing, without the least failure, I consider my system established; and by it I have had, without the least variation, forced mignonettein flower by Christmas, and as strong as border mignonette. 

On the 20th of August, I sowed 100 pots of 32's, filled with the following compost: half sandy loam, the other half made up with leaf mould, and road sand, not sisted, but very dry when used, and pressed into the pots up to the brim. When the seeds are sown, a little of the compost is sifted over them. The pots are then put into a pit or frame, and set very near the glass. 

The lights are kept off at all times, except during rainy weather, when they are always put on; as, above all things, a drop of rain is never allowed to fall upon the pots, for several reasons. The first of these is, because rain is often very heavy, and washes the seed out of the pots; secondly, the rain is often too little, and only moistens the surface; and, thirdly, after the 1st of October, rain is too cold, and chills the plants. 

I water the plants with a very fine rose, and always twice over, but never until they are upon the point of flagging; and, after the 1st of October, I either warm the water, or use it out of the stove. I remove the mignonette to the front of the green-house, about the 1st of November, for fear of damps. 

If a succession is wanted, I cut down as many as may be necessary, about the middle of December; and these will make a better blooming and thicker pot of mignonette, than a second sowing, and will save trouble. 

In thinning, I leave only six or seven plants in each pot; five of them about 1 in. from the rim, and one or two in the centre. In order to show gardeners how wrong it is to let rain fall upon their frame plants during winter, I had two pots of mignonette put on the bare flue of an empty pit in November, giving them no water and no covering; and, upon the 1st of February, brought them into the green-house; and now (Feb. 5.) they are looking well. 

This speaks volumes: if mignonette will stand 30° of frost, merely because it is kept dry, what will cauliflowers, lettuce, radishes, &c., not stand 2 The above may appear a simple story to many; but I am obliged to be more particular with winter mignonette in pots, than with the finest stove plant. 
Dyrham Park Gardens, Feb. 6, 1838.

The Gardener's Magazine and Register of Rural & Domestic Improvement, Volume 4

Monday, July 17, 2017

1887 - Mignonette: #9 of Root's Bee Plants (with a charming history)

Reseda odorata

Mignonette, besides being a bee plant, has a fascinating history that includes a love story, chasing away headaches, and perfuming stinky neighborhoods.

As a beekeeper in Connecticut I am interested to see mignonette, while not a native, has naturalized.  Reseda odorata, Sweet Mignonette, is the escapee here, but one that has been long grown in gardens.  

A.I. Root comments it might not pay to grow it for pasturage for bees, but they do like it and it often blooms into October which honeybees appreciate.  He also mentions it is not sensitive to frost.

I was looking around for a source of seeds and found it first at The Shop: Monticello.

They comment:
"Mignonette was introduced to ornamental gardens in Europe about 1725, and because of its sweet fragrance both as a garden plant and as a cut flower, its popularity grew steadily on both sides of the Atlantic through the 19th century.  
Thomas Jefferson recorded sowing seeds for this annual at Monticello in 1811. The tiny, pale green and white flowers emit a fresh, fruity scent in summer and are attractive to bees and butterflies."
The photo below is from their seed. 

The Vermont Wildflower Farm catalog adds a great suggestion, saying that grown in a pot for a sunny windowsill mignonette is a  delight.  What a nice scent to come home to on a sunny porch!

However, getting focused on what people thought of it back in the 19th century I found a wonderful article from The Floricultural Cabinet of Joseph Harrison, a "Florist's Magazine" from 1849.

Step, E., Bois, D., Favourite flowers of garden and greenhouse


It is only one age since this fragrant weed of Egypt first perfumed the European gardens, yet it has so far naturalized itself to our climate as to spring from seeds of its own scattering, and thus' convey its delightful odour from the parterre of the prince to the most humble garden of the cottager.

In less than another age we predict (without the aid of Egyptian art) that the children of our peasants will gather this luxurious little plant amongst the wild flowers of our hedge-rows.

The Reseda Odorata first found its way to the south of France, where it was welcomed by the name of Mignonette, Little-darling, which was found too appropriate for this sweet little flower to be exchanged for any other. 

By a manuscript note in the library of the late Sir Joseph Banks, it appears that the seed of

the Mignonette was sent in 1742, by Lord Bateman, from the Royal Garden at Paris, to Mr. Richard Bateman, at Old Windsor; but we should presume that this seed was not dispersed, and perhaps not cultivated beyond Mr. Bateman's garden, as we find that Mr. Miller received the seed from Dr. Adrian van Royen, of Leyden, and cultivated it in the Botanic Garden at Chelsea, in the year 1752. 

From Chelsea it soon got into the gardens of the London florists, so as to enable them to supply the metropolis with plants to furnish out the balconies, which is noticed by Cowper, who attained the age of twenty-one in the year that this flower first perfumed the British atmosphere by its fragrance. The author of the Task soon afterwards celebrates it as a favourite plant in London—
"the sashes fronted with a rangeOf orange, myrtle, or the fragrant weed."

The odour which this little flower exhales is thought by some, whose olfactories are delicate, to be too powerful for the house, but even those persons we presume must be delighted by the fragrance which it throws from the balconies into the streets of London, giving something like a breath of garden air to the " close-pent man," whose avocations will not permit a ramble beyond the squares of the fashionable part of the town. 

To such it must be a luxurious treat to catch a few ambrosial gales on a summer's evening from the heated pavement, where offensive odours are but too frequently met with, notwithstanding the good regulations for cleansing the streets and the natural cleanliness of the inhabitants in general. We have frequently found the perfume of the Mignonette so powerful in some of the better streets of London, that we have considered it sufficient to protect the inhabitants from those effluvia which bring disorders in the air. 

The perfume of Mignonette in the streets of our metropolis reminds us of the fragrance from the roasting of coffee in many parts of Paris, without which some of their streets of business in that city would scarcely be endurable in the rainy season of the year.

The Sweet Reseda or Mignonette is now said to grow naturally in some parts of Barbary, as well as in Egypt. Monsieur Desfontaiues observed it growing in the sands near Mascar in the former country, but it might have been accidentally scattered there, or have escaped from the gardens of the Moors.

This genus of plants, of which we have twelve species, was named Reseda by the ancients, from resedare to assuage, because some of the species were esteemed good for mitigating pains; and we learn from Pliny, that the Reseda was considered to possess even the power of charming away many disorders. He tells us, that it grew near the city of Ariminum, now Rimini in Italy, and that when it was used to resolve swellings, or to assuage inflammations, it was the custom to repeat the following words, thrice spitting on the ground at each repetition :—

"Reseda, cause these maladies to cease: knowest thou, knowest thou, who hath driven these pullets here? Let the roots have neither head nor foot."

We notice these absurd superstitions of the ancients, which are scarcely yet extinct in many 
country villages of this and other countries, to show how much the minds of the ignorant have always been prone towards the marvellous, and not that we "Hold each strange tale devoutly true."

Although it is so short a time since the Sweet Reseda has been known in Europe, we find that it has crept into the armorial bearings of an illustrious family of Saxony; and, as Cupid does not so frequently bestow honours of heraldry as his father Mars, we cannot avoid relating the romantic tale which introduced this fragrant and modest little flower to the Pursuivant-at-Arms.

The Romantic Story

The Count of Walsthim was the declared lover and intended spouse of Amelia de Nordbourg, a young lady possessing all the charms necessary for the heroine of a modern novel, excepting that she took delight in creating little jealousies in the breast of her destined husband. 

As the beautiful Amelia was an only child of a widowed mother, a female cousin, possessing but few personal charms, and still less fortune, had been brought up with her from infancy as a companion, and as a stimulus to her education. The amiable and humble Charlotte was too insignificant to attract much attention in the circles in which her gay cousin shone with so much splendour, which gave her frequent opportunities of dispensing a part of that instruction she had received to the more humble class of her own sex. 

(Warning: LONG sentence...)
Returning from one of these charitable visits, and entering the gay saloon of her aunt, where her entry or exit was now scarcely noticed, she found the party amused in selecting flowers, whilst the Count and the other beaux were to make verses on the choice of each of the ladies. Charlotte was desired to make her selection of a flower; the sprightly Amelia had taken a Rose; others a Carnation, a Lily, or the flowers most likely to call forth compliment; and the delicate idea of Charlotte in selecting the most humble flower, by placing a sprig of Mignonette in her bosom, would probably have passed unnoticed, had not the flirtation of her gay cousin with a dashing colonel, who was more celebrated for his conquests in the drawing-room than in the field of battle, attracted the notice of the Count, so as to make his uneasiness visible; upon which the amiable Charlotte, who, ever studious of Amelia's real happiness, wishing to amuse and to call back the mind of her cousin, demanded the verse for the Rose. 
The Count saw this affectionate trait in Charlotte's conduct, took out his pencil, and wrote for the Rose,

"Elle ne vit qu'un jour, et ne plait qu'un moment,"
"She only saw one day, and only enjoyed a moment,"

which he gave to the lovely daughter, at the same time presenting the humble cousin with this line on the Mignonette :—

"Ses qualites surpassent ses charmes."

Amelia's pride was roused, and she retaliated by her attention to the colonel and neglect of the Count, which she carried so far as to throw herself into the power of a profligate, who brought her to ruin. The Count transferred his affections from beauty to amiability; and rejoicing in the exchange, and to commemorate the event which had brought about his happiness, and delivered him from a coquette, he added a branch of the Sweet Reseda to the ancient arms of his family, with the motto,

"Your qualities surpass your charms."

The Mignonette is one of the plants whose unassuming little flowers never weary our sight; it is therefore made the image of those interesting persons whom time cannot change, and who, although deficient in dazzling beauty, attach us for life, when once they have succeeded in pleasing without its aid. 

—Flora Historica.
Flora Historica is a small book with a big name - 
Flora historica, or, The three seasons of the British parterre historically and botanically treated : with observations on planting, to secure a regular succession of flowers, from the commencement of spring to the end of autumn : to which are added, the most approved methods of cultivating bulbous and other plants, as practised by the most celebrated florists of England, Holland, and France

The above article on mignonette was taken, in part,  from Flora Historica by the Florist'd Magazine.

Friday, July 14, 2017

1887 - Honeypea: #8 of Root's Bee Plants

The honeypea is a cowpea which is a bean.  A large variety of useful types, bush and vine, make it a popular legume in warm climates.  Black-eyed peas are cowpeas.  It took me a while to work all that out.

I have looked around the web and find beekeepers think it makes a good light honey.  Not all beans are cowpeas, though, so you can't assume a field of beans will attract bees.

The Bee Journal commented:

The bloom of the cowpea is of such formation that the proboscis of the hive-bee is too short to reach down to the nectaries; but just beneath the bloom are a number of little glands that secrete a sweet substance that is largely sought after by the bees. I have seen them work on it from morning to night.

In 1920 Frank Chapman uses testimonials in his American Honey Plants: Together with Those which are of Special Value to the Beekeeper as Sources of Pollen:

The cowpea is widely cultivated in the warmer regions of the old world and in our own Southern States. It is grown for forage and for green manure. The plant is more closely related to the beans than to the peas. 

R. A. Nestor reports that it yields freely in east Texas, and where planted in sufficient acreage yields surplus. The honey is very dark in color, but of mild flavor, according to his report. 

The nectar from cowpeas is secreted by extra floral nectaries and beekeepers are often mystified because the bees are working at the "joints" instead of on the flowers. Some report that bees gather nectar from the flowers, also. 

The following reports indicate the value in different localities: 

"There is no finer honey plant than the cowpea, while it lasts, but it blooms only about a week. During this time, if the weather is fair, the bees swarm over the fields from early morn till dewey eve."
—J.D. Rowan, Tupelo, Miss. Gleanings, Sept. 15, 1909. 

"The cowpea is one of our most abundant sources of honey for late summer. The crop is planted here from May 1 to August 1, and furnishes nectar through a considerable period of otherwise scarcity. Unlike other plants, the stems, and not the blossoms, secrete the nectar as the young pods are forming. These the bees work upon excessively. The honey is of good body, thick, deep, approaching dark yellow in color, and of strong taste like that of tulip-poplar, only stronger, with a somewhat slight, wild-green-bean-like flavor."
—C. C. Gettys, Hollis, N. C. Gleanings, Sept. 14, 1909. 

"A small patch of peas was covered with bees from morning till night. Nearly all of them were working on the stalks, as usual; but here and there I saw a few Italians pushing their tongues down into the blossoms. I have never noticed any pollen from the field peas."
— Mrs. Ameda Ellis, Fremont, Mo. Gleanings, June 1, 1910. 

"The peas bloom when there is a honey dearth and the bees gather honey from them. However, I notice they do not work on them much if there is a better honey plant blooming at the same time. My bees get a good deal of nice honey from them."
—G. H. Latham, Jr., Rapidan, Va. Gleanings, May 15, 1910.
Below a bumble is nectaring on those floral nectaries at make the cowpea family useful to beekeepers.

Wednesday, July 12, 2017

1887 - Motherwort: #7 of Root's Bee Plants

Motherwort would take over my garden if I let it. 

It self seeds with abandon.  I don't mind as it is easy to pull, and, if you let it be, it looks good!  The current CT data reports it attracts bumblebees like mad...34 contacts per minute...but did not mention  honeybees. 

My bees do like it, but not with noticeably greater than average enthusiasm.  But then again, they did not show much enthusiasm for borage!  (They do flock to anise hyssop, and, for one day only, covered my giant Cow Parsnip.)  

A. I. Root sold motherwort seeds in his honey plant section in his 1887 seed catalog.

Back to motherwort,  Root talks about it in the ABC of Bee Culture, 1882.
Motherwort (Leonurus Cardiaca)  - Quite a number of the bee folks insist that
motherwort is superior, as a honey plant, to either catnip, hoarhound, balm, wild bergamot, or any of the large family of Labiate, and I presume such may be the case under some circumstances, or in favorable localities.   
In comparing plants, it should be remembered, that those usually bear much honey may, at times, furnish none at all; and also those which usually furnish none may, under very favorable circumstances, yield largely."  
This plant often flourishes about fence corners, and around the ruins of old dwellings, sheds, or even hog pens. The large leaf, taken by itself, much resembles the currant; the stalk is much like catnip; and the little flowers are in tufts, close to the stalk. It remains in blossom a long time, and may be as worthy of cultivation, as any of the plants of its class.
In 1853 Moses Quinby's Mysteries of Bee-keeping Explained: Being a Complete Analysis of the Whole Subject is the first book I could find in a simple online search which mentions motherwort as a bee plant.      
Catnip (Nepeta Cataria), Motherwort (Leonurus Cardiaca), and Hoarhound (Marrubium Vulgare) about the middle of June, put forth their flowers, rich in sweetness, and like the raspberry, the bees visit them at all hours and in nearly all kinds of weather. They last from four to six weeks; the catnip I have known to last twelve in a few instances, yielding honey during the whole time.
After 1860 it is mentioned often.  Keep in mind people tended to copy each others published opinions, so a great deal of this MIGHT be copycat behavior, not a sudden noticing that motherwort is attracting tons of bees.  On the other hand the public's awareness of the economic possibilities of beekeeping was blossoming then, so folks were keeping an eye out for

Here is an 1865 report that sounds good from The Bee-keeper's Guide: Or Manual of the Apiary by Albert John Cook.


(Leonurus cardiaca L.)

Perhaps none of our common herbs promises better, as a honey plant, than the one-in question. It is a very hardy 
Fig. 114.
perennial, and once introduced in waste places, it is sure to hold its own, until it becomes desirable to extirpate it, when, at man's bidding, it quickly lets go its hold, so that it is not a dangerous plant to introduce. The blossoms appear at this place about June 25th, and persist for a full month, and during the entire time are crowded with bees, whatever may be the character of the weather, whether wet or dry, warm or cool, whether the plant is in the midst of honey plants or isolated. We are thus assured that the plant is constantly secreting nectar, and is also a favorite with bees. Rape, mustards and borage seem indifferent to the weather, but are not favorites with the bees. Motherwort, then, has three admirable qualities: It is long in bloom, the flowers afford fine honey at all times, and it is a favorite with the bees.

Fig. 115.

If it could be made to bloom about three weeks later, coming in just after basswood, it would have nearly all the desired qualities. I think that we might bring this about by mowing the plants in May. I am led to this opinion from the fact that some plants which we set back by transplanting in May, are still in bloom this August 10th, and are now alive with bees, dividing their attention with the beautiful cleome, which is now in full bloom, and fairly noisy with bees

Fig. 116.
The stalk is square (Fig. 114),'branching, and when cultivated, attains a height of some four feet; though, as it grows in waste places, it is seldom more than three feet. 

The branches, and also the leaves, are opposite (Figs. 114 and 115), and in the axils of the latter are whorls of blossoms (Figs. 115 and 116), which succeed each other from below to the top of the branching stems. 

The corolla is like that of all the mints, while the calyx has five teeth, which are sharp ands pine-like in the nutlets as they appear at the base of the leaves (Fig. 115). As they near the top, the whorls of blossoms and succeeding seeds are successively nearer together, and finally become very crowded at the apex (Fig. 116). 

The leaves are long and palmately lobed (Fig. 115). 
The small blossom is purple.

(My observation on the plant is that the seeds, (nutlets) are sharp!!!  Use gloves when pulling a plant with dry seed heads.)

Sunday, July 9, 2017

1917 - Sketch of Woman Gardening by Alice Barber Stephens

First, enjoy the texture of Alice Barber Stephens sketch!

Alice Barber Stephens usually focused on more urban or formal setting for her women, but the charming sketch above of a woman in her garden breaks the pattern.  

It is the only garden work theme I found in her works online....not even a snipping flowers for a bouquet sketch!

Art Essay: Alice Barber Stephens: Emerging Ways of Living & Working by Rena Tobey