The Garden Blog – Sherman Library and Gardens

The Garden Blog

Celebrating the Harvest Around the World

Harvests are celebrated all around the world and here in the US many people celebrate the harvest through Thanksgiving. However, there are many other harvest festivities to discover. In China, and Taiwan people celebrate the Mid-Autumn Festival. This festival is celebrated on the 15th day of the 8th month of the lunar calendar with a full moon, or mid-September to early October in the Gregorian calendar. This is when the moon is believed to be the brightest and coincides with harvest time in autumn. Families come together during this time to sample the autumn harvest, light lanterns, and worship the

Read More »

The Many Meanings of Mums

The chrysanthemum is a beautiful flower with so much meaning behind it.  ‘Mums’ are often associated with the arrival of fall as they bloom during this season and are very popular.  As we are currently enjoying the fall season, let’s enjoy the beautiful chrysanthemums! In the US, the chrysanthemum generally symbolizes friendship, happiness, and well-being. However, If you want to express your sorrow or neglected love you would give a bouquet of yellow chrysanthemums.  This may be quite confusing if you handed these same flowers to someone in Japan.  The yellow or golden chrysanthemum represents longevity, rejuvenation, nobility, and is

Read More »

Carnivorous Plants

Carnivorous plants have long fascinated plant enthusiasts, well before Charles Darwin published the first truly popular and widespread book ‘Insectivorous Plants’ discussing the known carnivorous species and their adaptations to growing in low-nutrient environments. Today, botanists are continuing to expand on our understanding of carnivory in plants, finding species as common as teasel exhibiting carnivorous behavior. Darwin himself noted multiple species that may be trapping and digesting insects in ways similar to sundews and butterworts, to include the familiar tobacco and petunia. With the ever-expanding definition of carnivory in plants and sub-categories like proto-carnivorous, near-carnivorous, and even ‘murderous’ plants, it’s

Read More »
Japanese American Farming in California: A Personal History

Japanese American Farming in California: A Personal History

To mark Asian American and Pacific Islander Month, our Education Coordinator, Kiyoko Nakatsui, shares her family history and their multi-generational association with agriculture.

By the time I was born the farm was just a memory. Like many other Japanese American families mine started their American dream tilling the land. All of my grandparents’ families were farmers at some point. Prior to World War II Japanese Americans farmed up and down the west coast and some eventually returned to the land. On my mom’s side my grandma’s family farmed in Montana and my grandpa’s family in Orange County. On my dad’s side my grandma’s family farmed in Arcadia and my grandpa’s family in Stockton. Since my maternal grandmother’s family didn’t live on the coast they were able to stay on their farm even during the war. However, everyone else was forced to abandon their farms to be placed in internment camps.

Read More »

The Broms

Bromeliads are one of the most spectacular groups in the new world tropics, occupying many of the harshest habitats across the Americas. With around 3,500 species currently accepted, the Bromeliaceae is by no means a large family when compared to Orchidaceae (~30,000+ species) or the Asteraceae (~30,000 species). However, its diversity rivals that of any tropical plant family. Originating from the Guiana Shield, a relict of land relatively undisturbed by major climatic or geologic changes for many millions of years, the family has since radiated through and speciated throughout tropical/subtropical America. A major factor in such speciation has been the

Read More »

Edmond Albius and the Story of Vanilla

Ice cream, cake, frosting, candy, pudding, the list goes on! Vanilla is one of the quintessential flavors for desserts, and a scent that you can find perfuming homes around the world. It’s a classic flavor you can find everywhere, but did you know that it was once coveted for its rarity and supposed medicinal properties? The vanilla orchid has only one known pollinator, the Melipona bee. Both are native to Mexico, so when the vanilla orchid was first exported in the late 1700’s around the world, none of the plants produced vanilla pods.

Read More »

Mandalas in Nature

The word ‘Mandala’ is a Sanskrit word for a circle contained within a square, often with sections radiating out from the center point. The process of making mandalas helps to manifest stability in our inner life. I first began drawing and creating flower mandalas when I received a copy of Carl Jung’s “Red Book” which I bring to the mandala classes that I instruct for your inspiration. Throughout his career Jung encouraged his patients to make art, and especially mandalas, as a way to gain insight and heal. Although mandalas are each uniquely beautiful, it is the mindful meditative process of creating them which is most important.

Read More »

The Hardiest Houseplant You’ve Never Heard Of

Pull up a chair, roll up your sleeve, and put on a brave face because it’s time for your daily dose of trivia! Ready? Let’s begin: What plant is hand pollinated using cat whiskers? Need a hint? This plant shares its name with the mascot of Georgetown University. If you answered Hoya, then treat yourself to a lollipop on the way out. Well played!

Read More »

Horsefeathers in Horticulture

Starve a cold and feed a fever. Don’t cross your eyes too long or they’ll get stuck that way. Always wait thirty minutes after eating before swimming. Drinking coffee in adolescence will stunt your growth. Shaved hairs grow back thicker. Unless you were raised by wolves, you’ve likely heard at least one of these admonitions growing up. Perhaps some of you are even guilty of perpetuating these and other old wives’ tales when raising your own children!

Read More »