My granddad, Norman Hickerson was born on Aug 5, 1920, at a family farm in Doctor’s Inlet, FL. He was a self-educated, self-employed, self-made man.
It was always enjoyable to be in his company and it was a guarantee that you would gain knowledge whenever near him. Stories of being raised on a large farm throughout his childhood let you know he was born to work hard.
From am early age, it was clear that he lived a nursery life and plants were his passion right after family and God.
He had gained wealth from what I hear, but I could not tell. He wore the same style of outfit no matter what day it was. A uniform of sorts that included comfortable shoes which were another sign that he worked hard.
“When You Truly Love A Woman, Name A Plant After Her” ~ unknown
Yielding many contributions to the plant industry including naming a plant for my grandmother, Lillian. Whom he loved very much, especially so for her red hair. Click to see this plant featured in the Chicago Botanic Garden.
Grandad established his nursery in 1949. Later in life marrying my grandmother. Together, they would prove to conquer the business world by being on top and ahead of the industry.
Hickerson filed for a patent on a filling and compacting apparatus and method on September 30, 1971. Click here to read this patent. This machine was for filling pots with soil and compacting the soil in the pots.
1972 Hickerson was credited for his contribution to new horticultural varieties by the Florida State Horticultural Society. This article focused on caladiums and dieffenbachia.
Hickerson had filed for a patent in 1973 and for some reason did not improve on it,
However, someone has reopened this just this year. The invention is for an apparatus and method for germinating seeds. Click here to see this patent.
On March 5, 1974, Hickerson claimed US Patent #3,507 for the Zebra plant (Aphelandra).
This is a tropical plant from Brazil so he did not create the species.
However, he would patent that particular species based on his cultivating it in the nursery setting and properly describing it
Hickerson Flowers would employ up to 300 people, which abled many young people the opportunity to go to college. Many were migrant workers’ children. Those people are now making a difference in our society.
Behind Every Great Man Is A Great WomanAnd my grandmother was a huge support system who taught me to be one too!
In 1974, I was born and Norman Hickerson filed for a patent for a new piece of nursery machinery. Click here to see this patent in full.
Computerworld conducted an interview with my grandmother on Aug 2, 1976, when she helped the company automate with high tech.
Click here to see the entire article.
Hickerson Flowers was one of five nurseries who in the mid 80’s aided The University Of Florida during a study on a disease of ficus lyrata compacta. Click to read more. This is surprising because there were so many licensed plant dealers in 1987. Click to see this list.
1987 Index of Trademarks Issued from the United States Patent and Trademark Office
Credited with introducing ANTHURIUM HOOKERI ALICIA. Click here to see the article in the Orlando Sentinel about this accomplishment.
Hickerson is listed in a 2015 book By Laurence C. Hatch titled HITS: House, Interior, Tropical, and Succulent Plants:: Genera A to B for his Zebra squarrosa “Red Apollo” patent US#4417. Click to read more.
The Orlando Sentinel shared information about the plant two years later on an article.
Later, Hickerson Flowers was involved in a study by the University of Florida on the Effect of Fertilizer Formulation on Blooming Potential of 21 Cultivars of African Violets Under Interiorscape and Greenhouse Conditions, Click to go to that study.
Beginning in the late ’90s the government wanted to possess the land around Lake Apopka which is where Hickerson Flowers was located. Some people sold cheaply while others held out. The story plays out in Orlando Weekly at this link.
It would take many years for him to negotiate and it seemed that once it was clear that the environment would be improved, he sold. You can read about the plans for the conservation work in a newsletter from the Orange Audubon Society at this link. Or you can read about it in the Apopka Voice at this link.
In 2002, Norman Hickerson was inducted into the Foliage Hall Of Fame. Click here to see the entire list.
Mentioned as the person who selected the cultivar Philodendron “Hope. Click to see this entire article in Gardening in South Africa.
The Florida Nursery, Growers, and Landscape Association remembered Hickerson. Furthermore, sharing with the nursery world that he had passed in an article below.
Deroose Plants mentions how my grandad helped them in the search for the perfect place to grow. And grow they did! Deroose Plants has grown to a team of more than 120 employees and 15 acres of production space spanning over three locations in the Apopka area. Read the article in Greenhouse Magazine at this link.
Using an invention my grandad patented, new inventors submit patent applications using his design US4219967A * 1978-08-10 1980-09-02 You can see one of these new patents at this link.
Even after Norman Hickerson passed away, they still mention his name. Calling the area, now an animal life refuge, where he built his nursery and name the Hickerson tract.
Other important people in the history of plant nurseries…
Dioscordes c.30-90 A.D.
Born in Turkey but considered Greek, Dioscorides was a physician in Roman Emperor Nero’s army.
He collected information throughout the empire about medicinal used for plants, tested them and wrote a pharmacopeia, De Materia Medica, translated Of Medical Material. The five-volume book was used in the medical reference book throughout the Middle Ages.
Today it is useful for its listing of about 600 plants that we know were in cultivation 2000 years ago.
Leonhard Fuchs (1501-1566)
German physician, prolific botanical author and professor of medicine at University of Tubingen, Germany. He followed Dioscordes’ De Materia Medica and wrote his own herbal De historia stirpium commentarii insignes “Notable commentaries on the history of plants” or “New Herbal.” It describes about 500 plants including marijuana, corn and chili peppers and their medicinal uses. He founded an early Botanic garden in Germany. The plant Fuchsia is named in his honor.
John Gerard (1545-1612)
Gardener to William Cecil, who was an advisor to Queen Elizabeth I, Gerard was considered one of the most knowledgeable plantsmen in England.
He took an English translation (or may have translated it himself) of a Dutch herbal by Rembert Dodoens into English and added some of the recently introduced plants from North America and published it as Gerard’s Herball, or Generall Histoire of Plantes. (1597).
Several years later, Thomas Johnson, an English apothecary corrected it and added more about 800 additional plants. (1633) The Johnson edition is the more famous of the two although ironically it is still referred to as Gerard’s Herball.
Nicholas Culpeper (1616-1654)
This 16th-century herbalist, botanist, and doctor introduced Culpeper’s Complete Herbal: A Book of Natural Remedies of Ancient Ills with, “I consulted with my two brothers, DR. REASON and DR. EXPERIENCE, and took a voyage to visit my mother NATURE, by whose advice, together with the help of Dr. DILIGENCE, I at last obtained my desire; and, being warned by MR. HONESTY, a stranger in our days, to publish it to the world, I have done it.” Culpeper’s medical and apothecary practice and his published works strove to make health available to the general public.
Henry Compton (1632-1713)
Bishop of Oxford and Bishop of London. Compton had two interests, his religion, and plants, not necessarily in that order. He indulged his affection for plants at his summer home, Fulham Palace with acres of gardens. Successive bishops of London had continuously occupied Fulham Palace since 704.
During Compton’s tenure, the gardens became famous. Compton’s position gave him authority over colonial ministers in Virginia, including the authority to make appointments. He appointed John Banister to minister to Virginia colonists.
Rev. John Banister (1650-1692)
Church of England minister to Virginia colonists from 1678 – 1692. Within a year he collected the plants for and prepared a plant catalog of 151 plants, “Catalogus stirpium rariorum.” He discovered about 340 new plants including the iconic Purple coneflower, Echinacea purpurea; Red bud tree, Cercis canadensis; Shooting star, Dodecatheon meadia; and Magnolia virginiana. He died a martyr to nature, shot by accident as he bent over to pick a plant from the ground.
Engelbert Kaempfer (1651–1716)
By his late teens, Kaempfer showed his interests in travel and learning. Born and raised in Lemgo of Lippe-Detmold, Germany, he attended several high schools in different cities and universities in Sweden, Prussia, and Poland. He studied the natural sciences, botany, and medicine.
He excelled in languages learning Latin, Greek, Dutch, Swedish, Portu guese, French, English, Russian, Polish, Persian, Malayan, and Japanese. In Sweden, he became the secretary to the embassy and traveled through Russia to Persia where he spent a year. He then became surgeon to the Dutch East India Company visiting Arabia, the west coast of India, Siam and finally Japan where he stayed for two years, 1690-1692.
Sixty years earlier the Shogun severed contact with all foreigners, except very limited contact with the Dutch and Chinese, due to the uprising by Christian converts in Shimabara. The Dutch were restricted to Deshima Island except for one annual trip lasting 3 months to visit the Shogun in Edo (Tokyo). Japanese provided translators to the Dutch on the Island and Kaempfer made friends with the Japanese by proving them with medical care and alcohol. They brought him plants.
His book, Amoenitates Exoticae (The Wondrous World of Foreign Countries), describing the plants of Japan, was the 1st work to do so for the Western world. Kaempfer took seeds of the Ginkgo with him when he left Japan and planted them in his garden in Lemgo, where the trees still grow. These are the 1st Ginkgos growing outside of Japan and China. Some of the plants he described are named “kaempferi.” Kaempferia galanga, Aromatic ginger, is used for culinary and medicinal purposes in Asia. Larix kaempferi, Japanese larch, Kaempfer azalea, Rhododendron kaempferi and Pseudolaris kaempferi, Golden larch commemorate Engelbert Kaempfer.
Mark Catesby (1682 -1749)
English naturalist who visited his sister in Colonial Williamsburg with a side trip to the West Indies 1712-1719. He returned to Charleston Carolina and collected plants, birds and animals 1722-1726. He went home to England and spent 20 years writing, drawing and etching The Natural History of Carolina Florida and the Bahama Islands.
John Clayton (1694-1773)
Clayton emigrated from England to colonial Virginia at age 21. He was employed as County Court Clerk of Gloucester County for more than 50 years. Plants, however, were his passion. He probably accompanied Mark Catesby on a plant-hunting trip and they corresponded after Catesby’s return to England. Clayton spent the rest of his life collecting and studying Virginia’s native plants.
Catesby “introduced” Clayton by letter, to Dr. John Frederick Gronovious (1690-1762) of Leiden, Netherlands. Clayton sent many plant specimens and seeds to Gronovious who shared some with his friend, then in Holland, Linnaeus, who named Spring beauties for him, Claytonia virginica. Controversy surrounds Gronovious’ authorship of Flora Virginica.
Some say Gronovious simply plagiarized Clayton’s work. Whether theft or not, it is an important work about Clayton’s plants
John Bartram (1699-1777)
Inquisitive, hardworking Quaker farmer, John Bartram became a plant hunter at the instigation of English gardener Peter Collinson to send plants and seed.
He was the 1st plant hunter to travel widely in North America. King George III appointed him as a royal botanist for North America. Linnaeus considered him the “greatest natural botanist.” Although he found and introduced possibly 300 new plants to gardens and landscapes only one bears his name, This plant is a moss from Massachusetts named Bartramia. Unfortunately, it is a plant Bartram never collected, that grows in a place he never explored and was named by a person he never knew!
His house and botanic garden are preserved as a museum. He helped found the American Philosophical Society which still exists today.
Carl Linnaeus (1707-1778)
Before Linnaeus living creatures had no uniform names and names could be the length of phrases. For example, the double red peony was called Paeonia faemina vulgaris flore pleno rubro. Today it is Paeonia vulgaris, thanks to Linnaeus. There had been ferment about naming systems in botanical circles to see Tournefort and Ray below) but Linnaeus was the 1st to devise an orderly system based on observable traits and apply it to all known living things, an unimaginably challenging job, like counting the stars in the sky. His lasting contribution was the binomial name – two words based on a hierarchy, the 1st word called “genus” and the 2nd-word “species.” I liken these to the names of people. The 1st word, genus, is like your last name. It groups you with your parents, brothers, and sisters, etc. The 2nd word, species, distinguishes you from your relatives. Mueller is related to the other Muellers. But Mary Mueller is unique, different from the Muellers.
This system stood the test of time. However, Linnaeus used a sexual system to make these distinctions. For plants, he classified them based on the number of stigmas and styles. This would be similar to saying that horses, cats, dogs, hedgehogs, giraffes, rabbits, etc. are all the same genus because they all have four legs. Because of this the “natural system” displaced Linnaeus’ sexual system.
Under the natural system, classification is based on the general characteristics of the plant. So, for example, cats would all be classified as feline and then subcategorized to lion, tiger, domestic cat, etc. Today the natural system is being replaced with DNA testing. Linnaeus is responsible, in whole or in part, for many of his former students traveling the world and collecting plants – Pehr Kalm, Carl Peter Thunberg, Daniel Solander and many others. Uncounted honors have been heaped upon Linnaeus for his feat. I consider the highest honor to be the fact that among plant people he is recognized simply by the capital letter L.
Pehr Kalm (1715-1779)
From Åbo Finland (then part of Sweden) Kalm began plant hunting in Sweden, Finland and Russia and went to study under Linnaeus at Upsalla. He traveled to Russia and Ukraine with Linnaeus. Upon Linnaeus’ recommendation Kalm was chosen by the Swedish Academy of Sciences to explore the NE part of America for plants that would grow in Sweden. A gardener accompanied Kalm.
He traveled in Pennsylvania, New York, New Jersey and into Canada to Quebec and Montreal. He spent the 1st winter in a Swedish community in Raccoon New Jersey. Kalm had studied theology. When the pastor became ill, Kalm substituted for him. The pastor died and Kalm married his widow, taking her back to Sweden when he returned. Kalm spent a few days with John Bartram and much time with Benjamin Franklin. He spent August and September 1750 in Quebec plant hunting with Dr. Gaulthier, the Governor’s doctor.
He returned to Åbo Academy to teach, where he grew a garden of his North American plants and published his journal of the trip, En Resa til Norra America. He collected 325 pressed plant specimens and 60 new species on his trip. Linnaeus named one of our most beautiful shrubs for his student, Kalmia latifolia, Mountain laurel. Kalm himself authored 3 genera, one named for his Canadian plant hunting friend, Gaultheria. Gaultheria procumbens, Wintergreen.
Sir Joseph Banks (1743-1820)
English explorer, naturalist, major supporter, promoter and financial backer of botany. After exploring Newfoundland and Labrador for its flora and fauna he joined Captain Cook on the Endeavor for three years to South America, around the Cape to Australia, New Zealand and Tahiti where he and Swedish botanist Daniel Solander collected about 800 new plants. He lured Solander, a protégé of Linnaeus, away from Sweden when he hired him.
Members of the prestigious Royal Horticultural Society elected Banks president and he served for more than 40 years advocating for voyages of discovery, giving advice to King George III, befriending scientists and encouraging explorers. He collected a huge quantity of herbarium specimens where botanists gathered to study.
Thomas Jefferson (1743-1826)
Of course, you know the basics. Jefferson’s plant interest was as dazzling as his political career. He not only established important gardens at Monticello but also gardened at his family homestead and his more private estate. His wide gardening interests included agriculture, vegetables, fruits, trees, and shrubs as well as flowers for ornament. “No occupation is so delightful to me as the culture of the earth,” he wrote to Peale in 1811, “and no culture comparable to that of the garden.” And it was international – he traded seeds for years with the head of the Jardin du Roi in Paris, André Thouin, but admittedly Thouin made a job of trading with everyone.
Jefferson was the moving force behind exploring west to the Pacific for many reasons, one being botanical. He discussed a trip across the continent to the Pacific with explorer John Ledyard and then reached an agreement for Michaux to go. (Michaux’s voyage to the Pacific was cut short by the French Republic for whom he worked.) Finally as president, Jefferson maneuvered a prompt agreement from Congress to support the Lewis and Clark expedition, one of its missions being to collect plants and determine their Indian uses. Twinleaf, Jeffersonia diphylla, is named for him.
Thomas Drummond (1780-1835)
Scottish plant hunter, who, sent out by William Jackson Hooker collected in upstate NY, Canadian and US Rockies and TX. He met an untimely death in Cuba where he went to collect plants en route to Britain to bring his family back to Texas to live. (What is it with these Scots anyway? See Douglas, above.) Plants named for him: Aster drummondii, Dryas drummondii.
Joseph Breck (1794-1873)
Plant entrepreneur. Breck founded Joseph Breck and Co. in 1818 and it exists today as Breck’s. Editor of New England Farmer and Horticultural Register. Author of The Flower Garden; or, Breck’s Book of Flowers, 1851. Also, one of the founding members of the American Seed Trade Association, Breck was the president of the Massachusetts Horticultural Society from 1859 to 1862.
Edwin James (1797-1861)
James was the botanist and the physician on the Long Expedition, 1820, named for its commander, Major Stephen Long. The 1st expedition to travel rivers by steamboat, they discovered the difficulties of frequent stops for cutting wood for fuel and obstructed navigation. Their route included Colorado, Texas panhandle, Oklahoma and Arkansas. James was the 1st to scale Pike’s Peak and the peak was named for him originally, Pike climbed a different peak but the names became confused and the one James climbed is now named for Pike. On Pike’s Peak James discovered Aquilegia caerulea, the Colorado columbine.
James wrote the official report of the journey, Account of an Expedition from Pittsburgh to the Rocky Mountains, Performed in the Years 1819, 1820. That was the last of James’ plant hunting. He later became an expert in Indian dialects, a farmer and avid abolitionist. Although he probably did it, a local jury in Iowa, where he lived, acquitted him of harboring a slave. Eriogonum jamesii is named for him.
David Douglas (1799-1834)
Douglas began work in his native Scotland as a garden boy at age 11. He collected plants in Scotland for botanist William Jackson Hooker who described young Douglas as having, “undaunted courage, singular abstemiousness, and energetic zeal…”
On Hooker’s recommendation, the Horticultural Society of London sent Douglas to North America where he collected plants for 12 years with only a few short trips back home. His 1st trip to the east coast and eastern Canada was so successful that the Society promptly sent him to the Pacific Northwest. In 1827 he walked, alone, from the Pacific across the northern Rockies to Hudson Bay for a boat back to England. He later made a second trip to the west coast. He collected in California, Oregon, and Washington.
His affection for conifers caused him to walk through rain forests for a month in search of a rumored big pine. He shot his gun at the cones to harvest seed, attracting the unwanted attention of a group of Indians. Quick thinking he offered tobacco if they would go and find cones. Douglas gathered the cones he shot down and left before the Indians could return. Unremitting rain ruined some specimens. When he ran out of food he ate berries that he harvested as a seed to send to England.
He spent so much time outdoors that he lost vision in one eye. On his way back to England he collected in the Hawaiian Islands accompanied by his faithful terrier, Billy. Age 35 he fell into a pit built to capture wild bulls and was gored to death. It is estimated that Douglas found hundreds of new species and has more bearing his name than any other collector. A few include Sugar pine, Pinus lambertiana; Ponderosa pine, Pinus ponderosa; Meadowfoam, Limnanthes douglasii; and Red-flowering currant, Ribes sanguineum.
George Jackman (1801-1869)
Where would we be without all the bodacious Clematis vines? George Jackman, the son of the Jackson Nursery founder dedicated himself to hybridizing Clematis. At the nursery in Surrey England, he 1st bred the iconic royal purple Clematis jackmanii. He chose it from among 300 seedlings of the 1st attempt at hybridizing in 1858. The Royal Horticultural Society awarded this vine the Award of Garden Merit. They crossed many others after that initial success. He co-authored Clematis as a Garden Flower.
Ferdinand Lindheimer (1802-1879)
His life began as the son of a prosperous merchant in Frankfurt Germany, his education that of an intellectual. It ended as a respected founding member of the New Braunfels community and editor of the Neu Braunfelser Zeitung. He 1st tried Mexico but then, angry with Santa Anna, he went to Texas to join the Army of Texas. Sandwiched in between Texas’ war for independence and writing a newspaper Lindheimer rummaged through central and south Texas from 1839 until 1851 finding and preserving plants and earning his reputation as “the father of Texas botany.”
George Engelmann encouraged his decision to hunt for plants, taught him how to prepare pressed specimens and helped finance Lindheimer’s plant hunting. Lindheimer sent his plants to Engelmann and Asa Gray for determination. They parceled them out to others who bought them and sent Lindheimer the money.
Lindheimer nearly died after an accident crossing the Brazos Bottom. He discovered nearly 70 new plants; some bear his name, such as Whirling butterflies, Gaura lindheimeri; Lindheimera texana, Texas yellow star; and Nolina lindheimeriana, Bear grass.
Dr. George Engelmann (1809-1884)
Engelmann showed an early interest in plants. At age 15 he began collecting and the topic for his dissertation for his medical degree was aberrant forms of plants. When he came to America to buy real estate for his uncle in Illinois he took notes on plants during his travels.
His medical practice in St. Louis thrived but he wasted no spare minutes, using them to advance botany. He became the expert on difficult genera and plant groups such as Cactus, Yucca, and Agave and authored numerous scholarly reports and journal articles about them. He collected little himself, instead of sponsoring, encouraging, financing and organizing others who then sent him plants, seeds, and specimens. This is what made him particularly important historically.
Without Engelmann’s efforts, for example, Ferdinand Lindheimer would not have become a plant hunter or at the very least would not have become the “Father of Texas botany.” He inspired others as well. His friend C.C. Parry named a peak in the Colorado Rockies and a canyon en route to Pike’s Peak for him. A botany chair at Washington University in St. Louis is named for Engelmann. Engelmann pine, Pinus engelmannii; Engelmann spruce, Picea engelmanii; Engelmann oak, Quercus engelmannii; Engelmann’s daisy, Engelmannia peristenia and Prickly pear cactus, Opuntia engelmannii all bear his name.
Asa Gray (1810-1888)
At age 16 he started medical school because it was inexpensive (2 semesters of lectures and 3 years apprenticeship) and would avoid the cost of college. He became interested in botany after reading an article about plants, age 17. When his medical practice did not attract many patients he decided to become a botanist. His real introduction came when John Torrey asked him to work on his herbarium classifying plants. After writing a textbook, Elements of Botany, University of Michigan was just opening and hired Gray as professor of botany and zoology but an economic downturn resulted in no work for Gray there. He continued to classify pressed specimens and write. Occasionally he took short collecting trips but none were successful.
In 1842 Harvard offered him a job teaching botany and overseeing the botanic garden. This gave him the opportunity to collect specimens from others.
He avidly encouraged collectors to send him pressed specimens and seeds and he acquired specimens from other herbaria. Ultimately Gray was considered one of the most important botanists in North America. With serious determination, he nearly monopolized naming new plants being discovered in the mid-1800s. He wrote numerous books and articles. C.C. Parry named a peak in the Rocky Mountains for him.
Robert Fortune (1812-1880)
The 1st systematic plant hunter to introduce live plants from China, this Scotsman traveled for England’s Royal Horticultural Society, East India Co., and the United States on four trips to Asia between 1843 and 1859.
Chinese laws restricted travel to the eastern port cities but he risked his freedom and defied the rules by traveling disguised as a Chinese merchant. His forays were extremely successful introducing many plants, Callicarpa dichtoma, Beauty berry;Pinus bungeanus, Lacebark pine; numerous tree peony cultivars, Dicentra spectabilis, Bleeding heart, Balloon Flower; and Anemone hupehensis var. japonica, Japanese anemone, to name a few. He authored six books about his travels. Many plants are named for him, including Euonymous fortunei, Hosta fortunei, Rhododendron fortunei and Rosa fortuniana.
United States Of America
The U.S. Government first became involved in new plant introductions in 1825 when President John Quincy Adams directed U.S. Consuls to forward rare plants and seeds to the State Department for propagation and distribution.
John C. Fremont (1813-1890)
Celebrated American explorer, instigator of the “Bear Revolt” that made California independent from Mexico & in turn part of the United States, Governor of California, 1st Senator of California, owner of a California gold mine, abolitionist, 1st candidate for US president on the Republican ticket and Civil War general fired by Lincoln for freeing the slaves of Missouri. After accumulating fabulous wealth and spending it all, he died in poverty in New York. I consider Fremont the most interesting American you never heard of. Fremont California and Clematis fremontii, Fremont’s leatherflower, are named for him.
Gertrude Jekyll (1843-1932)
An artist by training and a plantswoman by passion, Jekyll turned her education as a painter into painting with plants, their colors, textures, heights, and shapes. She designed about 400 gardens, mostly in England in the natural style of mixed perennials. She also wrote 15 books and more than 1,000 articles in magazines, many to William Robinson’s The Garden. She and Robinson agreed on garden styles and became great friends, sometimes gardening together on their knees.
Her obituary in The Times 10 December 1932 trumpeted her influence, “She was a great gardener, second only, if indeed she was second, to her friend William Robinson, of Gravetye.
To these two, more than to any others, are due, not only the complete transformation of English horticultural method and design but also that wide diffusion of knowledge and taste which has made us almost a nation of gardeners.”
Liberty Hyde Bailey (1858-1954)
Bailey, was a botany and agriculture scholar at Michigan State and Cornell, he helped to found the cooperative extension services and 4-H program, wrote manuals for farmers and gardeners as well as scientific works, in fact he wrote or co-wrote more than 65 books, 1300 articles, and founded and edited journals.
He edited the monumental The Cyclopedia of American Agriculture (1907-09), and Cyclopedia of American Horticulture (1900-02) which I still use today as an important resource. Schools, awards, buildings, streets, and a museum are named in his honor.
Alice Eastwood (1859-1953)
Canadian by birth, raised mostly by nuns after her mother died and her father left her at the convent, Eastwood’s father took her to Colorado to work her way through high school. At age 14 as a live-in nursemaid for children of the Scherrer family, they climbed the mountains in summers where she learned to find wildflowers. Eastwood had found her calling.
She reached California when she took a job caring for an ailing woman headed for San Diego. In San Francisco, she met Kate Brandegee, Curator of Botany at the California Academy of Sciences, a position Eastwood assumed within a few years. She continued to take extensive collecting trips throughout California, to Colorado and Utah and one to Alaska.
Eastwood occupied the curatorship, during which she contributed 400,000 pressed specimens she collected, for 57 years with one break. The great earthquake and fire of San Francisco hit the Academy. The earthquake did extensive damage to the building on Market Street and fire threatened the herbarium species. Eastwood arrived at work early to discover this, climbed to the top floor by the railings, the stairway in ruins, and rescued the herbarium. From 1906 until 1912 the Academy was homeless.
Eastwood spent these years studying the world’s great herbaria in Washington, Harvard, New York, London, Cambridge, and Paris, She retired at age 90. Throughout the years she received numerous honors – two genera are named for her, Eastwoodia and Aliciella; there’s a Lilac and an Orchid; a redwood grove, and the Academy’s herbarium. At age 91 Alice Eastwood became the honorary president of the International Botanical Congress. She flew to Sweden where she sat in Linnaeus’s chair, to accept the honor.
George Arends (1862-1952)
Germinate tiny seeds such as Astilbe, which are about the size of a speck of dust. Arends, a nurseryman from Ronsdorf Germany, not only made untold numbers of crosses of different Astilbe seeds but also successfully propagated them giving today’s gardens a wealth of flower colors, sizes and foliage. Most of today’s Astilbes are cultivars of Astilbe andrewsii, his creations or descendants of his creations.
Karl Foerster (1874-1970)
After studying in Italy with German botanist and internationally regarded landscape architect Ludwig Winter, Forester returned to Bornheim Germany and started a nursery. He became an expert breeder and had an excellent eye for unusual forms of plants. During World War II under Nazi domination he risked it all by keeping Jewish friends & workers. After WW II his nursery was the only perennial supplier in East Germany.
He spotted a natural cross of Calamagrostis epigeos and Calamagrostis arundinacea in the Hamburg Botanic Garden and listed it in his nursery catalog in 1939, It took nearly 70 years for Calamagrostis x acutiflora ‘‘Karl Foerster’ to become the most popular ornamental grass in gardens. He called grass “Mother Nature’s hair.” His patience as a hybridizer was well known. Forester spent nearly 20 years crossing and re-crossing delphiniums to get one immune from disease and strong enough to resist winds without staking. He created it in Delphinium ‘Foerster’s Hybrids.’
Robin Stockwell is the founder of Succulent Gardens in Castroville, CA. He has been active in the nursery industry as a grower and retailer and working with succulent plants since 1972.
When Stockwell opened his Carmel retail shop in the ’80s, succulents had a reputation for being stiff and boring. People realized they were exceptionally functional, requiring less water and fertilizer, than other plants. The go-to succulent in those days was reputably the Aloe.
Stockwell made it his mission to experiment with succulents, growing new varieties and, although he doesn’t consider himself a designer, creating installations “to popularize the plant.
Stockwell has dedicated his life to encouraging the use of these plants and worked with plant professionals and the general public to better understand them. As an innovator, writer and speaker, he has inspired audiences in the joy of gardening with succulent plants.
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