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 Vol 78, Issue No. 4 (Autumn 2020)

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The View from Here by Elizabeth Lawson
Professor Phillip Gilmartin by Elizabeth Lawson
Primula melanantha
Update from Barnhaven Planting Fresh Primula Seeds by Ed Buyarski
Membership List
Minutes August 16, 2020
New Members
Officers of the Chapters


The View from Here


I have been watching the primroses in my garden regroup after a long, hot summer. Depleted leaves, elongated and yellowed, lie flopped in a circle around bright-green knots of new leaves at the center of the rosettes awaiting spring. Now is the time to think about seeds and the APS seed exchange. When Maedythe Martin and I discussed topics for this quarterly’s View, she suggested COVID-19 and seeds. There is a connection.

Fall 2020 has brought fresh uncertainties relating to COVID-19’s next effects on the human population as the seasons change. Reviewer Rebecca Mead of The Well-Gardened Mind: The Restorative Power of Nature (2020) by British psychiatrist and psychotherapist Sue Stuart-Smith, wrote in late summer, “As Britain faced the COVID-19 crisis, reassurance was difficult to come by, and one way it could still be attained was in the reliable germination of a windowsill pot of watercress or a garden-patch or row of chard.” Seed packets were in short supply in the UK this past growing season, and Jodie Mitchell of Barnhaven mentioned in an email to me that she had many more American customers than usual seeking information on growing primroses and obtaining auriculas. The power of seeds as metaphor and literal inspiration appears frequently in Stuart-Smith’s book. She writes, “Seeds have tomorrow ready-built into them.”

Speaking of auriculas and lest you think that I stray off the primrose path in the text that follows, I want to note at the outset that there are a number of references to auriculas in The Well-Gardened Mind. Stuart-Smith is married to the well-known British garden designer Tom Stuart-Smith and is a keen gardener in her own right. They have been working together for years on their Barn Garden in Hertfordshire (see In Chapter 3, “Seeds and Self-Belief,” she writes “Auriculas are so mouthwateringly delicious, with their boiled candy colors and their confectioners’ sugar farina, that they always give a sense of delight, but the feeling is intensified by knowing that I had a hand in their making, and it is a form of magic that came home from the Chelsea Flower Show in a brown envelope.” In another chapter, she writes of the work of dividing her collection of auriculas in the autumn and fretting over root rot from overwatering. She corrected the latter problem by acquiring, through an online auction, a collection of old terra-cotta pots, driving three hundred miles round trip to retrieve them. It turns out that the pots had belonged to the seller’s father, who grew auriculas in them. She treasures this legacy of auricula-dedicated pots.

A long-time student of neuroscience, Stuart-Smith believes that the metaphor of the brain as a garden is more pertinent than that of the brain as a computer. She writes that we are born with 500 billion neurons, 80% of which need to be “cleared away to provide space for the remaining cells to create connections and establish complex networks.” One in ten cells in the brain belongs to a group known as microglial cells. Highly mobile, they “prune” and “weed” the brain, releasing as they “cultivate” a “fertilizer” known as brain-derived neurotrophic factor or BDNF.

There will be another spring before we know it, despite COVID-19, so let’s focus on APS’ upcoming Seed Exchange. The 2020-2021 APS Seed Exchange list of available seeds will be on the APS website in late December, with a link to Instructions and a printable Order Form. Members may also request a printed copy of the List, Instructions and Order Form by sending a stamped, self-addressed envelope to Amy Olmsted at the address below.