Archives for June 2012

Nineteenth Century Early Advertising Featured Just Plain Information

Over the run of the nineteenth century advertising changed from just  telling the customer what the product was, to creating a need for the product.

Here is an example of advertising as just information. This ad [below] for the James Vick Seed Company appeared in Philadelphia nurseryman Thomas Meehan’s magazine, Gardener’s Monthly, in 1871.

Notice the ad is just words, and no illustration. These simple words appear: “The catalog is ready to send out.” As if the customer would write in at once.


This ad appeared in Gardner’s Monthly in January, 1871.


By the end of the century, such an ad would include colors and people. Often women appeared in a garden scene.

Since there were so many products competing for the attention of the gardener, the goal was to make an ad stand out amongst many ads.

By the end of the nineteenth century advertising had changed so that a company had to create a need for the product.  No longer could the company just give information.

Advertisers who were then professionals themselves in a new industry figured out that people didn’t need things.  They needed to fill such human desires as love, style, fashion, comfort, ease, and togetherness.  Those ideas became what advertising sold.

And that is what still happens in advertising to this day.


House on Garden Tour Decorated with a Victorian Era Vine

Recently I visited the gardens on a tour in Newburyport, Mass. sponsored by the Historical Society of Old Newbury.

One of my favorite gardens featured the vine called Dutchman’s pipe climbing up a porch railing.  This is the vine with big leaves that provides plenty of shade where it is needed.

Dutchman’s pipe vine climbing up this porch at a house on a recent garden tour in Newburyport, Mass.

Dutchman’s pipe was popular in the nineteenth century Victorian era as a vine suitable for any home in America.

New Jersey seedsman Peter Henderson, in his book Gardening for Pleasure, written in 1875, said, “Climbers are indispensable”. He listed this vine under the category “Hardy Vines.”

Years ago I remember we had a Dutchman’s pipe vine on the side of the house, and I will not forget the size of the leaves. They were enormous.

The house on this tour last week was a Victorian. The owners certainly chose well in selecting this vine to represent a plant variety popular for that period of  American gardening.


You Can Grow as well as Eat a Rose

The rose has been an essential plant in the garden for hundreds of years. Colonial gardens of America used it as decoration but also as an herb.

Recently the rose has taken center stage in a couple of different ways.  Tower Hill Botanic Garden recently awarded one variety of rose its prestigious Carey Award.  A new book discusses eating roses.

Located in Boylston, Massachusetts, near Worcester, Tower Hill presents a yearly award, called the Cary Award, for a plant that is ideal for New England gardens.  The award receives its name from Edward A. Cary who spent his life as a gardener, growing plants that some people thought too fragile for the harsh New England weather.

This year’s Cary Award winner is a series of roses called the Knock Out Rose.  Don’t let the name scare you.  There is nothing lightweight about this plant.  It is a real trooper.

The original Knock Out rose called Rosa ‘Radrazz’ is a shrub rose that grows 3 to 4 feet tall, but it can be trimmed to a smaller size if needed.  Its cherry pink flower appears off and on all summer until hard frost.  In my garden it blooms in early June, and later in August.

The original cherry-pink Knock Out rose, introduced in 2000, has now become part of a series of seven distinct plants with the same name.  Other varieties of this rose now include the Yellow Sunny Knock Out and the Pink Double Knock Out.

America’s oldest public rose garden in Hartford, Conn. Elizabeth Park has its rose weekend this year from June 22 to 24.

Former Garden Director at Boerner Botanical Gardens in Milwaukee, William Radler is the breeder of the Knock Out rose, which came from a combination of eight roses. He said, “I started with seeds that I had harvested. It took me about 15 years to come up with this variety”.  And did he succeed.  Knock Out has won national and international acclaim, including the prestigious All-American Rose Selection award in 2000.  Today it is one of the top selling roses.

Radler says there are two secrets to success with his Knock Out rose.  First, do not deadhead.  Second, plant the rose deep so the branching stem at the base is one and one half inches below the soil.

From roses in the garden to roses on the table is not a hard leap.

Jim Long from Long Creek Herbs in Missouri has written a new book called How to Eat a Rose.  Yes, that is the title.  It surprised me when I first saw it.

Long traveled to India where he entered an ice cream parlor and found the expected flavors of chocolate and vanilla along with a rose ice cream. People here, especially those who cultivate roses, keep telling him “but you can’t eat roses”.  Long knows otherwise. He said, “I wanted people to see for themselves”.

In many countries, including Pakistan and Turkey, the rose is considered both a seasoning herb and a medical herb. Long’s book is filled with rose recipes. Any rose that has not been sprayed, and has a pleasing fragrance, is edible, according to Long.

No surprise then that the rose is the official Herb of the Year for 2012. You can now grow a Knock Out rose in your garden, and learn how to serve roses at the table.



Product Image Was the Key to New Advertising in Late Nineteenth Century

At the end of the nineteenth century, advertising had become a business of drawing consumers to a product, one they often times didn’t know they even needed.

The draw was an image, illustration, even dialog shown in an ad.

A new book on the cultural history of advertising

I just read the  new edition of the book Soap, Sex and Cigarettes: A Cultural History of American Advertising by advertising historian Juliann Sivulka.

I was fascinated with her stories about products and their advertising.

The idea  of the book is that advertising sells fashion, love, security, comfort, all the things we want.  The way to get these intangibles is, according to advertising, through a product.

That means to have a garden that is worth anything it has to have the garden products that are advertised.

And so the late nineteenth century seed companies and nurseries used bold colors and illustrations to sell a plant, lawn seed, or landscape services.

This book provided insights into how we came to be consumers in a product-driven culture.

It seemed natural for me to link the history of advertising and late nineteenth century American gardening.

At that time every seed or nursery business, if it was successful, advocated modern advertising as the way to reach gardeners.  W. Atlee Burpee served as a prime example.

A firm believer in the emerging modern form of advertising, Burpee wrote his own copy for the catalog even though he had an advertising department within the company.

In his 1897 catalog he wrote, “Advertising is as necessary an annual expenditure as the payment of taxes or rent …. Intelligent buyers realize that a good thing is worth advertising, and thus, making more sales, instead of increasing, advertising actually reduces the cost of goods.”

Like every modern business, the green industry bought into advertising as the new way to attract and keep a customer.  It was no surprise that the latest plant became a must-have for a gardener


American Garden Writers Set the English Garden on a Pedastal

Nineteenth century American garden writers often preferred the English garden style in their writing.

Buffalo landscape designer Elias Long had some revealing comments about the English gardener and the English garden in his book Ornamental Gardening (1884).

A garden in Newburyport, Mass with a Victorian fountain in the center.

He wrote: “The English possess a much greater love for, and knowledge of, everything pertaining to gardening than do Americans.”

Such writing could have made American gardeners feel inadequate, and thus they perhaps  sought out English garden fashion.

Chicago landscape designer Wilhelm Miller wrote a book in 1908 called What England Can Teach Us About Gardening.  He opened with these words: “The purpose of this book is to inspire people to make more and better gardens.”

Last weekend  I attended the Newburyport, Mass. annual garden tour, sponsored by the Historical Society of Old Newbury.  The garden above was one of the  twelve gardens on the tour.  The Victorian fountain, a reminder of nineteenth century America, caught my attention.





Garden on Local Tour Reflected the English Style

Yesterday I attended the Newburyport, Mass. annual garden tour.  Hats off to the sponsor, the Historical Society of Old Newbury.  This was its thirty-third annual event with this year twelve gardens to visit.

Had a great time, though I am glad I drove because the distance between the gardens proved a challenge by foot.

What struck me, perhaps because Newburyport has a long history, was that several gardens included bits of the English garden like perennial beds, an extensive lawn, and even the element of surprise for the visitor from time to time.

A favorite was a garden in a courtyard, outside a Victorian house.   A Victorian fountain surrounded by bluestone stepping-stones  formed the garden’s center.  A pair of tall brass cranes stood near the water.  Numerous plants, including a few hanging over the leaded containers, filled out the garden.

A Victorian fountain met the visitor at this courtyard area.

This property included a series of gardens, some close to the house as well as a lower terrace with an English garden design throughout, including a white garden.

Though the garden is only seven years old, the English garden style was evident in the decisions the owners made in design and plant choices.

Since the home was built in the Victorian period and reflected that style, the owners set out to make a landscape of  the late nineteenth century.

At that time of course the English garden provided the standard for American gardening.

I loved  what the owners had done.


Just Received a Book Contract

When I began this blog almost two years ago, my goal was to create interest in my book, Seduction of the English Garden: The Story of American Gardening according to the Nineteenth Century Seed and Nursery Catalogs.

I have been writing the book for the past five years.  Much of it is based on my year of research at the Smithsonian in Washington.

Last week Ohio University  Press offered me a contract for the book.

When I received the news, for a second I felt like I had entered a different zone.

This image with the words on top 'Gems from the Wild Garden' is from the Rawson Seed Catalog of 1888. The Company was located in Boston.

I have been plugging along reading, writing, and editing for so long with a book contract as my goal, that for a moment I was in a daze when I read the email from Ohio.

Thank you for staying with me all this time by reading this blog. I will of course continue to post twice a week.

The book will come out early next summer.

The Editor asked me to think about an image for the cover. Rawson’s seed catalog from 1888 provides an image [above] that I will suggest for the cover.  What do you think of it?

Oh happy day.


1898 Seed Company Cover Image Encouraged Carpet Beds

Images in advertising sell, especially images that are current and fashionable.

We have known this since the mass circulation of ads in the second half of the nineteenth century. Whether medicinal beverages, soap, oatmeal, or garden seeds, how the company pictured the product made a statement.

The Ohio seed company Storrs and Harrison included in its catalog cover of 1898 an

Storrs and Harrison Seed Catalog of 1898

image of a lawn with a carpet bed. [above]

Thus the company sold the lawn and idea of the carpet bed as well with their seeds.

Carpet beds became an important garden fashion during England’s Victorian period.

Like all garden advertising of that time, the product needed to be connected with a style of gardening that would attract a homeowner.