The lawn is a gift of the English garden tradition from the eighteenth century. Early…
Long ago in the ancient Italian city of Pompeii, near Naples, a person of lesser status created a garden room with botanical frescoes. That person could not exhibit a courtyard with plants because he/she did not have the wealth.
In landscape, as in all fashion, a family’s level of income dictates how much a person can invest.
Thus like clothing and other cultural art forms, the home landscape also reflects social status.
James Duncan in an article in Geographical Review wrote: “Landscape tastes have been overlooked by students of social stratification. Yet, they are a critical part of presentation of self for middle-and upper- class Americans, whose social interaction takes place to a great extent in the home landscape.”
That was true in the emerging middle class of the nineteenth century as well when the lawn indicated social class for so many American homeowners across the country.
The phrase in Duncan’s article, ‘presentation of self,’ comes from the work of sociologist Erving Goffman. Goffman taught that when we interact with another person, we present ourselves a certain way to make an impression on that person.
Certainly the home landscape can serve that purpose as well.
The James Vick Seed Company in 1894 wrote in its magazine Vick’s Illustrated Monthly: “What we do in the gardening way is done for the appearance, the respectability of the thing, done for the same reason that we have a coat of paint put on the house, or renew the wall-hangings.”