The lawn is a gift of the English garden tradition from the eighteenth century. Early…
American gardeners fell in love with annuals after 1850 during our own Victorian period.
The use of perennials in the garden fell off until later in the century when they became stylish with the encouragement of English garden authorties William Robinson and Gertrude Jekyll.
Philadelphia seedsman Thomas Meehan wrote in his magazine Gardener’s Monthly in 1872: “The evil which accompanied [flower beds, ribbon beds, and carpet beds] was in nearly banishing from cultivation the beautiful and interesting tribe known as hardy herbaceous plants. From early spring til late in the fall some of them were in bloom.”
In 1882 Warren H. Manning, New England plantsman, wrote: “The use of tender plants and annuals for bedding purposes in summer decoration has been in vogue for about a quarter of a century, and they have almost entirely superseded hardy herbaceous plants for general cultivation.”
When the English garden style emphasized perennials rather than annuals, we discovered the English had been enjoying many of America’s native perennial plants for decades. By the end of the century native American perennials became a part of our home landscape.
As we had for the whole century, America followed the style of English garden design.
The nineteenth century seed and nursery catalogs provided the inspiration.