To add a vertical dimension to the garden, nineteenth century gardeners treasured vines.
In 1884 American landscape architect Elias A. Long wrote in his book Ornamental Gardening for Americans: “As growing wild, the hard-wooded climbers and trailers afford some of the most delightful bits of natural scenery to met be with. Many of these serve valuable purposes for embellishments in ornamental gardening.”
The dilemma. of course, for any gardener, then and today as well, is to choose one plant rather than another. Which vine was a gardener to grow?
Philadelphia nurseryman Thomas Meehan gave some direction when he included the Boston Ivy in an illustration for his magazine Gardener’s Monthly in 1886 [below].
Long wrote in his book that this vine, “from Japan, possesses great merit as a hardy climber, and particularly for covering brick and stone walls.”
In 1869, the old Veitch Nursery Company, in London, introduced the Boston Ivy. The plant came from Japan, a country that had just opened its doors to the West. It was a time when English botanical gardens and botanical societies supported plant collectors, some sent also by the Veitch Nursery, who traveled to Asia as well as the United States to provide new plants.
As it turns out, Boston Ivy is also the vine I chose to cover a stone wall in my own garden. Below is an image of that wall as it now appears, after several years.
Our house is built on a hill, divided into two level plateaus at the front. The house is on the top level. This stonewall ten feet in height and about forty feet in length holds up the upper level. Several years ago, my sister-in-law suggested I plant something on that stone wall. Shortly after, I planted a small pot of Boston Ivy from a local nursery. Today that Ivy covers the wall.
Vines were popular in the nineteenth century for the Victorian garden, and particularly the Boston Ivy.
Even today this vine proves a worthwhile cover for a wall.