Catalogs kept 19th century gardener informed.
Rosedown in southern Louisiana is now a public garden, open for all to see the work of nineteenth century gardener Martha Turnbull.
There Martha kept a dairy of her work in her garden, spanning the years 1836 through 1894, which is the subject of the book The Garden Diary of Martha Turnbull Mistress of Rosedown Plantation edited and annotated by Suzanne Turner.
Turner writes, “Despite the relative isolation of Martha’s gardening pursuits at Rosedown, through journals and nursery catalogs she was able to stay in touch with the mainstream of American horticulture and floriculture.”
That was the goal of the owners of the seed and nursery companies: to keep their customers up to date with the newest flower and vegetable on the market.
Rochester, NY seedsman James Vick wrote in December, 1878, “Knowing the desire of our readers to learn something about everything that is new and good, even though they may not be able to possess all, we now give descriptions of a few very interesting and valuable plants.”
Here is Vick’s catalog from 1872. [below] He published several catalogs every year.
In 1880 one of his customers wrote these words to Vick, “From you I have acquired and put in practice much valuable information concerning the cultivation of flowers.”
In that same spirit Martha Turnbull also learned much from garden catalogs.