Nineteenth century garden writers encouraged vegetables.
Garden writers influence consumers.
Readers look to such sources to learn what to plant, what tools to buy, and what’s popular garden fashion.
The garden world enjoys it own share of garden media celebrities on whose every word eager fans depend.
So it is no surprise that in the nineteenth century historians note that at one point garden writers focused on growing vegetables rather than cultivating a flower garden.
Perhaps the emphasis on vegetable growing may have been related to the simple need to survive. Vegetable growing and farming consumed the early decades of the country. Once we had food on the table, we could worry about a flower garden.
In his book The Victorian Garden Tom Carter writes, “Until the middle of the century gardening writers dismissed flowers in favour of useful vegetable products.”
In the 1860s and 1870s seed company owners like Rochester, New York’s James Vick still featured growing vegetables.
Here in an illustration from Vick’s catalog. Vegetables almost surround the house. [below]
Vick wrote much about flowers and spreading the love of floriculture around the country.
One customer wrote to Vick, “No other florist has done so much to create a love of flowers.”
In 1874 he wrote in his seed catalog that gardeners could have almost as much fun in growing vegetables as in cultivating flowers.
In the catalog Vick wrote, “There is almost as much pleasure in growing a choice vegetable well, in bringing it to the highest possible state of perfection, as there is in producing a beautiful flower.”
Then Vick mentioned the lowly cauliflower, pictured in the left of the illustration. [above]
He wrote, “Indeed, some think with Dr. Johnson, that a Cauliflower is the handsomest flower that grows.”
Vick’s advice became important to his customers, so I am sure they followed his guidance even in growing vegetables.