Just received a catalog from one of my favorite perennial growers Bluestone. A perennial that…
The New Hampshire poet Celia Thaxter (1835-1894) wrote a wonderful book about her style of gardening called An Island Garden.
In a way Celia Thaxter could represent the Victorian gardener in late nineteenth-century America.
The love of flowers became an essential characteristic for Victorian women.
We only have to see the brilliant colors in the seed and nursery catalog covers of that time to get a sense of how important the yellows, blues, whites, and reds were to the customers, mostly women.
Celia wrote in her book: “Often I hear people say ‘How do you make your plants flourish like this?’ as they admire the little flower patch I cultivate in summer, or the window gardens that bloom for me in winter; ‘I can never make my plants blossom like this! What is your secret?’
“And I answer with one word, ‘Love’.”
The love she writes about translates into the perseverance and care that she gives the flowers in her garden.
She writes: “I am fully and intensely aware that plants are conscious of love and respond to it as they do to nothing else.”
Late Nineteenth-Century Seed Catalogs
As I look at late nineteenth-century seed catalog covers, the colors of the flowers that they feature stand out first and foremost. The bolder, the better.
Here is a cover from the Huntington Seed Company’s 1894 catalog, the year that Celia wrote her book on her garden on the Isle of Shoals.
Celia Thaxter wrote of her love for her garden in such a way the reader couldn’t help but feel it: “When in these fresh mornings I go into my garden before any one is awake, I go for the time being into perfect happiness.
” In this hour divinely fresh and still, the fair face of every flower salutes me with a silent joy that fills me with infinite content.”
Celia’s words say it so beautifully. In them we feel her love for the flowers in her garden.