First Garden Club of America Chapter Planted an English Garden

The Colonial Revival movement in this country began in the 1870s and lasted well into the twentieth century.

Its idea was to replicate or represent the style and fashion of the colonial period especially in home design, landscape, and furniture.

William Butler wrote a chapter discussing Litchfield, Connecticut in the book The Colonial Revival in America.  He said that in that town the first Garden Club of America chapter “idealized the past and planted ‘old-fashioned, English flower gardens’ rather than the more authentic herb and vegetable gardens.”

The First Congregational Church in Litchfield, Conn. Photo courtesy of The White Room.

In Litchfield the English garden thus provided the design style for a desired aesthetic experience.

From 1913 Litchfield became a model for the Colonial Revival movement in America.

The Civil War had shattered the American spirit, according to Butler, and faced also with a growing number of immigrants, people wanted an idealized New England village where both the resident and a visitor would be reminded of a simpler time and place.

What strikes me as important was the expression ‘old-fashioned, English flower garden’. Was the ‘old-fashioned’ quality from the garden of the  eighteenth century or the nineteenth century?  The English garden evolved over that time, and, though flower gardens were always important, they took center stage after English writer and horticulturist J. C. Loudon encouraged gardening for the middle class in the first third of the nineteenth century.

During the colonial period herbs, vegetables, and a kitchen garden with a few flowers was the way Americans gardened, a style inherited from the English.

In the Victorian period, 1840 til the end of the nineteenth century, English garden fashion featured flowerbeds, often planted with exotics from Africa and South America.

That style came to America at that time as well.

Perhaps those who designed the gardens at Litchfield remembered that later period more vividly than the earlier colonial time.

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