The lawn is a gift of the English garden tradition from the eighteenth century. Early…
Today we take it for granted that somewhere in the garden we will include a bench, a chair, or a table.
The practice of including such pieces of outdoor furniture became an important feature of the Victorian garden, especially for the emerging middle class who had the money and leisure to pursue gardening.
English garden writer Caroline Ikin in her book The Victorian Garden writes: “Gardens were also extensively accessorized by the Victorians to add character and display taste. Rustic buildings and garden furniture were popular additions, as were Japanese tea-houses and Oriental bridges.”
Nineteenth century American seed and nursery catalogs included garden accessories like the lawn tent. Rochester, New York seedsman James Vick (1818-1882) in his seed catalog of 1873 offered “Vick’s Portable Lawn Tent.” He wrote in the ad: “For Lawn and Croquet ground is unequaled…In Europe, a tent somewhat like
this is seen on almost every respectable lawn…It is quite ornamental, and deserves a place on the Lawn for this alone.”
The second example of a lawn tent in the ad also included a garden bench, or seat as Vick called it.
Thus American gardeners who were anxious to follow the Victorian garden style included all sorts of garden furniture in the landscape.[below] I am including here an image from my garden. Notice the wrought iron table and chairs, and, of course, a new variety of petunia called ‘Pretty Much Picasso,’ one of my favorite new annuals.