In Nineteenth Century America New Hybrids Proved Essential for any Garden Catalog

Do you ever wonder why it is that we like the latest plant variety?

I remember many January planning sessions where I sit down to figure out what I will plant in the summer garden.  Often I would turn to what was the latest in the catalog.

I had no idea that every year growers find new hybrids to entice customers to buy from their company.

It was no different in the nineteenth century.

Burpee catalog cover of 1896

Sweet peas were featured on this Burpee catalog cover of 1896

Garden historian Marina Moskowitz contributed an article to the book Time, Consumption and Everyday Life. She  wrote: “In developing the unique qualities of hybrids, whether the deepest color and largest blossom or flower or the earliest and most prolific bearer of fruit, seed companies were also ensuring that customers would return to them each year for a new supply of seeds.”

At the end of the nineteenth century the W. Atlee Burpee seed company excelled in its offerings of sweet pea varieties.

Burpee was recognized on an international scale for his delopment of sweet peas.

It was no surprise when each year the sweet pea became a major item in the Burpee catalog as in this catalog cover [above] of 1896.

In one sense the seed and plant industry today has changed little.  Each new catalog, whether in print or online, that you receive during these winter months often will feature the newest plant variety within the front section.

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Comments

  1. Edward L Myers says:

    I am the Steward of a pre-1900 historic garden at Indianapolis’s Benton House (1873).

    • thomasmickey says:

      I just saw the Benton House website. I qwould love to visit next time I am in your city. I was in Indianapolis last August for the Garden Writers Association annual convention. Love the city.

  2. Edward L Myers says:

    I am the Steward of a historic garden at Indianapolis’s Benton House (1873).

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