Late Nineteenth Century Mass Production of Plants Made Dozens of Varieties Available

By the end of the nineteenth century seed company and nursery catalogs would offer for sale many varieties of one plant.

That was possible because of the new system of mass production of seeds and plants.  Like any business, the garden industry sought ways to incease its inventory and market share.

The growing conditions of California where the nursery business could continue all year enabled new plants to reach the market much more quickly.

Illustration of the coleus in the 1893 Burpee seed catalog

The  book Sunshine, Fruit and Flowers, first published in 1896, featured the California seed business  C. C. Morse and Company with its fields of sweet peas. The book said, “Particular attention is given to the sweet pea, one of the most popular of all flowers.  Of these they [Morse] aim to grow every variety the sweet pea specialist can name, and more than ninety varieties are now cultivated.”

The W. R. Shelmore Company in Avondale, Pennsylvania offered more than seventy-five varieties of coleus in its 1895 catalog.  The catalog said, “We have one of the best collections in the country.”

When industrialization met the gardening industry, the number of plants available for the American gardener increased.

Then hybridizers would produce many varieties of one plant, as in the case of the coleus and the sweet pea.

Not much has changed today.  Each spring the garden industry continues to feature new plant varieties.

And, of course, American gardeners buy up the newer varieties.

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Comments

  1. Yes, each spring is a race to get the newest thing for the garden. Although I like new things, I also love the old. I smelled some greenhouse grown stock today, and it was ever so lovely.~~Dee

    • thomasmickey says:

      Dee, thanks for connecting. new plants drive my choices for the garden as well. I plan to write a garden story in the spring on new annuals for 2013.

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