Nineteenth Century American Garden Catalogs Offered Native Plants

The argument that it is essential to use native plants in the garden has a long history in this country.

In the nineteenth century Philadelphia nurseryman Thomas Meehan wrote in the July 1875 issue of his magazine Gardener’s Monthly: “It has been the habit to overlook our beautiful native plants, until some European florist told us they were beautiful, when we would send to Europe for seeds of our own productions.  This is being changed.  Our own seedsmen get them for us direct from their native places.  Vick’s catalogue offers many rare California beauties for the first time.”

Meehan recognized Rochester, New York seedsman James Vick’s offerings in his catalog as a step toward making native plants available to the American gardener.

It would not be the last time we would hear the need to grow our native plants.

Certainly early on Philadelphia naturalist John Bartram (1699-1777) saw native plants as essential for the American garden because of their ease of care and beauty, but especially because they were available.

Charlotte Adelman and Bernard L. Schwartz have written a new book called The Midwestern Native Garden that repeats the argument: grow native plants.

Why is it people keep singing the same song?

Maybe we need to hear it over and over again so that it becomes familiar, a message that will motivate us in our gardens.

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