Nineteenth Century Seedsman James Vick Recommends No More than Two Vases on the Lawn

Yesterday I returned from the Garden Writers Association Symposium in Indianapolis.  The annual event, which this year drew almost 600 in attendance, combines lectures, seminars, and garden tours. I enjoyed every moment of it, though I was a bit concerned about the impact of Hurricane Irene on the east coast.

Two vases border a pathway on the lawn at a GWA garden tour last week in Indianapolis.

The neighbors of a garden we visited featured two vases on the back lawn. Each bordered the walkway as if they were on guard.

That scene reminded me of what nineteenth century Rochester, NY seedsman James Vick (1818-1882) once wrote about the use of vases on the lawn. Because many people at that time decorated the lawn with several vases and that could not be called a tasteful landscape, he recommended only two vases,each filled with annuals.

Vick wrote the following in his catalog called  Floral Guide of 1873: “Of all the adornments of the lawn, nothing is more effective than a well filled and well kept vase. All the ornamental-leaved plants are appropriate for the top or center of the vase, while a few drooping plants should be placed near the edges and allowed to hang or droop at least half way to the ground. For this purpose the verbena or the petunia will answer.

“We often see several small vases scattered over the lawn, but the effect is bad. It is best to have one or two that command attention by their size and beauty.”

Vick promoted the English style of  landscape in both his catalog and his magazine.  The vases he sold in his catalog were imported from England.  His advice helped the customer create a Victorian look to the garden which was popular in the US at that time.

The front landscape of a home in Greenland, NH includes two Victorian vases.

Just last week, nearby at a home in Greenland, NH, I saw two vases on a front lawn, near the front entrance. Old Vick came to mind.

Though the GWA meeting offered themes like sustainability and  native plants, a short visit to a tour garden couldn’t help but remind me of the nineteenth century American seed and nursery industries with their marketing of the English garden style.

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