The Shakers Pioneered the Sale of Garden Seeds

Last week I visited  Shaker Village in Canterbury, New Hampshire.

My intention was to explore the Shaker connection with the seed industry in the early nineteenth century.

Though I knew that the Shakers had invented the popular seed packet as a handy method to sell their seeds, on my visit to Canterbuy I learned about another marketing strategy from the Shakers.

Tall 'Queen of the Meadow' plants on the left frame buildings at the Shaker Village in Canterbury, NH

Tall ‘Queen of the Meadow’ plants on the left frame buildings at the Shaker Village in Canterbury, NH

In the museum I saw a nineteenth century wooden box which was about 2 1/2 feet tall by 18 inches wide that had small seed-packet sized compartments, each listing an available flower, herb, or vegetable seed for that season. The customer would write down the type of seed and number of seed packers needed and leave that order in that seed’s compartment on the wooden rack.

Later after he had picked up the orders, the Shaker seedsman would return to the store and leave the required number of seed packets for each customer.

I thought the box was another clever idea that the Shakers came up with for their seed business.

Later in the century large commercial businesses like Landreth and Comstock would also leave seed packets in a similar rack in the hardware store or grocery store as a marketing strategy.

Perhaps such companies borrowed that marketing strategy from the Shakers who had earlier developed both the wooden rack as well as the popular seed packet.

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Rock Gardening in 19th Century America Followed the English Garden Tradition

English garden writer Edward Hyams in his book The English Garden discusses rock gardening, something that I love in my own garden, where I have a substantial amount of ledge.

He claims that the English garden gave the world the ‘rock garden’.  Perhaps a bit of exaggeration, but let’s look at what he said.

Hyams writes: “A relatively modern development in English gardening, imitated all over the world, is that of rock gardening.  It is derived from the work of collectors sending back plants and seeds from flora of  mountain systems all over the world, the flora which are to be found between the upper limit of the tree line, and the lower limit of perpetual snow.”

Vick's Illustrated MonthlyThe Rochester, NY seedsman James Vick (1818-1882)  also wrote about rock gardens in his catalog and monthly magazine. Thus American gardeners too became fans of the English rock garden.

This black and white drawing [left] appeared in Vick’s Illustrated Monthly of 1879. Notice the detail of the various plants including ferns and hosta.

Are you a fan of rock gardens?

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