Growing Flowers Once Linked to Social Status

Growing flowers once linked to social status.

How I remember my visit to England’s Rousham, a grand old house with a landscape by William Kent, dating back to the eighteenth century.

A massive lawn fills much of the property and stretches to the walls of the house.

I enjoyed walking the gravel pathways of the walled garden of shrubs and flowers.

The walled garden held both vegetables and cut flowers in keeping with the tradition of the eighteenth and nineteenth century English garden for the wealthy.

Scourse writes in her book The Victorians and their Flowers, “Flowers like the pink were only to be found in humble gardens during the eighteenth century, for those of the rich were fashionable landscapes where flowers had no place, except hidden behind kitchen-garden walls.”

The high red brick walls became home to the many gardeners who worked at the estates of the wealthy during the summer months. They provided food for the table and flowers for decorating in the house.

Rousahm Walled Garden

Rousham’s walled garden with the house in the background

Scourse suggests that the kind of flowers that the wealthy cultivated were not the same as the cottager or the mechanic grew in their own garden.

She writes, “In accordance with the snobbery of the period, flowers as well as gardeners thus had a tradition of class. Thus, the old ‘florists’ flowers’ were refered to as ‘mechanics’ flowers’ while there were others more fit for the rich man’s parterre.”

Laborers grew pinks, carnations, auriculas, anemones and hyacinths.

Who would have thought that growing a particular kind of flower expressed social status?

Eventually there came more exchange between the classes on gardening. Scourse writes, “Interest in flowers as well as the hobby of growing them was potentially a great leveler.”  Florist clubs and plant societies helped to bridge the gap.

 

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