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Thorburn Visits Loudon in England

John Claudius Loudon (1783-1843) was the garden writer and landscaper who opened the door for nineteenth-century middle class England to the joys of gardening.

He encouraged gardening for everyone, not just the aristocrat.

On a trip to London New York seedsman Grant Thorburn (1773-1863) who referred to himself in these words, “small as I am,” [below] once visited Loudon in England.

[Portrait] Nineteenth-Century New York seed company owner Grant Thorburn

Some garden historians refer to Loudon as the ‘father of the English garden.’

In America Thorburn had a prosperous business in horticulture. He not only sold seeds but taught America about gardening as well.

Thorburn was an early advocate for the dahlia, contributing to its growing popularity.

This seed catalog [below] is the G. Thorburn & Sons issue of 1832. It also happens to be the oldest such catalog in the current Oregon State University seed catalog collection.

In the pages of this catalog Thorburn wrote of that visit with Loudon.

Thorburn on Loudon

Thorburn wrote “In London, Edinburgh, Liverpool, Glasgow, and elsewhere, I had the pleasure of conversing with some, and not a few either, of the best men of the age—great fighters, great racers, great duelists, and great playactors.

“Small as I am, I look down on them. But great preachers, great physicians, great surgeons, and great teachers of any science, I think are the true friends of man.

“But, in my opinion, the most extraordinary man in our age is J. C. Loudon, F. L. S. H. S. of London. His hands are lame, so that he is unable to carve his food or wield a pen; yet he has sent forth, and continues to send forth to the world, more books than any one who lives, or has lived, perhaps since the days of Shakespeare.

“His Encyclopedias of gardening, of plants, and of agriculture alone, one would think, when he looks on them, are more than sufficient for the labours of the longest life.”

The words reveal the honor Thorburn felt to meet Loudon.

Loudon’s ideas on garden design provided the inspiration for  nineteenth century New York nurseryman and landscape designer Andrew Jackson Downing, whose books on architecture and landscape saw many editions.

Many American seedsmen and nurserymen, like Thorburn,  considered J. C. Loudon important not only for English gardeners, but also for nineteenth-century American gardeners as well.

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