In London New York seedsman Grant Thorburn (1773-1863) once visited John Claudius Loudon(1783-1843), the man who opened the door for nineteenth century middle class England to the joys of gardening.
Some garden historians refer to Loudon as the ‘father of the English garden’.
[left: The catalog is the G. Thorburn & Sons entry of 1832, the oldest item in the Oregon State University seed catalog collection.]
Thorburn wrote of that visit: “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.,.&c., 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 Shakspeare. 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 tell us that Thorburn felt privileged to know 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 for American gardeners as well.