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Sources for the Victorian Flower Garden

Of late I have been researching the flowers that formed the Victorian garden in late nineteenth century America.

I wondered where these plants originated.

After my reading over the past several weerks I have come up with three sources for the flowers of the Victorian garden.

This chromo from the catalog of the Parker and Wood Seed Company in Boston illustrates the many flower garden varieties available by the end of the nineteenth century. [below]

1887 Parker and Wood Seed Catalog

Three Sources

The first source was the English garden as it was constituted during the seventeenth, eighteenth, and nineteenth centuries.

I wrote here in this blog about this idea a couple of weeks ago.

The English regularly cataloged flowers important to the garden in books like Philip Miller’s The Gardeners Dictionary (1735).

You can see that the English had been gardening with a consistent list of plants for a long tine.

Some of the flowers included calendula, morning glory, snapdragon, and nasturtium

The second source was the pallete of native plants here in the United States.

In that group you found the sunflower, rudbeckia, echinacea, and amaranthus.

The third source was a long line of exotics that came to England first and then to America, but sometimes directly to America.

Such garden flowers included dahlia, petunia, rex begonia, and geranium.

One source for this division is the book Flowers and Herbs of Early America about the plants at Williamsburg in the early Colonial days.

The author Lawrence D. Griffith traces the origin of each plant as far back as he can.

They were often flowers from the English garden.

Compared with Vick’s Seeds

I kept Rochester, New York seed company owner James Vick’s seed catalog from 1880 handy as I read Griffith’s book.

Whenever I came across a flower in Griffith’s list of early Williamsburg flowers, I paged through Vick’s seed catalog to see if it also appeared there.

Many did.

I often found Vick sold the same plant in his catalog, over two hundred years later.

The flowers in the Victorian garden in America originated from three sources: the plant choices for flowers in the English garden, native plants of America, and popular exotics of the day.

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