Why Should Not America Grow American Plants?

Since the 17th century, American plants formed part of the English garden.

American gardeners however preferred exotic plants, rather than native varieties, well into the end of the 19th century.

Philadelphia nurseryman Thomas Meehan in his magazine Gardener’s Monthly of  February 1882 recognized the English garden tradition, but felt sad that Americans were behind the English in cultivating our own plants.

Meehan wrote: “It is often a matter of surprise that the English should grow what they call ‘American plants’ better than we can. These plants form the greatest attraction of their grounds. Why should not America grow American plants? Now, what they call American plants are only those chiefly which belong to the

Rhododendron catawbiense, Native American shrub

Ericaceous family. These are Rhododendron, Azalea, Kalmia, and Andromeda, and such well-known beautiful flowering shrubs in which America abounds.  But it is not generally known here that they could not grow them there if it were not for the garden art and garden skill at the back of their culture…There is no reason why, with a little study to adapt our circumstances to the wants of these plants, we should not have as good ‘American plants’ as they have in England.”

Eventually our native plants would play a greater role in American gardening.

To this day however you still hear about the need for more extensive use of native plants.

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