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Civility Inspired Nineteenth Century Landscape Advice

Do you ever feel that you mow the lawn to keep peace with your neighbor?

We live in a community in which others form expectations for what our home landscape should look like.

Such thinking has roots in nineteenth century advice on landscaping from writers like landscape designer Andrew Jackson Downing and seedsman James Vick.

In her book To Live in the New World: A. J. Downing and American Landscape Gardening the author Judith Major writes about Downing’s insistence on landscaping with a sense of rural art and taste, no matter what the size of the property. At the same time Downing urged his readers not to forget that a home owner cultivated the landscape for the town, the community, the country.

Major writes “As Downing professed, taste once formed became contagious, and he devoted himself to molding the country’s taste.”

Rochester, New York seedsman James Vick (1818-1992) supported the philosophy that pride in a home landscape carried over into a sense of community pride.

Two illustrations from his 1879 seed catalog Vick’s Floral Guide depict that view.  First he showed a house in ruins with a shabby landscape. [below]


Vick Thistles and Roses 1

Then he presented an illustration of that same house cleaned up with an attractive landscape. [below]

Vick thistle and rose2

The idea that by taking care of your own property you are also helping the nation motivated Vick.

Vick wrote, “Our country is becoming very beautiful. Flowers are to be seen almost everywhere in town and country. They adorn both the costly mansion and the little cottage home, and are quite as appropriate to the one as the other. We have tried to do a great deal to aid in this good work, and think we have not labored altogether in vain…Beautiful orchards and lawns, gardens, and tasteful houses abound, where, a few years ago, we saw the crooked rail fence, the trees and stumps and small log cabins.”

Like Downing, Vick advocated taking care of the home landscape to benefit the community.

Civility inspired nineteenth century landscape advice.


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This Post Has 2 Comments

  1. That’s some fixing up of that house — more like a total property transplant! Thanks for sharing the link to another book that I will add to my collection of garden history books. -Beth

    1. I am happy you also like these two b/w engravings. They are among my favorite in Vick’s publications. He really intended to help his customers not only with their gardens but also to have a more fulfilling life. He thought a beautiful home with an attractive landscape would help.

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