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Early English Gardens Included an American Garden

Exotic plants have long been a staple in the American garden. Each year plants from Asia, Africa, and South America still continue to become part of our plant pallet.

At one time the English garden included a special garden of plants that were native to America. It was called the ‘American garden’.

In 1855 English nurseryman William Paul in his book The Handbook of Villa Gardening wrote: “American plants is a term which embraces a variety of flowering shrubs, mostly evergreen, which are found to thrive best in a peat or bog soil…The dark foliage and splendid blossoms of the rhododendron, the chaste and delicate kalmias, the brilliant and varied colours of the azalea, have deservedly going for them a prominent place in English gardens.”

Even Grace Tabor in her book Old-Fashioned Gardening,written in 1913, said: “The earliest houses were built of the wood of the locust — Robinia pseudoacacia — a tree which had driven the Englishmen wild with delight, and which was early carried to English gardens, were it was pronounced of all exotic trees the finest.”

White Pine [courtesy of the RECOLLECTING NEMASKET blog]
White Pine [courtesy of the Recollecting Nemasket blog]
Finally Mark Laird in his book The Flowering of the Landscape Garden: English Pleasure Grounds 1720-1800 wrote: “From the 1730s to the 1760s the rage in exotics such as the Weymouth pine (Pinus strobus), the kalmia ( Kalmia latifolia), and the bottonbush (Cephalanthus occidentalis) was brisk…The second half of the eighteenth century saw the demand for ‘American gardens.'”

The American native tree white pine, called Weymouth pine by the English in the eighteenth century, continues to be a staple here in New England [left].

Lord Weymouth introduced the white pine to England in 1705, after the English Colonies were established in America. From that time English gardeners have included it in their collection of American plants.

English garden writer Horace Walpole wrote in 1771, “The Weymouth pine has long been naturalized here; the patriarch plant still exists at Longleat [Lord Weymouth’ s estate].”

Today the white pine grows in my New England garden in abundance.   Pinus Strobus

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