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English Garden Writers Inspired Andrew Jackson Downing in his Naturalistic Landscape Design

In 1976 the Pennsylvania Horticultural Society published a book called From Seed to Flower Philadelphia 1681-1876: A Horticultural Point of View. The book accompanied an exhibit of a collection of the Society’s garden books that highlight the role of Philadelphia during that formative period of the American garden.

From Seed to FlowerWhile discussing the state of America’s landscape design of that time, the book presents the contribution of New York fruit grower turned landscape designer Andrew Jackson Downing (1815-1852).

The book references his admiration and dependence on the English garden tradition for his own work: “Downing’s earliest work, A Treatise on the Theory and Practice of Landscape Gardening, Adapted to North America, published in 1841, owes much to the writings of John Claudius Loudon, a pioneer in the modern philosophy of parks as ‘lungs for the city.’ A chain of influence linked Loudon, Downing, and Frederick Law Olmsted, the eminent American landscape architect and park designer, in the naturalistic tradition of landscape design. Fairmont Park in Philadelphia owned a debt to Downing, for its creation was in part due to enthusiasm aroused by him.”

Downing’s landscape at his own home in New York [below] demonstrated his preference for the English romantic, naturalistic design.

The home of Andrew Jackson Downing in New York, circa 1850.
The home of Andrew Jackson Downing in New York, circa 1850.

The book From Seed to Flower serves as a real tribute to the early writing of nurserymen about the state of the American garden.

This compact volume provides a great resource on the history of the American garden and positions Philadelphia at the center of much of what was going in the country during that period of time.

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This Post Has 2 Comments

  1. The PHS was certainly busy during that time; the book you write about sounded familiar to me, but it was another book “America’s Garden Legacy: a taste for pleasure” that I had seen and briefly read through at my local academic library at the University of Iowa. It was published only two years after “From Seed to Flower.” Both well-written books covering fascinating aspects of America’s garden history. Thanks for the recommendation. -Beth

    1. Beth, I have read and referenced the PHS book “America’s Garden Legacy”. The articles included in this volume cover areas of garden history that I enjoy and they seem to fill in gaps that I often encounter. Worth reading for sure. Best.

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