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English Writers William Robinson and Gertrude Jekyll Inspired American Gardeners

It is that time of year, mid summer, and time to sit back and enjoy the garden after the hard work you have invested in maintaining it.

American gardens reflect a rich tradition, but also a dependence on English garden writers.

Garden historian William Howard Adams wrote in his book Gardens through History: Nature Perfected that in the late nineteenth century America lacked “an indigenous national gardening tradition or even a regional one” and detected in American gardens of that period only Gardens through Historythe influence of English writers William Robinson and Gertrude Jekyll and the English Arts and Crafts movement.

That idea I found in the fascinating book by May Brawley Hill called Grandmother’s Garden that traces the history of the American garden from the late nineteenth century to 1915.

I would agree that Robinson and Jekyll have influenced  American gardening. From the garden literature of the period you read their names quite frequently.

They both wrote books and articles, and Robinson even had his own magazine.

The late nineteenth century American seed and nursery industry in this country looked to both of them as resources for teaching their customers about gardening.

The Pittsburgh seedsman Benjamin A. Elliott in his catalog of 1888 encouraged the use of perennials rather than annuals, and credits William Robinson for that inspiration. Elliott portrayed the English garden style as the model for American gardening. He wrote, “We are indebted to this great champion of hardy flowers [Robinson] for some of the ideas advanced here, culled from his numerous works on gardening, which have done much to make English gardens what they are—the most beautiful in the world.”


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