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Favorite Flowers Share Long History

Many of the annuals we grow every summer have a long history in the garden.

Not every flower is a new introduction.

In fact, we prefer to plant old favorites. Just ask any garden center.

There is a certain variety that people prefer and ask for every year.

As noted horticulturist Alan Armitage once asked at a garden conference, “Who needs two hundred varieties of heuchera?”


Did you ever wonder how one flower variety like the begonia continues to sell at garden centers?

Hybridizers of course have sought newer varieties of this flower to continue to entice gardeners.

Three Classic Books about Flowers

Three classic garden books about flowers illustrate how certain annuals have held up over the centuries.

Philip Miller’s The Gardeners Dictionary (1735) mentions the sweet pea, pansies, and nasturiums. All still old favorites.

Jane Loudon’s The Ladies’ Companion to the Flower Garden (1846) also mentioned the same plants.

She also lists the alyssum and a most popular plant today, the pelargonium (geranium).


Mrs. Loudon wrote about the petunia. She said, “Perhaps no plants have made a greater revolution in floriculture than the Petunias.

“Only a few years ago they were comparatively unknown, and now there is not a garden, or even a window, that can boast of flowers at all, without one.”

David Thomson’s Handy Book of the Flower Garden, written in 1876, also mentions the petunia.

Thomson includes the canna, dianthus, dahlia, and lobelia in his list of garden annuals.

In the late nineteenth century Rochester, New York seedsman James Vick (1818-1882) took great pride in fostering the love of flowers.

His choice of flowers, however, followed a long history of garden interest in a particular plant.

He particularly treasured the petunia, spending many hours in hybrdizing the plant for a double variety.

Here is the petunia in his garden magazine of 1879:

Certain plants have just had a long track record in the garden.

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