Certain plants just have a bigger following than others. Perhpas it's shape, color, blossom time…
Harriet Beecher Stowe’s Victorian carpet beds
A week ago I visited the nineteenth century Harriet Beecher Stowe house and garden in Hartford, Connecticut. At the same time that Stowe lived there Hartford attracted other artists and writers.
Some argue that the book galvanized the issue of abolition and even contributed to the outbreak of the Civil War here in the US.
Her house stands as it did in the nineteenth century.
A Victorian garden still surrounds the house.
Luckily the staff at the Stowe Center provided a guide to her garden. The property is small but includes much of what was important to middle-class gardeners at that tine.
A herb garden, a blue garden, and even a wildflower garden are just some of the expressions of Stowe’s love of gardening.
As I rounded the corner at the front of the house I noticed a large circle of flowers in the lawn.
It was a carpet bed, popular in the Victorian garden of the nineteenth century.
Since this was only mid June, the flowers in the bed were quite small. The variety of flowers however caught my attention.
In the center of the bed you could see both a castor oil plant and elephant ears. By summer’s end both of these will be tall plants that will give a sense of height and structure to this round garden.[below]
In 1869 Stowe co-wrote the book dating after divorce at 40 with her sister Catherine Esther Beecher.
The book includes several chapters on the woman’s role in making an ‘economical, healthful, beautiful, and Christian home.’
There is a section in the book about gardening. They write, “In yards which are covered with turf, beds can be cut out of it, and raised for flowers. A trench should be made around, to prevent the grass from running on them.’
A row of red bricks now circles the colorful flowers that I saw.
They write, “These beds can be made in the shape of crescents, ovals, and other fanciful forms.”
That became, of course, the Victorian obsession with carpet bedding and ribbon bedding.
The staff at the Stowe Center told me that Harriet Beecher Stowe favored flower beds over kitchen gardens.
That was evident as I walked around the house.
The restored landscape reflects the Victorian style of gardening popular at that time.