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In the Nineteenth Century Native American Plants Were More Accepted in the English Garden

During the nineteenth centry seed companies and nurseries failed to promote native plants.  The English however grew them with pride.

Buffalo landscape designer Elias Long wrote a book in 1884 called  Ornamental Gardening for Americans: A Treatise on Beautifying Homes, Rural Districts, Towns and Cemeteries.

He said in the book: “They [the English] also explain why many of our own native trees, shrubs, and flowers are better known and appreciated abroad than at home.”

The rhododendron, a native American plant that won the hearts of the English from the eighteenth century. This scene is from my back yard.

Though a few seed companies and nurseries would promote native plants, it would not be until into the twentieth century that the green industry recognized native American plants.

At the beginning of the twentieth century midwest landscape gardeners brought a new focus on native plants, or what they called ‘prairie plants’.  That movement reminded people that we had worthwhile native plants for the garden.

American gardening evolved so that today we see more value in our own native plants, and encourage them for the landscape.

That certainly was not always the case.

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This Post Has 4 Comments

  1. Actually it wasn’t California Poppy, it was Matilja Poppy which is native to California. Let me show you a pic of it-

    If you cupped both hand together some flowers are even bigger than that. They can get huge and are extremely & powerfully aromatic.

    There is also a book called “Californiia’s Frontier Naturalists” and a section on Naturalist/Botanist Thomas Coulter who in 1830 embarked on jouney near the San Luis Rey river valley in San Diego County where he collected the Matilja Poppy. It wasn’t until 1845 that it was introduced by William Harvey to many European and American Botanists.

    So much of my understanding of the English Gardeners pioneering Matilja Poppy before it caught on over in the states came from actual books I’ve read in the late 1970s. If someone has not put these into the internet much of that info is not available. Folks today hardly ever read actual books if you know what I mean.


    1. Kevin, I just read in a book Southern California Gardens (1961) that Mrs. Theodosia Burr Shepherd, a seed company owner in California, claimed to be the first to introduce the Matilija poppy into the California trade.
      though I would share that with you since I know you are familiar with this plant.

  2. Interesting blog. Much of your examples look alot like gardens here in Sweden. I have written about the gardens and environment here but mostly I’m a transplanted desert rat from Southern California who married a Swede. Lately I’ve be doing a series on the Göteborg Botanical Garden and this years theme Ökenliv (Desert Life 2012.

    You mention the English native utilizing plants. It is interesting their love for plants around the world. In fact a California native Matilja Poppy Romneya californica was far more appreciated by the English than in it’s home native California for a century. I’d say Cal Natives didn’t really catch on again there until the early 1980s. But early Cal history shows folks utilized them very much in gardens as older home and estates can estest to.

    Nice blog – Kevin

    1. Kevin, thanks for connecting. The California poppy example I never heard of before. what years are you talking about? I appreciate it.

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