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Late Nineteenth Century Arts and Crafts Movement Impacted Gardening

Garden design during the nineteenth century went back and forth between the natural, picturesque view and a more formal garden with even a blend of the two forms at times.  By the end of the century gardeners wanted less maintenance and more native plants.

Gardeners no longer wanted the beds of annuals that demanded so much work.

In his magazine Gardener’s Monthly Philadelphia nurseryman Thomas Meehan lamented in 1882: “The present system of bedding out with tender plants, has been in vogue for about thirty years and has so nearly superseded the valuable classes of hardy herbaceous plants they they are almost unknown to the general cultivator.”

Within a few years though the cultural movement  called Arts and Crafts advocated a less commercial, mass produced look to any art form, including the landscape.

Garden historian Denise Otis wrote in her book Grounds for Pleasure: “Two legacies of English Arts and Crafts to American garden design were the herbaceous border and Gertrude Jekyll, an artist turned garden-maker and writer.”

By the late nineteenth century the seed and nursery catalogs advocated the herbaceous borders because the company owners of course wanted to be current in garden fashion.

Among the  1888 Rawson garden catalog illustrations I found one of my favorite images.

I included it below for you to enjoy.

You see a woman tending her flower border, made of plants of different heights and colors with the words above her as if in the sky saying “Gems from the Wild Garden.”

Somehow it reminds me of the design scheme that Gertrude Jekyll must have employed in her work at the end of the century and into the twentieth, gardening with colorful borders of perennials, mostly native plants.


The Rawson Company printed this illustration called "Gems from the Wild Garden" in its 1888 catalog.
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