I love to read old garden magazines. You learn a lot about the growth of…
Media drives garden industry –
We gardeners like to think we are original in planning and installing a garden space.
In an environment of newspapers, magazines, books, and, of course, social media that is not possible because we are surrounded by media messages in both advertising and editorial content.
Since the 1890s the media have become the major influence on our ideas about gardening.
At the end of the nineteenth century people wanted standardized products that came from the nation’s factories, whether clothing, shoes, or food. Even seed company and nursery owners illustrated their large operations in a chromolithograph included in the pages of the catalog. A customer could then see the trial fields, the building which made boxes for the company’s many orders, and, of course, the multi-storied factory that served as the seed company or nursery headquarters.
People didn’t want just any oat meal. They wanted Quaker Oats.
And they got that, and lots of other standardized products.
People also wanted a garden like the one illustrated in the garden catalog, which spread across the country in the millions from the many seed companies and nurseries, operating as the modern business they had become.
The Philadelphia seedsman Robert Buist might have felt the power of the media on his business when he wrote in 1857: “Nurserymen have to cater for the wants of their customers, and they wish everything that receives a newspaper puff, however indifferent in quality–so that we go on increasing in all sorts of varieties.”
This Smith catalog from Worcester, Massachusetts in 1898 provides an example from that period of the vibrant Victorian garden.
Because everyone was ordering the same seeds and bulbs there was a certain sameness in plant choice and garden design.
People wanted to conform to the norms of the culture.
Thus standardized gardens appeared everywhere.
It reminds me of the ‘ready garden’ you can buy today. All the seeds are embedded in a cloth that you simply lay on the prepared soil and water.
Not only has the garden vendor given you a garden. That person has also provided the design and the seeds.
All you need to do is water and watch it grow.