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Mass Media Inspired Nineteenth Century American Garden

Henderson’s  illustrated tulips, but also the lawn in this catalog cover of 1892.

Did you ever wonder where inspiration comes for your garden?

How is it that you decide on certain plants or a certain design in your landscape?

Denise Otis in her book Grounds for Pleasure writes that in the nineteenth century: “Making a garden that everyone recognized as a garden was a way to create community, to be accepted by your neighbors.  And moreover to ensure that you would be identified as American whether you had just immigrated from Europe, or from another part of this country.  But how could you tell what your new neighbors would recognize as a garden? You looked to newspapers, magazines, and books for guidance [as well as garden catalogs].”

At the end of the century American gardening took on the form of gardening proposed in the mass media, for the first time. Before that period there was no such thing as a medium of mass communication to reach millions across the country with the same message.

In the seed catalog of 1892 the Peter Henderson Company [above] illustrated a cold frame, a lawn, and flowerbed.

Mass produced books, newspapers, and catalogs along with seductive advertising became the inspiration for the American gardener.


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