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Nineteenth Century Advice on Garden Containers Still Holds Up

No garden would be complete without an outdoor container or vase filled with color to add to the enjoyment of summer plants.

Nineteenth century Rochester, New York seedsman James Vick (1818-1882) gave instructions on how to plant such a container.  He included in his catalog this illustration of a well-kept vase [below].

He wrote, “Of all the adornments of the lawn, nothing is more effective than a well filled and well kept vase.…All the ornamental-leaved plants are appropriate for the top or center of the vase, while a few drooping plants should be placed near the edges and allowed to hang or droop at least half way to the ground. For this purpose the Verbena or the Petunia will answer.”

Vick's Floral Guide, 18979
A well-kept vase from Vick’s Floral Guide, 1879

Then he makes sure we know that we ought to keep to a certain number of planters in the landscape. He wrote, “The most popular ornament of the lawn is the vase; and when judiciously planted and well cared for, nothing can be more desirable. We often see several small vases scattered over the lawn, but the effect is bad. It is best to have one or two that command attention by their size and beauty.”

This summer I took this photo of a planter at the Wentworth by the Sea Hotel in New Castle, New Hampshire [below].  Notice the size and color of the plants in the container: the tall purple grass, the mid-sized Rudbeckia, and the lime Coleus for that trailing effect. It is as if the gardener followed the precise directions of Mr. Vick.

His instructions fit today’s gardener as much as they did the American gardener in the nineteenth century.


Summer Container at the Wentworth in NH
Summer container on the dock at the Wentworth by the Sea Hotel in New Castle, NH
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