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Nineteenth Century American Garden Writers Couldn’t Compare with the English

The long tradition of the English garden gave American gardening a model to replicate in the nineteenth century.

Philadelphia nurseryman Thomas Meehan recognized  how important that tradition had become to the American gardener in garden design style, plants, but especially garden literature.

Meehan wrote the following in his magazine Gardener’s Monthly in 1874: “At times, when reading in English horticultural magazines the immense amount of interesting matter freely contributed to the great cause, and which has been the great means of making English horticulture the great power it is today, we have wondered whether the time would ever come when American horticulture would ever be blessed by the same true love.”

He seemed to lament that in the history of gardening in America we had so few important writers.

Peter Henderson's Seed Catalog 1897

Then he offered his readers a sign of hope.

In that same issue he included essays by three leaders in  American horticulture of that time, each of them a seedsman or nurseryman.  He wrote: “This issue of the Monthly gives us hope. So many distinquised names, as well as matter from less known but non less valued contributors, have never appeared in one number before.”

In that issue he included the writing of Peter Henderson, Charles Mason Hovey, and Franklin Reuben Elliott.

He made the point that American gardening had these three horticultural giants as part of our own emerging garden style.

Like other seedsmen and nurserymen, Henderson, Hovey and Elliott taught America how to garden and design the home landscape.

Boston nurseryman and garden writer/editor Hovey boasted in that same issue of GM: “French authors as well English will find some things in American books which are worth reading.”

The American garden tradition owes much to such seedsmen and nurserymen of the nineteenth century, eager to develop an American style for the garden.

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