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Nineteenth Century American Seed Companies and Nurseries Foster English Garden Design

[left: American landscape designer Andrew Jackson Downing (1815-1852)] 

In the 1880 edition of his magazine Gardener’s Monthly Philadelphia nurseryman Thomas Meehan printed this question from a reader in Ohio: “Do you consider F. R. Elliott’s Handbook of Practical Landscape Gardening complete and a reliable work, or can you recommend a better work on this subject?”

Meehan told the reader that the Elliott book was fine, but for a deeper  treatment of  the topic, he might consider A. J. Downing’s Landscape Gardening,  Frank Scott’s Suburban Home Grounds, or Edward Kemp’s How to Lay Out a Small Garden.

The four authors Meehan recommended followed the English landscape design, with its  lawn, curved walks, trees, and groups of shrubs.

And so Meehan  endorsed the  English garden design.

The same book titles appeared in other seed and nursery catalogs as well.

Kemp was  English, the other three American. Downing found English horticulturalist John Claudius Loudon his inspiration.  Elliott and Scott revered  Downing. As a college student, Scott spent a summer with Downing at his home in New York, studying landscape design.

It is no surprise that we love the English garden with so much encouragement from the nineteenth century green industry, in both catalog articles and advertising,  to adopt that style .

Interesting to note the influence on how we garden.

What garden book, what designer do you like?


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