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Nineteenth Century New Jersey Grand Estate

[left:Philadelphia nurseryman and writer Thomas Meehan (1826-1901)] 

Thomas Meehan, nurseryman and editor of the Gardener’s Monthly, included an article in the 1880 issue of his magazine about John Hoey’s grand estate in New Jersey called Hollywood Club.

Hoey, president of the Adams Express Company in New York , had developed his landscape of 200 acres over several years. He had over 2 million plants on the property, many annuals that were carefully trimmed  and spread out in  ribbon gardens, flowerbeds, and containers.

Meehan wrote, after his visit there, “For the sake of the fine old art we would there were a few more like him.”

In that line he endorsed the formal landscape with straight lines, flowerbeds designed in symmetry, and well trimmed shrubs, much like the gardenesque style promoted earlier in the century by English writer and horticulturalist John Claudius Loudon.  Hoey had all of that.

Meehan wrote about his visit to Hoey’s property at a time when garden writers were concerned about the use of annuals versus the use of native plants.

The English horticulturalist William Robison’s had just published his book Wild Garden which criticized the excessive maintenance in annual flowerbeds.  He considered it much better for the gardener to use native plants which take care of themselves once they are established.

Doesn’t that argument sound familiar?

Meehan, however, in his magazine story preferred the old formal flowerbeds on the lawn.  The more annuals, the better.

And the debate goes on.


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