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Nineteenth Century New York Seedsman Henderson Promoted Garden Conformity

One of my favorite characters from the nineteenth century seed and nursery industries is New York seedsman Peter Henderson (1822-1890).

In his garden magazine Gardener’s Monthly Philadelphia nurseryman Thomas Meehan included many articles by Henderson, and often mentioned Henderson when he wrote about gardening.

In the nineteenth century garden conformity was deemed essential. If your neighbors had a trim lawn and well-pruned shrubs, you had to have the same.

In his book Gardening for Pleasure, published in 1875, Peter Henderson showed his distaste for garden nonconformists.  He wrote: “It is gratifying to know that such neighbors are not numerous, for the example of the majority will soon shame them into decency.”

Below is a drawing of a home landscape from Henderson’s book.  Notice the amount of space devoted to the lawn.

A landcape plan that appeared in Henderson's Garening for Plesure. Notice the amount of space given to the lawn..Of course the look of the lawn became the barometer of the home landscape.  Frank Scott, who wrote The Art of Beautifying Home Grounds in 1870, said “A smooth, closely shaven surface of grass is by far the most essential element of beauty on the grounds of a suburban home.”

Thus It ought be no surpise that today people have a hard time when a neighbor refuses to cut the grass, or at least keep it neat.

Seedsmen and nuserymen of the ninteenth cnetury, like Henderson, taught us well: you need a well-kept lawn.



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