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Nineteenth Century Philadelphia Nurseryman Meehan Called a Garden a Work of Art

We work hard in the garden.  We enjoy what we do. We find a sense of satisfaction in the mysteries of nature that become evident as we travel the seasons with our work in the garden.

The garden is also a work of art.

At least that is what Philadelphia nurseryman Thomas Meehan wrote in 1861 in his magazine Gardener’s Monthly. He said: “To regard a garden otherwise than as a work of art, would tend to a radical perversion of its nature. A garden is for comfort and convenience, luxury and use, as well as for making a beautiful picture. It is to express civilization, and care, and design, and refinement. It is a blending of art with nature.”

The Peter Henderson seed catalog of 1886
The Peter Henderson seed catalog of 1886

Thus nineteenth century seed and nursery owners taught us that gardening is important because it expresses an art form.

Alfred Henderson, in the biography he wrote about his father New York seedsman Peter Henderson (1828-1891), referred to the elder Henderson as “horticultural instructor”, because in his catalogs and books Henderson, like other seedsmen and nurserymen of the time, taught America how to garden.

The seedsman and nurserymen taught American gardeners how to express themselves as artists in the garden.  The design style they often recommended in both essay and illustration was the romantic English garden design.

That was the case with both Meehan and Henderson, both trained gardeners from Great Britain.



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