Last week I had the pleasure of visiting a private garden on three acres, south…
At the moment I am researching nineteenth century English middle class landscapes.
In that process I found this quote from English garden historian Jane Brown in her book The Pursuit of Paradise: A Social History of Gardens and Gardening: “It is suggested that the Victorians [1840-1900] prized their lawns in imitation of the lords in their landscape parks, but the velvet green is a much older icon: what is certain is that the seedsmen and gardeners of late nineteenth-century Britain brought lawns to the peak of their perfection.”
The same thing was happening here in the suburbs where middle class Americans could finally cultivate a lawn just like the estate owners had done for decades, thanks to the marketing of the seed companies.
Rochester seedsman James Vick (1818-1882) inspired gardeners in his seed catalog of 1873. He wrote: “Man may be refined and happy without a garden; he may even have a home of taste, I suppose, without a tree, or shrub, or flower; yet, when the Creator wished to prepare a proper home for man, pure in all his taste and made in His own image, He planted a garden and placed this noblest specimen of creative power in it to dress and keep it.”
Vick then presented the reader with instructions on how to landscape a home. The vehicle for that instruction was the modern seed catalog, illustrated and printed by the hundreds, and delivered by rail and post across the country.
He announced that his readers could learn about gardening and landscape from the catalog.
In a similar theme the beautiful cover of New York seedsman Peter Henderson’s catalog of 1901 [left] illustrated the kind of landscape important for the middle class home, the Romantic English garden style with its lawn.