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Nineteenth Century Suburbs Became Attractive Because They Offered a Garden

The nineteenth century seed and nusery catalogs often included an image of a suburban home with a lawn and garden.  That illustration confirmed what was happening around large cities across the country.  People were moving to suburbs because they wanted a lawn and garden which meant a chance to be closer to nature.

Phildelphia nurseryman Thomas Meehan wrote in his magazine Gardener’s Monthly in 1876: “Those who have now their town house for winter, and country seat for summer, are among the rarest of American citizens. Gardening at country seats is almost of the past. There is little demand for that class of horticultural talent that this system called for.  On the other hand it is a pleasure to note that suburban gardening is largely on the increase.  The small places, from one to ten acres, are more numerous than they used to be.”

In his new book Eden on the Charles: The Making of Boston Michael Rawson devotes a chapter to growth of the suburbs in nineteenth century Boston. He writes, “The independent pastoral suburb was more than just a new kind of place. It represented a new set of relationships between people and nature.”

People left the cities to find that link with nature, which often meant a lawn and a garden, in keeping with what horticulturalists like seedsmen and nursery owners promoted.  The landscape style of course was English with a lawn and flowerbeds of annuals dotting the lawn in true Victorian style.

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