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Public Parks Foster Mental Health

The British garden writer J. C. Loudon wrote in the early nineteenth century that public parks would provide an experience of nature for the busy city resident.

He encouraged an enjoyment of gardens and the landscape for all classes, not just the wealthy.

Loudon’s garden ideas influenced the American landscape designer A. J. Downing, who, in turn, became a mentor to Frederick Law Olmsted, the father of Central Park.

Charles Mason Hovey (1810-1887) from Gardener's Monthly, Vol. 28, 1886

Garden writer and nurseryman Charles Mason Hovey (1810-1887) from Cambridge, outside of Boston,  knew of the importance of public parks, probably from Loudon, whose magazine he  read.

In 1868 Hovey wrote in his publication, a long-running nineteenth century garden magazine, the Magazine of Horticulture : “We need not enlarge upon the importance of public parks, certainly, if they were more numerous they would prevent the useless expenditure of money for lunatic hospitals. What the busy people of the city need is pure air, the sight of green trees, the smell of the fresh turf – extensive grounds, where they can enjoy the pleasures of the country, and find relief from the busy hours engaged in the turmoil of trade.”

Though Hovey found in the English garden and landscape much to inspire American gardeners, he wrote in a way that respected the growing conditions of America.

Hovey played an important role in American gardening.  Philadelphia nurseryman Thomas Meehan hailed him as responsible for the growth  of horticulture in America.

The public parks in America that Hovey encouraged form part of that tradition.


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