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Seed Company and Nursery Owners as Teachers

The owners of the nineteenth century American seed companies and nurseries considered themselves teachers, and looked on gardeners as their students.  So catalogs from the companies did not hesitate to instruct.

Seedsman Peter Henderson on this 1899 catalog cover [left] showed the crops in the field, but also the English style landscape around the home.

Nurseryman Thomas Meehan in his garden publication Gardener’s Monthly wrote in 1866: “We commence our eighth annual volume with the feeling of a novice new to his work. We direct the same pen, and the same page conveys our teachings to those who read.”

In 1885 the Baltimore horticulturalist, who once worked for seedsman Robert Buist,  William D. Brackenridge wrote in the same magazine: “The country has arrived at a high state of progress in horticulture …by the descriptive and illustrated catalogs spread broadcast over the length and breadth of the land by the almost innumerable nurserymen and florists found in every section of our diversified and fertile country.”

Gardeners depended on the seed and nursery trade, not only for garden products, but also for instructions on how to plant and care for trees, shrubs, flowers, vegetables, and, of course, the lawn.

In turn, the seed and nursery industries depended on important English  horticultural figures, English garden innovations like the Wardian case, and the books and magazines of English garden writers.

The American seed and nursery industries of the ninteeenth century  taught us well since to this day we love the English garden.


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