Last week I had the pleasure of visiting a private garden on three acres, south…
The seed and nursery catalog covers from the nineteenth century appeal to so many people because they offer so much color, design, and feel for that period. You love their look.
They are also ads.
The nineteenth century American style of garden and landscape followed the English model not only in newspapers but in magazines, and, of course, the garden catalog, as Henderson did in 1897 on this seed catalog cover.
Grant McCracken in his article on advertising in the Journal of Consumer Research says, “Cultures segment the flora, fauna, and landscape of natural and supernatural worlds into categories.”
The distinctions we make of class, gender, and fashion, including gardening, all happen in the way the culture defines it.
So in the nineteenth century American garden writers, like seed and nursery businesses, said the English garden style, sometimes picturesque, sometimes naturalistic, sometimes gardenesque. was the preferable form for the gardener.
McCracken says, “Advertising works as a potential method of meaning transfer by bringing the consumer good [like a plant or seed] and representation of the culturally constituted world together within the frame of a particular advertisement.”
Since the catalog from the seed and nursery industries was often called an advertisement, we can certainly refer to the cover as such, since the colorful illustrations were so carefully chosen by the owner to give a particular message.
In the Henderson catalog above it is the English garden style that is represented, especially in the lawn.
At that time as well as today, we never just buy a product, like a plant or seed, we buy the dream in the image connected with the product. In Henderson’s cover it was a lawn as lush and green as the one illustrated on the cover.
The cover sold the lawn.