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The English Sold Plants for the Nineteenth Century American Garden

Since American gardening in the nineteenth century was closely linked to garden fashion in England, it ought be no surprise that the English sold American seedsmen and nurserymen new plants.

Philadelphia nurseryman Thomas Meehan wrote in his magazine of 1875 Gardener’s Monthly: “Most of the new plants described are of English introduction.  It is, however, so easy in these days of fast steamships to get plants from Europe that the magazine in making notes of new things hardly thinks it worth while to make any distinction; moreover it is not necessary, as American florists and nurserymen soon get anything good that is noticed in our pages.”

English plants fit easily into American gardens.

Clematis Jackmanii, probably the most famous 19th century variety of clematis, came from Japan to England. Photo courtesy of Missouri Botanical Garden.

In a later issue of the magazine that same year, Meehan singled out the Clematis vine from England.  He wrote: “The most popular plant in England just now appears to be the Clematis. Large numbers of hybrids have been introduced, and they are employed for bedding purposes, as well as for numberless forms of ornamental work.”

It would not be long before varieties ot Clematis, including Clematis Jackmanii, a species from Japan first introduced to English gardens in 1863, would also be advertised in American seed and nursery catalogs.

According to the website AboutClematis Clematis Jackmanii remains today the most popular variety of clematis in the American garden.

Not too far from my house that same clematis variety that started out long ago in the English garden climbs up the lamppost in front of a two-story brick home.  The flowers cover the post in summer with their blue color.

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