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The English Taught America How to Garden

The English garden has long served as a model for the American garden.

Often American garden writers make sure that we recognize our debt to the English for teaching us about gardening.

One such author was Wilhelm Miller, a Chicago landscape architect in the early 1900s. He wrote books and articles, and many entries in L. H. Bailey’s The Standard Cyclopedia of Horticulture, first published in 1901.

What England Can Teach Us About Gardening2In 1909 Miller wrote a popular book called What England Can Teach Us About Gardening. [left] Notice the romantic English garden scene at the top of the book’s cover.

He also wrote an article with the title “English Effects with Hardy Plants” which appeared in The Garden Magazine, September 1909.

In the article Miller said, “The English have a deeper passion than we for ‘collecting.’ Everywhere you find someone who grows fifty or more varieties of his favorite flower, e.g. German or Japanese iris, or peony, or the florists’ penstemon. One English catalogue contains 346 varieties of phlox, 224 of border carnations, 180 chrysanthemums, etc. – fully three times as many as you can get in America.”

American gardeners continue to look to England for garden ideas. The gardens and retail center for the mail order nursery Whte Flower Farm sit in a beautiful country setting among the fields of northeast Connecticut.  It features  an English perennial border near the garden center. [below] The border measures 280 feet in length and 20 feet in width.

Dozens of varieties of perennials and annuals make up this collection along the walk. It is truly a beautiful border.  The number of plants of one variety contribute to that grand view.

I am sure Mr. Miller would love this English garden.

White Flower Farm
White Flower Farm
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  1. Thanks for the interesting article, and especially for the link to the book, which I will spend some time looking through — I love old garden books, and this one was published by someone in my part of the country! -Beth

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