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The Nineteenth Century American Flower Garden was Basically English

After mid nineteenth century many Americans began moving into cities and leaving behind the farm.

At the same time an emerging middle class had leisure to cultivate a flower garden.

Where to find flower seeds?

The flower choices, however, were often plants that had appeared for decades in the English flower garden.

Late nineteenth century American seed catalogs included such plants as these for the flower garden:


Caster bean or Ricinus

China Aster



Love in the Mist or Nigella


Yellow lupine

Nasturtium or Tropaeolum majus

Salvia or salvia viridis

Scabiosa or atropurpurea

Columbine or Aquilegia canadensis

Canna Indica


Passion flower

Some of these flowers are also native plants to America. The English had long enjoyed growing American plants in their gardens.

In a sense, by the late 19th century some plants came back home to America.

Nasturium and caladium make a strong contribution to this vase on the lawn, featured in Vick’s Monthly Magazine in 1879. [below]

A vase filled with flowers on the lawn (Vick’s Monthly Magazine, 1879)

The English were growing these flowers long before the Victorian period.

Colonial gardens featured some of these flowers as well.

Seed merchants recommended them.

After 1850 American flower seed merchants chose these plants to include in their catalogs.

Peter Henderson, a New York seed company owner, wrote in his book Gardening for Pleasure (1883):

“We can only use space to enumerate a few generally favorite kinds [of flowers], which we give in the list below.

“This comprises such as are the easiest cultivation, and are most valued for the beauty and fragrance of their flowers.”

He listed many of the above flowers.

His customers already knew them because Henderson along with Vick and most of the other seed merchants sold them.

They sold America the English flower garden.

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