Last week I visited Rochester, New York . I traveled there to give a talk…
Victorian women required gravel walks.
Gravel walkways have long been a tradition for the English garden. Some argue that the English perfected the gravel pathway which included designing, installing, and maintaining it throughout the year.
Gravel walkways in the Victorian garden were necessary because women would not walk on the grass.
In her book The Victorian Flower Garden Jennifer Davis wrote, “Gravel walks were thought necessary in Victorian days for [as one manual of the era points out] tender and delicate ladies ‘who will not set the sole of their feet upon grass.’ “Philadelphia nurseryman Bernard McMahon wrote in his early garden book American Gardener (1806) “Roll the walks once a week regularly after either turned or new laid; such will render them firm and neat, and also greatly prevent the growth of weeds.”
McMahon borrowed most of the content of his book from English garden writers so his advice follows the English tradition of gravel walks.
He ends his discussion of walks with these words, “It is a general rule among neat gardeners, who are allowed sufficient help, to roll and sweep the gravel walks every Saturday.”
According to nineteenth century Rochester,New York seedsman James Vick, the English used arsenic to keep down the weeds on a gravel walk.
That also helped of course to prevent Victorian women from tripping on any weeds as they walked the gravel path.