Flower; Grancy Graybeard (Chionanthus
visited Rosedown Plantation SHS, a Louisiana Historic Site operated by the
Office of State Parks, where we saw beautiful outdoor rooms highlighted by
magnificent specimen plants.
Trish Aleshire is keen on heirloom plants. As a consequence, she is also interested in the history of
gardening in the United States. As
Trish tells us in this week's Guest Article, gardening began as a basic need to
grow food to stay alive. As a
natural result, growing plants evolved from feeding the body to also filling
appetites for beauty. (SHS
State Historic Site)
---Anne K Moore June 26, 2009---
Trish Aleshire, Manager Rosedown Plantation
history of horticulture in the U.S. reflects the changes and growth our country
has seen over the past 500 years.
early colonists grew vegetables and fruits to provide food for their
families. They brought seeds and
plants from their home countries in Europe, plants they were familiar with, in
the hope these plants could adapt to the climate and conditions in
of these plants grew and flourished in their new homes, such as the peaches the
Spanish introduced to the Georgia area.
The colonists were mostly interested in finding new higher yielding
varieties of the plants they grew and finding better ways to grow those
varieties. Starvation was a
reality in the early settlements and a successful garden was essential for survival.
the settlements attained greater success and our population grew, our gardening focus began to
early writings on American gardens were done by physicians interested in herbs
for medicinal purposes. Naturalists also wrote about and collected the
country's plants in the hope of finding new species to sell to the European
markets. A small book entitled New-Englands
Rarities Discovered, written by John Josselyn in 1672, describes the
birds, beasts, serpents, and plants of the country. Mr. Josselyn writes of the medicinal uses of the plants and
animals as observed from the Indian population.
Cabbage & Violas
Williamsburg exhibits some of the finest examples of early plantings of native
and imported plants. The gardens are characterized by clipped hedges and formal gardens
along with fruits and vegetables.
These early 1700's gardens show the beginnings of gardens built not just
for utility but for pleasure and an eye for design.
However, it was the
introduction of the large estate owner that really led to America's love of
flowers. The large land grants of
the time allowed families to plant huge amounts of tobacco, indigo, cotton and
sugarcane and amass wealth. The plantations, with large labor forces of enslaved workers
generated yet unseen riches for numerous families throughout the country.
It was this wealth that gave
people the opportunity to have the time and money to plant flowers and
ornamentals on a large scale. It
also allowed for those with the interest to collect and import exotic plants
from around the world.
Cotton in the field
first nurseries were started in the early 1700's. John Bartan's Philadelphia garden and nursery supplied many
plants to the country's early gardeners.
By 1806, Bernard McMahon was selling over 1000 different types of plants
and William Prince and Son was doing a booming business. William Prince was so anxious to find
new and exciting plant material for his customers that he hired sea captains to
aid in finding and importing plants to the U.S. By the early 20th
century there were nursery businesses in every state.
were also anxious to learn about the flowers and landscaping ideas developing
across the country. Andrew Jackson
Downing and Frederick Law Olmsted were two men whose writing heavily influenced
the gardening public of the time.
They were successful in adapting the European style to a North American
landscape; their suggestions influenced many public parks, campuses and home
gardening books of the time included Martha Logan's Treatise on American
Flower Gardens and The American Gardener's Calendar,
by Bernard McMahon written in 1806. These publications gave clear
directions and guidance to achieve good results in all things horticultural.
important influence to the nation's gardens came in the form of garden
societies. The first garden societies
were begun in Massachusetts and Pennsylvania in 1829. Their members, men only, were first interested in finding
and developing new food crops but soon became interested in ornamentals as
well. Women were not allowed into
the societies until the late 1800's. The first woman to give a paper to a horticultural society
was not until 1880.
was these early clubs that strengthened the nation's interest in many of the
plants we hold dear today. In the
early 1800's exhibitions of Indian Azaleas, dahlias, camellias, annual flowers,
fruits and vegetables held by the many prominent horticultural societies
created an interest in these plants and spurred the countries love affair with new
species and varieties. Other
exhibitions of azaleas followed in Massachusetts and Pennsylvania in the 1870's which brought these shrubs to the attention of the
gardens also had a permanent effect on creating enthusiasm for ornamental
gardening. Public gardens like
Longwood and the Arnold Arboretum in Boston were instrumental in exploring the
world and collecting many of our favorite plants. We can credit the managers of
these public gardens for the introduction of Japanese Crabapples, Flowering
Cherries, Tree Peonies, several Azaleas, and Lilacs. These public gardens
became popular destinations for the visiting public.
were steadily educating themselves on the horticultural sciences. Experimental stations and horticultural
curriculums were now being established in many colleges and universities. There were nine large horticultural
societies at the turn of the 20th century and 50 single plant
societies. Ladies were now gaining
prominence in the world of horticulture; they made up the majority of members
of garden clubs and societies. As
communication techniques improved it became easier to get new information on
plants and growing methods.
Ornamental horticulture was no longer a hobby for the rich, but was an
important part in most Americans' lives.
spent 35 billion dollars on their gardens in 2007 and another 45 billion
dollars on lawn and landscape services in 2006. 71% of Americans participate in gardening
activities, that's 82 million households. The American garden is a hobby and an industry that is here