Sunday, May 24, 2015

Garden History - Plant Lists - 1736 List of Virginia William Byrd II 1674-1744

Virginian William Byrd II's 1736 Virginia Plant List

Maria Sibylla Merian (German artist, 1647-1717)

Like his father, Colonel William Byrd, William Byrd II (1674-1744) was a wealthy Virginia planter on his inherited plantation Westover, on the James River in Charles City County, Virginia. He served as a member, & later president, of the Governor's Council, as did his father. His library was one of the finest of his time in the British American colonies. He recorded his observations on natural history as well as life in colonial Virginia. 

William Byrd's Natural History of Virginia: Or, The Newly Discovered Eden is available in a translation edited by Richard Croom Beatty & William J. Mulloy from a German edition printed in 1737 (Dietz Press, Richmond, 1940).

The following are the plants Byrd listed c.1736:



Silk grass
Turkish or Indian Corn
Guinea corn
Broad beans
French beans (small beans)
Indian beans (dwarf beans)
Peas, European
Heartpeas (Ronceval)
Bonaveria (Calavance-'Nanticokes')



Curled red
Sea fennel
Fragrant melons



Bachelor's buttons
Brazil cabbage
Cardo bennet spoonwort
Coriander, anise
Wood mint
Poppy seed
Worm seed
Jamestown grass
Hart's tongue
John's wort
Maiden hair



Princess feather
Cardinal flowers
Moccasin flower
Tulip tree
Laurel tree
Wild apple tree


Chestnut oak

Red oak
Spanish oak
White oak
Black oak
Bastard oak
White iron-oak
Indian chicken-oak
Willow oak
Water oak
Green liveoak
Elms, two species
Tulip tree
Laurel trees
Wild apple tree
Sweet gun tree
White gum tree
Black gum tree
Scarletcolored snakewood
Bay tree
Red cedar
White cedar
Cypress tree
Hollow tree
Locust tree
Sorrel tree
Fir tree
Pitch pine
Almond tree
Hickory tree
White hickory
Red hickory
Brown hickory
Common maple tree
Egyptian fig tree
Glass wort tree
Prickly ash
Chestnut tree
Poison vine
Grape vines
Cluster grapes
Red cluster grapes
Fox grapes
Summer grapes
Winter grapes
Cherry tree
Hazel nuts
Mulberry, Common Red
Mulberry, red
Mulberry, white
Sugar maple
Spanish pepper tree
Papaw tree
Wild figs
Wild plums
Raspberry bushes
Winter currant tree
Bermuda curants
Myrtle berries
Eglantine berries
Jamestown plant
Fragrant tulip-bearing
laurel tree
Wild fragrant apple tree
Gall apple
Camellia tree
Red hawthorn
Black hawthorn
Fragrant laurel tree



Golden russet
Summer pearmain
Winter pearmain
Fall harvest apple
Winter queening
Juntin' apple
Golden pippin
Red streaks
Long-stem apple
Red apple
Green apple
French rennets



Summer bon chretien
Egg-shaped pear
Winter Bon chretien
Frauen Bieren
Madeira pear
Pond pears
Musk pear



Plum peach
Nectarine peach
Apricot tree
Wild plums
Fig trees
Cherry trees
Mulberry trees
Nut trees
Indian nut tree
Hazel nut
Grape vines
Coffee trees
Tea trees 

Working Gardeners - Who was William Byrd's Virginia gardener?

Tracing William Byrd II's gardener "Tom" in the records of Westover & Williamsburg, seems to point to Thomas Creas (c 1662-1757) as one of the earliest professional gardeners in Virginia.

In Virginia early in the 18C, a succession of professional gardeners, who were not serving under an indenture, worked at institutions of the royal government in Williamsburg, including the Governor’s Palace & the College of William & Mary. Some of these professional gardeners held pristine credentials. James Road, an assistant to George London, Royal Gardener to King William & Queen Mary, was sent to Virginia in 1694, to collect plants for shipment back to Hampton Court Palace. He also probably to laid out the earliest gardens at the new college in Williamsburg. London had served as a gardener at Versailles & had traveled to Holland to study their smaller flower gardens, as well.

It is possible that James Road's supervising gardener George London (1681-1714) actually drew up the plans for the gardens at the College of William & Mary. Virginia planter John Walker wrote to John Evelyn in 1694. He received a reply to his particular query in May of 1694, in which Eveyln wrote, "Mr. London (his Majs Gardner here) who has an ingenious Servant of his, in Virginia, not unknown I presume to you by this time; being sent thither on purpose to make & plant the Garden, designed for the new Colledge, newly built in yr Country." The servant was London's assistant at Hampton Court, James Road.

The College, which was formally established by Royal Charter in 1693, began as a 330-acre tract of land purchased from Col. Thomas Ballard. William & Mary's 1st chancellor was Henry Compton, bishop of London. He was a serious gardener & horticulturalist who helped train George London to become a gardener.

Upon James Road's return to London, he was followed by gardener Richard Hickman. Soon after Hickman's appointment, the records indicate that Thomas Creas or Crease (c 1662-1757) was paid to assist Hickman in getting the gardens in order. After that, only Crease's name was associated with the ongoing management of the gardens at the Governor’s Palace for an unusually long tenure, from 1726, until he died in 1756.

It is unclear whether Creas was born, & perhaps trained, in the England. Some report that Thomas Creas was the head gardener at the Governor's Palace during the administration of Alexander Sportswood who served from 1710-1722. Others speculate that Creas came over from England with Governor Hugh Drysdale in 1722. Drysdale was the 1st Governor to occupy the new Governor's Palace in Williamsburg, from 1722-1726.

Others suggest that Crease may have begun his gardening work at Westover, the home of William Byrd II. Byrd calls his gardener Tom in his early journals & refers to a gardener "Tom Cross" in 1720. The same "Tom Cross" carried at least one letter from Byrd's Williamsburg brother-in-law John Custis during one of his visits to Westover.  Byrd, Custis, & Tom Cross/Creas were all accomplished gardeners.

Two years before his appearance in the Governor's Palace records, in 1724, Creas was identified as a "gardener of Williamsburg, married & owning a half acre lot." His house was on the land now supporting the "Taliaferro-Cole" house.  The earliest record relating to this property appears in a deed of trust, December 15, 1724, in which deed the lot number, 352, is noted & the owner's name, Thomas Creas: 
December 15, 1724. Creas, Thomas - Gardener
Mary, his wife
Keith, William
Ferguson, Patrick
Consideration: 5 shillings All that messuage or dwelling house wherein the said Thomas Creas, & Mary, his said wife, now live & all that lot or half acre of land described in the plot of the said city by the figures 352, situate, lying & being in the city of Williamsburg, & all kitchens, stables thereto belonging. (York County Records, Deeds, Bonds, III, p. 439.) The above deed of trust was acknowledged on January 18, 1724/5. 

In a lease given by John Custis to James Spiers, joyner & cabinetmaker, on October 26, 1744, a lot is described as "one lot of ground, with the houses & garden thereunto belonging, it being the house next to Thomas Craze's..." 

According to York County, Virginia, records Creas married the widow of Gabriel Maupin, Marie Hersent, in 1724. Gabriel Maupin, his wife Marie, & family had sailed to the Huguenot settlement at Manakintown, in Virginia, in 1699-1700, after passing through the Spittalsfield (now Bethnell Green) "suburb" of London in the late 1690s.

Gabriel had operated a tavern in Williamsburg from 1714-1718. After her husband died, Marie ran the tavern from 1719-1723. When she married Creas in 1724, they operated the tavern together. Marie, born in France, died in Williamsburg in 1748.

Creas began to be "paid for his Service & labourerers in assisting in putting in order the Gardens belonging to the Governor's house" in 1726. He also was "Gardener to the College, in Williamsburg."

In addition to operating a tavern in Williamsburg, Thomas Creas supplemented his income by selling plants. In January 1737/38, he placed an ad in the Virginia Gazette (Virginia Gazette, Parks, ed.), "Gentlemen & others, may be supply'd with good Garden Pease, Beans & several other sorts Flower Roots; likewise Trees of several sorts & sizes, fit to plant, as ornaments in Gentlemen's gardens...Thomas Crease--Gardener to the College in Williamsburg." 

On May 9, 1739, Crease placed another ad in the Virginia Gazette, May 4, 1739, "Notice is hereby given, That the Subscriber, Now living in Williamsburg, designs to leave this Colony, in order to go to Great-Britain ——. It is therefore desired of all Persons who are indebted to him, to come to his Shop, or to the House of Mr. Thomas Crase, in Williamsburg, & pay their just Debts Hugh Orr" 

When Creas died in 1756, his estate was valued at 166.4.3 pounds, & he owned 6 slaves according to his January 1757 inventory. His will, which was proved in York County on January 17, 1757, named a brother Thomas Hornsby & his wife Margaret, & friend Hugh Orr & Catherine, his wife. In his will, dated February 26, 1756, & probated January 17, 1757, Thomas Creas, gardener, living in Williamsburg, appointed Thomas Hornsby, his brother, & Hugh Orr executors. (York County Records, Wills, Inventories, Book 20, p. 414.)

The Virginia Gardens of Virginian William Byrd II (1674-1744)

Virginian William Byrd II (1674-1744) painted by Hans Hysing 1724

Colonel William Byrd II (1674–1744), a Virginia planter & slave owner, kept a journal of his life, when he returned to take possession of the family estate Westover, after his father's death in 1704. The early years of that journal were later transcribed in the 1940s & became "The Secret Diary of William Byrd of Westover, 1709-1712." William Byrd II had been sent to study in England, when he was 7.

Upon Byrd's return to Virginia in 1705, he began his search for a wife; his goal was not only to find companionship, but to increase his wealth. Lucy Parke was an obvious candidate. Not only was she beautiful, but her father, Colonel Daniel Parke II, was wealthy & politically connected. Lucy had already reached the age of 18, & her mother was concerned, that she would not find a husband. When Byrd wrote a letter to the Parkes asking to court Lucy, they immediately accepted. The couple soon wed.

Soon after their wedding, Lucy found her husband to be incapable of the emotional & intellectual relationship she desired. William was able primarily to provide sexual intimacy. Like many men of the time (including Lucy's father), Byrd was sexually unfaithful in his marriage. His wife often tried to turn a blind eye to his affairs.

Lucy & William did quarrel over other matters, particularly about the running of the household. William wanted a patriarchal household, while Lucy wanted to have some say over household matters. The two disagreed on whose power reigned over the various parts of the estate. Lucy refused to conform to the traditional role of the submissive wife & wished to assert her authority over slaves & servants. William often rebuked her in front of others, when she acted upon this inclination, visibly undermining her authority.

William also required absolute sovereignty over the library he inherited from his father & continued to expand. To him, the library was a very intimate & personal place, one in which Lucy did not belong. He disliked her entering the library at all, & he loathed her tendency to borrow books, when he was away.

Despite the couple's differences, they seemed to be in love. When she died of smallpox in 1715, Byrd suffered greatly. He blamed himself for her death, telling friends & family that he felt God was punishing him for his pride in his wife's beauty & likeability.

Passages in his early journal recount his fascination with his library, his garden, & women other than his wife. Byrd gathered the most valuable library in the Virginia Colony, numbering some 4,000 books. His attention to refining his garden also was noted. Early in 18C Pennsylvania, botanist John Bartram (1699-1777) wrote to English botanist Peter Collinson (1674-1768), on July 18, 1740, about Colonel William Byrd's (1674-1744) grounds at Westover in Virginia. "Colonel Byrd is very Gates, gravel Walks, hedges, & cedars finely twined & a little green house with two or three orange trees...he hath the finest seat in Virginia."

These selections from William Byrd II's early journal reflect his daily activities in his garden & record only a few of the other events of each daily entry.  Byrd often walked in his garden with visitors to Westover & with his wife.  The garden was a spaced away from others, where they could discuss governmental, economic, & personal issues with the assurance of some privacy.

Wednesday, May 4, 1709
A ship arrived in the York River about 9 o'clock. Captain Berkeley came to see us, who is a very good-humored man. We walked in the garden about an hour; then we went to dinner.

Friday, May 13, 1709
In the evening I took a walk about the plantation and in the garden where I ate abundance of cherries. 

Friday, May 20, 1709
John Pleasants and Isham Randolph came to see me and dined with us.  In the afternoon we played at billiards and I won half a crown of Isham Randolph. Then we walked in the garden and ate some cherries. 

Saturday, May 21, 1709
I ate mutton and sallet for dinner. In the evening they went away and I took a walk about the plantation. I was out of humor at my wife's climbing over the pales of the garden, now she is with child. 

Sunday, May 22, 1709
In the evening I walked in the garden. I read some news. I said my prayers. 

Thursday, May 26, 1709
He went away in the evening and I walked about the plantation. I said my prayers and had good health, good thoughts, but was out of humor with Tom for the disorder of the garden.

Thursday, June 2, 1709
I ate nothing but beans and bacon for dinner. In the evening we rode out to take the air. When we returned I took a walk in the garden till it was dark. 

Monday, June 6, 1709
I said my prayers and ate milk for breakfast, and raspberries. I ate pork and turnips for dinner.  Mumford went away about 5 o'clock and I walked in the garden. 

Thursday, July 7, 1709
In the evening we took a walk in the garden.

Monday, July 25, 1709
In the evening it left off raining and I walked in the garden. 

Sunday, July 31, 1709
In the evening Mr C-s came to see me and we drank a syllabub. We walked in the garden till late. 

Friday, September 23, 1709
In the afternoon I was angry with Grills for being sick and not telling me of it and with Tom for not doing well in the garden. 

Friday, October 14, 1709
I ate fresh pork and sallet for dinner.  In the evening I took a walk in the garden. 

Tuesday, November 15, 1709
The rain did not hold up till towards evening when I took a walk in the garden. 

Sunday, December 4, 1709
I danced my dance, and then took a walk in the garden because the weather was very tempting for so late in the year. God continue it for the service of those that have but little corn.  In the afternoon I ate an apple and then took a long walk about the great pasture with my wife and I found they finished stacking.

Friday, March 10, 1710
About 12 Mr Isham Randolph came. They walked in the garden till dinner.  In the evening we took a walk about the plantation.

Friday, March 24, 1710
We took a walk in the morning, then we had some sack and toast, after which we took leave and returned home where we found all well, thank God. I ate pigeon and asparagus for dinner. In the afternoon I took a little nap. Then Mr Randolph and I took a walk to Mr Harrison's who had been very sick but was something better, and young Drury Stith was sick there likewise. We stayed there about an hour and then walked home and walked with my wife in the garden. 

Tuesday, May 16, 1710
After dinner we ate cherries and talked till about 6 o'clock and then I took leave and rode home, where I found all my family well except my son, who still had a fever. It rained very much till about 2 o'clock. I took a walk about the garden. 

Saturday, June 3, 1710
I rose at 6 o'clock and as soon as I came out news was brought that the child was very ill. We went out and found him just ready to die and he died about 8 o'clock in the morning. God gives and God takes away; blessed be the name of God.  In the afternoon it rained and was fair again in the evening. My poor wife and I walked in the garden. 

Monday, June 5, 1710
My wife continued very melancholy, notwithstanding I comforted her as well as I could.  Then we walked in the garden. 

Sunday, June 11, 1710
It continued to rain so that we could not go to church. My wife was still disconsolate.  In the afternoon we took a little walk but the rain soon sent us home. In the evening we took a walk in the garden because the grass was wet. 

Thursday, June 15, 1710
It rained this afternoon very hard with a little wind and thunder. This hindered my walking anywhere but in the garden. 

Monday, July 10, 1710
hen we talked till 6 when the company went away and we walked in the garden. 

Thursday, August 10, 1710
Mr [Gee] with a present of grapes.  In the afternoon we walked about the garden and Major Burwell was very well pleased with everything. He and the rest of the company stayed till the evening when we walked in the garden.

Saturday, August 12, 1710
It rained and hindered our walk; however we walked a little in the garden. 

Sunday, August 20, 1710
About 11 o'clock we went to church and had a good sermon from Mr Anderson. We had some watermelon in the churchyard and some cider to refresh the people.  In the evening we took a walk but only in the garden for fear of the rain. 

Monday, September 11, 1710
My wife and I played at billiards. My wife and I walked in the garden. 

Wednesday, September 20, 1710 I received at the landing with Mr C-s and gave him three guns. Mr Clayton and Mr Robinson came with him. After he had drunk some wine he walked in the garden and into the library till it was dark. Then we went to supper and ate some blue wing. After supper we sat and talked till 9 o'clock. 

Sunday, December 17, 1710
I took a walk in the garden. 

Sunday, December 31, 1710
In the afternoon I looked over my sick people and then took a walk about the plantation. The weather was very warm still. My wife walked with me and when she came back she was very much indisposed and went to bed. 

Friday, January 19, 1711
Then I went to plant trees in the garden, and in the pasture.  Then I went and planted more trees and afterwards took a walk about the plantation. 

Thursday, February 15, 1711
I read some English and took a walk in the garden. I ate roast mutton for dinner. In the afternoon I walked about the plantation till the evening and then my cousin Harrison came and when she had stayed here about an hour my wife and I walked home with her and did not return home till 8 o'clock.

Monday, April 30, 1711
I met with nothing extraordinary in my journey and got home about 11 o'clock and found all well, only my wife was melancholy. We took a walk in the garden and pasture. We discovered that by the contrivance of Nurse and Anaka Prue got in at the cellar window and stole some strong beer and cider and wine. In the evening I took a walk about the plantation and found things in good order. At night I ate some bread and butter.  I gave my wife a powerful flourish and gave her great ecstasy and refreshment.

Monday, May 7, 1711
My wife and I walked in the garden. 

Wednesday, May 9, 1711
I took a walk into the garden and ate some cherries. My wife and daughter were both indisposed, the first with breeding, and the last with a fever.  I ate some pork and peas. In the afternoon I took another walk and then returned and settled my accounts. Then I read in the Tatler till the evening and then my wife, being better, took a walk with me in the garden. 

Thursday, May 10, 1711
It continued to rain till about 8 and then cleared up for a little while. I took a walk to look over my people.  My daughter was a little better, thank God, but my wife was indisposed by fits as women are in her condition. I went onto the garden and ate some cherries.  In the afternoon it rained again and hindered my taking a walk so that I took a nap. In the evening I took a walk and ate some cherries at M-n-s. The season has happened so late this year that cherries are three weeks more backward than they used to be.  I wrote a letter to the Governor to send by Tom with some cherries.

Sunday, May 13, 1711
In the evening we walked in the garden and at night we drank a bottle of wine. 

Wednesday, May 16, 1711
Then I went into the garden to eat some cherries.  In the afternoon came Frank Eppes to bring me his father's bills for the quitrents. He stayed here till about 6 o'clock and then went with me to see the gates and my wife came and walked with me. Just as I was going to bed the Captain of the salt ship came and stayed about half an hour with me and I gave him a bottle of cider. I rogered my wife, in which she took little pleasure in her condition.

Wednesday, May 23, 1711
In the evening the master of the salt ship came and he agreed next week to send up 100 barrels of salt to my store at Appomattox. I walked with him in the garden and said my prayers. 

Tuesday, May 29, 1711
The company went to breakfast but I could eat nothing with them and therefore walked in the garden. 

Saturday, June 2, 1711
I ate beans and bacon for dinner. In the evening we walked in the garden, because it was too wet to walk about the plantation. 

Wednesday, June 6, 1711
I walked in the garden because I could not walk in the pasture. 

Wednesday, June 27, 1711
In the evening it rained a little, enough to hinder me from walking about the plantation. However, I walked in the garden. I was a little out of order today and had a small looseness.

Wednesday, July 18, 1711
I ventured to eat a pear. I ate some broth and lamb for dinner and ate a great deal. In the afternoon I ate some Virginia cherries and some watermelon. I took a little walk in the garden. 

Thursday, July 19, 1711
I ate some Virginia cherries.  I settled some accounts and took a walk in the garden. 

Friday, July 20, 1711
I sent Tom to Drury Stith's for watermelons.  In the afternoon Tom returned and brought four watermelons, one of which we ate and then wrote more letters till 5 o'clock, when I ate more eggs and in the evening I took a walk to the store and in the garden.

Saturday, July 21, 1711
I wrote more of my accounts till 6 o'clock and then ate some more of my chicken. Then I took a walk in the garden. 

Saturday, July 28, 1711
In the evening I drank some warm milk and walked in the garden till it was almost dark. 

Tuesday, July 31, 1711
In the afternoon I settled more accounts and read some French till the evening and then I walked in the garden because it threatened rain and as soon as it was dark it began to rain and thundered very much and did so good part of the night. 

Wednesday, August 1, 1711
In the evening it threatened more rain. However I took a walk in the garden. The rain blew over. 

Monday, August 13, 1711
In the evening I walked a little in the garden. 

Tuesday, August 14, 1711
I read some French and walked about till dinner, and then I ate some crab and four poached eggs.  I ate some watermelon and peaches and drank some canary. . In the evening I ate a poached egg and then took a walk in the garden. 

Wednesday, August 15, 1711
In the evening I wrote a letter to the Governor, to make my excuses for not going to council tomorrow. Then I ate more snipe and took a walk in the garden.

Monday, August 20, 1711
I sent further orders to Colonel Frank Eppes about the militia and gave them to Colonel Littlebury by word of mouth and walked about in the garden pretty much without being tired. 

Tuesday, August 21, 1711
I ventured to dress myself today and was very easy and well. I ate some mutton for dinner. In the afternoon I prepared some infusions of the bark to take at the end of the week. I read some French and in the evening I wrote to Colonel Frank Eppes to send with a copy of the Governor's letter to me. I took a walk in the garden.

Wednesday, August 22, 1711
I slept well last night and could hardly wake this morning. I took a walk in the garden. I ate some squirrel and onions for dinner. Then I took a walk in the garden a little while but the air was a little too damp for me. 

Friday, August 24, 1711
In the evening I took a walk to the point and in the garden. 

Sunday, August 26, 1711
In the evening it rained a good shower after which I took a walk in the garden. 

Wednesday, August 29, 1711
In the evening I took a walk in the garden. Mr Chamberlayne brought me a letter from Robin Mumford that told me he was better. After it was dark came Dr Cocke but he brought no news. I ate some bread and butter with him and we drank a bottle of wine. 

Friday, August 31, 1711
Then came Captain H-n-t the master of the ship from Mr Offley and brought me 77 empty bottles from the vessel that had been taken and lost my cider. In an hour he went away and then I put my library in order till the evening and then I took a walk in the garden. 

Saturday, September 1, 1711
A man brought some peaches for which I likewise ordered him a pair of wool cards. Then I took a walk into the garden because it rained a good shower and made it wet without. 

Tuesday, September 4, 1711
In the afternoon the company went away about 4 o'clock and then I read a little Latin and afterwards took a walk about the plantation and finished my walk in the garden. I was a little displeased with my wife for talking impertinently. 

Monday, November 12, 1711
I rose about 7 o'clock and said my prayers. Then we ate our breakfast of milk and took our leave and proceeded to Westover, where we found all well, thank God Almighty. Mr Graeme was pleased with the place exceedingly. I showed him the library and then we walked in the garden till dinner and I ate some wild duck. In the afternoon I paid money to several men on accounts of Captain H-n-t and then we took a walk about the plantation and I was displease with John about the boat which he was building. In the evening we played at piquet and I won a little. Then Mr Graeme and I drank a bottle of pressed wine which he liked very well, as he had done the white madeira. About 10 o'clock I went to bed and rogered my wife.

Friday, January 4, 1712
I took a walk in the garden till dinner. I ate no meat this day but only fruit. In the afternoon I weighed some money and then went into the new orchard to trim some trees and stayed there till it was dark almost and then took a little walk about the plantation. 

Saturday, January 19, 1712
I rose about 7 o'clock and read a chapter in Hebrew and some Greek in Lucian. I said my prayers and ate boiled milk for breakfast. I danced my dance. The weather [was] cloudy and rained a little. In the afternoon it held up and I took a walk to see my people plant peach trees. In the evening I took a walk about the plantation.  I dreamed a mourning coach drove into my garden and stopped at the house door.

Thursday, March 6, 1712
I rose about 7 o'clock and read nothing because of the company. However I said a short prayer and drank chocolate for breakfast. Then we walked about the garden because it was good weather and then we played at billiards and I won 3 shillings. In the afternoon we played again at billiards and then Colonel Hill went away and we took a walk about the plantation till the evening and then Mr Lightfoot and Mr Jimmy Roscow took their leave and went to Mrs Harrison's, one to make love to the mother and the other the daughter.

Monday, March 17, 1712
About 10 o'clock I took a walk in the garden and then settled several accounts and read some English in Milton till dinner and I ate some roast shoat but I dined by myself with nobody but the child, for Mrs Dunn was sick likewise. In the afternoon I went into the garden and trimmed the vines and was angry with Tom for being so lazy there. Then I returned and read some English in Milton till the evening and then I took a walk about the plantation and found things in pretty good order. 

Saturday, March 22, 1712
It rained a little almost all day so that I could not walk out.  In the evening I walked about the garden because the grass was wet everywhere else. 

Thursday, April 10, 1712
The weather was very clear and warm but it had rained in the night and thundered. My wife and I took a walk about the garden. In the afternoon I took a walk to see my young trees. Then I wrote a letter to England and afterwards took a walk about the plantation and saw the people at work in the churchyard which Captain D-k was pale in.  At night I ate some bread and butter and drank some cider and my wife and I romped for half an hour till we went to bed. 

Friday, May 2, 1712
In the afternoon we opened more goods till the evening and then I took a walk with my wife in the garden and found things in good order there. Then I took a walk about the plantation. I rogered my wife in the morning and also wrote a letter to England and settled several accounts.

Tuesday, May 6, 1712
Then I took a walk in the garden because it was too late to walk about the plantation. I neglected to say my prayers but had good health, good thoughts, and good humor, thank God Almighty.

Thursday, May 8, 1712
My people washed the sheep in order to clean them for shearing tomorrow. In the afternoon I set my closet in order and afterwards read some Greek till the evening and then I took a walk about the plantation. At night I ate some strawberries and milk and after eating took a walk in the garden. 

Thursday, May 22, 1712
In the afternoon I wrote two more accounts till the evening and then took a walk in the garden. I said my prayers and was reconciled to my wife and gave her a flourish in token of it.

Monday, May 26, 1712
In the afternoon I wrote more letters till the evening and then took a walk about the plantation with the ladies and afterwards Mr Catesby and I walked in the garden. 

Tuesday, June 3, 1712
The company went away about 4 o'clock after being very merry and I took a little walk in the garden and the library. 

Thursday, June 5, 1712
After dinner I found myself better and walked about the garden all the evening, and Mr Catesby directed how I should mend my garden and put it into a better fashion than it is at present. 

Friday, June 13, 1712
 In the afternoon I put things again in order in the library and then walked in the garden. I had a small quarrel with my wife concerning the [nastiness] of the nursery but I would not be provoked. In the evening Mr Catesby and I took a walk about the plantation and I drank some warm milk at the cow pen an there discovered that one of the wenches had stolen some apples. 

Monday, August 4, 1712
In the afternoon I took a walk in the garden, it being very cool and then I read more law till the evening and then I took a walk to see the house, noe the roof was put up this day, notwithstanding the rain which fell often today. 

Saturday, August 23, 1712
In the afternoon I put several things in order in the library and then settled some accounts and afterwards read some Latin till the evening and then I took a walk about my plantation, and then walked with my wife in the garden, where she quarreled with me about Mrs Dunn. 

Sunday, September 14, 1712
The company went away about 5 o'clock between which and dinner there was abundance of rain. In the evening I took a walk in the garden.

Monday, December 8, 2014

1743 Benjamin Franklin on making wine from grapes

Poor Richard, 1743. An Almanack For the Year of Christ 1743,... By Richard Saunders, Philom. Philadelphia: Printed and sold by B. Franklin, at the New Printing-Office near the Market. (Yale University Library)

Friendly Reader,

Because I would have every Man make Advantage of the Blessings of Providence, and few are acquainted with the Method of making Wine of the Grapes which grow wild in our Woods, I do here present them with a few easy Directions, drawn from some Years Experience, which, if they will follow, they may furnish themselves with a wholesome sprightly Claret, which will keep for several Years, and is not inferior to that which passeth for French Claret.

British gentlemen drinking and smoking pipes round a table in an interior, a servant bearing a bowl of punch by an unknown artist

Begin to gather Grapes from the 10th of September (the ripest first) to the last of October, and having clear’d them of Spider webs, and dead Leaves, put them into a large Molosses- or Rum-Hogshead; after having washed it well, and knock’d one Head out, fix it upon the other Head, on a Stand, or Blocks in the Cellar, if you have any, if not, in the warmest Part of the House, about 2 Feet from the Ground; as the Grapes sink, put up more, for 3 or 4 Days; after which, get into the Hogshead bare-leg’d, and tread them down until the Juice works up about your Legs, which will be in less than half an Hour; then get out, and turn the Bottom ones up, and tread them again, a Quarter of an Hour; this will be sufficient to get out the good Juice; more pressing wou’d burst the unripe Fruit, and give it an ill Taste: This done, cover the Hogshead close with a thick Blanket, and if you have no Cellar, and the Weather proves Cold, with two.

1730 Gentleman with a Glass of Wine by an unknown British artist

In this Manner you must let it take its first Ferment, for 4 or 5 Days it will work furiously; when the Ferment abates, which you will know by its making less Noise, make a Spile-hole within six inches of the Bottom, and twice a Day draw some in a Glass. When it looks as clear as Rock-water, draw it off into a clean, rather than new Cask, proportioning it to the Contents of the Hogshead or Wine Vat; that is, if the Hogshead holds twenty Bushels of Grapes, Stems and all, the Cask must at least, hold 20 Gallons, for they will yield a Gallon per Bushel. Your Juice or Must† thus drawn from the Vat, proceed to the second Ferment.

William Redmore Bigg (British artist, 1755–1828) A Bottle of Wine

You must reserve in Jugs or Bottles, 1 Gallon or 5 Quarts of the Must to every 20 Gallons you have to work; which you will use according to the following Directions.  Place your Cask, which must be chock full, with the Bung up, and open twice every Day, Morning and Night; feed your Cask with the reserved Must; two Spoonfuls at a time will suffice, clearing the Bung after you feed it, with your Finger or a Spoon, of the Grape-Stones and other Filth which the Ferment will throw up; you must continue feeding it thus until Christmas, when you may bung it up, and it will be fit for Use or to be rack’d into clean Casks or Bottles, by February.

A Wine Drinker by an unknown British artist

n.b. Gather the Grapes after the Dew is off, and in all dry Seasons. Let not the Children come at the Must, it will scour them severely. If you make Wine for Sale, or to go beyond Sea, one quarter Part must be distill’d, and the Brandy put into the three Quarters remaining. One Bushel of Grapes, heap Measure, as you gather them from the Vine, will make at least a Gallon of Wine, if good, five Quarts.

Sunday, November 30, 2014

Garden History Over There 17C - The Earliest known bird’s-eye painting of a British garden

A detail from View of Llanerch Park in Denbighshire, Wales.  

The Guardian, London, Monday 10 November 2014 written by Maev Kennedy

"The earliest known bird’s-eye painting of a British garden is expected to fetch up to £600,000 when goes for auction next month.

"The painting of a lost Welsh garden has remained in the same family since the owner commissioned the artwork in 1665 of his fountains, pools, waterfall, avenues, statues, terraced lawns and walled fruit gardens.

"The garden was the pride and joy Mutton Davies, who was inspired by his trip to Italy between 1654 and 1658 to create a state of the then art Italian garden around a much older house in north Wales.

"Davies commissioned the painting of his creation, meticulously detailed down to the mounting block by the stables and the fountains designed to spurt water from unexpected places and drench the unwary.

"A 17th-century poem described the garden in its glory: “Elegantly he diverted streams of cold water into his gardens and, praise be, he can wander in a great garden which he made, in the grounds about his mansion, and costly are his devices.”

"The artist is anonymous, but believed to be English.

"Julian Gascoigne, a specialist at Sotheby’s, which is auctioning the painting: “There are much more accomplished later views of gardens like Hampton Court, by more sophisticated artists who often came from the continent. This is really very early and a very large and ambitious painting – and the artist is clearly having a few problems with the perspective – but we believe it to be the earliest by a native painter, so it is really quite an important thing...Its also completely delightful, there are more details to spot and take pleasure in every time you look at it.”

"Parts of the much-altered hall survive, but the garden as lovingly immortalised by the artist has long since gone, with most of the land taken up by later planting, buildings and a golf course, though it is listed as of historic importance to preserve paths and other structures buried under the turf.

"The painting will go on display at Sotheby’s in London before the sale on 3 December 2014."

Sotheby's Catalogue Note for the painting:

Painted in 1662, this is likely the earliest topographical birds-eye view of a British estate, a genre that would become hugely popular over the ensuing decades.

This is not only a very beautiful and decorative work of art but also a very important historical document. An early inscription, visible in the illustration in Country Life in 1943, but since apparently removed, suggests that it dates from 1662 but this is more likely to date when the garden started. This makes it the first in a great tradition of bird’s-eye views of country houses in Britain, and marks the beginning of large-scale topographical painting in this country, which would become celebrated in the work of artists such as Jan Sibrechts, Leonard Knyff and Jan Griffier. Most of these later works date from the end of the seventeenth and early into the eighteenth centuries and are by sophisticated foreign artists who visited England seeking aristocratic patronage. What makes the present picture of particular importance is not only the very early date but also the fact that it is evidence of a contemporary native tradition aware, through engravings, of earlier Dutch artists such as Hollar. The house as shown in this picture was probably built by Fulk Griffyth in the late sixteenth century, with a brick office range near the house added probably in the early seventeenth century by Sir Peter Mutton. Sir Peter’s daughter Anne married Robert Davies of Gwysaney, and it seems that it was their son, Mutton Davies, who was responsible for the splendid garden and who commissioned this picture. He was no doubt inspired by his trip to Italy between 1654 and 1658. The three-tier or terrace type of garden is immensely sophisticated and of a type advocated back in 1597 by William Lawson in A New Orchard and Garden. It should not be considered surprising that such a garden existed in what John Harris has described as 'remote Wales', as Denbighshire and Flint had a number of fine Jacobean houses, notably Plas-Teg, Nerquis Hall, Pentrehobyn, and Gwysaney. The proximity of the area to Chester and links between the North Wales coast and Lancashire helped to bring considerable prosperity to the region and explains the existence of so many fine houses.

The details shown of the garden are remarkable. A mounted figure is shown approaching a wooden front entrance from where he would dismount using the mounting-steps shown by the stables (probably contemporary with the garden). A gate to the right leads to the upper terrace with an impressive row of stone vases and red brick garden houses on each end. From there an elaborate semi-circular stairway leads to a flower garden with fruit trees growing against the wall. From a gazebo there is a view down to the third terrace with a central fountain and two summer houses. A slope flanked with specimen trees leads down to the Neptune pool and a further bridge in the bottom right corner leading to the river Clwyd. Philip Yorke, author of Royal Tribes of Wales, records that the garden contained a sundial with the inscription, 'Alas my friend time soon will overtake you And if you do not cry, by God I’ll make you', a reference to the fact that the sundial spouted water in your face. A seventeenth-century poem by Ffoulk Wynn describes the garden as follows: 'Elegantly he diverted streams of cold water into his gardens and, praise he, he can wander in a great garden which he made, in the grounds about his mansion, and costly are his devices!'

There are two versions of the picture. A smaller painting, similar in most respects – with the exception of its inclusion of St Asaph’s Cathedral on the horizon – was acquired in 1968 by the Yale Center for British Art in New Haven from Leggatt Brothers, the London dealers. It had previously been owned by Mrs Patrick Hardman, and in the nineteenth century was lent by A. Whitehall Dod of Llanerch to an exhibition at Wrexham. Mr Whitehall Dod had succeeded to the estates of Llanerch in 1841 on the death of his grandmother, the last of the Davies family. This suggests that the larger version hung from an early stage at Gwysaney, another property of Mutton Davies.

A History of the Garden by Elizabeth Whittle

Standing on the terrace in front of Llannerch Hall and looking eastwards down the steep, smooth grass slope to the valley floor and winding river Clwyd below it is hard to imagine that this rural scene was once the site of the most Italianate garden ever made in Wales. This is the garden laid out by Mutton Davies in the 1660s (probably finished in 1665) that is celebrated in the contemporary bird’s-eye view painting from Gwysaney, the Davies family home nearby.

Mutton Davies must have returned from Italy in 1658 with Italian gardens such as the Villa d’Este, Pratolino, and maybe even the great, terraced French garden of Saint-Germain-en-Laye fresh in his mind. In his new garden no Italianate element was left out and in particular water was harnessed so as to dominate the garden with pools, fountains, a formal cascade, hydraulic statues and water tricks. The last two were such novelties in north Wales that visitors went on remarking on them into the nineteenth century. Sadly, the garden met its end in the Victorian era.
Nothing as remotely Italian was created in Wales during this period, although many grand houses possessed formal, sometimes terraced, gardens, some dating back to the Tudor period. The great baroque gardens of Powis Castle and Chirk Castle were yet to come. Sketches by Thomas Dineley in The Beaufort Progress (1684) give glimpses of formal elements in gardens attached to the grand houses of the day: Powis Castle had a fountain, Margam Abbey pools, Ruperra Castle walled enclosures, all swept away. Chirk Castle’s terraced early garden, at Whitehurst, was made by Sir Thomas Myddleton in 1651. Its interest here lies in the ‘forreigne’ plants recorded as growing there, including orange and lemon trees. It is very likely that these would have been grown in the Llannerch garden not far away. The Gwysaney painting shows rows of fastigiated trees looking suspiciously like Italian cypresses.

One Welsh garden contemporary with that of Llannerch, Llanfihangel Court in Monmouthshire, is not only a remarkable survival from the period but is also celebrated in a similar bird’s-eye view painting. The terraced garden, summerhouses and axial avenues in the park were the creation of John Arnold, a Whig politician, in the 1670s. As with the Gwysaney painting, this layout, formal but not Italianate in the same way as Llannerch, is depicted in a large contemporary painting.

The Gwysaney painting gives a very rare and astonishingly detailed glimpse of a lost jewel in the Welsh cultural crown. Were the garden to exist today – and who knows what is buried beneath the turf? – it would be an extraordinarily unusual little piece of Italy transposed into the rural idyll of the Vale of Clwyd.

We are grateful to Elizabeth Whittle, author of Historic Gardens of Wales, for this additional note.


Country Life, 14 May 1943, reproduced fig. 5;
J. Steegman and D. Stroud, The Artist and the Country House, 1949, p. 35, no. 3, reproduced;
J. Harris, The Artist and the Country House, 1979, pp. 41 and 54;
A. M. Clevely, Topiary, 1988, p. 24;
E. Whittle, Historic Gardens of Wales, Cadw. HMSO, 1992, reproduced on the front cover.
London, Sotheby’s, The Glory of the Garden, 1987, no. 44;
Cardiff, Cardiff Castle, Welsh Treasures Exhibition, 11 November – 11 December 1987, no. 19.

Saturday, November 29, 2014

Early American Garden of Annapolis, Maryland Craftsman William Faris 1728-1804

I started studying garden history, when brilliant manuscripts librarian Karen Stuart told me I ought to read the journal of William Faris' diary at the Maryland Historical Society. She said it was full of gardening references. And she was right!  Even though he seldom spelled a word the same way twice, he kept a diary, filled with his gardening triumphs and failures, for the last 12 years of his life-704 pages between 1792 and 1804.

William Faris was not a gentleman gardener by any stretch of the imagination. Faris, the son of a London clockmaker, was brought to Philadelphia in 1728, at the age of 6 months by his recently widowed mother and; apprenticed to a clockmaker at an early age. When he was 19, he moved to Annapolis, Maryland, where he scrambled all his life to make a respectable living.

William Faris's 1st Advertisement in the March 17, 1757, Maryland Gazette of Annapolis.

In Maryland's capital Annapolis, he designed silver teapots and; spoons; struggled to build a pianoforte; assembled tiny watches and towering tall clocks; kept an inn and tavern; pulled neighbors’ teeth (and hung them on a string by his workbench); and annually contracted to wind the clocks at the state capitol and in the homes of neighboring gentry.

Silver Sauceboat attributed to William Faris. Baltimore Museum of Art.

Artisan Gardener

In whatever spare time he could find, William Faris gardened and talked about gardening with his clients, neighbors, family, and the servants and slaves he hired to help him with his garden chores. He would sprinkle a little local gossip in with tales of tulips and artichokes.

Of course, the craftsman used his garden to grow food for his wife, 6 children, and inn patrons; but surprisingly he also designed intricate flower beds, near the front of his lot, where his neighbors could admire them.

William Faris's Diary. Maryland Historical Society, Baltimore.

The grand terraced falling gardens of Chesapeake gentry and merchants are easier to learn about than the smaller town gardens of craftsmen, traders, and shopkeepers, whose numbers were growing during the later half of the 18th-century. William Faris’s invaluable journal offers a rare opportunity to reconstruct the town garden of an early American artisan.

1789 Charles Willson Peale (1741-1827).  State House at Annapolis, Maryland.

Annapolis was designed as a stage for the social and political affairs of the province of Maryland. During the second half of the century, Chesapeake gardeners, gentry and artisans alike, designed the grounds surrounding their homes as their personal stages, on which they presented themselves to those passing by.

William Faris’s house sat on one of the streets radiating out of the Church Circle, only a few hundred feet from the church. In the spring of 1804, Faris’s private Eden sat behind a freshly painted, bright red wodden gate at the front entrance to his grounds.

Eighteenth-century Maryland gateways, smaller and simpler than their European precedents, were still intended to limit access to their owner’s property. They also marked changes in personal roles, as people crossed from one side to the other.

Outside his garden gate, craftsman William Faris was a tired 75-year-old silversmith and clockmaker, with thinning hair pulled back into a queue and covered with a familiar frayed hat, who gossiped too much and drank ardent spirits too freely.

18C English Woodcut

But on the other side of his bright red gate, the old man blossomed. Here was the world he had mastered for over 40 years. The red gate opened in a recently build stone wall that stretched 75 feet from the side of Faris’s house to his neighbor’s property line and ran along the edge of the town’s busiest trade street.

The craftsman’s 36-foot-wide combination home, inn, and shop, “At the Sigh of the Crown and Dial,” sat directly on West Street. Like many other narrow Chesapeake town gardens, Faris’s began in a side lot and widened as it stretched to the rear of the property. The adjoining new stonework wall across the front replaced an old wooden picket fence.

Behind the wall and its new gate, the clockmaker’s grounds were enclosed by picket fences and ran back 366 feet to a sleepy rear street, where the lot widened to 200 feet.

Wooden fences surrounded most 18-century Maryland gardens, which were usually described in local newspaper property-for-sale ads as “well paled in.” Chesapeake picket fences were almost invariably painted white but were of differing designs.

Interlopers and Thieves

Faris and his neighbors felt that fences of one sort or another were an absolute necessity, to discourage uninvited human and animal visitors as well as to demarcate their property boundaries. Chesapeake gardeners could either buy their fences posts from local suppliers of employ “a couple of stout hands in mauling fence logs.”

Faris’s neighbors Charles Carroll of Annapolis (1702-83) and his son Charles Carroll of Carrollton (1737-1832) used their slaves to produce garden pales. Fancy wooden paling constructed emulating Chinese designs was advertised for sale in the Chesapeake region by the late 1760s. Variety of design became important as many town governments demanded that every homeowner enclose his land.

In the colonies, garden interlopers were not searching for game or timber, as in Britain; they were looking for the fruits of the gardener’s labor or were simply accidental tourists. Livestock occasionally roamed the streets in early American towns, and tender garden plants did not stand a chance under their feet. Human garden intrusion was usually more focused.

One night in 1792, Faris startled a thief in his garden and recorded that his subsequent flight “broke off the top of one of the pales.” But the incident that really angered him was when a thief stole into his garden one dark night in 1803 to steal a dozen of his most prized possessions--his tulips.

Craftsman's Tulips

Tulips were the old man’s obsession. At the height of their blooming, Faris would find himself engulfed in a flood of color. This artisan and innkeeper grew thousands of tulips each year; he counted 2339 in the spring of 1804.

Tulips were not the only bulb flower that caught his fancy; in 1798, he planted 4000 narcissus bulbs, bought from a neighbor. This tireless gardener’s greatest pleasure was creating new varieties of tulips in nursery beds at the back of his property, where he also hybridized roses.

Faris saw his tulips as symbols of the new nation as well as reflections of classical republican ideals. On the eve on July 4, 1801, exactly 25 years after the signing of the Declaration of Independence, Faris listed in his journal his tulip varieties by name. Namesakes included Presidents Washington and Madison and classical heroes such as Cincinnatus.

Never one to let an financial opportunity pass him by, Faris gardened for the money as well as love. Each spring he invited his neighbors to view his tulips at the height of their glory. Admiring visitors would mark varieties that caught their eye with sticks notched with a personal code.

When his precious tulips died back in June, Faris would dig up the bulbs near the notched sticks, and the admirers would return to buy them to replant on their grounds in the fall. The craftsman made sure he had plenty to spare.

The ornamental garden beds the craftsman designed in the 1760s were akin in design, if not grandeur, to the more elegant geometric gardens that Chesapeake gentry were busy building about the same time. After he bought and enlarged his combination house and business, Faris hired an English indentured servant gardener, in 1765, to help him install the basic design of his gardens.

Just as in the gardens of most Chesapeake gentry, straight paths and walkways formed the skeleton of his garden. Faris’s grounds were divided by both grass and composition walks separating boxwood-lined beds; such paths were essential for walking, maintaining the garden beds year-round, and defining the garden design.

Designs for most Chesapeake gardens of the period appeared to strive for uniformity in every part; exact levels, straight lines, parallels, squares, circles, and other geometrical figures were used to effect symmetry and proportion. Straight walks were everywhere, arranged parallel and crossing one another at regular intersections, as they connected spaces and led from scene to scene.

Faris planned small geometric beds on his compact town property, where economy of scale was essential. These beds were planted with low-growing vegetables and brightly flowering plants within the boxwood borders that outlined and decorated the space even after the flower season was past.

Faris kept the walkways that divided his garden beds in immaculate condition. This required constant maintenance.

18C English Woodcut

Faris’s female slave, who was his regular gardening companion, was busy each spring and fall sweeping and raking the composition garden walks, which were some combination of gravel, crushed oyster shells, and pulverized brick. Whenever he could round them up, his children helped as well.

Even old Faris himself, who often experienced crippling pain in his hips, spent days bending down to clean his gardens and walkways of stones, extraneous shells, weeds, and falling petals.

Faris also criss-crossed his grounds with grass paths, lined with boxwood, that would be pleasant and cool to the feet; but his more practical hard, slightly convex composition walkways allowed for quick water drainage and drier walking in wet weather. He paved the walks to the privy, which had to be used regardless of weather, with stones and crushed shells.

Boxwood Obsession 

Within the boxwood-lined spaces formed by the intersecting composition and grass walks, Faris planted all of his flower beds and some of his vegetable patches year after year. Using boxwood as edging for garden beds had become popular in the 16th century.

Faris used boxwood (Buxus sempervirens) for more that year-round definition of garden beds. Box edging gave protection to seedlings and to newly picked-from greens expected to produce more leaves for later rounds of harvesting.

Faris and his garden helpers devoted days each spring to cutting the boxwood on his grounds. They were not just trimming the new green growth; they were also cutting the roots of each boxwood on the garden side as close to the plant as possible, so that the shallow roots would not rob the soil within the beds of their nutrients and moisture necessary for the other plants in the garden.

Ornamental Gardens

Faris planned his grounds; so that from the front of his property, observers would see only the pleasure garden areas of his grounds which was dominated by geometric beds annually planted with flowers in the Dutch tradition. The beds were all bordered by grass walkways, adjoining property lines, or by one of the rectangular out-buildings on he property.

The William Faris Garden Drawn by Susan Worth, MLA.

He filled the boxwood-lined rectangular beds on each side of the main grass walks with tuberoses, tulips, anemones, Chinese asters, crown imperials, globe amaranthus, and larkspur.

The long composition walkway leading to the “necessary,” which guests and family would constantly need to walk, was flanked by boxwood-lined rectangular beds starring carefully trimmed holly trees surrounded by a supporting cast of tuberoses, white roses, India pinks, Chinese asters, tulips, hyacinths, and jonquils. Faris and his helpers collected his holly trees from nearby woods and kept them trimmed in the shape of sugar cones or loaves.


Still Life with Sugar Loaf. Unknown artist. 1720

A narrow boxwood-bordered rectangular flower border next to the picket fence running along an adjacent lot featured Job’s tears, satin flowers, India pinks, snapdragons, tulips, and flowering beans that climbed the fence posts blooming as it trailed along the wooden rails.

Faris planted one of his several experimental nursery beds in the half of the garden nearer the house. There he grew the flowers to supply his various pleasure beds, propagated vast varieties of tulips and perennials, and heeled-in the boxwood cuttings he used to outline his garden beds.

Not all of the craftsman’s flower bes were rectangular in shape. The area behind the house was dominated by a walnut tree. Nestled around its base was a circular bed divided into boxwood-lined quarters filled with tulips and bleeding hearts in May, followed by a succession of bright perennials throughout the summer months.

Not far from the walnut tree, Faris planted a corresponding quartered circular bed also outlined with boxwood. The colorful circle overflowed with a profusion of polyanthus, tuberoses, wall flowers, India pinks, Chinese asters, hyacinths, jonquils, and tulips. In fact, wherever Faris planted flower beds, he included tulips. Sometimes, he even squeezed an errant tulip or two into his vegetable beds.

Kitchen Garden

Usually though, he separated his utility gardens from his ornamental areas, subscribing to the advice that English garden writer William Lawson offered in his New Orchard and Garden in 1618 “Garden flowers shall suffer some disgrace, if among them you intermingle Onions, Parsnips, andc.” The practical craftsman devoted the majority of his land to growing vegetables and fruits.

Faris’s occasional Annapolis neighbor, John Beale Bordley, gave growers advice on the kitchen garden, which he said should be an acre and a half for a small family like Faris’s and four to five acres for a large one.

Bordley also allowed that the kitchen garden should be exposed to the sun, not overshadowed with trees or buildings. He explained that the “soil should be of a pliable nature and east to work; but by no means wet; and two feed, at least, deep.” Bordley advised that the kitchen garden should sit as “near the stables as possible, for the convenience of carrying dung.”

18C English Woodcut

Walking toward the rear of Faris’s property, the first boxwood-bordered utilitarian area was a vegetable bed along the left boundary. Then one would encounter a small rectangular plot Faris planted with vegetables every year, one of two called “little quarter,” flanking the stables. There Faris grew unobtrusive vegetables and herbs that did not need much room to grow, including cabbages, carrots, peas, onions, thyme, spinach, curled savory, and several varieties of beans.

Herbs and Vegetables

Although Faris almost always segregated his flower beds from his vegetable plots, he did not separate herbs from vegetables. In one of the “little quarters,” Faris planted cabbages, asparagus, parsley, and Job’s tears

After he built his new stable, he added an additional narrow boxwood-bordered rectangular bed, where he grew smaller plants such as radishes, lettuce, nutmeg, and cherry peppers. On a border at the end of his new stable, which was visible from the main walkway leading to the rear of the lot, Faris occasionally grew a combination of flowers and vegetables: marigolds, lily of the valley, asters, balsam, anemones, and globe amaranthus nestled among bunch beans, spinach, radishes, and cherry tree seeds.

Not far from the new stable, the innkeeper maintained another boxwood-lined rectangular vegetable patch dubbed “the walnut tree bed,” where he grew beans, brussels sprouts, lettuce, kale, corn, and radishes. Faris diligently tended two separate asparagus plots near the back street, where he nudged a few more lettuce, cabbage, and spinach plants in between the tender green springtime shoots.

A great portion of the vegetables Faris fed his family and guests came from a larger vegetable plot, which he called simply “the garden” or the “big bed.” Faris outlined even this large rectangular vegetable garden with exact rows of sage and rosemary, which he kept trimmed and orderly. The “big bed” lay close to the stables and the smokehouse at the rear of the property. There Faris planted peas, parsnips, corn, cabbage, cauliflower, radishes, beans, cucumbers, squash, cantaloupes, and watermelon.

The craftsman devoted the largest space at the rear of his grounds solely to kitchen gardening. He referred to this particular areas as “the outer lot” of “the lot.” Spreading plants like squash, musk melons, cucumbers, watermelons, and cantaloupes grew there.

Faris occasionally scattered early crops of cabbages, carrots, greens, parsnips, radishes, brussels sprouts, and kale among the maturing vines; but he usually grew his compact vegetables in smaller patches, such as the narrow bed that ran down one side of his fenced property line, where he planted slender rows of small vegetables, including cabbages, lettuce, onions, brussels sprouts, spinach and peas.

Faris used the picket fence along the back of his grounds to help define a set of four rectangular nursery beds for rearing fledgling tulips and boxwood cuttings. Even these nursery compartments he outlined with neatly trimmed ivy borders and boxwood.

Near his bee house, Faris planted additional rows of peas, beans, cabbage, kale, parsley, and cherry peppers. Not one to let any space go to waste, he squeezed a few more radishes, lettuce, cabbages, and parsnips into a narrow rectangular space under the streetside window of his public dining room.


Atune to the times, in 1799 Faris added a wooden porch and steps to the back of his house, overlooking the garden area.

The Carrolls had added an elegant porch with stone columns to their Annapolis home when they remodeled their gardens in the 1770s, and many Baltimoreans and

Philadelphians were also building porches or piazzas onto their homes during this period. The addition of piazzas to Chesapeake homes in the last quarter of the 18th-century coincided with the expansion of leisure time and the development of ornamental gardens.

The simple geometric garden designs of the period were seen to best advantage from a higher level, such as an upper terrace, second-story windows, or a porch. These prospects also allowed the homeowner and his guests a better vantage point from which to survey both the gardener’s efforts at ordering nature around him and the surrounding countryside beyond.

Craftsman's Well and Irrigation

Near the porch stood the well, which supplied water for the family’s and their guests’ personal consumption and for garden irrigation. Eighteenth-century Chesapeake wells were often walled with stone and sometimes were dug to a depth of 35 feet or more, so that there would always be 4 to 5 feet of good water standing in them. The water was retrieved using bucket and pulley.

Detail of 17th-Century Woodcut of Water Table Irrigation System

Faris used the ancient irrigation technique of regularly flooding carefully constructed dirt channels that ran throughout his garden, which he called “water tables.”

Craftsman's Arbor

One of these irrigation paths led past an arbor. Faris planted flowering beans “round the Arber,” which probably had an open-work roof to support ornamental flowering vines and defined a focal point in the garden.

It may have enclosed a space for a simple bench or a more elaborate garden seat, although Faris did not write of such a seat. During the early 1790s, garden seats were being advertised for sale in nearby Baltimore, “made to particular directions.”


For a while, a dovecote sat near Faris’s arbor. In the Chesapeake, dovecotes were also called Culver-houses, and until 1798, Faris’s grounds boasted just such a nesting place. But in March of 1798, he noted in his diary, “the Pigeon House Blew Down, it was Built in the year 1777.”

Reproduced Dovecote at Williamsburg, Virginia. Photo by Karen Stuart.

Faris’s Culver-house was constructed as a matter of economic convenience rather than strictly as a garden ornament. He raised pigeons for consumption by his family and the patrons of his tavern. Unlike other domestic fowl, pigeons needed no confinement, because they were home-loving birds, seldom straying far from their dovecotes.

Faris’s pigeon house was constructed of wood and mounted on wooden posts, although more complicated colonial dovecotes existed, like the circular brick and stucco dovecote (reminiscent of the early Roman columbaria) at Tryon Palace in North Carolina.

One English visitor wrote of the less elegant dovecotes he observed in the Chesapeake at the end of the century, ”There are some pigeons, chiefly in boxes, by the sides of houses.”

After pigeon consumption was no longer an essential element of the craftsman's table or of the larger Chesapeake economy, dovecotes survived largely as garden embellishments, providing the gardener and his guests both visual and aural pleasure.

Craftsman's Beehives

One traditional garden component on Faris’s grounds was the result of a gift he received in the spring of 1793, when a neighbor “Made Me a present of Hive of Bees.”

By the next winter, Faris had built a shelter for the hive, putting “the frame of the bee house together.” Faris’s bee house was a painted pine box that may have been self-contained or may have served as a shelter for the more traditional but perishable strap skep; because only two years after the wooden box, Faris “drove the Bees out of the Old Hive into a nother hive and took the honey, the Hive was Rotten and Ready to tumble to peaces.”

But a visitor to Maryland during the same period noted, “Honey-bees are kept in America with equal success as in England. . . I never saw a hive made of straw.” Bees had long been garden residents and were considered decorative as well as practical.

18C English Woodcut

In 1618 William Lawson wrote in New Orchard and Garden, “There remaineth one necessary thing. . . Which in mine Opinion makes as much for Ornament, as either flowers, or forme, or cleanness. . . which is Bees, well ordered.”

The ever-practical craftsman, Faris knew that bees served him well as both pollinators of plants and producers of wax and honey and were worth the trouble of keeping them “well ordered.”

Rabbit Warren

A few years earlier Faris’s garden had sported another traditional functional garden component, a rabbit warren. Even though the rabbits graced his family’s table for many years, he in time dispensed with keeping them.

In 1792 he noted his intention to remove “the fence from the Rabbit yard and . . . Take up the Bricks.” The rabbits’ place on the grounds was eventually usurped by an additional vegetable plot.

18C English Woodcut

Faris may have found raising rabbits to be less cost effective than raising product, for one English visitor to the Chesapeake was skeptical of the possible success of raising rabbits for food or profit in Chesapeake gardens: ”Mr. Smith had got some imported rabbits. . .from England, with an intention to make a warren; but this will not answer in any part to America that I have seen. . . .First, there is no sod to make banks; therefore the fence must be all paled to keep them in, which is an enormous expense. Secondly. . .the winter is so severe they would not pay for the food the would eat.”

The most surprising item in the practical craftsman’s garden was a purely ornamental embellishment, a statue. Classical statues reminiscent of gardens in the Italian Renaissance dotted the grounds of wealthier Marylanders during the period. One of the Revolutionary War heroes to whom Faris had dedicated a tulip was Colonel John Eager Howard, whose Baltimore home was renowned for the statues that graced its gardens.

Craftsman's Privy

Faris’s grounds contained a practical structure he politely referred to as the “temple” in his garden. While some Chesapeake gardens may have had miniature versions of temples built on their pleasure grounds, Faris’s temple was his “necessary,” which he also nicknamed the “little house” and around which he consistently planted flowers in rectangular beds carefully bordered by boxwood.

As concern for basic survival in the British American colonies decreased, concern for propriety increased. One Maryland acquaintance of Faris wrote, “Many instances there are of a scandalous neglect of decency, even in opulent farmers, in their not building a single necessary. . .such ought tob e provided wherever there is habitation, be the family many or few, rich or poor.” Early Americans determined the placement of the privy by some compromise between convenience and the senses.

A German traveler souring the Chesapeake in 1783 noted that behind most town dwellings in America “is a little court or garden, where usually are the necessaries, and so this often evil-smelling convenience of our European houses is missed here, but space and better arrangement are gained.”

A strictly utilitarian shed, 16 by 20 feet, sat near the family privy. In it Faris stored his simple gardening tools, which included a spade, trowel, hoe, and rake.

Hollyhocks by the Stable

Craftsman's Stables

The outbuildings of town homes in the 18th-century Chesapeake often bordered and helped define the garden. Stables were usually the farthest removed outbuilding from the house. A red-and-white milk cow was the only permanent resident of Faris’s stables during the 1790s, but they served as temporary home to the horses of guests at the inn. Several of Faris’s neighbors had “chaise houses” separate from their horse stables, to contain their carriages. Not one to miss an opportunity, Faris planted a few tall holyhocks, Alcea rosea, near his stable in 1801.

Dung Fertilizer

Faris planted most of his kitchen garden beds and some flowers near his stables, as contemporary Chesapeake garden writhers advised. Dung was the fertilizer of choice in the 18th-century. Faris consistently used dung from his own stables and employed neighborhood haulers to bring extra cartloads of “tan” to his garden throughout the growing season.

18C English Woodcut

Farmers in the Chesapeake countryside sometimes dug fenced dung pits near their “cow houses” to systematically collect future garden fertilizer.

Craftsman's Hog Pen

Also producing dung were the pigs Faris raised in a hog pen on the rear of his grounds, near his peach tree. Faris cooked his peach-flavored pork as it was killed and also smoked it.

From the beginning of the 18th-century, travelers throughout the Chesapeake reported, colonists in the region intentionally fed peaches to their pigs to produce a sweeter-flavored meat. On October 3, 1777, British soldier Thomas Hughes reported that “at this time fruit is in such plenty that their hogs are fed on apples, peaches and chestnuts.”

18C English Woodcut

One of the gentlemen who bought flower bulbs from William Faris, Captain John O’Donnell (1749-1805), settled in Baltimore, naming his country seat after his favorite port of call, Canton. An account of Canton given by a visitor noted that O’Donnell had planted orchards of red peaches on his 2500-acre estate in hopes of manufacturing brandy for trade but had met with limited financial success. “for although Mr. O’Donnell’s orchard had come to bear in great perfection and he had stills and the other necessary apparatus, the profit proved so small that he suffered the whole to go to waste and his pigs to consume the product.”

18C English Woodcut


In addition to pigs and peaches, the rear of Faris’s lot also contained his smokehouse, which was surrounded by plum, pear, mulberry, cherry, almond and apple trees. Grape vines grew in one corner, near the vegetable beds. Currant and gooseberry bushes dotted the back lot as well.

Faris used his one-story brick smokehouse (12 by 10 feet) to smoke both pigs and fish. Smoking dehydrated the meat, added a desirable taste of wood smoke to the final product, and allowed the fish and pork to be kept longer.

One traveler through Maryland in the 1790’s wrote, “The greater number of people in America live on salt fish and smoked bacon: and the reason why they smoke their bacon and fish, is, that there are many sorts of reptiles that would absolutely destroy it, were it not for the smoke.”


Even though economy of space demanded that Faris use his grounds in a practical way, he took pride in decorating special focal points in his garden with several kinds of moveable plant containers. His favorites were earthenware pots. He regularly refilled all of his plant containers with “new dirt.”

Faris singled out the plants he considered rare to put in pots around his grounds, annually potting Jerusalem cherry trees, ice plants, egg plants, and sensitive plants, as did Thomas Jefferson. Faris also regularly displayed mignonette, tuberose, asters, anemones, polyanthus, rosemary, hyacinths, chrysanthemums, and his favorite tulips in containers.

18C English Woodcut

He used the pots to store his fragile plants away from the Annapolis winters, dutifully recording in his diary each year, “I moved the Potts into the seller for the Winter.” Sometimes he euphemistically referred to his cellar as “the greenhouse.”

Faris had no greenhouse; but his Annapolis neighbor Dr. Upton Scott (1724-1814) did, and the two men exchanged hundreds of plants. A contemporary wrote of Scott, “He is fond of botany and has a number of rare plants and shrubs in his greenhouse and garden.”

Faris’s gardens also sported large flower-filled wooden half-barrels, which dotted the grounds. He called these unpainted containers “casks” and artfully planted them with ice plants, egg plants, Jerusalem cherries, tulips, wallflowers, India pinks, and tuberose. Faris made no attempt to move his casks indoors for the winter season but did regularly change the earth in the containers. It is likely that these casks were old shipping barrels from the Annapolis docks.


The more mundane plants Faris raised in simple rectangular wooden boxes. These were strictly utilitarian containers, not the more ornamental wooden boxes holding orange and lemon trees that could be found in the greenhouses of larger Chesapeake plantations of the period.

In these boxes Faris also experimented with growing new varieties of plants, from cabbages to tulips. In his experiments, Faris grafted and selectively cross-pollinated plants. Gardening in the 18th-century Chesapeake allowed every man to become his own man of science or naturalist, as the Italian Renaissance model promoted.

Garden Records - A Diary!

This artisan, innkeeper, and gardener was keenly aware of the changes in nature’s seasons that intimately affected the success or failure of his gardening efforts. He even noted in his diary when the martins returned to Annapolis.

A Page From William Faris's Diary. Maryland Historical Society, Baltimore.

Like Washington’s and Jefferson’s records, his diary recorded his observations of the weather, and he consistently referred to his notes when new plants broke through the ground, or when the bloom---or when the failed---in order to compare present efforts with previous attempts.

Like his wealthier and well-educated gardening colleagues, William Faris used his garden to project his abstract ideas into nature. He and his neighbors used their gardens to understand the order of nature and to subject it to their own order in terms of design, plantings, and processes. 

Thank you to my friend Dr. Jean B. Russo for her images of William Faris items. See The Diary of William Faris: The Daily Life of an Annapolis Silversmith. edited by Mark Letzer and Jean B. Russo. Published by the Maryland Historical Society in 2003.