Wednesday, January 22, 2020

Plants in Early American Gardens - Prairie Blazing Star

Prairie Blazing Star (Liatris pycnostachya)

Meriwether Lewis collected the Prairie Blazing Star, also known as Kansas Gayfeather, near Chamberlain in Brule County South Dakota on September 15th, 1804. In the wild Liatris, which are members of the Aster family, occur mainly in prairie or open woodland, on dry, stony ground in Eastern and Central United States. The flowers open from the top of the inflorescence downward and are attractive to bees and butterflies and good for cutting.

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Tuesday, January 21, 2020

Garden History - Trees-Bosquet

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A bosket or bosquet is a plantation of trees in a landscaped ground, garden, or park. The term comes from the Italian bosco meaning grove or wood. The term is seldom used before 1820, in early America.

To encourage visitors to walk inside bosquets, in Europe they are traditionally paved with gravel, since maintaining grass under trees is usually difficult.

At Versailles the bosquets are defined by geometrical paths and many contain sculptures & fountains hidden in the trees to surprise the garden visitor. These arrangements of trees are often planted as a quincunx and appear as a formal outdoor room. A bosquet offers both shade from the sun and a chance to see the sunlit spaces of gardens & grounds from shade.

As they mature, the trees of the bosquet form an interlacing and cooling, shady canopy overhead. Trees forming the bosquet are frequently limbed-up to reveal the intriguing and artistic textures and patterns of the tree trunks.

Occasionally, in order to keep the bosquet a defined garden area, perimeter trees were pleached. Pleaching (or plashing) is the practice of bending and inter-twining plants. Pleached trees grow together to form a sort of hedge on stilts.

In Philip Miller's Gardener's Dictionary of 1737, he defines bosquets as "small Compartments of Gardens...form'd of Trees, Shrubs, or tall large growing plants."

Garden with a Wooded Bosquet Beyond.

In an 1800 Baltimore, Maryland newspaper advertisement in the Federal Gazette, Adrian Valeck's country seat is describes as having "a large garden in the highest state of cultivation, laid out in numerous and convenient walks and squares bordered with espaliers, on which...the greatest variety of fruit trees, the choicest fruits from the best nurseries in this country and Europe have been attentively and successfully cultivated...Behind the garden is a grove and shrubbery or bosquet planted with a great variety of the finest forest trees, oderiferous & other flowering shrubs etc."
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Monday, January 20, 2020

Plants in Early American Gardens - Bare Root Large-leaved Magnolia

Bare Root Large-leaved Magnolia (Magnolia macrophylla)

This spectacular but rare North American species is native to Central and Western Florida to Western Louisiana, North to North Carolina and the valley of the Green River, Kentucky. The showy blossoms have a distinctive purple spot at the base of each petal. It was discovered in June 1795, while in full flower, by the French naturalist, André Michaux, during his exploration of the Carolina Piedmont regions near Charlotte, North Carolina. This awe-inspiring tree was introduced around 1800 and created quite a sensation in France. The Empress Josephine was among the first to have this magnificent tree in her garden. In 1890, Peter Henderson described a 50-year old specimen planted on an estate in Queens, New York: “There is upon this tree every year hundreds of flowers, and it is no less conspicuous in autumn, with its large heads of bright scarlet fruit.”

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Sunday, January 19, 2020

Garden History - Location--View

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The view was the overall appearance of the landscape surrounding a house or a garden. It was one of the most important considerations when chosing a site for a dwelling in the 18th century, as we learned in the earlier posting Location, Location, Location...

We have seen in earlier postings that the words command and view were often used together, see Location--Commanding Views and Prospects. Here are a few more references to the term view as it visually connects the overall relationship between a dwelling or garden with the topography around it.

The Garden Facade of Mount Clare near Baltimore, Maryland. It faces downhill toward the Patapsco River which emptys into Baltimore Harbor.
Virginian Mary Ambler visited Mount Clare, the home of Charles Carroll and Margaret Tilghman Carroll in Baltimore, Maryland, in 1770, writing, The House where this Gentn & his Lady reside in the Sumer stands upon a very High Hill & has a fine view of Petapsico River You step out of the Door into the Bowlg Green from which the Garden Falls & when You stand on the Top of it there is such a Uniformity of Each side as the whole Plantn seems to be laid out like a Garden.
Margaret Tilghman Carroll at the Garden Facade of Mount Clare by Charles Willson Peale.

In 1771, the public commercial grounds called Vauxhall Gardens in New York City was mentioned in the New York Gazette and Weekly Mercury, The Commodious house and large gardens...known by the name of VAUXHALL...having a very extensive view both up and down the North River.
New York City's Vauxhall Gardens.
English officer Lt. John Enys visited Boston, Massachusettes, in 1787, noting that, After Dinner we took a walk on the Mall...From hence we went to Beacon Hill from whence we had a Charming View of the town and harbour...there are a number of houses situated on Beacon hill which stand high...That of Governor Hancock stands the most conspicuous just at the top of the common with a full view of the Mall before it besides its distant views of the harbour and adjacent country.

1768 Sidney L. Smith after Christian Remick A Prospective View of Part of the Commons 1902 after a drawing from 1768 Engraving Concord Museum MA

In 1787, a visitor to New Bern, North Carolina, reported that the Governor's "palace is situated with one front to the River Trent and near the Bank, and commands a pleasing view of the Water."

When he visited in January, 1788, Governor John Eager Howard's Belvedere at Baltimore, Maryland, The Seat of Colol. Howard which ...has a charming view of the Water fall at a Mill, a long Rapid below it, a full View of the town of Baltimore and the Point with the shipping in the harbour, the Bason and all the Small craft.

1796 George Beck Detail of The View of Baltimore from Governor John Eager Howard's Garden Park. Maryland Historical Society, Baltimore.

Englishman Thomas Twining visited Governor John Eager Howard's Belvedere in Baltimore, Maryland, in 1788, I walked this morning to breakfast with Colonel Howard at Belvidere... Situated upon the verge of the descent upon which Baltimore stands, its grounds formed a beautiful slant towards the Chesapeake...The spot, thus indebted to nature and judiciously embellished, was as enchanting with in its own proper limits as in the fine view which extended far beyond them. The foreground presented luxurious shrubberies and sloping lawns: the distance, the line of the Patapsco and the country bordering on Chesapeak Bay. Both the perfections of the landscape, its near and distant scenery, were united in the view from the bow-window of the noble room in which breakfast was prepared, with the desire, I believe, of gratifying me with this exquisite prospect.

Six years later, visitors were still impressed with the view from Governor Howard's property in Baltimore, Maryland. Moreau de St. Mery wrote of Governor John Eager Howard's Belvedere in 1794, Its elevated situation; its grove of trees; the view from it, which brings back memories of European scenes; all these things together fill every true Frencman with pleasure and regret.
In 1789, Geographer Jedidiah Morse wrote of Nassau Hall at Princeton, New Jersey, The view from the college balcony is extensive and charming.

Detail of Nassau Hall at Princeton, New Jersey in 1764.

Abigail Adams, the wife of John Adams, wrote in 1790, of Bush Hill in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, A variety of fine fields of wheat and grass are in front of the house, and, on the right hand, a pretty view of the Schuylkill presents itself.

William Hamilton's Bush Hill in Philadelphia

Around 1734, the Penn family gave attorney Andrew Hamilton land in payment for legal services. In 1740, he built Bush Hill on the property. Vice President John Adams and his wife lived in the house in 1790 & 1791. During Philadelphia's yellow fever epidemic of 1793, a quarantine hospital was set up in the mansion.

Fairmount Park, Philadelphia. August Köllner, Bush Hill and Cholera Hospital.

When Moreau de St. Mery visited the New York in the 1790s, he wrote, In America almost everything is sacrificed to the outside view...The elevated situation of these country residences, in addition to being healthy, gives them the advantage of a charming view which includes New York and the nearby islands, principally Governor's Island, and is constantly enlivened by the passing of the boats which ply on both rivers.

In 1793, Rev. John Spooner described David Meade's Maycox in Prince George's County, Virginia, These grounds contain about twelve acres, laid out on the banks of the James river...which open as many pleasing views of the river. Rev. John Jones Spooner's papers are at the College of William & Mary Swem Library showing his election to the American Academy of Arts & Sciences, and his installation as minister to Martins Brandon Parish, Prince George County, Virginia.

David Meade's terraced gardens sat directly across the river from the terraced gardens of Westover, almost a mirror image of two landscapes divided by the river with its walled riverwalk. The houses were about a mile apart. The view from either house would have been beautiful.

Thomas Birch, Southeast View of “Sedgeley Park,” the Country Seat of James Cowles Fisher, Esq., about 1819.

Sedgley Park was built in 1799, near Philadelphia, by merchant William Cramond. It was one of the earliest Gothic influenced houses in America. A contemporary remarked "The natural advantages of Sedgley Park are not frequently equalled, even upon the banks of the Schuylkill. From the height upon which the mansion is erected it commands an interesting and extensive view. The scenery around is of unusual beauty, but its character is altogether peaceful and quiet."

In 1808, William Birch wrote of John Penn's Solitude in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, The flower garden was distant from the house, reached by a circuitous path which took in as many as possible of the best points of view.

Solitude in Fairmount Park in Philadelphia.

Solitude was built as a quiet retreat on the west bank of the Schulykill River. The most English of the country seats built along the river, Solitude was built by John Penn, "the poet," a grandson of William Penn, the founder of Pennsylvania. Today it is in the center of the Philadelphia Zoo, where it serves as administrative headquarters.

William Birch, "Solitude in Pennsylvana. Belonging to Mr. Penn." 1809.

Elbridge Gerry described the White House in Washington D. C. in 1813, A door opens at each end, one into the hall, and opposite, one into the terrace from whence you have an elegant view of all the rivers.

1803 White House [View from Blodgett's Hotel to the White House.] by Nicholas King in the Huntington Library, San Marino, California.

Saturday, January 18, 2020

Plants in Early American Gardens - Duchesse de Nemours Peony

Duchesse de Nemours Peony (Paeonia lactiflora cv.)

Both European and Asian peonies have been cultivated since ancient times. Those native to central China and Siberia (varieties of Paeonia lactiflora) were first introduced to the West by the 18th century and by 1784 breeding with the European peony was occurring in France and Britain. Because peonies are such long-lived plants, many 19th-century cultivars are still available. Thomas Jefferson noted “Piony” in a list of hardy perennials as early as 1771. The extremely fragrant and unusual ‘Duchesse de Nemours’ was introduced by 1856, although some believe it was earlier. Joseph Breck described it as “quite a novelty” in 1851. Peonies are deer resistant, and their flowers attract butterflies.

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