Monday, April 29, 2013

Tools & John Evelyn

John Evelyn & Depictions of Early Gardening Tools

During the early 1990s, John E. Ingram, then the research archivist & curator of special collections at the Colonial Williamsburg Foundation, was working to transcribe diarist John Evelyn's (1620–1706) Elysium Britannicum, or The Royal Gardens in Three Books, which was languishing unpublished as MS 45 at the British Library in London.

Detail John Evelyn (1620-1706) by Hendrick van der Borcht, 1641.

Evelyn was a pivotal figure in 17th century intellectual life in England. He traveled, collected & read books and was intent on introducing a more sophisticated European high culture not only to his friends but to all of England. He had the leisure to do that thanks to a family fortune amassed by manufacturing gunpowder for Elizabeth I.

Evelyn worked for 40 years on his Elysium project, the purpose of which he wrote to a friend, "to refine upon some particulars, especially concerning the ornaments of Gardens, which I shal endeavor so to handle that persons of all conditions and faculties, which delight in Gardens, may therein encounter something for their owne advantage."

The main reason the project took 40 years and ended abruptly before its completion is that Evelyn loved lifting ideas & whole sections from the books he was collecting to incorporate into his Elysium manuscript, which was filled with notes in the margins, wholesale changes, & completely new insertions. He might have had the classics conquered; but science & horticulture were racing ahead of Evelyn, and he was determined to keep up, cribbing as fast as he read.

Evelyn peppered his manuscript with illustrations of garden layouts and embellishments for gardens & grounds. More important to this discussion, he included two pages of sketches of tools & small structures for nurturing new plants to be used in the garden. "Since Gardining...hath as all other Arts and Professions certaine Instuments and tooles properly belonging to it."

Evelyn (1620-1706) by Robert Walker, 1648.

Evelyn's work Elysium does open a world of connections between the changing philosophy of cultural, social & political thought and its reflection in gardens from Greek & Roman times to Evelyn's age.

During the 1980s, an article in the Journal of Garden History suggested that even Evelyn's depictions & discussions of garden tools might have "more subtle meanings" than mere illustrations, that perhaps they might be "charged with symbolic values," emblems for Evelyn's "gardiner" & the world beyond. After all, Evelyn wrote, "What is our Gardiner to be, but an absolute Philosopher!"
Well, back to the tools. (By the way, Dr. Ingram's transcription was published in 2001, go to to find it. You won't regret your purchase, if you are at all interested in gardening or in the intellectual life of 17th centrury England.)

One of Evelyn's unfinished chapters was to have been about ‘Watering, Pruning, Plashing, Nailing, Clipping, Mowing and Rolling.’ We could have used that in a discussion of tools, but his advice wasn't always that practical. For garden rollers, he recommends marble columns procured from the classical ruins in Smyrna.

Elysium is not a practical work like his Sylva, or A Discourse of Forest Trees (1664); Kalendarium Hortense: or; The Gard’ners Almanac (1664), a guide to gardener’s task, month by month throughout the year; or Acetaria: a Discourse of Sallets (1699), a proof that vegetarians could eat & live.

Elysium is not entirely void of practicality, but it is unabashedly aristocratic in both aesthetics & philosophy and full of irrelevant digressions, of which I am a huge devotee and part-time practitioner.

Early Garden and Agricultural Equipment.

Evelyn was certainly not the first to illustrate gardening and agricultural tools. Early manuscripts often depcited gardening. Two of my favorites are from 1410 Tres Riches Heures du duc de Berry.

Detail Vincennes Castle in France. 1410 Depiction.

Detail Paris. 1410 Depiction.

A more mundane engraving of instruments for grafting, engraving appeared in Leonard Mascall's, The Art of Planting and Grafting, in 1572. And an engraving of pruning tools appeared in Jean de La Quintinie, The Compleat Gard’ner in 1693.

Page of Garden Tools from John Evelyn's (1620–1706) Elysium Britannicum, or The Royal Gardens in Three Books.

Tools & equipment Evelyn felt were absolutely necessary for a garden depicted on this page include:
iron-clad spades,
pickaxe and shovel,
sieves and screens,
instruments peculitar to the surveyor
a planting lattice...for regular planting and setting of rootes and flowers...
turf lifter,
turf edger,
stone roller,
and long pruners.

Garden Tools from John Evelyn's (1620–1706) Elysium Britannicum, or The Royal Gardens in Three Books.

Evelyn continued with his depiction of mandatory garden tools & equipment on this page including:
3 different designs of watering pots,
water barrel,
water tanks,
forcing post,
protection cone,
bell glasses
hand light bedstead "furnished with tester and Curtaines of draw over and preserve the Choysest flowers, bing in their beauty, from the parching beames of the Sunn,
knife sharpener,
bird scarers (bells),
storage chest,
garden diary or register,
and traps.

In the Le Jardinier Solitaire by François Gentil & Louis Liger published in 1706, there is a list of the instruments necessary for a florist. Gentil wrote, As a Soldier can't fight without his Arms, so a Gardner can't work without proper Tools. The one is as necessary as the other.

This engraving from LE JARDINIER FLEURISTE by Le Sieur Liger d'Auxerre printed in 1787. Images taken from earlier publication Necessary Instruments for Gardening from Le Jardinier Solitaire by François Gentil, Louis Liger published in 1706.

1 Spade. The first instument the Gardener takes in his hand to learn a dexterity in turning up the Ground and working it smooth and even and it is chiefly used by Apprentices.

2 Shovel. Used for throwing Earth out of Trenches or Ditches or for throwing rakings into a Wheelbarrow or Dosser.

3 Rakes. This tool is in the Gardener's Trade. a symbol of Neatness. One for smoothing Beds and Plots, the other for cleaning the Walks.

4 Rakers. A necessary tool for keeping the Garden clean of weeds.

5 Displanter. Used for transplanting and for taking up all Flowers, that the Gardener is obliged to transplant from the place where they were sowed to another.

6 Prining knife. So necessary, that a Gardener ought always to have one in his pocket for there's a hundred occasions in the way of Gardening to make use of it.

7 Dibbles. For planting small flowers that have roots and for planting Bulbs.

8 Watering Pot. Nothing is more useful in a Garden than a Watering-Pot, so that a Gardner cannot be without it. It imitates the rain, falling from the Heavens.

9 Beetle. This serves to smooth the Walkes and hinders most effectively the growing of Weeds upon 'em.

10 Flower Basket. A Gardener that cultivates Flowers, ought to have Baskets by him, to gather the Flowrs in upon occasion. This sort of Basket, shew a Gardener's Neatness and the genteel way of his Profession.

11 Sieve. 'Tis by this that the Earth is reduced almost to Dust and is rendered fit for receiving Anemones, Rannunculas, and other fine flowers.

12 Saw. 'Tis used for cutting the Branches which he can't lop with his knife.

13 Transplanter. Used for raising together with the earth, plants for transplanting.

14 Garden Pot. A Gardner ought to have good store of Pots to put some Flowers in, that grow better fo than in full Earth, such as Pinks, Bears-Ears, Tube-roses, &c. These may be either of plain Earth, or of Dutch Ware, the former are much larger, for holding Jessamins, Clove-Gill-flowers, and such other Plants.

15 Plainer, or Rabot. Tho you run the Rake never so often along the Walks and Paths of a Garden, it will leave some Roughness which is easily rectified with an Inftrument call'd a Rabot; and therefore a neat Gardiner ought not to be without it.

16 Paillassons or Panniers of Straw. This is very necessary to keep out the Froft, which would hurt the Flowers that are sowed, especially those who can't bear much cold.

17 Mallet. Used with the Chisel for lopping the Branches, that can't be so neatly taken off with the force of one's hands.

18 Wheelbarrow. To carry the Stones and Rakings of a Garden, to, places appointed to receive 'em ; or, to carry Earth, or Mold, to improve such Grounds as are hungry.

19 Handbarrow. To carry into the Greenhouse, Trees or Shrubs, set in Boxes, which a Man can't carry upon his Arm. Tis likewise of use for carrying Dung upon the Beds.

20 Catterpiller Sheers. For removing Catterpillers, which would otherwise deftroy all- It has a Handle ten foot long fitted to it, that it may reach to the upper Pans of a Tree. They clip, or cut the end of the Branch upon which the tuft of Catterpillers is lodg'd.

21 Garden Sheers. They are of use for trimming the Box, Yews, and other Trees and Shrubs, that serve to embellish a Garden.

22 Double Ladder. For trimming the upper part of the Arbour, or high Bower.

23 Pickaxe. For raising the Plants that adorn the Borders...or for giving some small Culture to Trees and Shrubs.

24 Rolling Stone. For smoothing Walks after they are raked.

25 Hook. A Gardener that has Rows of Greens to dress, can't trim them well without a hook, which is used after a certain way.

26 Glass Bell. A Forist can't be without this unless he has a mind to run the risk of losing his Plants, such as are soon in Beds immediately after the end of Winter.

27 Straw Bell. Proper for covering Plants newly transplanted in order to guard them from the Heat or the Sun, which might annoy them at first.

28 Garden Fork. For spreding and disposing of Dung upon the Beds.

29 Trowel. By the help of which a Flower Gardener takes up Plants with Earth around them.

30 Hurdle. For passing the Earth through. Of great use for separating the good Earth from the Stones.

1761 Frontispiece Le gentilhomme cultivateur ou corps complet d agriculture. Paris.

Richard Bradley, an English garden writer who was appointed the first Professor of Botany, Cambridge University in 1724, and whose books were owned widely throughout the British American colonies, also included a page of garden tools in one of his books published about 20 years after John Evelyn's death.

Garden Tools from Richard Bradley's Survey of Ancient Husbandry and Gardening in 1725.

Garden Tools in Colonial America & The Early Republic
18th-century Depiction

By 1734, garden tools made in the colonies were being advertised for sale in local newspapers.LATELY set up at Trenton in New Jersey, a Plateing and Blade Mill, by Isaac Harrow, an English Smith, who makes ...GARDEN SPADES...COMMON SHOVELS, SCYTHES...BROAD AXES,...CROSS CUT SAWS...BARK SHAVERS, HAND SAWS...HAY KNIVES...TOBACCO KNIVES... GARDEN SHEERS...DITCHING SHOVELS, All Persons that have occasion for any of the above named Goods, may be supplied by George Howell, Lastmaker in Chesnut Street, Philadelphia, or by the Maker at Trenton aforesaid, at reasonable Rates as any that come from England.
Pennsylvania Gazette September 12, 1734.

Garden tools were considered valuable property in colonial British America. According to the Camden County Historical Society in New Jersey, in 1763, Adam Reed of Lancaster County, Pennsylvania, accompanied his local constable to a spot where they found Mr. Reed's stolen property "hid in the ground." Among the purloined articles unearthed were four grubbing hoes, four shovels and two spades.

'Recueil des Planches du Dictionnaire Encyclopédique de l'art Aratoire et du Jardinage' (1802)

In another instance cited during the Revolutionary War, John Jones of Southwark left personal tools in the care of Captain Christian Grover "at the time of the approach of the enemy" to Philadelphia. In 1778, Mr. Jones advertised for the return of his property, promising that whoever returned his belongings would be "rewarded in proportion to their trouble or expense." Among his prized possessions were two spades, five garden hoes, one grubbing hoe and two dung forks.

18th-century Depiction

Late in the 18th century, Evan Truman, blacksmith, and Thomas Goucher, a cutler by trade, provided garden tools to the public from their Philadelphia locations at the Sign of the Scythe and Sickle. Goucher advertised his skill in making "all kinds of edge tools and all sorts of hoes," while Truman's wares included ditching shovels, grubbing hoes, weeding hoes, picks and mattocks.

18th-century Depiction

On a much smaller scale, one-man cottage industries also provided garden tools in early America, as a listing from Stafford's 1800 Philadelphia City Directory attests: "Genter, Charlotte; rake maker; above Brown on St. John's Street."

18th-century Depiction

Whether these garden tools belonged to the gentry or to the everyday gardener or farmer, they were essential in the agricultural society that dominated early America. In the early decades of the 19th century, garden writers did not just write of the appropriate tools for the garden, some also sold them.

18th-century Depiction

At the Philadelphia shop of nurseryman Bernard M'Mahon (c. 1775–1816), author of the 1806 The American Gardener's Calendar, one corner was devoted to the various "spades, shovels, rakes, hoes, reels, lines, trowels, edging irons, garden shears, watering pots, pruning, budding and grafting knives so necessary for gardening."

Early 19th-century Depiction

It was not until the growing industrial economy of the mid-19th century, that manufacturers catalogues replaced list of tools in garden books. By then gardening was becoming a back-to-nature preoccupation of the industrial work force as a leisure-time activity.

By the early 19th century, as both disposable income and printing sophistication grew, some catalogues depicted gardening tools in color.

Figures Pour L'a Lmanach du Bon Jardinier. Outils de Jardinage. Early 19th-century Depiction.

Figures Pour L'a Lmanach du Bon Jardinier. Outils de Jardinage. Early 19th-century Depiction.

Figures Pour L'a Lmanach du Bon Jardinier. Outils de Jardinage. Early 19th-century Depiction.

Figures Pour L'a Lmanach du Bon Jardinier. Outils de Jardinage. Early 19th-century Depiction.

Figures Pour L'a Lmanach du Bon Jardinier. Outils de Jardinage. Early 19th-century Depiction.

Figures Pour L'a Lmanach du Bon Jardinier. Outils de Jardinage. Early 19th-century Depiction.

Figures Pour L'a Lmanach du Bon Jardinier. Outils de Jardinage. Early 19th-century Depiction.

Figures Pour L'a Lmanach du Bon Jardinier. Outils de Jardinage. Early 19th-century Depiction.

Figures Pour L'a Lmanach du Bon Jardinier. Outils de Jardinage. Early 19th-century Depiction.

Figures Pour L'a Lmanach du Bon Jardinier. Outils de Jardinage. Early 19th-century Depiction.

Figures Pour L'a Lmanach du Bon Jardinier. Outils de Jardinage. Early 19th-century Depiction.


Saturday, April 27, 2013

1764 Beans - Virginian John Randolph's 1727-1784 Treatise on Gardening 1764

A Treatise on Gardening Written by a native of this State (Virginia)
Author was John Randolph (1727-1784)
Written in Williamsburg, Virginia about 1765
Published by T. Nicolson, Richmond, Virginia. 1793
The only known copy of this booklet is found in the Special Collections of the Wyndham Robertson Library at Hollins University in Roanoke, Virginia.

Beans to eat, delight in a fine rich stiff soil, without dung, though that must be supplied where the lands are poor. To have fine beans, especially of the Windsor sort, which are much the best, they ought to be planted six inches asunder, in rows three feet distant from one another, in the, wane of the moon, (as it is vulgarly said) and under a hedge, which serves for a shelter. When the flowers begin to open towards the bottom of the stalk, the tops should be pinched off, though it is as good a season as any to do it in, when the blossoms are well blown and set. If you want an early crop, plant them in October, and hill them up as they grow, and shelter them; if a second crop, cut them down within two or three inches of the ground before they bear fruit. Don't pull the bean, cut it with a knife. The first production is the properest of all seeds for sowing. When the seed is ripe, you must pull up the stalks and sun them, observing to turn them every day or two. Beans, like all other seed, degenerate in the same ground, wherefore it is advisable to change your seed, and the beds they grew in.

Kidney Bean, Phaseotus, a long swift ship, which the husk resembles, may be planted in March; if sooner, they must be well sheltered, for they are easily killed, in a light fertile soil, in trenches about two and a half feet asunder, each grain two inches distant from the next, and one inch deep. They will not bear transplanting. They should be planted in a dry season. The Dutch sort, which is the common kind, should be stuck, otherwise they will lie on the ground and rot. This sort, if stuck, grow to a great height, and afford a constant succession. A second sowing will supply you sufficiently the season. If, when you plant, it should be a dry season, water the furrows or trenches before you drop the seed in. French Beans and snaps are the same. The Dutch sort are not so apt to be stringy, which the dwarf sort are.

Bushel or Sugar Beans, being of a tender nature, should not be planted till April, which is the best season, in hills made light and rich, about three to the hill, so as to admit a stake in the middle of them. They will grow round the stake to a great height, will bear very profusely, and continue till destroyed by frost. They are esteemed very delicate, and are of various colours, as white, marbled, green, etc.

Thursday, April 25, 2013

Early American Book - 1806 M'Mahon's Early Cucumbers & Melons in a January Hot Frame

Bernard M'Mahon's 1806 American Gardener's Calendar published in Philadelphia

A Hot Frame in January for Early Cucumbers and Melons.

As it is generally the ambition of most gardeners to excel each other in the production of early cucumbers, &c. all necessary preparations should be made this month for that purpose, by preparing dung for hot-beds, in which to raise the plants; for they, being of a tender quality, require the aid of artificial heat under shelter of frames and glasses, until the middle or latter end of May, especially in the middle and eastern states.

But by the aid of hot-beds, defended with frames and glasses, we obtain early cucumbers, in young green fruit, fit to cut or gather in February, March and April, and ripe melons in May and June.

The proper sorts of cucumbers for the early crops arc the early short prickly, and long green prickly ; of which the first sort comes earliest; but the latter is considerably the finest fruit, and greatly preferable for general culture.

And if early melons are also required, there are several varieties of the fruit: the Cantaleupe is one of the best for its handsome growth, good size, and superior flavour; and is in much estimation.

The true Cantalcufie or Armenian warted Melon, is very scarce in the United States; its fruit is large, roundish and deeply ribbed, a little compressed at both ends, the surface full otioarted protuberances, like some species of squash, the flesh reddish, firm, and of a most delicious rich flavour; of which there are several varieties, differing principally in colour, and commonly called black rock, golden rock, &c.

This variety of melon derives the term Cantaleupe, from a place of that name near Rome, where it was first cultivated in Europe...brought thence from Armenia a country of Asia, in which is situated the famous Mount Ararat.

But it may also be proper to raise some of the others for variety; the Romanais a great bearer, comes early, but the fruit much smaller though well flavoured ; the Polignac, Nutmeg and Minorca are also fine melons; but it may also be eligible to raise two, three, or more of the best approved different sorts.

Observe, that in procuring these seeds for immediate sowing, both of cucumbers and melons, it is adviseable to have those of two, three or four years old, if possible, as the plants will generally show fruit sooner, as well as prove more fruitful than those of new seeds, which are upl to run vigorously to vine, often advancing in considerable length before they show a single fruit; but when seeds of this age cannot be procured, new seeds may be improved by carrying them a few weeks previous to sowing in your waistcoat or breeches' pocket.

In order to raise early cucumbers and melons, you must provide a quantity of fresh hot stable-dung, wherewith to make a small hot-bed for a seed-bed, in which to raise the plants to a proper growth for transplanting into larger hot-beds next month to remain to fruit; for this purpose a small bed for a one or two light frame may be sufficient, in which case two cart-load of hot dung will be enough for making a bed of proper dimensions for a one-light box, and so in proportion for a larger.

Agreeably to these intimations, provide the requisite supply of good horse-stable-dung from the dunghills in stable-yards, consisting of that formed of the moist stable litter and dunging of the horses together, choosing that which is moderately fresh, moist, and full of heat always prefering that which is of some lively, warm, steamy proper quantity as above. And being thus procured, proceed to making the hot-bed, or previously to forming it into a bed, if the dung is rank, it would be proper to prepare it a little to an improved state, more successful for that purpose, by forking the whole up into a heap, mixing it well together; and let it thus remain eight or ten days to ferment equally, and for the rank steam and fierce heat to transpire, or evaporate in some effectual degree; and by which time it will have acquired a proper temperament for making into a hot-bed, by which treatment the heat will be steady and lasting, and not so liable to become violent or burning, as when the dung is not previously prepared.

Choose a place on which to make your hot-bed, in a sheltered dry part of the framing ground, and open to the morning and south sun: and it may be made cither wholly on the surface of the ground, or in a shallow trench, of from six to twelve inches deep, and four or five feet wide, according to the frame; but if made entirely on the surface, which is generally the most eligible method at this early season, it affords the opportunity of lining the sides of the bed with fresh hot dung, quite down to the bottom, to augment the heat when it declines, and also prevents wet from settling about the bottom of the bed, as often happens when made in a trench, which chills the dung, and causes the heat soon to decay.

Then according to the size of the frame, mark out the dimensions of the bed, either on the ground, or with four stakes; making an allowance for it to be about four or five inches wider than the frame each way : this done, begin to make the bed accordingly, observing to shake and mix the dung well, as you lay it on the bed, and beat it down with the back of the fork, as you go on : but I would not advise treading it, for a bed which is trodden hard will not work so kindly, and be more liable to burn than that which is suffered to settle gradually of itself: in this manner proceed till the bed has arrived at the height of four feet, which will not be too much ; making an allowance for its settling six or eight inches, or more, in a week or fortnight's time ; and as soon as finished, let the frame and glass be put on : keep them close till the heat comes up, then raise the glass behind that the steam may pass away.

The next thing to be observed, is about earthing the bed, in which to sow the seed ; and for which occasion, should have a proper supply of rich, light, dry earth, or compost, ready at this season, under some airy dry shed, or hovel, covered at top to keep out rain, that the earth may be properly dry : for if too moist or wet at this time, it would prove greatly detrimental both to the growth of the seed and young plants, as well as be very apt to cake and burn at bottom next to the dung.

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Early American Book - 1806 M'Mahon's Gardening within a Frame in January

Bernard M'Mahon's 1806 American Gardener's Calendar published in Philadelphia

Gardening within a Frame during January


Many will think that the instructions hereafter given, for the raising of early Cucumbers and Melons, in frames, are too diffuse; especially in a country which abounds in these kinds of fruit, produced in such quantities, in summer and autumn, without artificial heat, or very much trouble.

The remark may be just, but the principal motive for giving these lengthy instructions, is to exercise the young Gardener, in the art of managing Garden-Frames in general; an art absolutely essential to every good Gardener, and which cannot be better exemplified than in the raising of early Cucumbers and Melons. And besides these fruit coming into use at an early season, will be much valued and esteemed.

As several other kinds of Kitchen-Garden vegetables are desirable at an early season, such as cresses, rape, lettuce, mustard, radishes, Sec. to cut while young; asparagus, radishes, peas, kidney beans, &c. to be forwarded to early perfection; cauliflower and cabbage plants, to succeed those sown in September, and to produce a principal crop for early summer use; you should now provide the necessary supplies of hot stable dung, rich earth, and other requisites proper for their cultivation in hot beds, as explained for each, under its respective head.

Figures Pour L'Almanach de Bon Jardinier

Hot-bed-Frames and Lights.

If not already provided with hot-bed-frames and lights, you may get them made agreeably to the following instructions. Large frames ought to be made of inch and half, or rather two inch plank,

of the best yellow pine, nine feet two inches long, four feet ten inches wide, as high again in the back as in front, to give the top a due slope to the sun and a proper declevity to carry off the wet when covered with glass lights, to move off and on occasionally ; every jomt ought to be tongued, the better to prevent the admission of cold air into, or emission of warm air out of the bed, but in such manner as the gardener may think proper. The back and front are to be nailed to corner posts, so as to admit the ends to fit in neatly, which ends are to be made fast to the posts by iron bolts keyed in the inside, for the greater facility of taking the frame asunder when necessary; each end must be made one inch and a half higher than the back and front, so as that one half its thickness may be grooved out on the inside, for the sash to rest and slide on, and the other half left for its support on the outside ; when finished gWe it two or three good coats of paint before you Use it, and with a little care and an annual painting, it may last you twenty years.

These frames will take three lights of three feet wide each, each light containing five rows of glass panes, six inches by four, overlapping one another about half an inch, which of all other sizes is the most preferable, on account of their cheapness in the first place, the closeness of their lap, their general strength and trifling expence of repairs; however, each person will suit his own convenience as to the dimensions of glass. Where the sashes when laid on the frame meet, a piece of pine about three and a half inches broad and near two thick, should run from back to front morticed into each, for their support, and for them to slide on; in the centre of which, as well as in the ends of the frame, it will be well to make a groove, five-eighths of an inch wide and near a quarter of an inch deep, rounded at bottom to receive and carry off any wet which may 'work down between the sashes.

But with respect to particular dimensions of frames, they are different according to the plants they are intended to protect, but generally from nine to twelve feet long, from four feet eight inches to five feet wide, from eighteen inches to three feet six inches high in the back, and from nine to eighteen inches in front, being for the most part twice as high in the back as in front, if not more.

The common kitchen garden frames may be of three different sizes, that is, for one, two and three lights, the latter of which however, are the most material, and which are employed for general use: but it is necessary also to have one and two light frames, the former as seedling frames, and the latter as succession or nursery frames, to forward the young plants to a due size for the three-light frames, in which they are to fruit.

Monday, April 22, 2013

18th-Century American Terraced or Falling Gardens

As the 18th century progressed, American colonists were growing richer & found themselves with enough free time to think about designing the grounds around themselves to project their new wealth & power. The gentry began to employ professional gardeners who often planned for land on one side of their employer's house to become a falling garden.

Many well-to-do homeowners intentionally chose their home sites on naturally sloping ground or on the bank of a river. They intended to plant level grassy (or more intricate) garden areas as part of a series of terraced falls or graduations with sloping turf fronts & sides. Often when the dwelling house was newly built, the earth, clay, & rubbish removed for cellars & foundations were used to shape the terraced falls. Hills were intentionally cut into slopes & flats where owners & guests could walk.

Visitors traveling on land would usually approach the formal entrance to a house by a flat carriage way. Guests asked to stay for a while, often would be invited to take a walk in the terraced garden on the opposite side of the home. People usually walked between these flat levels by means of grass ramps.

Each individual descent was referred to as a fall. Gentry owners showcased their genteel taste in gardening on these terraces, which served as their stage to those passing by or visiting.

Historically from Persia to Italy to England, terraces have provided a setting for the house, a pleasing view from upper story windows, a platform for surveying the surrounding countryside, and a grand stage for the owner. A contemporary American garden authority acknowledged the garden as a stage when he wrote, "regular terraces either on natural eminences or forced ground were often introduced...for the sake of above another, on the side of some considerable rising ground in theatrical arrangement."

Such designs elevated the wealthy owner above the common audience passing by or strolling through. One look at nature so well ordered, and the observer could have no doubt that here lived a person destined to be in charge.

Falls appeared early in colonial Virginia, where Lieutenant Governor Alexander Spottswood (1676-1740) installed terraced gardens at the Governor's Palace in Williamsburg between 1715 & 1719. The legislature had authorized moneis for the palace and for its formal walled gardens in 1706.

When new Virginia Governor William Gooch (1681-1751) arrived in 1727, he wrote of a "handsome garden, an orchard full of fruit, and a very large park." The walled entrance courtyard was separated from the rear formal garden by brick walls. A gate to the east of the formal garden led to Lieutenant Governor Alexander Spotswood's (1676-1740) "falling garden," a seried of three terraces descending to a ravine where Spotswood had a stream dammed to create a "fine canal."

Later Spotswood built a private estate near Germanna, where William Byrd II came to call in 1732, & reported, "the Garden...has...3 Terrace Walks that fall in Slopes, one below another."

Berkeley on the James River in Virginia

Spotswood's falling garden at the Governor's Palace spawned a slew of Virginia imitators. In 1726, Benjamin Harrison IV and his wife Anne Carter built Berkeley on the James River. The house faces the river on top of a hill with 3 grand, descending terraces dropping to the river and Harrison's Landing.

Carter's Grove on the James River in Virginia

In the 1730s, Virginian Lewis Burwell constructed a rectangular garden, 200' wide with 3 terraces dropping 500' down to the James River at his plantation Kingsmill. In 1751, his cousin Carter Burwell borrowed that design for his Carter's Grove which still can be visited near Williamsburg.

19th-century Depiction of the terraced gardens at Carter's Grove

During the same decade, John Robinson, Speaker of the Virginia House of Burgesses, installed "a large falling garden enclosed with a good brick wall" at his home Pleasant Hall overlooking the Mattaponi River.

Some garden terraces proved treacherous. In the 1730s, Landon Carter built a falls garden at his home Sabine Hall on the north side of Virginia's Rappahanock River. Carter's garden consisted of 6 deep falls spanning the width of the house & dropping to the river below. The terraces were so steep, that he "almost...disjointed" his hip by "walking in the garden." In 1783, the elder Charles Carroll of Annapolis actually died as a result of a fall in his garden.

The same style garden also was appearing in more conservative New England as well. In 1736, Will Griff's contract to build Thomas Hancock's house & garden in Boston stated, "I...oblidge the next garden or flatt from the Terras below." He also agreed to "order and Gravel the Walks & prepare and Sodd ye Terras adjoining with the Slope on the side."

Parnassas Hill home of Dr. Henry Stevenson painted by Charles Willson Peale (1741-1827) about 1769.

In Maryland, Irishman Dr. Henry Stevenson (1721-1814) built his home Parnassus Hill between 1763 & 1769, on the Jones Falls River north of Baltimore, where he & his brother, also a physician, actually made their money as wheat exporters. Dr. Henry Stephenson, who had come to Maryland in 1745, also pursured medicine pioneering a smallpox vaccine.  In February of 1769, the Maryland Gazette noted, "Dr. Henry Stevenson devotes part of his mansion on 'Parnassus Hill' to the use of an Inoculating Hospital, and opens it to all who may apply." The hospital closed in 1777, as staunch loyalist Stevenson left Baltimore to serve in the British service as a surgeon in New York, returning to Baltimore in 1786, when Revolutionary tempers had cooled. The terraced gardens at the combination home & hospital were among the earliest in Baltimore.

Charles Willson Peale (1741-1827) painting of William Paca with the naturalized area of his garden in the background.

William Paca (1740-1799), a signer of the Declaration of Indpendence & a federal district court judge, was born in Harford County, Maryland, and educated in Philadelphia and London. In 1763, Paca ensured his social & economic position by marrying Mary Chew, the daughter of a wealthy Maryland family.

William Paca's falling, terraced garden in Annapolis.

Four days after their wedding, Paca purchased two lots in Annapolis and began building the five-part mansion plus an extensive pleasure garden.  Paca planned a walled garden for his new home in the 1760s.

Paca Gardens in Annapolis, Maryland

Constructed between 1763-1765, the estate is known chiefly for its elegant falling gardens including 5 terraces, a fish-shaped pond, and a wilderness garden.

View from William Paca's house across his garden to the city of Annapolis.

The garden was to consist of 3 falls, narrowing as they dropped 16 1/2' to the lowest level of the garden. The terrace closest to the house measured 80' in width, the next 55', & the last 40'. This design allowed those viewing the 2 acre garden from the house to see grounds that appeared larger than reality, & those viewing from below to see a house that seemed grander than it was.

18th-century English image

Using "optics" to create an illusion of larger houses & grounds was particularly important in colonial towns, where space was limited, but the need to appear important was boundless.

View from the natural area of William Paca's garden up to the house.

Another terraced garden in Marylnad belonged to Charles Carroll, the Barrister, 1723-1783, who had spent his youth in England receiving a classical education. He did not marry the 21 year old Margaret Tilghman 1743-1817, until he was 40 in 1763. By then, he was working on completing the house and grounds at his country seat near Baltimore.  In 1756, Carroll had begun construction of his country house Mount Clare. A series of grass ramps led from the bowling green down shaded terraces or falls. A sweeping view spread across the lower fields to the waters of the Patapsco River, about one mile away.

The Garden Facade entrance at Mount Clare. Only the faintest definition of the bowling green and the terraces remain. During the Civil War the house served as quarters for Union soldiers. After 1865, the house was used as a German beer garden until 1890.

The gardens were popular with visitors. In 1770, Virginian Mary Ambler visited and recorded that she, "took a great deal of Pleasure in looking at the bowling Green & also at the...Very large Falling Garden there...the House...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 there is also a Handsome Court Yard on the other side of the House."

Margaret Tilghman Carroll (1743-1817) at the Garden Facade by Charles Willson Peale (1741-1827)

When John Adams, in Baltimore for a session of the Continental Congress in February of 1777, spoke highly of Mount Clare. "There is a most beautiful walk from the house down to the water; there is a descent not far from the house; you have a fine garden then you descend a few steps and have another fine garden; you go down a few more and have another."

View of Mount Clare from the Terraced Lower Garden area by Charles Willson Peale (1741-1827)

Because the land around the harbor at Baltimore was hilly as it dropped toward the bay, many builders chose terraced falling gardens for the south side of their homes. The terracing of gardens itself served both aesthetic & practical purposes in the colonial Mid-Atlantic.  Pragmatic Mid-Atlantic landowners often constructed their terraces when the dwelling house was newly built; so that the earth, clay, and rubbish that come out of the cellars & foundations could be used to shape the falls.

On the same 1777 visit to Baltimore, John Adams noted in his diary, William Lux's Chatsworth, The seat is named Chatsworth, and an elegant one it is -- the large garden enclosed in lime and before the yard two fine rows of large cherry trees which lead out to the public road. There is a fine prospect about it. Mr. Lux lives like a prince. The grounds included an enclosed 164 ' by 234' terraced garden which fell toward the Baltimore harbor.

William Lux's Chatsworth in Baltimore, Maryland. By the time this map was drawn, Lux's estate had been sold and had become a public pleasure garden called Gray's Gardens. Map detail from Cartographer Charles Varle & Engraver Francis Shallus, Warner and Hann's "Plan of the City and Environs of Baltimore, Respectfully didecated to the Mayor, City Council & Citizens thereof by the Proprietors," 2nd edition (Baltimore, 1801; 1st 1799, drawn in 1797).

On uneven hillsides, terraces created flat areas for planting & helped control erosion. In 1772, Charles Carroll of Annapolis (1702-1782) wrote to his son, Charles Carroll of Carrollton, who was improving his gardens which dropped to the bank of Spa Creek, “If you wish to make a continental slope from ye Gate to ye wash house, I apprehend the Quantity of Water in great Rains going ye way may prove convenient.”  The elder Carroll was still fretting about those garden slopes in 1775, as he wrote his son again: Examine the Gardiner strictly as to...Whether he is an expert at leveling, making grass plots & Bowling Greens, Slopes, & turfing them well.” Carroll was well aware that falls were functional devices which could divert water drainage & reduce soil erosion.

The Carroll family gardens in Annapolis covered about 2 3/4 acres. The Carrolls were the weathiest family in Maryland with hundreds of acres across the state, but their in-town space was limited. Broadening terraces fell 24' from the house to Spa Creek in Annapolis. The garden terrace closest to the water was 50' wide, the next ascending terrace 40' wide, & the terrace closest to the house measured 30' in width. This plan made the 3 story house seem even more imposing when viewed by visitors approaching from the water.  The Carrolls planted the beds of the terraced gardens at their home in the capitol of Maryland with an eye toward practicality. Orderly squares filled with vegetables surrounded by low privet hedges decorated the flats of Carroll’s falls garden. Painter Charles Wilson Peale reported, "the Garden contains a variety of excellent fruit, and the flats are a kitchen garden.”

When New England schoolteacher, Philip Vickers Fithian visited Nomini Hall in Virginia, he recorded in 1773, "From the front yard of the Great a curious Terrace covered finely with Green turf & about five foot high with a slope of eight feet, which appears exceedingly well to persons coming to the front of the house... This Terrace is produced along the Front of the House...before the Front-Doors is a broad flight of steps of the same Height & slope of the Terrace."

Back in New England on 1774, Elihu Ashley reported seeing the house of Massachusettes Loyalist Timothy Ruggles, where the "land descends the the South, and he designs to make three Squares one about four feet above the other, which will make a most agreable Graduation, and if ever finished will be the grandest thing in the Province of its kind." Unfortunately, in 1775, the Rev. Mr. Ruggles left Boston with British Troops heading to Nova Scotia, where he settled permanently. His estates, gardens & all, in Massachusettes were confiscated. When he fled, Ruggles left his daughter, Bathsheba behind in Massachusetts. In 1778, she was hung to death while pregnant for killing her husband Joshua Spooner & stuffing his body down a garden well. Turbulent times.

In the midst of the Revolution that drove Timothy Ruggles away, Virginia military Colonel George Braxton also had his garden on his mind & wrote in a letter home, "I agreed wth Alexander Oliver finish my falling Garden wth a Bolling Green." After the war was over, travelers began to tour the new confederation. Thomas Lee Shippen described Westover on the James River in Virginia in December of 1783, "...commanding a view of a prettily falling grass plat...about 300 by 100 yards in extent."

In July of the same year, Johann David Schoepf visited the garden of father & son botanists John & William & Bartram in Philadelphia, "The Bartram garden is situated on an extremely pleasant slope across the Schuykill."  While the gardens of the Bartram's in Philadelphia did drop toward the water, they were not laid out as traditional falling terraces.

The Bartram garden near Philadelphia.

When the Revolution was won & before he became the nation's first President, George Washington retired to Mount Vernon, where he actively planned & maintained his gardens. In February of 1785, Washington noted in his diary, "Planted ...Brown Berries in the west square in the Second the Fall or slope."

By 1777, terraced falls were so admired along the Rappahannock River in Fredericksburg, Virginia, that 8 lots were offered for sale in the newspaper noting that 4 were already "well improved with a good falling Garden." A 1780 ad in the same paper touted "a good dwelling house with every conveniencey that a family can wish for...a falling garden." House-for-sale advertisements in Maryland also reported terraced gardens.

Map detail from Cartographer Charles Varle & Engraver Francis Shallus, Warner and Hann's "Plan of the City and Environs of Baltimore, Respectfully didecated to the Mayor, City Council & Citizens thereof by the Proprietors," 2nd edition (Baltimore, 1801; 1st 1799, drawn in 1797).

Of the traditional four-bed gardens near Baltimore, 15 sat on terraced falls. Typical of these was merchant John Salmon’s home, which perched atop a Baltimore County hill adjoining the country seat of his fellow merchant, Robert Oliver (1757-1834). Oliver was an Irishman from Belfast who arrived in Baltimore in 1783, working there as a merchant until 1819. The neighbors’ homes had mirror-image four-bed terraced gardens descending in the direction of the bay. Also arriving in Baltimore in 1783, Salmon built a two-story home with a balcony & piazza facing south, overlooking his falling gardens commanding a view of the town, harbor, & harbor below. In 1794, John Salmon's Baltimore property contained, "The garden laid off in beautiful falls." And in January, 1802, a notice announced, "Public of...Richard Chew...1220 acres...situate in Anne-Arundel county, lying on the Chesapeake Bay...a large and elegant garden laid off with falls."

A Baltimore country seat probably more remarkable for its name than its falling gardens was . This home was situated on about 260 acres acquired by David Harris (1752-1809), who built the house & gardens between 1791 & 1793. Harris was the cashier of the Office of Discount & Deposit, a leading banking institution in Baltimore, after which he apparently named his estate.

Chairback by John & Hugh Findley c 1804. View by Francis Guy 1760-1820. Garden Facade of Mount Deposit. Baltimore Country Seat of David Harris (1752-1809) Baltimore Museum of Art.

Nearby in Baltimore sat Bolton, which George Grundy built immediately after he acquired the 30-acre property in 1793. Grundy planned his garden at Bolton to consist of 3 individually fenced rectangular turfed falls dropping south toward the harbor. These terraces were more than 3 times the width of the house, & initially the lowest rectangular terrace was planted in rows to serve as a kitchen garden. Gravel walks defined each terraced division, & a walkway ran from the house bisecting each terrace.

Francis Guy (1760-1820). Bolton From the South Garden Facade. 1800 Maryland Historical Society. Baltimore. Detail from the road down to the Baltimore harbor.

At the turn of the century, Grundy altered the lower garden to a semicircular bed surrounded by a white picket fence that projected from the fencing enclosing the rectangular terrace just above it. In the center of this semicircle was a large flowering tree or group of shrubs surrounded by a circular walkway. Outside of this walkway & within the picket fence were rectangular beds now planted with flowers instead of vegetables & herbs.

Francis Guy (1760-1820). Detail of Bolton From the South Garden Facade. 1800 Maryland Historical Society. Baltimore.

The large flowering tree or group of shrubs in the middle of the lowest flat at Bolton may have been a living bower or arbor. Colonial Americans had for decades planted trees, shrubs, flowering beans & vines for cooling shade. A visitor reported in 1679, “We had nowhere seen so many vines together as we saw here, which had been planted for the purpose of shading the walks on the river side.” In 1787, at Grey’s Gardens near Philadelphia, Manasseh Cutler reported, “At every end, side, and corner, there were summer-houses, arbors covered with vines or flowers or shady bowers encircled with trees and flowering shrubs.”

Francis Guy (1760-1820). Bolton From the South Garden Facade. 1800 Maryland Historical Society. Baltimore. Detail Vegetable Garden at the bottom of the falling terraces.

It is possible that the unusual large circle of shrubs or trees in the midst of Bolton’s garden may have been similar to the one in Salem, North Carolina, where a visitor wrote, “into the garden…we saw…a curiosity…extremely beautiful. It was a large summer house formed of eight cedar trees planted in a circle, the tops whilst young were chained together in the center forming a cone. The immense branches were all cut, so that there was not a leaf, the outside is beautifully trimmed perfectly even & very thick within, were seats placed around and doors or openings were cut, through the branches, it had been planted 40 years.”

Francis Guy (1760-1820). Bolton From the South Garden Facade. 1800 Maryland Historical Society. Baltimore. Detail Lower Garden with the unusual arbor in the center, surrounded by flowering beds.

Terraced gardens continued to appear in the 19th century as settlers moved westward along the Ohio River. These terraced gardens from America's colonies & new republic were often reproduced in the late Victorian period throughout the United States.

Home on the Ohio River early 1800s

Colonial revival gardens usually were built with brick or stone stairways rather than grass ramps leading from one level to the next making walking a little safer. And, perhaps, 19th century gentry drank a little less spirits than their ancestors.

The gardens of the 1844 Lanier Mansion in Madison, Indiana on the Ohio River on the 1876 atlas