Friday, June 30, 2017

Gardening Books in Early America - Classic Roman garden & farm writings

During the late colonial & early federal period, Roman works on farming were recorded in several 18th century colonial libraries including:

~Marcus Porcius Cato (234–149 b.c.) De Agricultura,

~Rutilius Taurus Aemilianus Palladius (4th century a.d.) Secondus' Naturalis Historiae Libri, the letters of Pliny the Younger "translated by Melmoth,"
~Marcus Terentius Varro (116-27 b.c.), Rerum Rusicarum Libri Tres, and many volumes of 
~Lucius Junius Moderatus Columella (approx. 4 b.c. – 65 a.d.), including Of Husbandry and "his book concerning trees translated from the Latin"
Agriculture in ancient Rome was not only a necessity, but it was idealized among the social elite as the most honorable way of life.  Marcus Tullius Cicero (106 BC-43 BC), usually called Cicero, considered farming the best of all Roman occupations. In his treatise On Duties, he declared that "of all the occupations by which gain is secured, none is better than agriculture, none more profitable, none more delightful, none more becoming to a free man."  Cicero defended country life as "the teacher of economy, of industry, and of justice." 

Of course, much Roman advice from the elite about farming was theoretical.  Land ownership was a dominant factor in distinguishing the aristocracy from the common person, and the more country land a Roman gentleman owned, the more important he would be in the city.  The ideal Roman farm would depend on slave labor overseen by freemen, a system familiar in the American south.  The Romans had 4 systems of farm management: direct work by owner & his family; sharecropping in which the owner & a tenant divide up a farm's produce; forced labor by slaves on land owned by aristocrats & supervised by slave managers; & farms leased to tenants.  One way to acquire land was as a reward for going to war.  High ranking soldiers returning from war would often be given small pieces of public land or land in provinces as a way of paying them for their services.  After the American Revolution, the newly formed government instituted a similar plan for those who had fought for their country.

In 18th-century America, most of the personal & public repositories containing these works in the original language also housed either Littleton's Latin Dictionary, Ainsworth's Latin, or Floru's Latin and English to assist in translation.*

Marylander Charles Carroll of Carrollton referred to "Addison's Cato" when writing to a friend in London in 1775.  Cato's writings are a miscellaneous collection of notes rather than an an organized text, giving directions for the care of a farm seemingly based on Cato’s own experience.  But one might question Cato's first-hand experience, as he claimed such a farm should have "a foreman, a foreman's wife, ten laborers, one ox driver, one donkey driver, one man in charge of the willow grove, one swineherd, in all sixteen persons; two oxen, two asses for wagon work, one ass for the mill work."  Cato wrote "when they would praise a worthy man their praise took this form: 'Good husband good farmer'; it is from the farming class that the bravest men and the sturdiest soldiers come." 

Cato writes on diverse farm topics from growing asparagus to curing hams. His general advice on transplanting trees & shrubs would be familiar to 18th-century American planters, “In transplanting olives, elms, figs, fruit trees, vines, pines, and cypresses, dig them up carefully, roots and all, with as much of their own soil as possible … When you place them in the trench, bed them in top soil, spread dirt over them to the ends of the roots, trample it thoroughly and pack with rammers and bars as firmly as possible."

Varro was renowned for the depth of his knowledge in diverse disciplines. He was said to be a prolific writer, but only 6 incomplete books on the Latin language & 3 books on agriculture seem to have survived.  He began his work on agriculture late in life writing it in the form of instructions addressed to his wife, Fundania, for their recently purchased a farm. Varro says that his remarks are "derived from three sources: what I have myself observed by practice on my own land, what I have read, and what I have heard from experts."  He divides the planting year into 8 periods, enumerating tasks for each period. For example, during the 7th period, autumn, he recommends "Planting of lilies and crocus."  He also gives directions for propagating roses: "A rose which has already formed a root is cut from the root up into twigs a palm breadth long and planted; later on the same twig is transplanted when it has made a living root."

Columella, born in Spain, spent much in his youth with his uncle who was a farmer. He warns that reading about agriculture can be instructive, but that to become a farmer it is necessary to put theory  into actual practice. His 12 books on agriculture, Rei rusticae, plus one on trees, De arboribus, constitute the most comprehensive & ordered of all the Roman farm & garden texts. De Rei Rustica begins with a list of his predecessors & makes a point of the importance of agriculture, he speaks of general husbandry & farm management in Book 1. Book 2 is on the cultivation of the land. Books 3, 4 and the 1st part of Book 5 are on viticulture. The last half of Book 5 is dedicated to arboriculture.  Book 6 is on cattle.   Book 7 is devoted to smaller animals, sheep, goats, et al.  Book 8 tells of fowl & fish.  Book 9 is devoted to game & bees.  Later on, Columella added 2 more books.  Book 11 gives information on the tasks of the farm manager & more on horticulture.  Book 12 continues to define the jobs of the villa. Columella defined the 3 main elements of the villa. These include the pars urbana, where the owner lived together with his familia; the pars rustica, where laborers, animals & farm tools were located; & the pars fructuaria, which held the equipment for processing & preserving the harvest. Columella uses the term circa villam to describe the surrounding area, thus emphasising that the villa was associated with agricultural lands. A villa rustica may be thought of as a simple farm, & a villa urbana as a manor – the master's residence.

Columella also writes one book specifically on gardening. Book 10, De cultu hortorum, probably intented to be the last one, has horticulture as its subject. In it Columella becomes a poet treating his garden in verse, following Vergilius. Columella explains that this book is meant to supplement Publius Vergilius Maro (70 BC-19 BC), usually called VirgilGeorgica, 4 books on agriculture in which Virgil describes life & work of the countryman. Agriculture, viticulture, lifestock, & apiculture are all examined by Virgil. 

Virgil's Georgics (Book IV) cites the life of bees as a model for human society + the story of Aristaeus and the bees. 1502

In Book 10, Columella gives advice on tilling, manuring, watering & weeding gardens. At the first sign of spring the gardener,

Should with rich mould or asses’ solid dung
Or other ordure glut the starving earth …
Now let him with the hoe’s well-sharpened edge
Again attack the earth’s surface packed with rain
And hard with frost; then with the tooth of rake
Or broken mattock mix the living turf
With clods of earth and all the crumbling wealth
Of the ripe field set free …

Despite the practical advice in Columella’s work, he also repeats local customs & superstitions. One could ward off pests by having a barefoot girl experiencing her first menstruation walk 3 times around a field, & then a shower of smooth skinned apples or of bark-thatched acorns rains down when the tree is shaken, so writhing caterpillars are tumbled to earth.  Columella also warns that "grain offers little profit compared to wine."  Perhaps it was a matter of personal preference of wine over bread.

Palladius' manual is entirely arranged in calendar form, giving agricultural hints for each month of the year, beginning with January.  The 1st printed work on agriculture is the 1471 Ruralia commoda by Pietro de Crescenzi (c 1230–c 1320) issued just a year before the editio princeps of the 4 classical era agricultural texts. Crescenzi’s is a much more practical approach to agriculture, actually based on hands-on experience on his own country estate near Bologna. It incorporated advice from classical authorities such as Palladius & Columella, supplemented with detailed information on general plant & animal husbandry, with some ornamental gardening as well.  Originally written in Latin, it was quickly translated into Italian, French, & German.

The 4 Roman writers on agriculture were frequently found published together in a single volume, under the general title Scriptores rei rusticate.  The 1735 edition of the 4 Roman texts by Johann Matthias Gesner (1691–1761), a German language & literature scholar, is considered to be one of the best, including commentaries & even notes.

In 1742, Eliza Lucas Pinckney in South Carolina, wrote a letter to her friend Miss Bartlett, "I have got no further than the first volume of Virgil but was most agreeable disappointed to find myself instructed in agriculture as well as entertained by his charming pen, for I am persuaded tho' he wrote in and for Italy, it will in many instances suit Carolina...the calm and diction of pastoral and gardening agreeably presented themselves, not unsuitably to this charming season of the year, with which I am so much delighted."  Eliza was writing the letter on a glorious Carolina spring day.

Growing interest in classical farming techniques & theories spurred Adam Dickson to write Husbandry of the Ancients published in Edinburgh in 1788.  Virginian George Wythe (1726 –1806), law professor, classics scholar, & judge, owned a copy of the essays of Cato, Varro, & Collubella in Adam Dickson's Husbandry of the Ancients.  Although he was not a farmer or a gardener, he thought this collection was so important, that he left it to Thomas Jefferson in 1806.

Boy holding a platter of fruits & what may be a bucket of crabs, in a kitchen with fish & squid, on the June panel from a mosaic depicting the months (3rd century)

~Linguae latinae liber dictionarius quadripartitus: Dr. Adam Littleton's (1627-1694) Latin dictionary, in four parts. An English-Latin. A Latin-classical. An Latin-proper. A Latin-barbarous D. Brown, 1715
~Thesavrvs Lingvae Latinae Compendiarivs Or, A Compendious Dictionary of the Latin Tongue: Designed Chiefly for the Use of the British Nations. Robert Ainsworth (1660-1743) W. Mount and T. Page, 1751
~John Clarke's Florus, Latin and English. 1774

For more information on Roman agriculture, see

~Bakels, Corrie & Stefanie Jacomet, “Access to Luxury Foods in Central Europe during the Roman Period: The Archaeobotanical Evidence.” In World Archaeology, Vol. 34, No. 3, Luxury Foods (February, 2003), 542-557.
~Dalby, Andrew (2003), Food in the ancient world from A to Z, London, New York: Routledge,
~Erdkamp, Paul .The Grain Market in the Roman Empire. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2005
~Garnsey, Peter. Food and Society in Classical Antiquity. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1999.
~Garnsey, Peter and Richard P. Saller, The Roman Empire: Economy, Society, and Culture. Berkley: University of California Press, 1987.
~Garnsey P.  Famine and Food Supply in the Graeco-Roman World. Cambridge University Press. 1988
~Giacosa I.G. 1992. A Taste of Ancient Rome. University of Chicago Press.
~Grant, Michael. History of Rome. London: Weidenfeld and Nicolson, 1978.
~Haywood, Richard Mansfield. Ancient Rome. New York: David McKay Company, Inc., 1867.
~Killgrove K. Migration and mobility in Imperial Rome. 2010 PhD dissertation, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.
~Spurr, M. S. Arable Cultivation in Roman Italy – c.200 B.C.-C.A.D. 100. London: The Society for the Promotion of Roman Studies, 1986.
~Vogt, Joseph. The Decline of Rome: The Metamorphosis of Ancient Civilisation. London: Weidenfeld and Nicolson, 1965.
~White, Kenneth D. “The Efficiency of Roman Farming under the Empire.” In Agricultural History, Vol. 30, No. 2 (April, 1956), 85-89.

Wednesday, June 28, 2017

Why Garden? To impress Visitors & Passers-By

House & garden tours are not a new phenomenon. Eighteenth-century Chesapeake gentry & artisans alike enjoyed viewing gardens on their journeys & in their local neighborhoods & believed that one could tell a lot about people by the gardens they kept. Serious gardeners & even dedicated gossips recorded their observations. Annapolis silversmith & clockmaker William Faris, strolling the streets of Annapolis, jotted notes in his journal about his neighbors’ gardens.
Jonathan Buddington, View of the Cannon House and Wharf in Lower Manhattan, NY with Passers-By (detail) 1792 

John Adams was an inveterate garden watcher & often judged the status of his contemporaries by what he saw. He took note of Baltimore gardens in the winter of 1777, when the Continental Congress met there. At William Lux’s 1750s country seat, Chatsworth, he noted, “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 princely grounds, which included a 164-by-234-' terraced garden, were late sold to become a commercial garden & renamed Gray’s Garden.

Lux chose to protect his investment by building a stone wall directly connecting Chatsworth’s central-axis, symmetrical garden to the house, a feature it shared with several of the earliest Chesapeake gardens. Holly Hill, Maryland’s oldest surviving seventeenth-century brick house, had a geometrically balanced walled garden directly adjoining the L-shaped building. Bacon’s Castle, Virginia’s earliest seventeenth-century brick dwelling, was an exception. It’s rectangular garden was only partially walled & not connected to the main house. The Bacon’s Castle garden was set off to the side & was not a Palladian progression of the geometric lines of the dwelling.

Inside its brick wall, William Lux defined Chatsworth’s grounds by creating eight equal-sized rectangles, or “oblongs” as English garden authority Philip Miller called them. Miller, whose work The Gardeners Dictionary was widely read in the colonial Chesapeake, recommended central-axis gardens with matching squares on either side of a gravel walk leading out from a door at the center of the house. Most colonial gardeners adopted Miller’s advice & build their garden beds twice as long as broad. By mid-century, main-axis symmetry dominated most mid-Atlantic gardens.

William Lux planned Chatsworth’s walled garden before the Revolution, in the still wild Baltimore countryside, & he probably felt safer with the control a wall afforded him. His garden was reminiscent of medieval European walled gardens, which closed out interlopers & in which humans molded nature to their own uses. In late European walled gardens, the owners often toiled to perfect the Neoplatonic ideal of producing perfect examples of flowers & rare plants. There visitors could admire specimens of imported exotic as well as native plants either in pots or planted directly in the soil. And so it was in the colonies. Men & women alike became plant hunters in seventeenth- & 18th-century North America. They excitedly exchanged plants & sent new species back to England & Europe for study. William Byrd, in his diary entry for April 10, 1720, wrote of entertaining guests at Westover in Virginia: “After dinner we walked in the garden and I showed them several rarities.”

By mid-century, city-dwelling gentry, in the quickly growing towns up & down the Atlantic, often build brick-walled gardens as well. Charles Carroll of Carollton incorporated a wall into his grounds in Annapolis in 1774; his neighbor William Paca (1740-99) had enclosed his garden with a brick wall nearly a decade earlier. Brick walls were expensive & available to only a few in early America, but the served useful proposes. They kept vegetables & fruits safe from intrusion, & they announced that the owners were persons of means.

The Paca House garden, reconstructed in the 1970s, is unusual in that its main walk does not lead from a center door on the garden façade, so the garden does not sit on a central axis, relative to the house. The garden, for years buried under a paved parking lot, was restored as a typical geometric & symmetrical garden on the top terraces. The lowest terrace Paca designed with a lake & a summerhouse in a contrived naturalistic style. Charles Willson Peale included this lower terrace in a portrait of William Paca, & it is the only documented space in the garden. Paca had just retuned from England when he began building his garden in the 1760s, so he would have been familiar with the natural style in vogue in Britain at that moment.

Paca’s house, also built in the 1760s, was not at all large compared to the homes of English gentry, but for Annapolis it was quite grand. The brick structure comprises a 48-by-44-' two-story center section & two single-story wings-a kitchen wing of 32 by 16 ' and a corresponding office wing of the same size. Paca purchased two 198-by-198-' lots for his house & gardens. The gardens he planned consisted of three falls, narrowing as the dropped 16 ½ ' to the naturalized lowest level featuring the summerhouse & a Chinese-style bridge over a pond. Archaeologists found that the terrace closest to the house measured 80 ' in width, the next 55 ', & the last 40 '. This design allowed those viewing the two-acre garden from the house to see grounds that appeared larger than reality. Using optics to created an illusion of larger houses & grounds was particularly important in colonial Chesapeake towns, where space was limited, but the need to appear important was boundless.

Chesapeake gentry considered Oriental embellishments, such as the bridge in the Paca garden, high style in this period. In 1762 Philadelphia diarist Hannah Callender wrote of a local garden, “In the midst is a Chinese temple for a summer house.” Using Oriental designs signaled to those passing by & stopping in that the owner was a refined, genteel leader in society. Both summerhouses & temples served as social gathering sites in 18th-century America. Although in the Chesapeake they often sat on naturally elevated grounds, Paca placed his at the of his terraces.

Sloping falls gardens, such as Lux built in Baltimore & Paca built in Annapolis, could be found up & down the Atlantic coast throughout the 18th century. Because the topography of the area allowed it, many Chesapeake gentry whose homes sat on a rise of ground terraced their gardens. Many of these falls sloped down to a body of water, & the main approach to colonial houses was often by water.

Aesthetically, terraces provided a setting for he house, a pleasing view from upper stories, & a platform for surveying the surrounding countryside. 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 prospect….one 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 & the observed could have no doubt that here lived a person destined to be in charge.

Charles Carroll of Carrollton, a signer of the Declaration of Independence, & his father were spending the decade of the 1770s worrying about the political direction of the colony & designing geometric gardens for their Annapolis home. Their gardens covered about 2 ¾ acres. Broadening terraces fell 24 ' from the house to Spa Creek. The garden terrace closest to the water was 50 ' wide, the next ascending terrace 40 ' wide, & the garden terrace, closest to the 45-'-long house, measured 30 ' in width. Their plan made the three-story house seem even more imposing when viewed by visitors approaching from the water, & made the water seem closed & broader when viewed from the house. The younger Carroll realized that a perception of superiority could work to his detriment in society. In a letter to a friend he wrote, “There is a mean low dirty envy which creeps thro’ the ranks and cannot suffer a superiority of fortune, of merit, or of understanding …my fortune will certainly make me an object of envy.” Nonetheless, it was an unsteady time in the colonies, and a visual representation of power & control probably would not hurt.

At the bottom of the terraces, where a walkway ran 400 ' along the water’s edge, the Carrolls places octagonal summerhouses, at each end of the walkway. “I like my pavilions,” wrote the younger Carroll, “they are rather small.” Between the pavilions, ladies often fished off of the walkway.

Many colonials referred to the level area of a terrace as “the flat.” They would plant these flats either in turf or in garden beds. The latter could include ornamental flowers as well as the useful vegetables & herbs that the Carrolls chose for their flats.

Terraced gardens usually had three to five terraces, the flats of which were planted with turf, or flowers, or fruits & vegetables & the sloping fronts & sides faced with turf. Garden visitors & workers moved between levels by walking up & down these grass ramps, called falls or slopes.

“I…oblige myself…to layout the next Garden or flatt from the Terras below.”

Falls appear very early in Virginia. Some speculate that falling gardens existed at Green Spring, build by Governor Alexander Spotswood installed terraced gardens at the Governor’s Palace in Williamsburg between 1715 & 1719. Later the governor build his private estate, the Enchanted Castle, near Germanna, where William Byrd II came to call on September 28, 1732, & later reported, “the Garden…has…3 Terrace Walks that fall in Slopes one below another.” In the 1750s Speaker of the House Burgesses John Robinson installed “a large falling garden enclosed with a good brick wall” at his plantation, Pleasant Hill, overlooking the Mattaponi River.

It is certain that Virginian Lewis Burwell in the 1730s constructed a long rectangular garden, about 220 ' wide & extending almost 500 ' south from the house down to he James River, on his plantation, Kingsmill. Three turfed terraces led down to a large enclosed kitchen garden, which was divided into quadrants by two central walkways. Unlike the falls in Maryland gardens, Burwell’s were connected by stone steps rather than grass ramps. This same design was chosen by his cousin Carter Burwell in 1751 for the gardens at Carter’s Grove, near Williamsburg.

Also in the 1730s, Landon Carter, a son of wealthy planter Robert “King” Carter, built similar terraces at Sabine Hall on the north side of the Rappahannock River in Virginia. (He named his estate after Horace’s villa outside of Rome, Sabine Farm.) Landon Carter’s riverfront garden consisted of six deep terraces spanning the width of the house. His terraces were so steep that he “almost…disjointed” his hip by “walking in the garden” in 1764. Steeply terraced gardens could prove deadly in fact. Charles Carroll of Annapolis died, in 1783, as a result of a fall in his garden.

Terraced falls were popular among the Virginia gentry building in towns as well in the 18th century. In the city of Richmond, Colonel Richard Adams and his son Dr. John Adams built homes with gardens falling toward the James River near old St. John’s Church. Farther north, William Fitzhugh added terraced gardens to his home, Chatham, on the Rappahannock River near Fredericksburg. Nearby, Colonel Frances Thornton & his father adorned The Falls & Fall Hill with terraces to the Rappahannock. In fact, terraced falls were so admired in Fredericksburg, that in 1777 eight lots were offered for sale with the notation that four were already “well improved with a good falling garden.” In 1780 another Fredericksburg newspaper advertisement touted “a good dwelling house with every conveniencey that a family can wish for…a falling garden.”

Greatly enamored of falls gardens, the gentry build them on any available natural rise, not just on riverbanks. In 1747 Colonel John Tayloe built five grassy terraces at Mount Airy, even though the Rappahannock was three miles away. Virginians kept building falls gardens well into the 19th century.

A few English country house gardens of the 18th century are depicted with classical terraces on their grounds, but apparently they were the exception rather than the rule, or they were not notable enough to record. The majority of early America’s terraced gardens were similar to the balanced, rectangular plan portrayed in Englishman William Lawson’s early-seventeenth-century work A New Orchard and Garden. Chesapeake garden design was almost untouched by the excesses & ostentations aspects of Italian Baroque & French grand manner garden styles of the time, & very little influenced by the 18th-century English natural grounds reaction to those formalities. Time, distance, an ideologies blunted their extremes of style.

As the population grew & colonists building in the countryside felt safer from intrusion by unwelcome people & animals, homeowners began to consider the aesthetic possibilities of opening up their gardens to the surrounding landscape. Unlike their English cousins, few in British America manipulated the structure & layout of the existing natural countryside outside of the grounds immediately surrounding their homes, & few owned all the land they surveyed about them.

Up & down the Atlantic seaboard, where the topography allowed, house sitting practices harked back to the defensive habit of building on the high ground. People continued to look for the highest situation, in part so they could remain on vistas & views available from the pinnacle of the property. The famous architect Benjamin Henry Latrobe wrote in 1798, “When you stand upon the summit of a hill, and see an extensive country of woods and fields without interruption spread before you, you look at it with pleasure…this pleasure is perhaps very much derived from a sort of consciousness of superiority of positions to all the monotony below you.”

Visitors often used the powerful verb command to describe the placement of a dwelling on a site surrounded with vistas. People noted that houses on high ground were situated on an “eminence.” Homage to power was due to the owner. Even when the houses themselves were unfinished or left to decay, impressive sites were still admired. In June 1760 Andrew Burnaby was traveling through Annapolis & noted, “the governor’s palace is not finished…it is situated very finely upon an eminence, and commands a beautiful view of the town and environs.” Five years later Lord Adam Gordon similarly described the still unfinished governor’s house: “the Situation is most Elegant…commanding the view of the Town, the River Severn, the Bay, and all the Creeks.”

In British America, gentlemen continued to construct mounts well into the 18th century. The gardens at George Mason’s Gunston Hall in Virginia are flanked by mounts overlooking the Potomac River. British Colonel Secretary William Eddis wrote of a house in Annapolis on October 1, 1769, “The garden is not extensive, but it is disposed to the utmost advantage; the center walk is terminated by a small green mount…commands an extensive view of the bay and the adjacent country.”

Bowling greens--smooth, level lawns used for playing bowls--capped many colonial falling gardens. Most bowling greens measured 100 by 200 ', & many were sunk slightly below the level of the ground surrounding them. Sometimes called “squares” in late-18th- & early-19th-century America, bowling greens offered beauty & ornament as well as recreation. As early as 1666 southern colonials “found…a plaine place before the great round house for their bowling recreation.” In the mid-Atlantic & South, playing at bowls often involved wagering. William Byrd wrote in his diary on May 5, 1721, “After dinner we walked to the bowling green where I lost five shilling.”

Flowers Planted to Impress

Before the Revolution, colonial gardeners sometimes created intricately designed beds of flowers. The most ambitious early gardeners attempted flower knots. In 1749, a house for sale advertisement touted “a garden, genteelly laid out in walks and alleys, with flower-knots, & laid round with bricks.” Flower knots were beds formed into curious, complicated, and fanciful shapes meant to please the eye, especially when seen from a higher elevation.

Flower knot designs sometimes imitated the intricate patterns of the embroidery and cut work executed by needleworkers of the time. The length of the flower knot bed was generally about one and a third times the width. Beds separated by narrow paths were usually mirror images of each other, their patterns repeated at the ends of the sections created within them.

Garden historian Rosemary Verey had written that 18th-century American gardens may have retained their formality because “in England the countryside had already been tamed by years of husbandry, while in America each new plantation was surrounded by wild, untamed land, to be kept at bay, not emulated.” Others, such as Elizabeth Pryor, have speculated that the alluring beauty of the natural landscape surrounding the Chesapeake Bay may help explain why gardeners were not seduced by the naturalistic style sweeping England. The Chesapeake woods, continuously cleared of underbrush by Indian fires, already resembled the “improved” landscape in the watercolors of English landscape architect Humphry Repton. In fact, another visitor to Howard’s home wrote: & “its grounds formed a beautiful slant toward the Chesapeake. From the taste with which they were laid out, It would seem that America is already possessed of a …Repton. The spot thus indebted to Nature and judiciously embellished was an enchanting within its own proper limits as in the fine view which extended far beyond them. The foreground possessed luxurious shrubberies and sloping lawns; the distance, the line of the Patapsco and he country bordering on the Chesapeake.” Another visitor to Belvedere claimed to “rejoice in the vistas and the sensations they inspire.”

Among the Howards’ oldest neighbors was an Irish physician. Dr. Henry Stevenson (1721-1814), who had one of the earliest terraced gardens in the Baltimore area. His grounds displayed a flat four-bed garden on the north side of his home, called Parnassus, which Stevenson started constructing in 1763 & completed in 1769. On the south side of the house, facing the harbor, he built a bowling green & five grass terraces. A roadway wide enough for a horse-drawn wagon bisected the grass terraces up to the bowling green, & Stevenson planted double rows of trees across the width of the house, creating alleys along the outer edge of the fences that lined the terraces up to the house.

Another Baltimore county seat adorned with statues was built by Charles Carroll the Barrister (1723-83) in the early 1760s. Mount Clare stood just a mile from the Patapsco River. Its entrance façade was surrounded by a semicircular white picket fence extending from the dependencies to a spot directly in from of the main doorway. Statues of lions sat on pedestals on either side of the walkway leading to the central door. The terraced garden façade of Mount Clare was popular with visitors.

In 1770, Virginian Mary Ambler visited Mount Clare and recorded that she “took a great deal of Pleasure in looking at the bowling Green & also at the …very large Falling Garden thee is a Green House with a good many Orange & Lemon Trees just ready to bare…the House…stands upon a very High Hill & had 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 thee 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.”

Garden watcher 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 find garden then you descent a few steps and have another fine garden; you go down a few more and have another.”

The 18th-century pleasure gardens growing on the hillsides of the Chesapeake Bay were strikingly similar to the pleasure gardens that dotted the hills of Rome during an earlier republican era. Even town gardens of the middling classes harked back to classical precedents. The garden was the gentleman’s stage & a device with which to help define his position in the emerging republic. Order, control, & regularity dominated garden designs as landowners structured their external environments to project a positive image of themselves to passers-by. The 19th century would see gardens grow less & less formal, & in the 1840s Andrew Jackson Downing would vigorously promote an American natural grounds movement.

Monday, June 26, 2017

Why Garden? For Profit...

Gardening for Profit

Philadelphia seed dealer and nurseryman Bernard M’Mahon’s main motive for writing the 1806 American Gardener's Calendar was to expand his profitable nursery enterprise, which supplied seeds & plants to many gardeners up & down the Atlantic coast, from gentry to artisan. Almost all of America’s earliest indigenous gardening books served as the liaison between the nurseryman & an emerging middle-income group of home gardeners.

As increasing leisure time & interest in gardening grew, there were not enough trained professional gardeners to go around nor excess funds to employ them. A new how-to-do-it manual was just what the country needed.

English gardening books, American gardening books, plants & other supplies, & the practice of gardening itself fit into the new nation’s burgeoning capitalistic fervor at the end of the 18th century. In addition to professional gardeners & seed dealers & nurserymen like M’Mahon, whose numbers grew quickly after the Revolution, non-professional gardeners of every stripe often sold nature’s products to gain extra income.

George Washington encouraged his gardener to sell extra nursery stock for a profit, one-fifth of which he allowed the gardener to keep.

Nobleman Henri Stier, who had fled Belgium during the French Revolution, had a bulb sale, when he moved back there from Annapolis in 1803. Once he had returned to Belgium, he bought bulbs in Europe & shipped them to his old Chesapeake neighbors.

Annapolis craftsman William Faris, in his fiscal account book for October 23, 1799, noted receiving the substantial sum of $40 for tulip bulbs from John Quynn. Fellow Annapolitans Alexander Contee Hanson & Thomas Harwood, & Captain John O’Donnell from Baltimore visited his garden to mark tulips & hyacinths that interested them; after the blooms faded Faris dug up the marked roots & sold, or traded, them to the gentlemen.

Saturday, June 24, 2017

Why Garden? For Inspiration & Remembrance...

Gardening for Inspiration & Remembrance

Plantings of both trees & flowers triggered emotional responses in both garden owners & vistors. In the British American colonies, some groves of trees were planted for remembrance honoring a passed friend or relative. Groves were often seen as solemn, whether intentionally planted as a memorial or not.
Eliza Lucas Pinckney (1722-1793) wrote in a letter in 1742, from Charleston, South Carolina, "You may wonder how I could in this gay season think of planting a Cedar grove, which rather reflects an Autumnal gloom and solemnity than the freshness and gayty of spring. But so it is...I intend then to connect in my grove the solemnity (not the solidity) of summer or autumn with the cheerfulness and pleasures of spring, for it shall be filled with all kind of flowers, as well wild as Garden flowers, with seats of Camomoil and here and there a fruit tree--oranges, nectrons, Plumbs."

American colonists understood that flowers were inspirational symbols for higher thoughts. In 1766, Charles Carroll of Carrollton (1737-1782) wrote to a friend from Annapolis, “If you have a turn for gardening or for exotick Plants & flowers I shall perhaps be able to send you such of these which as uncommon in England may afford you some pleasure as a florist, or matter of thought & speculation as a naturalist, or Philosopher.”

Flowers could signify a personal friend as well as a distant hero. William Gordon wrote George Washington (1732-1799) in 1786, “Shall I endeavor to furnish your garden…with flowers & plants that may keep up the remembrance of an absent friend.”

Becoming a gardener helped a person understand the cycle of life & death, & many American gardeners chose to bury their loved ones in their gardens & went there to remember departed relatives & friends. If the spiritual garden was the place we all began, they reasoned, then it was comforting to return to the garden when we died. Where sufficient land was available, a cemetery was often created adjacent to the garden. As one traveler recorded in 1790, “It is very common to see in large plantations in Virginia, & not far from the dwelling house, cemeteries walled in, where the people of the family are all buried. These cemeteries are generally built adjoining the garden.”

Christoper Wormley (1646-1701), in his 1698 Middlesex County, Virginia will, asked to be buried "in my own Garden and Betwixt my first wife..." Wormley's first wife Frances Armistead died in 1685, and his second wife Elizabeth Travers died in 1693, and he obviously did not want to play favorites. In the same county, Joshua & Thomas Long reserved a part of a tract that they were offering for sale "a certain Spott...twenty foot square Lying in the orchard it being the place where their father and mother were buryed."

Employees as well as relatives were buried in southern plantation gardens. At Nomini Hall on June 23, 1789, Robert Carter (1728-1804) recorded, “On Saturday the 20th June Mr. George Randell departed this Life & his Remains were interred in the Garden near to the Grave of Mr. Jos. Taylor School Master.”

Burying a dear one close to home may have resulted from a concern in addition to remebrance. Some preferred burial in their own gardens was security. In his journal on January 29, 1774, Philip Vickers Fithian (1747-1776), visiting Nomini Hall in Virginia, quoted his host, Robert Carter, on this subject, “he much dislikes the common method of making Burying Yards round Churches…almost open to every Beast…he would choose to be laid under a shady Tree where he might be undisturbed, & sleep in peace & obscurity---He told us, that with his own hands he planted, & is with great diligence raising a Catalpa-Tree at the Head of his Father who lies in his Garden.”

Others felt that burying the dead in a common community or church cemetery was too impersonal and made the sight & thought of death too familiar. One observer commented, Instead of producing those solemn thoughts & encouraging those moral propensities…it renders death & the grave such familiar objects to the eye as to prevent them from awakening any serious regard…&…to eradicate every emotion naturally excited by the remembrance of the deceased.”

The peace & quite of a personal garden or a peaceful grove of trees, especially one planned & tended by the survivor, was seen as the most appropriate & intimate place to reflect & remember. A writer explained in the 1811 Philadelphia Port Folio, "My garden is my scene of reflection, and of rational amusement. If I wish to indulge myself in that pleasing melancholy, which is sometimes so grateful to the imagination, I repair to my garden."

Thursday, June 22, 2017

Why Garden? For Refuge & Redemption...

Gardening in Early America for Refuge & Redemption

In a garden one could order a small corner of the world & each spring begin life all over again.
Nancy Shippen, daughter of Alice Lee Shippen of Stratford Hall in Virginia, had married Col. Henry Beekman Livingston, from a rich, New York family, in March 1781.  Nancy, just 18, moved to his house in Rhinebeck on the Hudson, with Livingston family.  There she soon learned that he was insanely jealous & had several illegitimate children, some with slaves.  Nancy, pregnant soon after marriage, moved back to her parent's house in Philadelphia to give birth to a girl they named Peggy.  She tried to mend her marriage by returning to the Livingston home in Rhinebeck, but left for good in the spring of 1783.  By 1784, Nancy Shippen, whose philandering husband had assumed custody of their only child, retreated with her mother to a country house that was “pleasantly situated on a hill with a green Meadow before it.” Behind the house were “a garden & a nursery of trees,” to which she directed daily attention.  She wrote in her journal of the consolation she expected to find there. Although she could not help feeling like an outcast, “with all these conveniences,” she declared, “I ought to be contented.”  

For centuries gardening had appealed to some fundamental spiritual need of humans, whose religions traditionally depicted a garden as the ideal abode for mankind on this earth & beyond. The ordered garden was, after all, Everyman’s refuge from the terrifying unknown, & certain evils, known & unknown.

The garden offered sanctuary from the threat of wild nature & escape from barbarian outsiders. The great garden of the vast American frontier held some frightening connotations for many early colonists. New Englander Michael Wigglesworth wrote of it in 1662, A waste & howling wilderness,
where none inhabited
But hellish fiends, & brutish men
That devils worshipped.

The evils of avarice & the injustices of power politics drove even wealthy colonists to seek spiritual refuge in a nature, that they ordered around themselves.

In 1771, as frustrations with England mounted, a future signer of the Declaration of Independence, Charles Carroll of Carrollton, wrote to a friend, “The wisest Philosophers, the greatest poets, & the best men have constantly placed the most perfect sublime happiness in rural retirement. Under the shades of Forrests statesmen have sought happiness having in vain sought after it in the perplexed mazes of ambition & interest.”
Charles Willson Peale (741-1827) Portrait of John Beale Bordley America was viewed by some as a seedbed in which to establish natural spirituality; & gardening was one method to nurture higher values. John Beale Bordley (1727-1804) gave up the public life in Annapolis to pursue experimental agriculture & moved to a 1600-acre Wye Island estate he acquired in 1770. He was instrumental in founding, the 1785 Philadelphia Society for Promoting Agriculture, an association whose membership included 23 Marylanders by 1798.  In his 1797 Essays & Notes on Husbandry & Rural Affairs, Bordley offered his ideas on keeping the common man happy on the farm. He suggested that each worker be given a garden 80, 90, or 100 feet square, because “it was observed by a clergyman…cottagers who had a garden were generally sober, industrious & healthy; & those who had no garden, were often drunken, lazy, vicious & ailing.”

Thomas Jefferson agreed with Bordley. Jefferson wrote to James Madsion in 1785 that, "It is not too soon to provide by every possible means that as few as possible shall be without a little portion of land. The small landholders are the most precious part of a state."

Interestingly, there is a high correlation between those with whom Annapolis craftsman William Faris shared church membership & those with whom he exchanged plants & gardening advice. Even though it was 20 years after the colonial period of mandatory church attendance, the people Faris came to know through nearby St. Anne’s Church formed the nucleus of his pleasure gardening colleagues.

The garden was a symbolic religious battleground, where good battled evil, where temptation & sin were overcome by forgiveness & reconciliation. Philadelphia seed dealer, & writer Bernard M'Mahon (1775-1816) wrote that gardening could even end dangerous “intemperance.”

Tuesday, June 20, 2017

Why Garden? For Enlightenment...

Gardening for Enlightenment

The end of the 18th century saw increased social stability in the colonies & a climax of a revolution in science, associated with Sir Isaac Newton, that resulted in fundamental changes in man’s attitude toward the world about him. For the enlightened Chesapeake gardener, the garden nourished mind & spirit as well as body. The American pleasure garden became a visual expedient, combining the religious Eden myth with an evolving set of social & political goals, espoused by, among others, Thomas Jefferson & later by J. Hector St. John de Crevecoeur.

These religious & social concepts coincided with revolutionary new ideas about human beings’ conceptual processes that were shaped by John Locke & Joseph Addison. In the 18th century, Locke was interpreted to believe that visual images, such as those of the garden, were the primary conduit through which humans gained knowledge of external reality.
Joseph Addison 1672-1719 wrote of a spectrum of modes of perception, with the gross sensual pleasures at one pole & pure intellect at the other. The garden was an ideal illustration of Addison’s conceptual theory; because it appealed to all of the senses of the human animal, who tended to submerge these instincts, as he became more cerebral. The goal was some balance of the two. Addison stated, “We find the works of nature still more pleasant, the more they resemble those of art.” Nature & the garden were vehicles to sharpen both intellect & spirit. Just after reading Addison’s works, one Chesapeake gentleman wrote to a friend, “The imagination acts intuitively; it seizes at once the sublimest parts as the eye catches objects. Nature, Hills, rocks, woods, precipices, water-falls rush upon the mind.”

Later, Crevecoeur saw the virgin American land filling Everyman’s mind with irresistible aspirations, but he too believed that pure nature was not as inspiring as improved nature. Landscape should be ordered by humans, a collaboration of human vision & toil plus nature’s spontaneous process. “This formerly rude soil has been converted by my father into a pleasant farm,” he wrote, “and in return it has established all our rights.” Crevecoeur saw a direct relationship between ordering the land & gaining political freedom. He theorized that people, like plants, derived their “flavor” from the soil, & he declared that America’s soil was still pure. Crevecoeur believed that in America, with its newly emerging institutions, the relationship between people & the external environment they shaped around them was extremely important.

In his Notes on Virginia, Jefferson stated that the physical attributes of the land were less important than its metaphoric powers. The land was an image in the mind of the new American citizen, representing aesthetic, political, & religious values. In Notes, Jefferson wrote, "Cultivators of the earth are the most virtuous and independant citizens." In the 18th century, the garden was seen by many as an important visual determinant in the actions & responses of people.

Even a clockmaker-innkeeper was aware of the impact of these ideas on his life in the newly emerging nation; among the names William Faris gave the tulips he cultivated were “Sir Isaac Newton,” “The Spectator,” “Jefferson” & “The Farmer.”

Literate citizens of the new nation were looking to the Italian Renaissance & its classical antecedents for artistic & scientific knowledge, as well as for guidance in establishing their new republic. The 1783 catalogue of the circulating library in Annapolis & the 1796 catalogue of the Library Company of Baltimore offered their patrons Renaissance authors, such as Palladio, & their classical predecessors: Virgil, Horace, Pliny, & Columella. Columella believed that agriculture & gardening were “sister to wisdom.”

Sunday, June 18, 2017

Why Garden? To Create Art & A Personal Stage

Gardening as Art & Theater

Philadelphia author & garden shop owner Bernard M’Mahon consistently referred to gardening as an art, just as his friend Thomas Jefferson did throughout his lifetime.

In 1779, when Jefferson was governor of Virginia & a member of the Board of Visitors at the College of William & Mary, curriculum reforms resulted in the appointment of Robert Andrews as “Professor of Moral Philosophy, the Laws of Nature & of Nations, & of the Fine Arts.” Jefferson defined the fine arts as “Sculpture, Painting, Gardening, Music, Adventure, Poetry, Oratory, Criticism.”

In the 1783 Catalogue of the Annapolis Circulating Library, where books were grouped in categories, the section containing books on pleasure gardening was titled “Gardening, Poems, Plays, etc.” Jefferson even wrote of his garden in terms of art. In 1807, Jefferson wrote, “The canvas trimmed very high, so as to give the appearance of open ground.”

As most literate 18th-century Americans were well aware, the educated man of the Italian Renaissance hoped to be at least knowledgeable in all of the fine arts, from painting, sculpture, & music to architecture & gardening. M’Mahon was conversant in classical letters, including history & literature.

M'Mahon knew that under Louis XIV, the French carried to its culmination the Italian Renaissance rationale for ordering the external environment for both use & ornament.

In France, the concept of unifying the structure with its setting evolved into a theatrical presentation of the geometric house, balanced with a descending progression of architectural elements, such as smaller buildings, fences, gates, & steps. The great house & its dependencies were set at the pinnacle of an array of landscape features that led up to it. It was a formula adopted in the British American colonies & early republic.

These designs were the work of powerful people engaged in the ultimate battle--trying to control nature. In France, complicated, controlled inert parterres outlined by clipped hedges, statues, topiary, & planned groves of trees connected the whole with the natural countryside surrounding it.

Here was the supreme unity of architecture, the decorative arts, the garden, & the natural site. Just as it had for centuries, the 18th century American garden was meant to define & expand the image of its owner.
Joseph Barrell c1767 by John Singleton Copley, Worcester Art Museum.

The Reverend William Bentley (1759-1819), describing the garden of Boston merchant Joseph Barrell, wrote that he was taken to Barrell's garden where he, “Was politely received by Mr. Barrell who shewed me in large & elegant arrangements for amusement & philosophical experiment.” Joseph Barrell’s garden was his stage. Here he excitedly explained each garden plant & unique features to his exhausted guests until well after dark. Barrell's garden was his stage.  William Bentley was an American Unitarian minister, scholar, columnist, and diarist. He possessed the second best library in the United States (after Thomas Jefferson), and was an indefatigable reader and collector of information at the local national and international level. 
The house Joseph Barrell built in Somerville, MA. The view of country seats & gardens sitting high up on the American landscape inspired patriotic feelings in some observers and certainly elevated the owner to some exaulted plateau. Of Joseph Barrell’s grounds one visitor wrote in 1794,
Where once the breastwork
mark’d the scenes of blood,
While Freedom’s sons inclossed the haughty foe,
Rearing its head majestic from afar
The venerable seat of Barrell stands
Like some strong English Castle.

In fact, M’Mahon referred to garden terraces as theatrical arrangements, & the 1783 Annapolis book catalogue grouped gardening & plays together.

Gentlemen of the Italian Renaissance used their gardens for theatrical presentations. Townspeople up & down the Chesapeake were very familiar with devices of the theater. Plays had been performed in Williamsburg for years, & a playhouse opened in Annapolis in 1752, next door to craftsman William Faris’s home & shop.

Although an 18th-century gentleman’s garden might never be used for a formal theatrical presentation, it was the outdoor platform he designed & on which he presented himself to his visitors & to the community at large.

Manipulating the view as a stage affect for the sake of the visitor was a continuing theme throughout M’Mahon’s treatise. The great & the not so great enjoyed garden watching. It was this concept, intentionally stripped of most of its ostentations excesses, that gentlemen adopted to help define their places in the emerging republic.

In the new nation, the gentry often used the evolving science of optics to direct the viewers’ attention & to lengthen or shorten perspectives, hoping to enhance the onlooker’s view of the property & opinion of its owner.

Friday, June 16, 2017

Why Garden? For Equality...

Gardening to Meet on Common Ground

The high cost of gentility in the Chesapeake excluded many of the middle classes from the stylish affairs of the bon ton, but the garden became one aspect of gentility that could be achieved by most classes in the emerging republic, with attention to discipline rather than acquisition of indulgences.

After all, plants multiplied; fashionable goods & services were consumed. When cultivated into a garden, land became an area of common ground between the upper & middling classes, a place where genteel civility as well as plants could be cultivated & shared; & some of the fruits of such collaboration could even be eaten.

From Annapolis craftsman William Faris’s diary, we learn that the elite & the common man were discussing, trading, & growing edible & ornamental plants. The relationships between rich & poor perpetuated by mutual endeavors such as gardening confused English visitors to Maryland, both before & after the Revolution.

In a letter back to England in 1772, Maryland's colonial secretary William Eddis wrote, “An idea of equality also seems generally to prevail, & the inferior order of people pay but little external respect to those who occupy superior stations.”

Almost thirty years later visiting English agriculturalist Richard Parkinson wrote, “Now, with regard to the liberty & equality…among the white men in America, they are all Mr. & Sir so that in conversation you cannot discover which is the master or which is the man.”

Gardening was an area of commonality across the social strata of the new nation. It offered a possibility for true democracy, well, for the gentlemen, at least.

It was not taking tea or dancing together, it was more basic, more unifying, even spiritual. The garden produced physical sustenance & inspiring order & beauty, & it elevated all parties to a more virtuous plane, where differences of class blurred. The garden was the space between nature & culture, where each man could negotiate his individual position in the new democratic republic.

Wednesday, June 14, 2017

Why Garden, Ladies? For Decoration...

Ladies Gardening Indoors & Out for Decoration

1760. William Williams (1727-1791). Deborah Richmond. Brooklyn Museum, New York.

There are portraits of women in the British American colonies & early republic depicting ladies, and even one gentleman, with potted plants. However, traditionally married American women of means might be in charge of daily activities in the greenhouse or the kitchen garden, but they were not often the master of the grounds.
1773. John Singleton Copley (1738-1815). Rebecca Boylston (1727-1798) (Mrs. Moses Gill). Rhode Island School of Design, Museum of Art, Providence, Rhode Island. 

This was not always true. Eliza Lucas Pinckney, took charge of her father's plantations in South Carolina, when she was a teenager; and when she married an older man who died in a few years, she was once again in charge. The strong-willed gentlewoman made all the decisions about her plantations' gardens & grounds and wrote in a 1742 letter to a friend of the garden she was planning, “it shall be filled with all kinds of flowers, as well wild as Garden flowers, with seats of Camomile & here & there a fruit tree--oranges, nectrons, Plumbs.”
1788. Reuben Moulthorp (1763-1814). Mary Kimberly Thomas Reynolds. 

As the 19th century dawned, women began to play a more important role in planning the garden, especially its ornamental components. Many busy husbands, more interested in the growing commercial possibilities in the transitional agrarian society, began to leave the management of the gardens to their wives.

At the Riversdale plantation in Prince George’s County, Maryland, Rosalie Stier Calvert wrote to her father on May 19, 1805, “We are getting much better at the art of gardening.”
1801 Rembrandt Peale (1778-1860). Rubens Peale (1784-1865) with Gerainium.

By the beginning of the 19th century, the ladies were becoming more interested in decorative flowers & potted plants offered to them by the new seed & nursery dealers such as Irish immigrant seedsman Bernard M'Mahon (1775-1816) in Philadelphia. Flowers decorated their grounds in the summer and potted plants decorated their interiors during the winter months.

Bernard M'Mahon's close friend, New Yorker Grant Thorburn (1773-1863) wrote of painting flower pots in 1801, which lead to his flourishing New York seed business, "About this time the ladies in New York were beginning to shew their taste for flowers; and it was customary to sell the empty flower pots in the grocery stores; these articles also comprised part of my stock...

In the fall of the year, when the plants wanted shifting prepatory to their being placed in the parlour, I was often asked for pots of a handsome quality, or better made...

I was looking for some other means to support my family. All at once it came into my mind to take and paint some of my common flower-pots with green varnish paint, thinking it would better suit the taste of the ladies than the common brick-bat colored ones.

I painted two pair, and exposed them in front of my window. I remember, just as I had placed the two pair of pots in front of my window on the outside, I was standing on the sidewalk, admiring their appearance, a carriage came along, having the glasses let down, and one lady only in the carriage. As the carriage passed my shop, her eye lit on the pots; she put her head out at the window, and looked back, as far as she could see, on the pots...

They soon drew attention, and were sold. I painted six pair; they soon went the same way. Being thus encouraged, I continued painting and selling to good advantage. These two pots were links of a chain by which Providence was leading me into my present extensive seed-establishment...

One day, in the month of April following, I observed a man for the first time selling flower-plants in the Fly market, which then stood in the foot of Maiden Lane. As I carelessly passed along, I took a leaf and rubbing it between my fingers and thumb asked him what was the name of it. He answered, a rose geranium.

This...was the first time that I ever heard that there was a geranium in the world; as before this, I had no taste for, nor paid any attention to, plants. I looked a few minutes at the plant, thought it had a pleasant smell, and thought it would look well if removed into one of my green flower pots, to stand on my counter to draw attention...

I did not purchase this plant with the intention of selling it again, but merely to draw attention to my green pots, and let people see how well the pots looked when the plant was in them. Next day, some one fancied and purchased plant and pot."

Thorburn had immigrated to New York from Scotland, in 1794. In Scotland, he was a nailmaker before he sailed for America. He was noted for his charity, and during the epidemic of yellow fever in 1798, he & his wife remained in the city, devoting themselves to the care of the victims. In 1801, he became a grocery merchant in Newark, New Jersey, but soon moved his business to New York City., where he he sold novelties & hardware. Once he discovered in 1805, that his flower pots sold better when they were painted with flowers in them, Thorburn evolved into a very successful seed dealer & nurseryman selling to the ladies of New York City, until he retired in 1854. The G. Thorburn & Son’s catalog of 1822 was issued in pamphlet form and included illustrations. Thorburn died in New Haven, Connecticut on January 21, 1863.
1830. Elizabeth Glaser. Lady in a Yellow Dress Watering Roses.