Thursday, November 29, 2018

George Washington's Greenhouse

1790s Christian Gullager (1759-1826). George Washington (1732-1799).

One of the most intriguing greenhouse stories involves Virginian George Washington & Margaret Tilghman Carroll  of Maryland.

In her 1770 description of the gardens Charles Carroll the Barrister's home called Mount Clare in Baltimore, Maryland, visiting Virginia widow Mary Ambler mentioned, "there is a Green House with a good many Orange & Lemon Trees just ready to bear." Widow & mother Mary Ambler had traveled to Baltimore from Belvoir in Fauquier County, Virginia, with her 2 children to be innoculated against smallpox.

At Mount Clare, as in many 18th century households, the wife supervised the greenhouse activities, while the husband oversaw the design of the gardens and grounds. Margaret Tilghman Carroll (1743-1817) was renowned for her orange & lemon trees. After her husband Charles Carroll (1723-1783) died in 1783, she devoted much of her time to growing plants in her greenhouse.
1765 John Hesselius (1728-1778). Margaret Tilghman Carroll Mrs Charles Carroll the Barrister.

In addition to her greenhouse, Margaret Carroll also had a 39' by 24' brick structure at Mount Clare, which she called a Stove House, with an intricate hot air heating system for growing plants, such as pineapples, indoors yearound.

Her reputation & skill as a horticulturalist had impressed George Washington (1732-1799) who wrote a letter to her cousin Col. Tench Tilghman in August of 1784,  "I shall essay the finishing of my greenhouse this fall, but find that neither myself, nor any person about me is so well skilled in the internal constructions as to proceed without a probability at least of running into errors. Shall I for this reason, ask the favor of you to give me a short description of the Green-house at Mrs. Carrolls? I am persuaded, now that I planned mine on too contracted a scale. My house is (of Brick) 40 feet by 24, in the outer dimensions."

It is believed that Washington built his greenhouse copying Margaret Carrolls' building, which no longer exists. And in April the following spring Washington noted in his diary, "Planted and sowed in boxes placed in front of the Green House."
Greenhouse at Mount Vernon

In 1788, Lt. John Enys (1757-1818) stopped at Mount Vernon noting that, "The front by which we entered had a Gras plot before it with a road round it for Carriages planted on each side with a number of different kinds of Trees among the rest some Weeping Willows which seem to flourish very well. One the one side of this stands the Garden, green house &c." Enys had come to America during the Revolution and recorded his notes after he returned to England and retired from the British army.
Greenhouse at Mount Vernon

Early in 1789, Congregational clergyman & geographer Jedidiah Morse (1761-1826) was also impressed with Washinton's garden & described Mount Vernon in his American Geography, "the green-house, school-house, offices and servants halls, when seen from the land side, bears a resemblance to a rural village --especially as the lands in that side are laid out somewhat in the form of English gardens, in meadows and grass grounds, ornamented with little copcies, circular clumps and single trees."
Greenhouse at Mount Vernon

Wishing to make a present of some of her prized greenhouse specimens to George Washington, including one grafted tree that produced both lemons and oranges, on 29 October 1789, Margaret Carroll sent by boat 20 pots of lemon & orange trees plus 5 boxes of assorted other greenhouse plants to Washington at the harbor in Alexandria.

The correspondence leading up to the delivery this present is revealing of both the problem of over-water transportation & of trying to deal with a very determined lady.

To Margaret Tilghman Carroll
New York, September 16th 1789.
Madam,
A Person having been lately sent to me from Europe in the capacity of a Gardner, who professes a knowledge in the culture of rare plants and care of a Green-House, I am desirous to profit of the very obliging offer you were pleased some time ago to make me.1
In availing myself of your goodness I am far from desiring that it should induce any inconvenience to yourself—but, reconciling your disposition to oblige, with your convenience, I shall be happy to receive such aids as you can well spare, and as will not impair your collection. Trusting that this will be the rule of your bounty, I have requested General Williams to give you notice, when an opportunity offers to transport the trees or plants in the freshest state to Mount Vernon, and to pay any expence which may be incurred in fitting them for transportation, and to receive them from your Gardner for that purpose. I have the honor to be, most respectfully, Madam, Your obliged and obedient Servant
G. Washington

On 16 Sept. George Washington wrote Otho H. Williams in Baltimore, requesting Williams’s assistance in having the plants from Mrs. Carroll’s greenhouse “conveyed in the freshest state to Mount Vernon—for the purpose I beg that you would, on agreeing with some careful master of a vessel that may be going round to land them at Mount Vernon, give Mrs Carroll such notice of the opportunity as will allow time for putting them up—and that you would be so obliging as to receive and ship them—the cost of package, or any other expense attending this matter, I must beg you to defray, and it shall be repaid with thanks”

On 23 Sept. Williams wrote George Washington that he had delivered the president’s note to Mrs. Carroll who “advised me to provide a boat proper for transporting the trees in about two Weeks from this time. As some of them are large and bear a good deal of fruit and as their boxes are of considerable weight, it will be necessary to procure [a] commodious Vessel and a trusty Navigator” 

Mrs. Carroll responded warmly to George Washington’s request on 25 Sept., assuring George Washington that the “Trees shall be immediately put in order” and shipped as soon as Williams could procure a vessel. “I have been rather unfortunate in the Shaddocks that were long intended for your Excellency’s use, attempting to engraff on them my two other sorts of Fruit, have fail’d either for want of Skill in my Gardiner or that being an improper Stock for either of them, you will therefore please Sir to accept with them a Lemon Tree two yo[u]ng plants and a few Seedlings, those with two plants of the Aloe and a Geranium, which shall also be sent are all the kinds my Green-house affords and do not in the least disfurnish it. It will give me much pleasure to hear they get safe, and should they Succeed Shall think my Self happy having in the Smallest degree contributed to your convenience or amusement” 

By 2 Oct. George Washington had received Williams’s letter of 23 Sept. announcing his intention of chartering a vessel to transport the plants. Dismayed, George Washington replied that he feared “my request of you, to forward the Plants which Mrs Carroll had been so obliging as to offer me, was so incautiously expressed as to lead you into a mistake, and myself, consequently, into an expence which I had no intention to incur. More than to embrace the opportunity of the Packet from Baltimore to Alexandr[i]a, or any other casual conveyance from the one place to the other, by which the above plants could easily have been sent, I had not extended my ideas; and if a large Vessel should have been employed for this purpose the cost will far exceed the value of the things, if not too late, I could wish to avoid it. I had no expectation of large Trees—or of any plants beyond their infant growth; the first would be a robbery of the good Lady without answering my purposes so well as those which were younger” 

On 7 Oct. Williams replied: “I regret that my error should give you the trouble of explaining your intentions respecting the fruit Trees.” On 2 visits to Mount Clare to consult with Mrs. Carroll about the plants, Williams had “found her so indecisive, and anxious about their safety, that I indulge myself in the prospect of another visit soon to Mount Clare, which I always find agreeable, and I hope that it will be in my power to gratify all Mrs Carroll’s wishes respecting the small trees; But there is, at present, very little prospect of sending the larger ones without going to an expence disproportioned to their value. Two careful boat Men have engaged to take, each, a part of the smaller plants this week, But I must wait for an opportunity by some Ship, that may go from here to lade with Tobacco in Patowmac, to send the large ones. Allow me, sir, to explain a word—Mrs Carroll is indecisive, only, because she is not quite certain which are the most suitable, and which will be the most fortunate, and acceptable. Her garden contains but one tree which bears both Lemons and Oranges—She thought there were two Was quite disappointed! This, she said, must be sent. I presumed to tell her that you would not permit her to make the sacrifice; That its great burden of fine fruit would render a safe conveyance impracticable; That your object, in which we mutually wished that you might be long indulged, was to cultivate young trees, and bring them like this, to perfection; The perfection of this fine tree (for she spoke then of no other) was her great reason for wishing it in your collection; Could it not, possibly, be conveyed with safety? I expressed my doubts—and her solicitude increased—So I was obliged to sooth it by promising that I would again consult the Boat Men, and provide for the transportation of the small trees, which I have already done. Conceiving, my Dear Sir, that the satisfaction which you are to derive from the acceptance of Mrs Carroll’s present will be in proportion to the pleasure which you give, by receiving, I have endeavoured to conduct myself as your agent in the business, with all possible attention and delicacy—But I cannot imagine that Her Compliment will be at all enhanced by unnecessary trouble, or useless expence.”

On 10 Oct. Williams informed George Washington that “Mrs Carroll prevented my intended visit to Mount Clare, by doing me the honor to call at my House in town. We recapitulated all circumstances respecting the fruit trees: and agreed that it is most eligible, at present, to send only the small ones. I expect to Ship half a dozen, for Mount Vernon, tomorrow.” 
.
On 14 Oct. George Washington addressed another note to Mrs. Carroll: “I know not how sufficiently to thank you for your polite and obliging compliance with my request— nor, in what manner to express my fears lest those motives should have led you into inconveniences. My Green House is by no means in perfect order, and if it was, it would not have been my wish to have robbed yours of any grown or bearing plants. If it is not too late I would again repeat and entreat that this may not happen”

On the same day George Washington wrote Williams that although on the point of leaving New York City for his New England tour “I cannot, notwithstanding, depart without again expressing in strong terms—if it is not too late—a pointed wish and desire that Mrs Carroll would not rob her own Green-house of any large & bearing trees especially the one of which she has not a second. It is highly probable that this tree, and perhaps all large ones would be lost to us both by the act of transportation unless very fine weather—a short passage—and more than common care are met with” 

Mrs. Carroll, however, wrote again on 26 Oct. assuring George Washington that “no inconvenience in the least, can arise, from the removal of the Trees. your Excellency rates them too highly, they will not be miss’d in my Green-house, nor will they be such an acquisition to yours, as I could wish; but it has been my intention, ever since I fail’d in buding the Shaddocks, to present you with them, if I could have a conveyance (for such) unfortunately General Williams has not yet procured me one; possibly your cautious Politenes may have prevented. yet mindfull of your Commands, and incapable of deviateing in the Smallest degree from them; he fears to remove, even a plant, without your permission, equally impres’d with a fear of incuring your disapprobation I am at a loss. how Sir shall I convince you, how much ’tis my inclination to furnish your Orangery with a little Fruit, and with what convenience I can do it, you shall judge, when I tell you, mine is rather over Stock’d. allow me then to send them, and I hope it will be pleaseing both to your Self and Mrs Washington to gather of your own fruit on your return. . . . Sensible of the inconvenience such a Correspondence must be to you, I can no longer trespass on your politeness, only be pleased to Say to General Williams that he may inform me when your Green-house is in order” 

Williams informed George Washington on 29 Oct. that “Mrs Carroll sent me five boxes, and twenty small pots of trees, and young plants; among which were two Shaddocks—One Lemon, and One Orange, of from three to five feet in length; Nine small orange trees; Nine Lemon; One fine balm scented Shrub; Two Potts of Alloes, and some tufts of knotted Marjoram; All which, on the 13th Instant, I saw safely Stowed on board the schooner Surprize, Lawrence Lazore Master, which sailed from hence the same day for Alexandria.”

By the time George Washington returned from his New England tour, he was prepared to surrender to Mrs. Carroll’s generosity. “I am overcome by your goodness,” he wrote her on 22 Nov., “and shall submit to your decision with respect to the Plants from your Green-house; but I must again declare that, I should feel infinitely more pain than pleasure from the receipt of them, if I thought that for the purpose of increasing my stock, you had, in the smallest degree, done injury to your own. After this declaration which I make, my good Madam, with the utmost truth & candour, such plants as your kindness may have intended for me, Generl Williams will forward when the Season will permit; which will be as soon, as from the alterations which my New Gardener is making at Mount Vernon, as my Green-House will be in complete order for their reception.” 
Charles Willson Peale (1741-1827). Margaret Tilghman (Mrs Charles Carroll the Barrister) This painting depicts Margaret Carroll standing next to the closed or lidded Lidded Campana Urn on a Classical Pedestal which stood on the grounds at Mount Clare in Baltimore.

Several years later, in 1792, French visitor Jacques Pierre Brissot de Warville (1754-1793) wrote, "I hastened to arrive at Mount Vernon...after having passed over two hills, you discover a country house of an elegant and majestic simplicity. It is preceded by grass-plats; on the one side of the avenue are the stables, on the other the green-house, and houses of a number of negro mechanics." Brissot was a vocal supporter of the 1789 French Revolution.
This flurry of activity around the greenhouses of Margaret Carroll & George Washington was not new in America. The possibilites of growing tender plants in greenhouses had fascinated Americans throughout the 18C in colonial America & the Early Republic.

Wednesday, November 28, 2018

Flowers & Plants in Early American Gardens - Maple Trees, Tho Jefferson, & Maple Sugar


Peggy Cornett, who is Curator of Plants at Thomas Jefferson's Monticello in Virginia, tells us that -

The Sugar Maple by Monticello’s West Front Flower Walk was planted over two decades ago to replace an original tree that was destroyed in a violent storm in the summer of 1992. In 1791 Thomas Jefferson ordered numerous trees from the William Prince Nursery on Long Island, New York, including Sugar Maple saplings. The venerable Sugar Maple, likely the oldest cultivated tree on the mountain, was part of Jefferson’s vision to establish a domestic sugar industry.

More from The Thomas Jefferson Encyclopedia -

Sugar Maple
An Article Courtesy Of The Thomas Jefferson Encyclopedia.

"At the end of November 1790, just a week after his arrival in Philadelphia, Thomas Jefferson bought fifty pounds of refined maple sugar. Such a purchase seems odd for someone living in a boardinghouse. Jefferson was not, however, beginning to stock the cellars of the new house he would soon occupy. He was making his first contribution to the cause of eliminating slavery in the West Indies.

"Jefferson had known the most vocal champion of the cause, Dr. Benjamin Rush, since the days of the Second Continental Congress. When the new Secretary of State had passed through Philadelphia the previous spring, Rush had called on him, later confiding to his commonplace book his relief at finding Jefferson uncontaminated by five years of contact with European courtiers. "He was plain in his dress," Rush wrote, "and unchanged in his manners." He still professed himself attached to republican forms of government.

"Although they spent most of the visit deploring the "attachment to monarchy" of their mutual friend John Adams, Rush and Jefferson almost certainly discussed the sugar maple The doctor's enthusiasm for domestic sugar production had been growing during Jefferson's absence in France. In 1788, Rush had published an essay on the "Advantages of the Culture of the Sugar Maple Tree" in a Philadelphia monthly. In 1789 he had founded, with a group of Philadelphia Quakers, the Society for Promoting the Manufacture of Sugar from the Sugar Maple Tree. He had even staged a scientific tea party to prove the potency of maple sugar. The guests – Alexander Hamilton, Quaker merchant Henry Drinker, and "several Ladies" – sipped cups of hyson tea, sweetened with equal amounts of cane and maple sugar. All agreed the sugar from the maple was as sweet as cane sugar

"Rush's aim, like that of the Quaker philanthropists who shared his cause, was "to lessen or destroy the consumption of West Indian sugar, and thus indirectly to destroy negro slavery." Other advocates of a sugar war on slavery used prose of a higher pitch. French abolitionist J.-P. Brissot de Warville, roused by his conversations with Pennsylvania Quakers, believed that tapping the maple would "drive out" the sugar produced by the tears and blood of slaves. "Sugar made at home," announced one almanac maker, "must possess a sweeter flavor to an independent American of the north, than that which is mingled with the groans and tears of slavery.

"Soon after his meeting with Rush, Jefferson joined the chorus. The sugar maple, he wrote a friend in England, "yeilds a sugar equal to the best from the cane, yeilds it in great quantity, with no other labor than what the women and girls can bestow .... What a blessing to substitute a sugar which requires only the labour of children, for that which it is said renders the slavery of the blacks necessary."

"And so, when he made his purchase from sugar refiners Edward and Isaac Pennington in November 1790, Jefferson could dispense with a sweetener tainted by slavery. "Mr. Jefferson uses no other sugar in his family than that which is obtained from the sugar maple tree," Rush wrote in this period. And Jefferson himself documented this use in a memorandum book entry for March 1791. He calculated the cost – two cents – of his morning coffee, noting that "On trial it takes 11. dwt. Troy of double ref[ine]d Maple sugar to a dish of coffee" (eleven pennyweight was the equivalent of 3 ½ teaspoons)

"Jefferson and other conscientious consumers could now, as Brissot phrased it, "put sugar in [their] coffee without being saddened by the thought of all the toil, sweat, tears, suffering and crimes that have hitherto been necessary to procure this product." The Secretary of State, however, envisioned political as well as humanitarian benefits from an American sugar industry. He hoped to gain commercial independence from the British, and even to compete with them by exporting a surplus. In April 1791, Jefferson's expectations were further raised when Rush introduced him to Arthur Noble, who came from upstate New York with sugar samples and accounts of the maple's productivity. Noble wrote William Cooper, his associate in schemes to encourage settlement of their frontier lands, that Jefferson "is as Sanguine as you or I about the Maple Sugar, he thinks in a few years we shall be able to Supply half the World."

"What one scholar has called the "Maple Sugar Bubble" was created by a strange association of land speculators and abolitionists. Cooper, the founder of Cooperstown and father of James Fenimore Cooper, tried to use sugar maples – "these diamonds of America" – to lure settlers to Otsego County. The "Bashaw of Otsego," as Jefferson called him, managed to yoke his own commercial objectives to the prevailing interest in "diffusing useful knowledge," by asking the aid of Rush and other philanthropists in preventing wholesale destruction of maple trees by the advancing tide of settlement.

"Stimulated by the news from New York, Jefferson immediately wrote to President Washington and others, noting that "evidence grows upon us" that the United States could become an exporter of sugar. "I confess I look with infinite gratification to [its] addition to the products of the U.S. ...."

"Two weeks later, Dr. Rush came to Jefferson's house on Market Street for breakfast. Over their cups of coffee sweetened with the "innocent" product of the maple, Jefferson and Henry Drinker listened to Rush read his account of the tree and its benefits and gave him "some useful hints." Rush went home to revise his piece, while Jefferson made preparations for a vacation expedition that would carry him into the heart of sugar maple country.

"On this journey north to Lake Champlain and into New England, Jefferson took seriously his role as a promoter of alternatives to cane sugar. In the new whaling port of Hudson, he urged its founder to find a substitute for the West Indian molasses used in the town's distillery. In Bennington, Vermont, and perhaps elsewhere, he tried to interest some of the more prominent landholders in making maple sugar in a systematic manner, by tending orchards of maples as they would apple trees. His advice was broadcast in the Vermont Gazette and one Bennington acquaintance, Joseph Fay, resolved "to plant an orchard in regular form next Spring, in hopes to encourage others in the same laudable undertaking in case I succeed."

"Jefferson had been making his own efforts to create a sugar grove at Monticello, but the maple seeds he had sent home the previous December "failed completely." On his return journey through Long Island, he stopped at the Flushing nursery of William Prince and reserved Prince's entire stock of sugar maples. Sixty trees reached Monticello in November and were planted "in a grove" below the Second Roundabout on the northeast slope of the mountain.

"Back in Philadelphia in the summer of 1791, Jefferson tried to get one hundred pounds of unrefined maple sugar to send to Albemarle County, "in order, by a proof of it’s quality, to recommend attention to the tree to my neighbors." None of sufficient quality could be found. "Such is the avidity for Maple sugar," he wrote later in the year, "that ... I have not been able this year to buy a pound for myself," and there is no record that he ever bought it again.

In the meantime, Benjamin Rush read his revised account of the sugar maple at a meeting of the American Philosophical Society on August 19, 1791. This essay, Rush told Jefferson, "owes its existence to your request." It took the form of a letter to Jefferson, describing the process of making maple sugar and discussing its superiority to West Indian cane sugar. He furnished figures to prove that New York and Pennsylvania could provide for the entire domestic consumption and leave sugar worth a million dollars for export. Several pages were spent extolling the "nutritious qualities" of sugar and its remedial use in medicine. "It has been said," Rush added, "that sugar injures the teeth, but this opinion now has so few advocates, that it does not deserve a serious refutation."

"Bringing his reading to a close, Rush confessed that "I cannot help contemplating a sugar maple tree with a species of affection and even veneration, for I have persuaded myself to behold in it the happy means of rendering the commerce and slavery of our African brethren in the sugar islands as unnecessary as it has always been inhuman and unjust." And finally, Jefferson's contributions to the cause were highlighted: "I shall conclude this letter by wishing that the patronage which you have afforded to the maple sugar as well as the maple tree by your example, may produce an influence in our country as extensive as your reputation for useful science and genuine patriotism."

"Because of "the impatience of the gentlemen interested in the sugar lands," Rush published his essay as a pamphlet in 1792. It was widely reprinted in the United States and Europe and its words were often repeated in books and encyclopedias. But despite Rush's publicity and Jefferson's subtler patronage, through recommendation and example, the great expectations of patriots and land promoters alike were disappointed. The various New York enterprises failed and Rush's Pennsylvania company of Quakers was dissolved in 1795 with the loss of £1400. The "large plantations" of maples that Jefferson envisioned for the slopes of Monticello consisted in 1794 of only eight surviving saplings. Two more trees were sent south in 1798, and one of them may be the ancient specimen still standing near the West Lawn today.

"Both Jefferson and Rush must have looked with distaste on another maple product brought by Arthur Noble from New York – maple whiskey. Jefferson went so far as to sample it, but was gratified to hear that "less profit is made by converting the juice into spirit than into sugar." Rush praised instead the weaker beverages that could be made from the maple. The thin sap afforded "a cool and refreshing drink in the time of harvest" and "a pleasant summer beer could be made from its syrup."

"Rush died after twenty years of silence on the subject of the sugar maple, his visionary ideas of 1791 forgotten. Jefferson, although he had tempered his hope for a national sugar industry, still advocated the cultivation of the sugar maple on a household scale: "I have never seen a reason why every farmer should not have a sugar orchard, as well as an apple orchard."

"By then, his attention was caught by another possible substitute for cane sugar. Hearing of the auspicious beginnings of the beet sugar industry in France, Jefferson asked two French correspondents for "recipes" of the process of making sugar from the beet, as well as advice on the best species. He lauded the sugar beet as he had the sugar maple: "[It] promises to supplant the cane particularly, and to silence the demand for the inhuman species of labour employed in it’s culture & manipulation."

Lucia C. Stanton, 11/90. Originally published as "Sharing the Dreams of Benjamin Rush," in Fall Dinner at Monticello, November 2, 1990, in Memory of Thomas Jefferson (Charlottesville, VA: Thomas Jefferson Memorial Foundation, 1990), 1-12.


PRIMARY SOURCE REFERENCES
Undated. "Take up the young aspens and plant a dble. row of them on the road leading from the gate down towards the landing. Where they fail, plant locusts, walnuts, wild cherries, elms, lindens, maples, and cedars, just as you can get them."

1786 February 8. (Jefferson to James Madison). "The seeds of the sugar maple too would be a great present."

1786 May 12. (Madison to Jefferson). "I have taken measures for procuring the Paccan nuts and the seed of the Sugar Tree."

1787 December 9. (Madison to Jefferson). "The annexed list of trees will shew you that I have ventured to ... add 8 other sorts of American trees, including 20 of the Sugar Maple."

1788 October 8. (Madison to Jefferson). "I shall send along with this a few seed of the sugar maple, the first and the whole that I have been able to obtain."

1790 June 27. (Jefferson to Benjamin Vaughan). "Though large countries within our Union are covered with the Sugar maple as heavily as can be concieved, and that this tree yeilds a sugar equal to the best from the cane, yeilds it in great quantity, with no other labor than what the women and girls can bestow, who attend to the drawing off and boiling the liquor, and the trees when skilfully tapped will last a great number of years, yet the ease with which we had formerly got cane sugar, had prevented our attending to this resource. ... What a blessing to substitute a sugar which requires only the labour of children, for that which it is said renders the slavery of the blacks necessary."

1790 December 16. (Jefferson to Thomas Mann Randolph). "I send herewith some seeds which I must trouble you with the care of. They are the seeds of the Sugar maple and the Paccan nuts. Be so good as to make George prepare a nursery in a proper place and to plant in it the Paccan nuts immediately, and the Maple seeds at a proper season."

1791 May 1. (Jefferson to William Drayton). "The attention now paying to the sugar-Maple tree promises us an abundant supply of sugar at home; and I confess I look with infinite gratification to the addition to the products of the U.S. of three such articles as oil, sugar, and upland rice."

1791 May 1. (Jefferson to Thomas Mann Randolph). "I shall be glad to hear how the white wheat, mountainrice, Paccan and Sugar maples have succeeded. Evidence grows upon us that the U.S. may not only supply themselves the sugar for their own consumption but be great exporters."

1791 May 1. (Jefferson to George Washington). "A Mr. Noble has been here, from the country where they are busied with the Sugar-maple tree. He thinks Mr. Cooper will bring 3000£’s worth to market this season ...."

1791 May 27. "Cohoes. Sugar Maple."

1791 June 5. (Jefferson to Thomas Mann Randolph). "We were more pleased however with the botanical objects which continually presented themselves. Those either unknown or rare in Virginia were the Sugar maple in vast abundance ...."

1791 July 6. (Jefferson to William Prince). "When I was at your house in June I left with you a note to furnish me with the following trees, to wit[:] Sugar maples. All you have."

1791 July 7. (Thomas Mann Randolph to Jefferson). "In a late letter you desire us to let you know our success with the seeds you sent from Philadelphia. The Sugar maple has failed entirely, a few plants only having appeared which perished allmost immediately.... For both of these [rice] and the maple we preferred the flat ground below the park on the little stream which passes thro' it, being the natural situation of the latter, and more suitable to the former than the garden."

1791 July 17. (Jefferson to Thomas Mann Randolph). "I have taken effectual means of repairing the loss of the sugar maple seed, by bespeaking a new supply of seed, and purchasing a considerable number of young trees from Prince in Long-island who will forward them to Richmond in the fall."

1791 August 9. (Joseph Fay to Jefferson). "... respecting the sugar maple seed ... I had determined to furnish you had you not written, but the seed does not come to maturity until the Month of October, when the frost kills the stem of the leaf and seed, and causes them to fall from the tree .... no time shall be lost in doing it in the proper season and forwarding them to you. I have examined my young groves since you left this, and find the young maple very thrifty and numerous, by calculation nearly one thousand to the acre. I intend to plant an orchard in regular form next Spring, in hopes to encourage others in the same laudable undertaking in case I succeed."

1791 August 30. (Jefferson to Fay). "I am to acknolege the receipt of your favor of the 9th. inst. and to thank you for your attention to my request of the Maple seed. Every thing seems to tend towards drawing the value of that tree into public notice. The rise in the price of West India sugars, short crops, new embarrasments which may arise in the way of our getting them, will oblige us to try to do without them."

1791 November 8. "60 Sugar Maples trees at 1/ 3-0-0."

1791 November 25. (Jefferson to William Short). "Such is the avidity for Maple sugar, that it is engaged in the country before it comes to market. I have not been able this year to buy a pound for myself .... When double refined it is equal to the double refined of the Cane, and a like equality exists in every state of it. There is no doubt but that were there hands enough in the Sugarmaple country, there are trees enough not only to supply the U. S. but to carry a great deal to Europe and undersell that of the cane. The reason why it may be cheaper, is that it is the work of women and children only, in a domestic way, and at a season when they can do nothing in the farm. The public attention is very much excited towards it, and the high price of W. India sugars will draw these forth."

1791 November 29. (Fay to Jefferson). "I am sorry to inform you that not a single seed of the Maple has come to maturity this year in all this Northern Country. I have made diligent inquiry thro’ the State; wheather this is owing to the Worms, or a General blast is uncertain. The Great Scarcity and high price of sugars (owing to the Insurections in the Islands) occasions the Greatest preparations for improving the Maple in this quarter, every providential circumstance seems to Conspire to promote this usefull branch."

1791 December 11. (Jefferson to Thomas Mann Randolph). "Mr. Brown writes me word that the 4. bundles of trees from Prince are safe arrived there, so that I am in hopes you have recieved them."

1792 January 26. (Rush to Jefferson). "I enclose you a few copies of the tract on the manufactory of Maple Sugar. It owes its existence to your request."

1792 March 27. (Thomas Mann Randolph to Jefferson). "The sugar maple, it appears, is the most delicate of the whole number, for all of them are totally lost. It gives some consolation however, to know with certainty that this plant is abundant about Calf-pasture ...."

1792 April 19. (Jefferson to Thomas Mann Randolph). "I am sorry to hear my sugar maples have failed. I shall be able however to get here any number I may desire, as two nurserymen have promised to make provision for me. It is too hopeful an object to be abandoned."

1792 May 27. (Martha Jefferson Randolph to Jefferson). "Many of your sugar maples are alive and tolerably flourishing considering the drouth."

1792 July 2. (Jefferson to Hugh Rose). "I am now endeavoring to procure as many as I can of the Sugar maple trees, to commence large plantations of these."

1792 October 8. (Fay to Jefferson). "I have taken the earliest care to collect a few of the maple seeds, which you will receive herewith by the post; should the soil of Virginia prove friendly you will soon be able to furnish the State, as they produce very spontaniously. Please to offer a few to Mr. Madison with my best respects. I also enclose a Small bunch to his Excellency the President which perhaps his curiosity will lead him to accept, if you will please to take the Trouble to offer them. This seed must be committed to the Earth as soon as convenient this fall, in some place where they will not be exposed to be devoured by fouls and squirrels."

1792 October 16. (Jefferson to Washington). "Colo. Fay having sent him a paper of Sugar-Maple seed, Th:J., on his request, asks the President's acceptance of the within."

1792 November 4. (Jefferson to Fay). "I have delivered a part to the President and will deliver another portion to Mr. Madison who is just arrived here. In the name of us all accept thanks for this present, which I deem valuable.... Of 80. trees I bought in N. York, very few survived the transplantation. Do they begin to increase the quantity of sugar made with you?"

1794 April 20. "There are 8. sugar maples alive."

1798 March 22. (Jefferson to Thomas Mann Randolph). "I have just had put on board the sloop Sally ... a box of plants ... as follow: ... Sugar maple 2. plants."

1808 July 15. (Jefferson to C.P. de Lasteyrie). "I should think the maple-sugar more worthy of experiment. There is no part of France of which the climate would not admit this tree. I have never seen a reason why every farmer should not have a sugar orchard as well as an apple orchard. The supply of sugar for his family would require as little ground, and the process of making it as easy as that of cider."

1809 November 6. (Jefferson to Thomas Lomax). "I propose to make me a large orchard of Paccan & Roanoke & Missouri scaly barks which I possess .... to these I shall add the sugar maple tree if I can procure it."

Notes, References, & Further Sources on the above article available here.

Also see the Peggy Cornett's Twinleaf article from January 2004 Encounters with America’s Premier Nursery and Botanic Garden here

For more information & the possible availability for purchase
Contact The Tho Jefferson Center for Historic Plants or The Shop at Monticello 

Tuesday, November 27, 2018

Garden Ornaments - The Ornamental Urn

An urn is a marble, stone, earthenware, or metal vessel or vase of a round or ovoid form standing on a rectangular or circular base. Traditional Greek & Roman forms of ornamental garden urns are the tazza, a cup-shaped form whose width exceeds it height; & the campana, or upturned bell-shaped form.

Because early urns also were used to hold ashes of the departed, urns are usually solemn ornaments of reverence, taste, & refinement. Cremation was prevalent among the Greeks & during the Roman Empire, 27 B.C. to 395 A.D., it was widely practiced. The custom called for cremated remains to be stored in urns, which were sometimes elaborate & often placed within detached columbarium-like buildings in Roman & Greek gardens.
Detail of Closed or Lidded Campana Urn on an oversized Pedestal. 1772 William Williams (American artist, 1727-1791). The William Denning Family.

Christians considered cremation pagan, & Jews preferred traditional sepulcher entombment. By 400 A.D., as a result of Constantine's Christianization of the Roman Empire, earth burial replaced cremation, except for rare instances of plague or war, for the next 1,500 years throughout Europe & its colonies.

In fact, it was news in the colonies, when urns filled with charred remains were found in Ireland in 1733. The South Carolina Gazette reported, "Dublin, Octob . 31. Last Week as some Workmen were digging up Stones for the Buildings at Power's Court, in turning over some great Rocks, they found several great curious Pieces of Antiquity, being 3 old Urns of a very uncommon Make, deposited together, and filled with Ashes, supposed to belong to some of the Danes, or old Roman People, who formerly visited this Island."
Detail Closed or Lidded Campana Urn on a Classical Pedestal at Mount Clare in Baltimore. Charles Willson Peale (1741-1827). Margaret Tilghman (Mrs Charles Carroll the Barrister).

In 1737, the South Carolina Gazette also reported on an extract of a letter from England, "There was lately discover'd on Mr. Campton's Estate, at Coddlestock, near Oundle in Northhamtershire a beautiful Roman Pavement 20 Foot square and very little defac'd by Time; near it were found Bones, Ashes, and Pieces of Urns , an Indication that the Body of some noted Heathen had been buryed there."

Thirty years later in 1767, the Virginia Gazette reported similar findings "from Perth, that as some labourers were sinking a well near Abernethy, in Scotland, they discovered two urns , containing several pieces of antique silver coin, and from their inscriptions it appeared that that place had formerly been a Roman station." Later in the same year, they noted that in "Glasgow that some fishermen lately drug up, in the island of ST. Kilda, two antique urns , containing a quantity of Danish silver coin, which by the inscription appears to have lain there upwards of 1800 years."
Closed or Lidded Campana Urn. 1784 Charles Willson Peale.(1741-1827). Mrs. Thomas Russell.


The South Carolina Gazette printed a pastoral elegy to a local gentleman in 1757, which not only referred to urns but also to the crop he must have grown, rice. "Port-Royal plains! let never balmy dew, Pouring from chrystal sluices, water you, Nor, from their silver urns , the Pleiad 's poar The fruitful rain and soft prolific show'r. May blights and mildews on your fields remain. And wormy insects gnaw your ricy grain: For in your neld's, entomb'd, does Damon lie. Port-Royal gods! Why did my Damon die?"

Urn-shapped tea ware, usually silver-plated or japanned & often called Roman urns, appeared in the colonies by the 1760s. In October of 1764, the Pennsylvania Gazette was advertising classical tablewar, including urns, "Just imported in the Philadelphia Packet, Captain Budden, and Sparks, from London, and to be sold on the lowest and best terms...silver pillared and fluted candlesticks of the Corinthian order...chased and plain ewers, urns and milkpots."
Detail Closed or Lidded Campana Urn on a Stone Wall. 1787 Charles Willson Peale (1741-1827) Mrs. John O'Donnell (Sarah Chew Elliott).

In the same year, jeweler Philip Tidyman of Charlestown, South Carolina advertised, "just imported, in the Friendship, Capt. Bail, and Heart of Oak, capt. Gunn...a few articles of plate of the most fashionable kind, viz. fine pierced and polish'd bread baskets, orange strainers, punch ladies, chais'd urns and ewers."

By 1769, Jacob Hanke placed an ad in the Pennsylvania Gazette to announce his architectural ornaments, "THE subscriber takes this method of informing the public, that he has set up the Turnerbusiness (which he formerly followed in this city) and makes and sells...columns, urns , newel posts, bannisters, and all kinds of Turnerwork, at his shop, at the Sign of the Spinning Wheel...in Spruce street, near the Drawbridge."
Closed or Lidded Campana Urn on a Classical Pedestal. 1789 Charles Willson Peale (1741-1827). Mary Claypoole Peale.

Mantle ornaments in the shape of urns appeared in 1773, when Nicholas Langfore, a bookseller in Charlestown advertised in the local newspaper, " a Consignment of a Set of Ornaments for a Chimney Piece, confisting of seven Petrifactions of Water from Derhyshire, resembling Jasper, in the Form of Altars, Urns , Vasses, &c. most elegantly mounted in Or Moule, which are to be sold at a small Advances, on the first Cost."

An intriguing carved walking cane went missing in Charleston in 1774, "With a golden Head, engraved with Urns and Festoons."

Few garden urns are mentioned in early American documents, but painters of the period occasionally depicted urns in their portraits. Open urns are often referred to as vases by colonial observers. Maryland-born artist Charles Willson Peale (1741-1827) was particularly partial to painting urns as props in his portraits.

Hannah Callender visited William Peters' garden at Belmont in 1762, near Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. She noted, "On the right you enter a labyrinth of hedge of low cedar and spruce. In the middle stands a statue of Apollo. In the garden are statues of Diana, Fame and Mercury with urns."

The 1778 South Carolina Gazette advertised the property of Thomas Loughton Smith for sale after his death, noting, "there are a few elegant urns and statues in the garden which will be sold with the premises."

Early colleges in America often had walled grounds. My favorite description of one of these walls was by Moreau de St. Mery (1750-1819), when he visited Princeton, New Jersey in the 1790s. In a 1764 print, Nassau Hall is depicted with a wall & urns. He wrote, "Before it is a huge front yard set off from the street by a brick wall, and at intervals along the wall are pilasters supporting wooden urns painted gray."
Detail of Nassau Hall with Wooden Campana Urns on the Wall, Princeton, New Jersey, in 1764.

After Thomas Jefferson's death, a Monticello visitor noted, "cattle wandering among Italian mouldering vases." The Governor's Palace in Williamsburg was recorded as having "lead vases" in its gardens. A description of Eliza Hasket Derby's garden in Salem, Massachusettes, was said to have "large marble vases" which gave it a finished appearance.
Closed or Lidded Campana Urns at Falling Garden in Annapolis, Maryland at the William Paca (1740-1799) House. These urns have recently been replaced by large pineapple or artichoke (Cynara) finials on classical pedestals.
Tazza Urn on a tall pedestal at Belvedere, Home of Governor John Eager Howard (1752-1827), Baltimore, Maryland. Painting by Augustus Weidenbach c 1858.

Urn at Governor's Palace, Colonial Williamsburg

In the Early Republic & well into the 19C, depictions of urns in the landscape were used as memorial objects in the work being produced by American girls in private female academies, where the young women learned decorative painting & sewing as well as reading & writing. Outdoor memorial urns were usually depicted with a nearby weeping willow tree.

By the time of George Washington's death in late 1779, the weeping willow tree was firmly established as a solemn memorial; as the Pennsylvania Gazette reported on Mount Vernon high above the Potomac River in Virginia, "Now the flocks, the shades, the walks, the weeping willows, the mourning bird of night, the pensive streams, and the sad murmurs of the broad Potomac, which in pride rolled its waves before the mansion of its great improver, call, again and again, the sad story which has filled the world with sorrow, that the illustrious Chief of Mount Vernon is no more."

The emerging middle-class of the early republic & later Industrial Revolution embraced classic Roman & Greek literature & motifs. Urns appeared on imported wallpapers; on mourning jewelry; as furniture inlay; on funeral carriages; as knife cases; and as architectural ornamentation on private homes, outbuildings, & public buildings.

In 1789, needing more space & wanting a building of their own, Benjamin Franklin's Library Company bought a parcel of land near the corner of Philadelphia's 5th & Chestnut Streets. William Thornton, physician & amateur architect, won the design competition. His proposed building featured white pilasters & a balustrade surmounted by urns.
Samuel McIntire, South Front of the Greenhouse in the East Building Elias Hasket Derby House

The John Peirce House in Portsmouth, New Hampshire, built in 1799, featured a lantern tower crowned by urns. The Samuel McIntire, Peirce-Nichols House in Salem, Massachusettes, begun in 1782, has urns punctuating its fence. In 1795, he recorded in his journal paying for "Carving 4 Vases for the Summer House." The Elias Hasket Derby House, also in Salem, built in the late 1790s, had a roof balustrade with pilasters supporting 6 urns. 

Urns remained in the landscape designs of the Early Republic.  Urns & weeping willow trees dotted 19C cemeteries, but it would be many decades before cremation was once again a commonly accepted form of burial in America.
1789 Detail Schoolgirl Depiction of a Memorial Urn.

1792 Mourning Brooch. 2 funeral urns, plus locks of hair memorialize Mann Page & Anne Corbin Page of Virginia. Made in Philadelphia.

1811 Sally Miller's Needlepoint Urn from Litchfield Female Academy.

1815 Detail Schoolgirl Memorial Urn.

1817 Detail of Miss Diademia Austin Haines composition of silk, spangles, paint and ink on silk. Moravian Museum of Bethlehem, Pennsylvania.

1819 Memorial for Lucy Libby. Miss Mayo's School, Portland, Maine.

1822 Memorial for Robert B. Harding. Miss Mayo's School of Portland, Maine.

1836 Detail Schoolgirl Memorial Urn.

For more about schoolgirl needlework, see Girlhood Embroidery, American Samplers & Pictorial Needlework by Betty Ring (New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1993) and The "Ornamental Branches," Needlework and Arts from the Lititz Moravian Girls' School Between 1800 and 1865 by Patricia T. Herr (Lancaster, Pennsylvania: The Heritage Center Museum of Lancaster County, 1996).

Monday, November 26, 2018

Plants in Early American Gardens - Pink-Spiked Celosia

Pink-spiked Celosia (Celosia argentea var. spicata)

This form of Celosia is similar to the light flesh-colored C. argentea linearis, introduced from China and eastern India in the early 18th century. American seed catalogs of the mid-1800s offered a “Feathered Celosia,” Celosia spicata rosea¸ with pinkish-colored flower spikes, 3-4 inches long, which could be dried like an “Everlasting, retaining both form and color.” It was also called “Lady’s Finger.”

For more information & the possible availability for purchase
Contact The Tho Jefferson Center for Historic Plants or The Shop at Monticello 

Sunday, November 25, 2018

Garden of Annapolis, Maryland Craftsman William Faris 1728-1804

Even though he seldom spelled a word the same way twice, William Faris kept a diary, filled with his gardening triumphs and failures, for the last 12 years of his life-704 pages between 1792 and 1804.

William Faris was not a gentleman gardener by any stretch of the imagination. Faris, the son of a London clockmaker, was brought to Philadelphia in 1728, at the age of 6 months by his recently widowed mother and; apprenticed to a clockmaker at an early age. When he was 19, he moved to Annapolis, Maryland, where he scrambled all his life to make a respectable living.
William Faris's 1st Advertisement in the March 17, 1757, Maryland Gazette of Annapolis.

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

Artisan Gardener

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

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

The grand terraced falling gardens of Chesapeake gentry and merchants are easier to learn about than the smaller town gardens of craftsmen, traders, and shopkeepers, whose numbers were growing during the later half of the 18th-century. William Faris’s invaluable journal offers a rare opportunity to reconstruct the town garden of an early American artisan.
1789 Charles Willson Peale (1741-1827).  State House at Annapolis, Maryland.

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

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

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

Outside his garden gate, craftsman William Faris was a tired 75-year-old silversmith and clockmaker, with thinning hair pulled back into a queue and covered with a familiar frayed hat, who gossiped too much and drank ardent spirits too freely.
18C English Woodcut

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

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

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

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

Interlopers and Thieves

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

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

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

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

Craftsman's Tulips

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


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

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

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

Ornamental Gardens

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



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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Faris kept the walkways that divided his garden beds in immaculate condition. This required constant maintenance.
18C English Woodcut

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

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

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

Boxwood Obsession


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

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

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

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

Kitchen Garden

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

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

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


18C English Woodcut

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

Herbs and Vegetables

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Porch

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

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

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

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

Craftsman's Well and Irrigation

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


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

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

Craftsman's Arbor

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

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

Dovecote

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

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

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

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

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

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

Craftsman's Beehives

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

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

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

18C English Woodcut

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

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

Rabbit Warren

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

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

18C English Woodcut

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

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

Craftsman's Privy

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

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

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

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

Hollyhocks by the Stable

Craftsman's Stables

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

Dung Fertilizer

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

18C English Woodcut

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

Craftsman's Hog Pen

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

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

18C English Woodcut

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

18C English Woodcut

Smokehouse

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

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

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

Pots

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

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

18C English Woodcut

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

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

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

Science

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

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

Garden Records - A Diary!

This artisan, innkeeper, and gardener was keenly aware of the changes in nature’s seasons that intimately affected the success or failure of his gardening efforts. He even noted in his diary when the martins returned to Annapolis.
A Page From William Faris's Diary. Maryland Historical Society, Baltimore.

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

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


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