Tuesday, December 31, 2019

Plants in Early American Gardens - Karl Rosenfield Peony

Karl Rosenfield Peony (Paeonia lactiflora cv.)

Both European and Asian peonies have been cultivated since ancient times. Those native to central China and Siberia (varieties of Paeonia lactiflora) were first introduced to the West by the 18th century and by 1784 breeding with the European peony was occurring in France and Britain. Because peonies are such long-lived plants, many 19th-century cultivars are still available. Thomas Jefferson noted “Piony” in a list of hardy perennials as early as 1771. ‘Karl Rosenfield’ was introduced in 1908 by John F. Rosenfield, an American peony breeder. The brightly colored flowers attract butterflies.

For more information & the possible availability for purchase

Monday, December 30, 2019

Nurseryman - Prosper Julius A Berckmans 1830-1910–Augusta, Georgia

"Louis Mathieu Eduoard Berckmans was born in 1801 in Lierre, Belgium, a small town between Brussels and Antwerp, known for lacemaking, textiles and the crafting of musical instruments. His coming of age experience included the Napoleonic Wars, the consolidation of his country with Holland following the Congress of Vienna in 1815 and the subsequent unrest and eventual secession of Belgium years later. A member of the lesser nobility, he was well-educated, spoke French and German, enjoyed and played music, and created art. Trained as a physician, he also loved the natural world and became well-known in his homeland as a talented horticulturist. 

"In the 1820s, he married the love of his life, Marie Gaudens. More than 40 years after her death he would remark to friends, “My first wife…was an angel from heaven, God bless her.” In October 1830 Marie gave birth to a son, Prosper Jules Alphonse, and died soon after. Prosper became Louis’s “dear boy,” the apple of his eye. Four years later Louis remarried Holland-born Elizabeth Charlotte Arnoldine Rubens who gave him a second son, Emile, in 1837. According to the Smithsonian, Prosper was educated in France in horticulture and at age 17 returned to his father’s estates while studying at the Botanical Gardens in Brussels. 

"At age 20, with his father’s blessing, Prosper sailed to the United States to search for a good home for the family. There he travelled extensively, including a sojourn in Georgia to examine Rome, where a colony of Belgian expatriates had already settled. In July 1851, he returned North for the arrival from Belgium of his stepmother, younger half-brother and father, who had brought horticultural specimens from the homeland. 

 "In spite of his son’s enthusiasm for Georgia, the elder Berckmans decided to settle in Plainfield, N.J., where he and Prosper began a nursery to cultivate pears and experiment with other plants. The family was well-received and met some American luminaries. New Yorker Andrew Jackson Downing, often considered the father of American landscape, and author of the 1845 Fruit and Fruit Trees of America, sought out Louis Berckmans who he declared would “be a great acquisition in the society of American fruit growers and pomologists…. We rejoice that such a man has settled among us.” Downing’s unfortunate death in July 1852 cut short what might have been a long and productive relationship. By 1856 Dr. Berckmans was prominent enough that he was asked to judge in the United States Agricultural Exhibit. In New Jersey, Prosper married New Jersey-born Mary Craig, who in 1857 gave birth to the first of three sons, Louis Alphonse. 

"After several New Jersey winters, the South’s climate began to beckon. In 1857 Dr. Berckmans bought almost 145 acres on the south side of Washington Road and dubbed it Pearmont. To the west was the Fruitland Nursery property of Dennis Redmond who, like Dr. Berckmans, was an immigrant. Born in Ireland, Redmond had settled in Utica, N.Y. Hired by Daniel Lee, a fellow New Yorker who had moved to Augusta to become editor of the Southern Cultivator, Redmond became first a correspondent, then assistant editor, for the magazine. Both Lee and Redmond were proponents of agricultural reform in the South, including fruit cultivation, which they promoted in the pages of their publication. 

"Redmond’s property had been the orchard portion of James Coleman’s Bedford Nursery. As early as 1853 Redmond had begun advertising in The Augusta Chronicle the sale of fruit, fowls and trees from Bedford Nursery. And in 1854 he purchased 315 acres that included the Bedford orchard and gave the nursery the name Fruitland. In 1858 Louis Berckman purchased Fruitland from Redmond and combined it with Pearmont. Redmond then bought the land to the east of Pearmont naming it Vineland for the vineyards he began to cultivate there. (For an interesting analysis of Fruitland and Redmond, readers might enjoy an article by Dr. Philip Herrington, Augusta native and history professor at James Madison University, in the November 2012 issue of the Journal of Southern History.) Dr. Berckmans and Prosper’s young family moved to Augusta in 1857 with Emile following in 1858. Louis’s wife Elizabeth never joined him in Augusta, staying in Plainfield where son Emile later returned. Elizabeth, along with an Irish servant named Anna, appeared in the 1860 census living with $20,000 in real estate and $3,000 in personal property. In 1863 Emile, living in Plainfield, registered for the U.S. Army draft enacted in that year. Emile evidently remained in the North for life. In 1870 he married a New Jersey girl named Elizabeth, a fellow music teacher. In the Plainfield city directory of 1883, his occupation was still music teacher. ”

"In 1858-59 the first ads for the Descriptive Catalogue of Fruit and Ornamental Trees, Shrubs, Vines, Roses, Evergreens, Hedge Plants, &c., cultivated and for sale at Fruitland Nursery in Augusta, Ga., by P. J. Berckmans & Company” began appearing. The catalog could be obtained at Berckmans or at Mr. V. LaTaste’s Grocery Store in town. By 1860 Prosper appeared in the census with real estate worth $18,000 and a personal estate valued at $8,000. In addition to his father, wife and son, the household included Joseph Tice, a laborer from Belgium; Peter Benne, a nurseryman from France; Albert Coles, a clerk from New Jersey; and Rose Kelly a servant from Ireland. They were building one of the largest and most successful nurseries in the South. 
Prosper Julius A Berckmans 1830-1910

"During the Civil War, they provided vegetables and fruits for the Confederacy and donated to the mayor’s charity for wounded soldiers. Prosper and Mary added two more sons to their family—Robert Craig, born in 1864, and Prosper Julius Alphonse Jr., born in 1866. During the Civil War they provided vegetables and fruits for the Confederacy… In 1870 Dr. Louis M.E. Berckmans left the business in the capable hands of his son and, upon the invitation of Georgia author and newspaper columnist Charles Smith, better known as Bill Arp, he moved to Rome, Ga., where he lived on Horse Leg Mountain, which he nicknamed Mt. Alto. In a fascinating article on Rome’s Belgian colony in 1977, author Bernice Couey Bishop described his contented life there. His home was a 12- by 15-foot cabin of stone and wood, which he termed his “castle,” surrounded by a wall and terraces of flowers. On the hillside he planted orchards that fed him on pears, apples, peaches, plums and cherries. Inside the cozy home, books of the classics paintings of heroes lined the walls. There he cooked for himself, mainly vegetables and fruits, rice and grits. According to the article, the sounds of his violin often reverberated through the mountainside. Du Drovided vegetables and fruits for the Confederacy… 

"Periodically he walked the four miles down the mountain to town where he occasionally accompanied some of the accomplished local pianists on his violin. His character is reflected in letters of advice to his grandsons, whom he urged to follow the example of their father Prosper for honorable careers: “not seeking for…ambitious aims but shaping your course so as to deserve the esteem of your fellow man.” Distinction, he cautioned, “too often converts to vanity…a man can be happy and more so by following a plain, honorable course than by glitter.” 

 "On a visit to his beloved family 82- year-old Louis walked from Fruitland to downtown Augusta and back on December 6, 1883; he died the next day. Prosper buried him in Summerville Cemetery where he himself would one day rest. 

"...Prosper continued to operate the nursery, within a decade shipping catalogs throughout the region, nation and world. He served his profession well, founding the Georgia State Horticultural Society in 1876 and the Richmond County Agricultural Society in 1885, serving as president of each from its establishment until his death. In 1885-1886 he collected horticultural exhibits for the United States government for the New Orleans Exposition and the following year his peers elected him president of the American Pomological Society. For a number of years he presided over the editorial board of the Farmer and Gardener. In 1893 he gave the opening address at the Horticultural Congress held at the Chicago World’s Fair. A generous man, he also donated money and plantings to organizations and institutions such as the state mental institution in Milledgeville. 

"Having become a naturalized citizen, Berckmans took his civic responsibility seriously and participated in many community activities. Having become a naturalized citizen in 1854, Berckmans took his civic responsibility seriously and participated in many community activities. In the 1870s he became president of the Cotton States Mechanical and Agricultural Fair Association and in 1888 a leading member of the board of Augusta’s National Exposition. Active in political affairs as well, he served as the manager of elections in his precinct of Richmond County, as a grand juror and as a delegate to the Congressional Convention. His sons lived and worked with him at Fruitland while growing up and acquiring their educations. He sent sons Robert and Allie (Prosper Julius Alphonse Jr.), whom the paper called “two of the brightest and most popular Augusta boys,” to the University of Georgia. They, in turn, along with older brother Louis, who became a known designer of golf courses and the gardens at Radio City Music Hall, would become active professionals and community members, carrying on their father’s work. 

 "In 1897 Prosper’s wife Mary Craig died after more than 40 years of marriage. The next year Prosper, by then more than 70 years old, married 38-year-old Edith Fromm Purdy of New York, the editor of a fashion magazine. They met when he was on a visit to relatives in New York. The couple lived in Augusta and spent summers up North. In fact, in the 1900 census Prosper was enumerated with his new wife in Essex, N.J. 

 "In November 1910 Prosper J.A. Berckmans died after a long and productive life. At their first conference since the loss of their founder and long-time president, the Georgia State Horticultural Association dismissed their business agenda to pay tribute to their colleague and friend, whom one member said was the “greatest pomologist the South has ever seen.” Professor T. H. Hatten of the University of Georgia, whose campus landscape reflected Berckmans’s expertise, praised not only his “encyclopedic knowledge,” but his character: “His course was not that of the money-accumulating merchant but rather that of altruistic scientist who preferred the good of all before any considerations.” Although he was 80 when he died, Hatten said, “old age of the spirit was never his.” 

 "In 1903 Prosper had rewritten his will leaving the bulk of the estate, both in New Jersey and Georgia, to his second wife, including all the couple’s horses, carriages and personal belongings, 100 shares of stock in the company and 200 acres of Fruitland, including the dwelling house and the greenhouses of the nursery. The deed, however, was subject to the lease of the nursery portion to P.J. Berckmans and Co. Nursery until 1918. The rest of the estate, including the remaining Fruitland property was left jointly to the three sons, who already had received the largest share of the moneys from their father’s own inheritance of “patrimonial estates in Belgium” in the 1890s. The three brothers continued to run P.J. Berckmans & Company with Louis as president, Robert as vice-president and Allie as secretary-treasurer until the company lease on Edith’s portion ended in 1918 when they left the business. 

"In a few years, the new story of the estate as the Augusta National Golf Club began, with Louis and Allie both involved. It is fitting that the Augusta National keeps the name of the Berckmans family alive as a reminder of their remarkable legacy of beauty there and in landscapes throughout the world." 

This article appears in the April 2016 issue of Augusta Magazine. by Dr Lee Ann Caldwell of Augusta University

Sunday, December 29, 2019

Plants in Early American Gardens - Eastern Ninebark

Bare Root Eastern Ninebark (Physocarpus opulifolius)

Eastern Ninebark grows from Quebec to Virginia, Tennessee, and Michigan. A member of the rose family, it resembles Spirea in character and forms a dense, fast-growing shrub for naturalistic shrub borders. Philadelphia nurserymen John Bartram and Bernard McMahon, and the Prince Nurseries on Long Island, each included this unusual native shrub in their plant lists around the turn of the 19th century.

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Saturday, December 28, 2019

Garden History - Ornaments - Sundial

When I was a little girl traipsing through colonial revival & reconstructed 20th century colonial gardens along the Atlantic coast with my parents, I was completely captivated by the sundials measuring time by the shadow of the sun. Seems like every garden had one of those ancient mathematical contraptions.

In the Bible, the book of Isaiah mentioned, "Behold I will bring again the shadow of the degrees, which is gone down in the sundial of Ahaz."
Ancient Sundial.

Perhaps even Stonehenge was a sundial of sorts, but a tad larger and much more powerful than the sundials in the "colonial" gardens on this side of the Atlantic. Wildly intimidating experienced as a child and only a little less overwhelming viewed as an adult years later.
Once again at windy Stonehenge a few years ago.

Those I saw in the "colonial" gardens of my childhood were flat, geometric horizontal sundials, and the sun's shadow was cast by a style (a thin rod or a sharp, straight edge) onto a the flat, circular surface marked with lines indicating the hours of the day. As the sun moved across the sky, the shadow-edge aligned with different hour-lines on the plate.
Dad at a Virginia Sundial

They were mounted on wooden or stone bases, about 5-7 inches across, and just the right height for a curious little girl to look right down on them.
With Mother in a Garden

I was absolutely convinced that every colonial garden was supposed to have a sundial. It was required gear. But when I began researching 18th century gardens in the British American colonies, I just couldn't find many of them.

There is record of John Endecott ordering a sundial to be sent to Salem, Massachusettes from London in 1630, which William Bentley bought in 1810, donating it to the Peabody-Essex Institute in Salem.
Sundial at Mount Vernon, Virginia. Collection of the Mount Vernon Ladies Association.
I remember seeing one at Mount Vernon, greened brass & octagonal (similar to one George Washington ordered in 1785) supported on a wood pedestal, which I suppose has been replaced over & over. (I think the sundial at Mount Vernon was donated to the Mount Vernon Ladies Association in 1938.) There is also a sundail on a stone pedestal at the home of George Washington's mother, reported to be original.
Mary Ball Washington (1709-1789)'s Sundial, Fredericksburg, Virginia.

And Thomas Jefferson wrote to Mr. Clay in 1811, that he was amusing himself with "an horizontal dial for the latitude of this place." There is an unusual sundial mounted at Monticello overlooking the terrace.
Sundial on Porch at Thomas Jefferson's Monticello in Virginia.

None of the other journals or letters that I poured over even mentioned them, and I only found one noted in an old Maryland deed.

Perhaps they were uncommon in 18th century America, because clocks were beginning to apprear with some frequency. Or perhaps many colonials carried portable, hand-held sundials with them, similar to the one Lafayette presented to George Washington. Or perhaps sundials became popular garden ornaments in America in the 19th century, which would explain their explosion in colonial revival gardens.

Or perhaps, truth be told, I missed them. I would be grateful to anyone who might point me to an 18th century American reference to a sundial.

In the meanwhile, in 1768 in Queen Anne's County Maryland, one deed did refer to: "one sun dial set on cedar post."

Friday, December 27, 2019

Plants in Early American Gardens - Great Blue Lobelia

Great Blue Lobelia (Lobelia siphilitica)

This native wildflower has been grown in American flower gardens since at least the beginning of the 19th century. At one time it was thought to be a cure for venereal disease, thus the botanical name. Philadelphia nurserymen John and William Bartram sent seed of the Cardinal Flower (Lobelia cardinalis) and the Great Lobelia (L. siphilitica) to Europe in 1784. In The American Gardener’s Calendar, 1806, Philadelphia nurseryman Bernard McMahon named “Lobelias of various kinds” first among the “beautiful ornamental plants [that] may now be collected from the woods, fields, and swamps [to] embellish the Flower-garden and Pleasure-grounds...” McMahon advertised seeds of this species in his 1804 broadsheet and the William Prince Nursery on Long Island offered it in 1818. Bees, butterflies, and hummingbirds are attracted to the tubular flowers, but deer typically avoid this plant due to its toxicity.

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Thursday, December 26, 2019

Garden History - Location--Command

The word command appeared very frequently in 18th century America describing the situation and prospect of a gentleman's house or property.

In the South Caroliana Gazette in 1734, an advertisement for property for sale in Charleston, South Carolina, emphasized both the garden and the view, To Be Let or Sold...on an island which commands an entire prospect of the Harbor...A delightful Wilderness with shady Walks and Arbours, cool in the hottest seasons. A piece of Garden-ground where all the best kinds of Fruits and Kitchen Greens are produced planted with Orange, Apple, Peach.

In 1759, traveler Andrew Burnaby noted of Mount Vernon in Virginia, The house is most beautifully situated upon a very high hill on the banks of the Potomac; and commands a noble prospect of water, of cliffs, of woods, and plantations.
Mount Vernon in Virginia, high on a hill overlooking the. Potomac River.

As we noticed in the Location, Location, Location posting, the Governor's House in Annapolis, Maryland, garnered alot of attention. William Eddis also described the unfinished governor's house in 1769, The garden is not extensive, but it is disposed to the utmost advantage; the center walk is terminated by a small green mount, close to which the Severn approaches: this elevation commands an extensive view of the bay and the adjacent country.

In 1764, Lord Adam Gordon described the still unfinished Maryland governor's house in Annapolis, "commanding the view of the Town, the River Severn, the Bay, and all the Creeks." Lord Adam Gordon (1726–1801) was a Scottish general. During 1764, he toured the West Indies, the American colonies, and Canada, looking to invest in land & recording his impressions. He returned to England in 1765.

A plantation in King and Queen County, Virginia was offered for sale in the 1770 Virginia Gazette, "The manor plantation is beautifully situated, commanding a fine view of the river and marshes for many miles... a large falling garden inclosed with a good brick wall." Vistors could stand in the garden and survey the surrounding countryside.

The Rev. Mannasseh Cutler viewed, Robert Morris' The Hills near Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, in the 1780s, giving this report, ...the gardens and walks are extensive, and the villa...has a commanding prospect down the Schuylkill.
From Philadelphia a view of Lemon Hill, the house that replaced Robert Morris's house The Hills. by John Woodside in 1807. Historical Society of Pennsylvania.

In 1783, Thomas Lee Shippen described Westover on the James River in Virginia, noting that it had a ...commanding a view...about 300 by 100 yards in extent an extensive prospect of James River and of all the Country and some Gentlemen's seats on the other side.
Westover on the James River in Virginia.

British Lt. John Eyns wrote of Governor John Hancock's house in Boston, Massachusettes, in 1787, ...there are a number of houses situated on Beacon hill which stand high and command elegant prospects particularly at high water. That of Governor Hancock stands the most conspiculus just at the top of the common with a full view of the Mall before it besides its distant views of the harbour and adjacent country.
The Hancock House on Beacon Hill in Boston with its terraced entrance garden was built in 1737, close to the State Capitol building.

In 1788, Lt. Eyns described Mount Vernon, Virginia, in much the same manner, It had the Command of a View each way of some Miles up and down the River Potomack which is here about two miles broad On which during the Summer there are ships constantly moving.
Mount Vernon by Susan Whitcomb in 1842.

Thomas Anbury wrote of the Virginia house he was visiting early in 1789, The house that we reside in...a commanding a prospect of near thirty miles around it, and the face of the country appears an immense forest interspersed with various plantations.

Willliam Loughton Smith wrote in his journal on September 8, 1790, of General Schyler's house & grounds in Albany, New York, I took a walk to General Schyler's: his house...stands on a rising ground above the river and enjoys a commanding view.

Garden Facade of Gunston Hall in Virginia walking up the hill from the Potomac River.
And the following year, Smith described Colonel George Mason's Gunston Hall to the south of Alexandria, Virginia, The house is rather an ancient brick building, with a neat garden, at the end of which is a high natural terrace which commands the Potomac.

In 1793, Patrick Campbell wrote of Mr. McIntyre's house at Albany, New York, I went along with Mr. McIntyre from Albany to his house...we ascended a high hill, of a thin and stony soil, partly clear and inhabited, and which commands a fine prospect of the country all around.
Philadelphia The Woodlands, William Strickland after William Birch, ca. 1809.

Duc de La Rochefoucauld-Liancourt, Francois, visiting in 1795, described William Hamilton's Woodlands in Philadelphia, Woodlands...stands high...It commands an excellent prospect.
A View of the The Woodlands from the Rocks on the Schuylkill River.

In 1799, Isaac Weld passed through Washington, D. C. and noted of the White House, The house for the residence of the president stands north-west of the capitol, at the distance of about one mile and a half. It is situated on a rising ground not far from the Patowmac, and commands a most beautiful prospect of the river, and of the rich country beyond it.
The view of the Potomac from the porch at Mount Vernon.

After George Washington's death, visitors were still making pilgrimages to view his home Mount Vernon in Virginia. In 1813, Elbridge Gerry, Jr. wrote, Back of the mansion is a summer house, which commands an elegant view of the Potomac.

Wednesday, December 25, 2019

Plants in Early American Gardens - Double Red Peony

Double Red Peony (Paeonia officinalis 'Rubra Plena')

The Common or European Peony, Paeonia officinalis, was found in the gardens of France and Britain since the sixteenth century when they were grown in the medicinal gardens of monasteries. Thomas Jefferson most likely was referring to the European Peony when he noted “Piony” in a list of hardy perennials as early as 1771. The ‘Rubra Plena’ has been documented in cultivation since at least 1581 and is considered the first peony variety documented in American gardens, specifically in New England and the Middle Atlantic states. Peonies are deer resistant and their flowers are attractive to butterflies.

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Tuesday, December 24, 2019

Garden History - Trees-Wood

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A wood is a collection of trees growing more or less thickley together, of considerable extent, usually larger than a grove or copse (but including these), and smaller than a forest. In colonial America wood referred to a piece of ground covered with trees, with or without undergrowth.

In the 16th century, a wood in a pleasure ground was described in J. Manwood's Lawes Forest as a place "Where the trees do grow scattering her and there one, so that those trees do not one of them touch an other."


In 1762, Hannah Callender wrote in her diary of William Peters' Belmont near Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, "We left the garden for a wood cut into vistas. In the midst is a Chinese temple for a summer house. One avenue gives a fine prospect of the city...Another avenue looks to the obelisk."

New Yorker John Nicholson emphasized the practical use of a woodland in The Farmer's Assistant in 1820, every plantation or farm "ought to have a piece of woodland, or forest, sufficient for fuel and other purposes. Raising timber, for the purpose of fencing, will not often be found advisable. Farmers must eventually depend on waking stone walls, or hedges, for the purpose of enclosing their lands.

"But wood and timber sufficient for fuel, for building, for carriages and implements of farming, cannot be dispensed with. Of these, the Farmer will always find it most advantageous to keep the requisite stock himself, and not rely on others for purchasing it. Nor is it advisable to have his woodlands separate, and at a considerable distance from his farm; unless it be in parts of the country where part of the lands are too valuable to be kept in wood, and other adjacent parts are only fit for that purpose.

"When the Farmer is clearing up his farm, he ought to reserve, for woodland, that part which is least adapted for tillage, or for grass. Land which is swampy with a thin soil over a sandy bottom; that is rocky and hilly; or that is dry, poor, or very gravelly, may do well for woodland; while it would answer but indifferently for tillage.

"The quantity of ground to be set apart for this purpose must depend on the size of the farm; the quality of the soil of the woodland; the nature of the climate; and, frequently, according to the demand or market for wood; for, in some cases, it may be found more profitable to keep tolerably good land in wood, than in any other cultivation.

"Of the natural growth of wood, it will require as much as twenty acres, or more, to keep two fires, according to the common method of using wood for fuel."

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Monday, December 23, 2019

Plants in Early American Gardens - American Sycamore

 Bare Root American Sycamore (Platanus occidentalis)
Bare Root American Sycamore (Platanus occidentalis)

Recorded as early as 1636, this fast-growing, long-lived giant of eastern North American forests is often found in lowlands and along waterways, where its gleaming white bark is easily identifiable in the winter landscape. Also called Buttonwood, this native tree was offered in the 1783 Catalogue from Philadelphia’s Bartram garden and nursery. Thomas Jefferson listed the “Plane-tree” as an Ornamental native plant in his Notes on the State of Virginia (1781), and sent seeds to his French friend, Madame de Tessé in 1805, saying “a noble tree for shade, of fine form, its bark of a paper-white when old, and of very quick growth.”

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Saturday, December 21, 2019

Plants in Early American Gardens - Sarah Bernhardt Peony

Sarah Bernhardt Peony (Paeonia lactiflora cv.)

Both European and Asian peonies have been cultivated since ancient times. Those native to central China and Siberia (varieties of Paeonia lactiflora) were first introduced to the West by the 18th century and by 1784 breeding with the European peony was occurring in France and Britain. Because peonies are such long-lived plants, many 19th-century cultivars are still available. Thomas Jefferson noted “Piony” in a list of hardy perennials as early as 1771. The highly fragrant ‘Sarah Bernhardt’ was introduced in 1906. Peonies are deer resistant, and their flowers attract butterflies.

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Friday, December 20, 2019

Primary Source - 1729 Garden for Rent


To be Let very Reasonable, A Handsome convenient House, two Story high, containing Six rooms, Three Fire Places, with an Oven, and Well before the Door, and a handsome Garden, with choice Fruit Trees, Joining to the Ship Carpenter's, next Society Hill. Enquire of Elizabeth Benny, at the said House.

Pennsylvania Gazette, February 25, 1729


Thursday, December 19, 2019

Plants in Early American Gardens - White Balloon Flower

White Balloon Flower (Platycodon grandiflorus 'Albus')

Indigenous to China and Japan, Platycodon grandiflorus, the only species in the genus, was grown in European gardens by 1782. Philadelphia nurseryman Bernard McMahon included Campanula grandiflora (syn. Platycodon grandiflorus) in the General Catalogue of his American Gardener’s Calendar (1806). ‘Albus,’ the white variety of balloon flower, was first offered by the Ohio nursery Storrs, Harrison, & Co. in 1896. The botanical name is from the Greek platys, meaning “broad,” and kodon, meaning “bell,” in reference to the showy flowers.

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Wednesday, December 18, 2019

Primary Source - 1768 Runaway Gardener



RUN away...a likely young negro man named BEN, about 27 years old, near 6 feet high. Carried with him a pair of leather legging, and a variety of other cloaths, by trade a farmer and gardener, and is very handy at many other businesses.

Virginia Gazette (Rind), Williamsburg, March 3, 1768.

Tuesday, December 17, 2019

Plants in Early American Gardens - Wild Blue Phlox

Wild Blue Phlox (Phlox divaricata)

This North American species was introduced to British and European gardens as Phlox Canadensis in 1746. Bernard McMahon listed it as the “early flowering phlox” in the 1806 edition of his book, The American Gardener’s Calendar. In The American Flower Garden Directory, 1839, nurseryman, florist, and author Robert Buist considered the American genus Phlox to be one of the most handsome in cultivation. Buist included the Wild Sweet William among the species he considered the finest. The flowers are attractive to butterflies.

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Monday, December 16, 2019

Primary Source - 1729 Garden Vandalized


One Night this Week, some vile Miscreants got into the fine Gardens of the Honourable Clement Plumstead, Esq; and cut down many of the fine Trees, and tore up the choicest Roots &c. and as 'tis said, the Damage whereof comes to a very considerable Sum.
Pennsylvania Gazette, March 20, 1729.


Sunday, December 15, 2019

Plants in Early American Gardens - Bare Root Blue Damson Plum

Bare Root Blue Damson Plum ( Prunus insititia)

The name Damson derives from the Latin Prunus damascenum, “Plum of Damascus,” where the species was believed to have originated before its introduction into England and Ireland. In 1778 Thomas Jefferson planted a number of fruits, including the “Damascene” plum in the south-facing orchard at Monticello. The Damson was brought to America by English settlers long before the American Revolution and was a favorite of the early colonist. The tart fruits are especially desirable in jams and jellies. Bees are essential for good pollination and abundant fruit production.

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Friday, December 13, 2019

Plants in Early American Gardens - Chickasaw Plum

Bare Root Chickasaw Plum (Prunus angustifolia)

Called “Cherokee plumb” by Thomas Jefferson, this tough, prolific fruit tree is native to the southern United States. Jefferson received this plum from nurseryman Robert Bailey of Washington and planted it at Monticello on March 17 and 18, 1812. He also included it in a list of edible native plants in his book, Notes on the State of Virginia (1780s). The tart, acidic fruits are best when cooked or preserved, and are also attractive to birds. The mass of white flowers in spring are magnets for bees and butterflies.

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Thursday, December 12, 2019

Nuseryman -James Lockwood Belden 1774-1847

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James Lockwood Belden–1774-1847-Wethersfield, Connecticut–

Established Wethersfield Seed Gardens in 1820 (or possibly 1811).  Belden sold the company in 1838 to Judge Comstock and his son, William G. Comstock.

Information from the Smithsonian Institution Libraries and private research.
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Wednesday, December 11, 2019

Plants in Early American Gardens - Ducher China Rose

'Ducher' China Rose (Rosa x chinensis cv.)

Formerly called Rosa indica ‘Ducher’ and Bengale Ducher, this white China rose was bred by Jean-Claude Ducher (1829-1874), of Lyon, France, and introduced in 1869. Like most China roses, ‘Ducher’ flowers in flushes throughout the season, but most reliably if the spent blossoms are removed; otherwise it will produce persistent, orange-red hips. The China roses bloom on new wood, so prune early to promote growth and flowering.

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Tuesday, December 10, 2019

Primary Source - 1736 Gardens in Georgia


Frederica in Georgia the 12th of April, 1736.

THERE is a Town laid out here, and 37 Palmetto Houses built, in which all the People are sheltered till they can build better. The Town Lotts are already given out to each Family; those upon the Strand consist of 30 Feet in Front, and 60 Feet in Depth; those farther from the River are 60 Feet in Front; upon 90 Feet in Depth. The Garden Lotts of one Acre each which are within half a Mile of the Town, are already marked out, and Possession will be given to the People on Monday next; besides which the People in common plant Corn in an old Indian field of about 60 Acres. There is a Team of Horses and a Plough, with which there is some Ground turned up, and in it some Flax and Hemp seed sowed, as also half an Acre of Barley, which is come up very well, and some Lucern grass. We have a pretty deal of Potatoes in the Ground...

Pennsylvania Gazette June 24, 1736.

Monday, December 9, 2019

Plants in Early American Gardens - Mutabilis Rose

'Mutabilis' Rose (Rosa chinensis cv.)

‘Mutabilis’, also known as ‘Tipo Ideale’, is likely an old Chinese garden hybrid of mysterious origins. It was introduced to the West before 1894. The silken flowers are constantly transforming from copper-orange buds to lustrous pale peach when opened. Because the flowers are delicately poised on their stems, the rose is also called “the butterfly rose.” It is often associated with old Southern gardens and thrives in the Deep South.

For more information & the possible availability for purchase

Sunday, December 8, 2019

Holding on to The Sweet Divine - Flower Still Lifes Instead of Real Flowers in the 17C

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Abraham de Lust (Flemish artist, active mid 17th century) Flower Still Life

Now an abundant everyday item, cut flowers were prized luxuries in 17th-century Europe, England, and her colonies. Only the most affluent could afford to have them in their homes and gardens. That is why early explorers of Atlantic America described the flowers growing wild in the new colonies so carefully. A general growing prosperity in Europe during the course of the 17th century, however, eventually caused flower gardens to become more popular. The garden was considered an extension of the home and vice versa, with garden bouquets often decorating the home.
Abraham Mignon (Dutch Baroque Era Painter, 1640-1679) Hanging Bouquet of Flowers

Introduced from Asia around 1600, the anemone, crocus, hyacinth and tulips were immensely popular in Europe. The Dutch trade in flower bulbs, tulips in particular, proved a highly lucrative business. In around 1630, at the height of ‘Tulip Mania,’ an exceptional tulip bulb could cost as much as an entire house on a Dutch canal.
Alexander Adriaenssen (Flemish Baroque Era painter, 1587-1661) Flowers in Glass Vase

The average citizen simply could not afford a bouquet for home. The first flower still lifes appeared in the Netherlands during the early 1600s, as a means of meeting the demand for flowers. A painting of a flower was much less expensive than an actual bouquet and lasted for generations instead of days. Many early flower still life painters were German, Dutch, and Flemish. Some trained there, then moved throughout Europe and sailed to England, as the popularity of the genre spread.
Ambrosius Bosschaert the Elder (Dutch Baroque Era Painter, 1573-1621) Glass with Four Tulips 1615

Flower still lifes were still in vogue during the 18th and 19th centuries, when the rise of large-scale commercial bulb-growing transformed the Netherlands into the flower nation that it remains to this day. Now bulbs are exported around the world.
Balthasar van der Ast (Dutch Baroque painter, 1593-94–1657) Still Life with Flowers 1632

Cornelis de Heem (Dutch Baroque Era Painter, 1631-1695) Still Life with Bird

Elias van den Broeck (Dutch Baroque painter, 1649–1708) Vase of Flowers

Jacob Marrel (Dutch Baroque Era Painter, ca.1613-1681) Flower Study

Jan Davidsz. de Heem (Dutch Baroque painter, 1606-1683-84) Still Life

Jan Philip van Thielen (Flemish Baroque painter, 1618–1667) Still Life of Flowers

Jan van Kessel (Antwerp, 1626-idem, 1679) Still Life

Maria van Oosterwyck (Oosterwijck) (Dutch Baroque painter, 1630-1693) Flower Still Life 1669

Peter Binoit (German artist, fl 1611-1620) Flowers in a Glass Beaker 1620

Roelandt Savery (Flemish Northern Renaissance painter, 1576-1639) Flowers in a Niche 1611

Simon Verelst (Dutch Baroque Era Painter, c 1644-1721) Flowers in a Vase 1669

Willem van Aelst (Dutch artist, 1627-1683) Flower Still Life 1656