Friday, May 31, 2019

Plants in Early American Gardens - Japanese Stewartia

Japanese Stewartia (Stewartia pseudocamellia)

The Stewartias are a small but valuable genus of ornamentals in the Tea Family, and are closely related to Camellias. Japanese Stewartia is more tree-like than the native species (S. malacodendron and S. ovate) and its bark is more distinctly flaking. This species was introduced before 1878. A Korean variety of this species was introduced by E. H. Wilson in 1917.

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

Thursday, May 30, 2019

1782 John Jay's wife on Gardens in France

Robert Edge Pine's (English-born American artist, 1730-1788) drawing of Sarah Van Burgh Livingston Jay daughter of the Governor of New Jersey William Livingston and wife of John Jay

In 1774, John Jay (1745-1829) married New Jersey Governor William Livingston's 17 year-old daughter Sarah (1756-1802).  Five years later, with the American Revolution in full fury, John Jay, president of Congress, was sent to Spain in an unsuccessful search of support for the democratic effort.  In 1782, he traveled to France to join Benjamin Franklin.  His young wife accompanied him on this trip.  She later wrote of France, "I could not but remark their natural inclination for chearful objects displayed in their little flower gardens, for there is scarce a peasant’s cottage without the appurtenance of a garden & many of them have little bowers that discovers a very pretty taste..."

Blooming Today in the Mid-Atlantic - Thomas Jefferson's Monticello

Keith Nevison at Thomas Jefferson's Monticello tells us that

Sweet William catchfly (Silene armeria) is particularly splendid in our gardens right now as we experience early summer weather. This very showy, self-seeding annual has bluish-green leaves and bright pink to purplish-pink flowers. It was established in American gardens by the 1820s and offered in the 1804 broadside by Philadelphia nurseryman Bernard McMahon (one of Thomas Jefferson’s gardening mentors). 

Wednesday, May 29, 2019

Gardens in 1680 Carolina

In 1680 Thomas Ashe, clerk on the ship Richmond, set sail for Carolina from London. He returned to England in 1682, and published an account of what he saw. Ashe commented on the gardening efforts of the early colonists of Carolina:  "Gardens as yet they have not much improved or minded, their Designs having otherwise more profitably engaged them in settling and cultivating their Plantations with good Provisions and numerous Stocks of Cattle; which two things by Planters are esteemed the Basis and Props of all New Plantations and Settlements; before which be well accomplished and performed, nothing to any purpose can be effected; and upon which all Intentions, Manufactories, etc., have their necessary Dependance. But now their Gardens begin to be supplied with such European Plants and Herbs as are necessary for the Kitchen, viz. Potatoes, Lettice, Coleworts, Parsnip, Turnip, Carrot and Reddish: Their Gardens also begin to be beautified and adorned with such Herbs and Flowers which to the Smell or Eye are pleasing and agreable, viz. The Rose, Tulip, Carnation and Lilly, etc."

Plants in Early American Gardens - Heartleaf Foamflower

Heartleaf Foamflower (Tiarella cordifolia)

This is a choice native perennial groundcover for shaded sites. It occurs naturally in rich woods from Canada to parts of North Carolina and Tennessee. Foamflower was introduced into Britain in 1731; however, references to it being grown in American gardens did not appear before the nineteenth century. Boston seedsman and garden writer, Joseph Breck recommended its use as an ornamental flower by the mid-1800s. This plant is not attractive to deer.

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

Tuesday, May 28, 2019

18C Greenhouse from England to Early America

1786 Unknown artist. John Coakley Lettsom (1733–1810), with His Family, in the Garden of Grove Hill, Camberwell.

The painting is notable for its close-up images of a garden bench, greenhouse, urn, espaliered wall, & flower pots.

Monday, May 27, 2019

Plants in Early American Gardens - Celandine Wood Poppy

Celandine Wood Poppy (Stylophorum diphyllum)

Unlike the rank and weedy European or greater celandine (Chelidonium majus), this eastern North American native is very desirable in the shade garden. It was first introduced into cultivation in 1854 and was recommended in The English Flower Garden (1883) by the British landscape designer and garden writer William Robinson. New Jersey garden writer and nurseryman Peter Henderson cited Robinson in his Handbook of Plants (1890) and noted that the native species was as showy as the other found in India and Japan (Stylophorum japonicum). The yellow sap in the stems was used as a dye by Native American Indians.

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

Saturday, May 25, 2019

Plants in Early American Gardens - Lady Tulip

Lady Tulip (Tulipa clusiana)

Charles de l’Ecluse, also known as Clusius, a botany professor at Leiden, was largely responsible for the introduction of tulips from Turkey to Europe beginning around 1570. The Lady Tulip was later named for him, to honor his contributions to botany and horticulture. This bulb, a native of Asia Minor, grew in English gardens by 1636, and made its way to the New World shortly thereafter. A story persists that when the Monticello flower gardens were restored by the Garden Club of Virginia in 1941, Lady Tulips were brought from Edgehill, a nearby estate and former home of Jefferson’s daughter Martha. These bulbs were planted at Monticello, where they have thrived and still flower in mid-April.

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

Friday, May 24, 2019

Blooming Today in the Mid-Atlantic - Thomas Jefferson's Monticello

Peggy Cornett at Thomas Jefferson's Monticello tells us that

This spring we have enjoyed one of the finest displays of purple and white foxglove, Digitalis purpurea, in recent memory. This highly deer-resistant biennial flower has been cultivated in American gardens since 1735, and it became more popular after its medicinal qualities were discovered in the late 18th century.

Bees & beehives from medieval Illuminated Manuscripts

The Luttrell Psalter


Many colonial & early American gardens depended on beehives.  At a time when many believed that bees were small birds, Pliny the Elder [1st century CE] (Natural History, Book 11, 4-23) wrote of bees:  They belong to neither the wild or domesticated class of animals. Of all insects, bees alone were created for the sake of man. They collect honey, make wax, build structures, work hard, and have a government and leaders. They retire for the winter, since they cannot endure cold. They build their hives of many materials gathered from various plants. They gather honey from flowers close to the hive, and send out scouts to farther pastures when the nearby flowers are exhausted; if the scouts cannot return before nightfall, they make camp and lie on their backs to protect their wings from dew. They post a guard at the gates of the hive, and after sleeping until dawn they are woken by one of their number and all fly out together, if the weather is fine. They can forecast wind and rain so they know when not to go out. The young bees go out to collect materials while the old work indoors. Honey comes out of the air; in falling from a great height it accumulates dirt and is stained with the vapor of the earth; it becomes purified after the bees collect it and allow it to ferment in the hive. Smoke is used to drive away the bees so their honey can be collected, though too much smoke kills them. Out of several possible candidates, bees select the best to be king, and kill the others to avoid division; the king is twice as large as other bees, is brilliantly colored, and has a white spot on his brow. The common bees obey and protect the king, as they are unable to be without him. Bees like the sound of clanging bronze, which summons them together. Dead bees can be revived if they are covered with mud and the body of an ox or bull.
 Aberdeen bestiary
 Anonymous (15th century)-'honey'-miniature Paris-BNF (Tacuinum sanitatis nal 1673)
 Barthélémy L'Anglais, op.cit, 1445-1450, Artificiosae Apes, France, Le Mans XVe s. BNF, FR 136, fol. 16
 Beekeeping print tacuinum sanitatis (14th century)
 Bees and Beehives, from The Hours of Catherine of Cleves,  c.1440.
 British Library, Harley 3448 f. 10v Bear and a beehive.
 Consulter Element Num
 Consulter Element Numa
 Detail of a miniature of beehives with bees. Italy, N. (Lombardy) from British Library
 Detail of Exultet roll Barberini latinus Montecassino - 592 Bib Apostolica Vaticana - ca 1075-1087
 Fearless bee-keeper and his hives. Lyon BM MS 27
 Georgics (KB 76 E 21 II, fol. 42v), c. 1450-1475
 Hives from French Illuminated Manuscript  t
 Illuminated Manuscript
 Illuminated Manuscript
 Illuminated Manuscript BNF
 Illuminated Manuscript BNF
 Illuminated Manuscript
 King's 24   f. 47v   Beekeeping
 Manuscrit enluminé par le Maître des Vitae Imperatorum (actif 1430 – 1450), miniatures qui illustrent le manuscrit du même nom de Suétone (Paris, B. N., ms. it. 131), 1431. Bee keeping
 Medieval Illuminated Manuscript
 Theological miscellany, including the Summa de vitiis, Peraldus, f. 58, England after 1236, 13th century]
Virgil observing bees. Œuvres avec les commentaires de Servius, Paris, 15C
 Bibliothèque Municipale de Reims, ms. 993, Folio 151v
 Morgan Library, MS M.81, Folio 58r
 Kongelige Bibliotek, Gl. kgl. S. 1633 4º, Folio 47r
  Museum Meermanno, MMW, 10 B 25, Folio 37r
 British Library, Royal MS 12 C. xix, Folio 45r
 Bodleian Library, MS. Ashmole 1511, Folio 75v
  Bodleian Library, MS. Douce 151, Folio 69v
 Bodleian Library, MS. Bodley 764, Folio 89
 Bibliothèque Nationale de France, lat. 6838B, Folio 29v
  Koninklijke Bibliotheek, KB, 76 E 4, Folio 86v
Koninklijke Bibliotheek, KB, KA 16, Folio 128v
Douce 88 fol-111v B
Medieval Bee Hives Hortus Noster

Thursday, May 23, 2019

Plants in Early American Gardens - Green Lavender Cotton

Green Lavender Cotton (Santolina rosmarinifolia)

Green Lavender Cotton, also known as Holy Flax, is native to the western and central Mediterranean regions and has been cultivated in gardens since the late 17th century. It is well-suited as a ground-cover and for edging perennial beds and intricate, geometric knot gardens. Its yellow flowers can be cut during or after they bloom to encourage fresh growth of the aromatic, deep green foliage, which is not attractive to deer.

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

Wednesday, May 22, 2019

1764 Dr John Hope's Proposal to get seeds from America to the Royal Botanic Garden in Edinburgh

John Kay.  Dr. John Hope, Professor of Botany in the University of Edinburgh Kay's Originals, Vol 2, page 412. John Hope (1725-1786) was a Scottish physician & botanist. He is best known as an early supporter of Carl Linnaeus's system of classification. He served as president of the Royal College of Physicians of Edinburgh, 1784-6.  Hope was the son of surgeon Robert Hope & Marion Glas.  He studied medicine at the University of Edinburgh. He took leave to study botany under Bernard de Jussieu at the University of Paris, but returned to his studies in Scotland, graduating MD from the University of Glasgow in 1750.

Monday, September 3, 1764  New-York Gazette (New York, NY)

Proposal for an annual importation of AMERICAN SEEDS into Scotland.

A Taste for the propagation of American plants, particularly trees, has of late diffused itself very much in this country. And such a taste, doubtless, deserves to be encouraged: for theoretical speculation gives us reason to hope, and time and experience will probably Convince us, that these plants may prove the means of making considerable improvements in this kingdom.

But this taste labours under great discouragements at present. In the first place, the skill and fidelity of the savers and collectors of these seeds in America are uncertain. In the next place, the integrity of the seedsmen in Britain is not always to be trusted; who, from the expense they are at in procuring these seeds, are often tempted, if any others remain on hand over year, to dispose of them as fresh seeds. And though nothing were to be feared in either of these respects ; yet, after all, there is commonly little choice in the assortments sent over at random, and a man curiosity is often disappointed in his inquiries after the seeds he wants.

To remedy these inconveniencies deserves the attention of all who wish well to planting, gardening, or agriculture. And as our new acquisitions in America promise us a large accession of plants to our former collections, and of plants too to which the climate of Britain will be peculiarly suited, the following proposals are humbly submitted to the consideration of all who will) well to their country.

I. That a subscription shall be set on foot for an importation of American seeds into Scotland, the subscription-lnm being two guineas each person.

II. That the scheme shall be put into execution this year 1764.

III. That a botanical catalogue, with the provincial names, shall be made up, with the greatest care, of American, and particularly Canadian, plants and trees, which can be supposed to thrive in the open air in Britain.

IV. That a correspondence shall be settled with some persons of integrity, and skill in botany, residing in one or other of the colonies of New-England, New-York, Pennsylvania.

V. That the catalogue of plants shall be transmitted to them, that they may send over a quantity of the seeds of the plant: in proportion to the sums subscribed.

VI. That they shall also be directed to inquire after, and transmit, a particular information concerning the circumstances attending the growth of the several plants, so far as they can, viz. the soil and latitude where they grow naturally ; what region of the air they inhabit; whether they are found near the coast, or in the inland parts; if growing on hills, or in their neighbourhood ; what aspect they delight in, dye.

VIl. That this commision shall be given early in the season, so that the seeds may be properly saved, and imported in due time.

VIII. That when the seeds come home, they shall be divided into small lots, of, the value of ten shillings or under, each lot comprehending a quantity of each kind of seeds.

IX. That as the quantity of tree and shrub seeds is proposed to be greater than that of the seeds of herbaceous plants, there shall be lots of tree and shrub seeds put up by themselves.

X. That the subscribers shall be furnished with what lots of these seeds they want, at prime cost, as value for part of their subscriptions.

Xl. That the remaining lots, sealed up, and marked with the year and price, shall be put into the hands of seedsmen, to be sold out to all who call for them, not more than one lot to one person, in order to indemnify the subscribers; and that if any os the lots of seeds shall remain unsold after one year, the same shall be returned to the society.

XII. That the subscription shall continue during pleasure.

By these means there would be a regular and annual importation of seeds, so that if through the accidents of seasons the feeds of one year should misgive, the planter would be sure of a supply the next year; and the person employed in America would find it worth while to be at pains in collecting these seeds, and transmitting them safe, and in a vegetating state, to Britain.

Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh
For the next decade he practiced medicine, indulging in botany in his spare time. In 1760, he was appointed as King's Botanist & as Professor of Botany & Materia Medica at the University of Edinburgh.  Hope succeeding in combining the gardens & collections at Trinity Hospital & Holyrood to a new, combined site on the road to Leith. He also succeeded in obtaining a permanent endowment for the garden, thus establishing arguably the first ever "Royal Botanic Garden."

When Hope became the 6th Regius Keeper of the Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh in 1761, he made a momentous decision early on in his tenure: close down the existing small physic gardens at Holyrood to create a new, much larger garden on a 5 acre site on Leith Walk.
Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh

At its entrance, Hope decided to build a little house which could serve as a gateway to the garden, a home for his head gardener, & a classroom in which he could teach medical students about botany – it would come to be known as the Botanic Cottage.
The Botanic Cottage at the entrance to the Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh

Designed by noted architects John Adam & James Craig – the latter responsible for designing the layout of Edinburgh’s New Town just a few years later in 1767 – the Botanic Cottage was completed in 1765.  Hundreds of students learned about botany in its large upstairs room overlooking the garden, hearing directly from Professor Hope about his experiments & studies, & referring to his detailed diagrams & illustrations.