Wednesday, July 31, 2019

Thomas Jefferson to Bernard M'Mahon 1806



"Th: Jefferson returns his thanks to mr McMahon for the book he has been so kind as to send him. from the rapid view he has taken of it & the original matter it appears to contain he has no doubt it will be found an useful aid to the friends of an art, too important to health & comfort & yet too much neglected in this country . . . " — Thomas Jefferson to Bernard McMahon, 25 April 1806

Tuesday, July 30, 2019

Plants in Early American Gardens - Wild Bleeding Heart

Wild Bleeding Heart (Dicentra eximia)

This wildflower is native to the mountainous regions of Eastern North America from New York to Georgia. It was being cultivated by Annapolis, Maryland artisan William Faris in 1793 and recommended for the flower garden in 1859 by Boston seedsman and garden writer Joseph Breck, author of The Flower Garden or Breck’s Book of Flowers, 1851. At the turn of the 20th century, British garden writer William Robinson noted that the Dicentra eximia “combines a fern-like grace with the flowering qualities of a good hardy perennial.” He considered the species useful in rock gardens, mixed flower borders or for naturalizing by woodland walks.

Saturday, July 27, 2019

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


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

Gooseberry

Gooseberry, Grossularia, by some Uva, and by others Crispa, because villose and hairy. There are many species and seminal variations amongst the species themselves to be met with, but the two sorts principally cultivated are the hairy Gooseberry, and the large white Dutch. They are propagated from the suckers or cuttings, but the latter are preferable, as they produce much better roots than the former, which are apt to be woody. Autumn, before the leaves begin to fall, is the proper time for planting the cuttings out, taking the same from the bearing branches, about eight inches in length, and planting three inches deep, observing to nip off all under branches, so as to raise it to a head on a single stalk; in October you are directed to remove them into beds about three feet asunder, and having been one year in the nursery, they are to be removed to the places where they are to remain, six and eight feet asunder, row from row, observing to prune their roots, and all the lateral branches about Michaelmas; the London gardeners prune their bushes and cut them with shears into hedges, but this method is not approved of by Miller, who advises pruning with a knife, thinning the bearing branches, and shortening them to about ten inches, cutting away all the irregular ones; by this culture, I doubt not the Gooseberries would be as good as any in Europe; there is a small Gooseberry, very leafy, and which bears its leaves and fruit a long time, that is not worth cultivation; wherefore I would advise the banishing them from the garden.

Friday, July 26, 2019

Plants in Early American Gardens - Blue Balloon Flower

Blue Balloon Flower (Platycodon grandiflorus 'Mariesii')

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). The shorter, more compact form, ‘Mariesii,” was introduced from Japan by Charles Maries in 1879. The botanical name is from the Greek platys, meaning “broad,” and kodon, meaning “bell,” in reference to the showy flowers.

Thursday, July 25, 2019

Plants & Botany - Herbal - American botanist Jacob Bigelow - American Medical Botany - Boston, 1817

Jacob Bigelow. American Medical Botany. 1817-20. Iris versicolor, Blue flag, or flower de luce

The author of American Medical Botany Jacob Bigelow (1787-1879) graduated as a doctor but pursued his interest in botany leading him to publish the first systematic plant survey of the flora indigenous to Boston, in 1814. Along with William Barton's Vegetable Materia Medica, publication of which was almost simultaneous, Bigelow's book was one of the first two American botanical books with colored illustrations. American Medical Botany: being a collection of the native medicinal plants of the United States, containing their botanical history and chemical analysis, and properties and uses in medicine, diet and the arts was published in 6 parts, later bound into 3 volumes, appearing in 1817-1820.

Bigelow taught botany at Harvard University while maintianing his medical practice. He also was the botanist & landscape architect for Mount Auburn Cemetery. Mount Auburn Cemetery was founded in 1831, as "America's first garden cemetery", or the first "rural cemetery", with classical monuments set in a rolling landscaped terrain. The use of this gentle of landscape coincides with the rising popularity of the term cemetery, as opposed to graveyard. Cemetery evolves from the Greek term for "a sleeping place." The 174 acre Massachusetts cemetery is important both for its historical precedents & for its role as an arboretum.
Jacob Bigelow. American Medical Botany. 1817. , Datura stramonium, Thorn apple.

Jacob Bigelow. American Medical Botany. 1817. Apocynum androsaemifolium (dog's bane)

Jacob Bigelow. American Medical Botany. 1817. Datura stramonium (thorn apple)

Jacob Bigelow. American Medical Botany. 1817. Euphorbia ipecacuanha

Jacob Bigelow. American Medical Botany. 1817. Geranium maculatum (common cranesbill)

Jacob Bigelow. American Medical Botany. 1817. Ictodes foetidus (skunk cabbage)

Jacob Bigelow. American Medical Botany. 1817. Illicium foridanum (starry anise)

Jacob Bigelow. American Medical Botany. 1817. Kalmia latifolia (mountain laurel)

Jacob Bigelow. American Medical Botany. 1817. Laurus sassafras (sassafras tree)

Jacob Bigelow. American Medical Botany. 1817. Liriodendron tulipifera (tulip tree)

Jacob Bigelow. American Medical Botany. 1817. Magnolia glauca - small magnolia

Jacob Bigelow. American Medical Botany. 1817. Menyanthes trifoliata (buck bean)

Jacob Bigelow. American Medical Botany. 1817. Nicotina tabacum (tobacco)

Jacob Bigelow. American Medical Botany. 1817. Nymphea odorata - sweet scented water lily

Jacob Bigelow. American Medical Botany. 1817. Rhododendron maximum (american rose bay)

Jacob Bigelow. American Medical Botany. 1817. Rubus villosus (tall blackberry)

Jacob Bigelow. American Medical Botany. 1817. Sanguinaria canadensis (blood root)

Tuesday, July 23, 2019

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


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

Horse Radish

Horse Radish, Cocklearia, from Cochlear lat, a spoon, because the leaves are hollow like a spoon....is a species of the Scurvey grass. It is to be propagated from buds or cuttings from the sides of the old roats, in October or February; the former for dry land, and the latter for moist. The offsets should have buds on their crowns, and the heads planted out should be about two inches in length. The method of planting them is in trenches about ten inches deep, about five distance each way, the bud upwards, covering them up with the mould taken out of the trenches. Then the ground is to be levelled with a rake, and kept free from weeds, and the second year after planting, the roots may be used; the first year the roots are very slender. When you have cut from a root and separated as much as you have occasion for, put it into the ground again with the head just above the earth, and it will restore itself, if not pulled up soon after. It ought to be planted in very rich ground, otherwise it will not flourish. This method of planting I am so well pleased with that I never had any Horse Radish in my garden till I strictly pursued it, and I advise every one to follow it.

Monday, July 22, 2019

Plants in Early American Gardens - Dwarf Blue Curled Kale

Dwarf Blue Curled Kale (Brassica oleracea var. acephala cv.)

Thomas Jefferson's vegetable garden commonly included various Kales such as German, Russian, Delaware, Malta, and Scotch types. Dwarf Blue Curled Kale is a variety of Scotch kale with attractive and delicious blue-green leaves developed from Dwarf Green Curled Kale, an heirloom variety described in Fearing Burr’s Field and Garden Vegetables of America (1863) as a “hardy and comparatively low-growing” kale with finely curled leaves.

Sunday, July 21, 2019

President Thomas Jefferson took his favorite garden tools with him to the White House!

Thomas Jefferson by Rembrandt Peale, 1800

Margaret Bayard Smith (1778-1844) was a friend of Thomas Jefferson & chronicler of early life in Washington, D.C. She met Jefferson through her husband, Samuel Harrison Smith, a Republican newspaperman & founder of the National Intelligencer.  She kept a diary of her experiences, which was published in 1906.

"When he took up his residence in the President's House, he found it scantily furnished with articles brought from Philadelphia and which had been used by General Washington. These, though worn and faded, he retained from respect to their former possessor. His drawing room was fitted up with the same crimson damask furniture that had been used for the same purpose in Philadelphia. The additional furniture necessary for the more spacious mansion provided by the government, was plain and simple to excess.

"The large East Room was unfinished and therefore unused. The apartment in which he took most interest was his cabinet; this he had arranged according to his own taste and convenience. It was a spacious room. In the centre was a long table, with drawers on each side, in which were deposited not only articles appropriate to the place, but a set of carpenter's tools in one and small garden implements in another from the use of which he derived much amusement. Around the walls were maps, globes, charts, books, etc."
1804 Jefferson's White House. Library of Congress.

Thomas Jefferson regarded the White House mansion as overly-grand & "Hamiltonian" & considered not moving in at all. Despite his complaints that the house was too big, "big enough for two emperors, one pope, and the grand lama in the bargain," his love of architecture got the better of him, & he began to consider the house a challenge.

The house that President Thomas Jefferson entered in March of 1801 was still unfinished. The great Public Reception Chamber (East Room) that Abigail Adams had used for laundry still had no plaster walls & ceiling.  A drawing of the White House's 1803 first floor marks the State Dining Room as the "Library or Cabinet" & shows that the Family Dining Room & the Butler's Pantry were a single public dining room space.
Jefferson created a wilderness museum first in the East Room & then in the Entrance Hall, with mounted animals & Indian artifacts. Jefferson bought various habits & inventions with him to Washington. He had many hobbies & filled his presidential library/office with them.

Back at Monticello, Jefferson used his Southeast Piazza as his greenhouse for growing plants. This greenhouse was part of Jefferson's suite of private rooms that included his book room, writing office (Cabinet), & bedroom. Flanked by two "venetian porches"  His workbench was also located in the greenhouse area, where he is known to have made locks & chains.  The room probably also served as home to the pet mockingbird he took with him to Washington DC.  The room contained his work table & tools, as well as flowers, seeds, & flats for sprouting.

It is not surprising that Jefferson brought carpenter and garden tools with him to the White House. One of his slaves, Isaac Jefferson, wrote of Jefferson in the 1780s. "My Old Master was neat a hand as ever you see to make keys and locks and small chains, iron and brass. He kept all kind of blacksmith and carpenter tools in a great case with shelves to it in his library...been up thar a thousand times; used to car coal up thar. Old Master had a couple of small bellowses up thar."

In 1786 on March 3, Thomas Jefferson wrote to Joseph Mathias Gerard de Rayneval, first secretary of the French foreign office, "...Vergennes having been pleased to say he would give orders at Calais for the admission of certain articles which I wish to bring with me from England...as follows...A box containing small tools for wooden and iron work, for my own amusement..."

Margaret Bayard Smith commented in March of 1809, "In one of the rooms [in the Library], we remarked a carpenters workbench, with a vast assortment of tools of every kind and description. This, as being characteristic, is worthy of notice; the fabrication with his own hands of curious implements and models, being a favourite amusement."

Thomas Jefferson wrote to his friend & Revolutionary War hero, Tadeusz Kosciuszko, on 26 February 1810, "I am retired to Monticello, where, in the bosom of my family, & surrounded by my books...from breakfast to dinner I am in my shops, my garden, or on horseback among my farms...I talk of ploughs & harrows, seeding & harvesting, with my neighbors, & of politics too, if they chuse...& feel at length the blessing of being free to say & do what I please, without being responsible for it to any mortal."

After his death in 1826, visitor to Monticello Anne Royall wrote in February of 1830, "There were besides these [Entrance Hall, Parlor, Dining/Tea Room], four rooms on the lower floor, two on the right and two on the left, those on the right were quite small to those on the left: one was the room in which Mr. Jefferson worked, which it appeared he did, from the appearance of the room, the impliments for working in wood, squares, &c. lying about the room, --the one next to it, wsa Mr. Jefferson's chamber in which he died."

Saturday, July 20, 2019

Plants in Early American Gardens - Long Red Cayenne Pepper

Long Red Cayenne Pepper (Capsicum annuum)

Thomas Jefferson first planted the Cayenne Pepper in 1767 at Shadwell, his birthplace, just before his 24th birthday. This versatile tropical fruit is used in cooking - fresh or dried - as a hot, spicy flavoring. The green or ripe pods can be pickled, used in chili vinegar, and in pepper-sauce and salsa. The glossy red, 3-5” fruits are also desirable in decorations and dried-flower arrangements.

Friday, July 19, 2019

Early Garden Book - Basilius Besler (German botanist, 1561–1629) Hortus Eystettensis 1613

Basilius Besler (German botanist, 1561–1629) Hortus Eystettensis 1613

Just as Europeans were establishing homes & gardens along the colonial Atlantic coast of Early America in New England & Virginia, Germans were creating the Hortus Eystettensis, a pictorial record of the flowers grown in the greatest German garden of its time, the creation of the Prince Bishop of Eichstätt, Johann Conrad von Gemmingen (1561-1612). At his seat, the Willibaldsburg castle overlooking the river Altmühl, the Prince Bishop created an extensive pleasure garden comprised of 8 separate gardens, each staffed with its own gardeners & each filled with flowers from a different country, imported through Amsterdam, Antwerp & Brussels. The Prince Bishop boasted of having tulips in 500 colors. Painted halls & pleasure rooms further adorned the gardens. German botanist, Joachim Camerarius the Younger, collaborated with the Prince Bishop on the garden's early design. After Camerarius's death, a Nuremberg apothecary, Basilius Besler (1561-1629), advised on the planting & design, & began immortalizing the garden in detailed & delicate engravings for the year-round enjoyment of his patron (& for posterity) in the Hortus Eystettensis. Flowers were drawn from life with flower boxes sent to Nuremberg, so that artists there could work from fresh specimens, with the result that these plant portraits serve both as documentation & pleasure; here is a paper garden museum made perennial & evergreen.

Basilius Besler (German botanist, 1561–1629) Hortus Eystettensis 1613

Basilius Besler (German botanist, 1561–1629) Hortus Eystettensis 1613

Basilius Besler (German botanist, 1561–1629) Hortus Eystettensis 1613

Basilius Besler (German botanist, 1561–1629) Hortus Eystettensis 1613

Basilius Besler (German botanist, 1561–1629) Hortus Eystettensis 1613

Basilius Besler (German botanist, 1561–1629) Hortus Eystettensis 1613

Basilius Besler (German botanist, 1561–1629) Hortus Eystettensis 1613

Basilius Besler (German botanist, 1561–1629) Hortus Eystettensis 1613

Basilius Besler (German botanist, 1561–1629) Hortus Eystettensis 1613

Basilius Besler (German botanist, 1561–1629) Hortus Eystettensis 1613

Basilius Besler (German botanist, 1561–1629) Hortus Eystettensis 1613

Basilius Besler (German botanist, 1561–1629) Hortus Eystettensis 1613

Basilius Besler (German botanist, 1561–1629) Hortus Eystettensis 1613

Basilius Besler (German botanist, 1561–1629) Hortus Eystettensis 1613

Basilius Besler (German botanist, 1561–1629) Hortus Eystettensis 1613

Basilius Besler (German botanist, 1561–1629) Hortus Eystettensis 1613

Basilius Besler (German botanist, 1561–1629) Hortus Eystettensis 1613

Basilius Besler (German botanist, 1561–1629) Hortus Eystettensis 1613

Basilius Besler (German botanist, 1561–1629) Hortus Eystettensis 1613

Basilius Besler (German botanist, 1561–1629) Hortus Eystettensis 1613

Basilius Besler (German botanist, 1561–1629) Hortus Eystettensis 1613

Basilius Besler (German botanist, 1561–1629) Hortus Eystettensis 1613

Basilius Besler (German botanist, 1561–1629) Hortus Eystettensis 1613

Basilius Besler (German botanist, 1561–1629) Hortus Eystettensis 1613

Basilius Besler (German botanist, 1561–1629) Hortus Eystettensis 1613

Basilius Besler (German botanist, 1561–1629) Hortus Eystettensis 1613

Basilius Besler (German botanist, 1561–1629) Hortus Eystettensis 1613

Basilius Besler (German botanist, 1561–1629) Hortus Eystettensis 1613

Basilius Besler (German botanist, 1561–1629) Hortus Eystettensis 1613

Basilius Besler (German botanist, 1561–1629) Hortus Eystettensis 1613

Basilius Besler (German botanist, 1561–1629) Hortus Eystettensis 1613

Basilius Besler (German botanist, 1561–1629) Hortus Eystettensis 1613

Basilius Besler (German botanist, 1561–1629) Hortus Eystettensis 1613

Basilius Besler (German botanist, 1561–1629) Hortus Eystettensis 1613

Basilius Besler (German botanist, 1561–1629) Hortus Eystettensis 1613

Basilius Besler (German botanist, 1561–1629) Hortus Eystettensis 1613

Basilius Besler (German botanist, 1561–1629) Hortus Eystettensis 1613

Basilius Besler (German botanist, 1561–1629) Hortus Eystettensis 1613

Basilius Besler (German botanist, 1561–1629) Hortus Eystettensis 1613

Basilius Besler (German botanist, 1561–1629) Hortus Eystettensis 1613

Basilius Besler (German botanist, 1561–1629) Hortus Eystettensis 1613

Basilius Besler (German botanist, 1561–1629) Hortus Eystettensis 1613

Basilius Besler (German botanist, 1561–1629) Hortus Eystettensis 1613