Wednesday, August 28, 2019

Plants & Catalogs - Nurseryman Joseph Breck 1794-1873 & his spectacular 1833 circular flower bed

Joseph Breck (1794-1873) of Boston, Massachusetts

Breck, born in Medfield, MA, established his business, Joseph Breck & Company, in 1818 in Boston. From 1822 to 1846, Breck was the editor of the New England Farmer, one of the earliest agricultural magazines established in the U.S., and the first of its kind in New England. In 1833,

In 1840, Breck published his company’s first catalog New England Agricultural Warehouse and Seed Store Catalogue, which was a small book, 84 pages in length.  Breck attempted to use horticulture as an uplifting, educational tool. He included French plant names, listed standard works on horticulture, used illustrations to improve his readers’ tastes. The 1840 catalog featured 72 black-and-white engravings. Breck’s catalog may have been his rural customers only exposure to graphic arts and horticultural literature.

He was one of the founding members of the American Seed Trade Association and a president of the Massachusetts Horticultural Society from 1859-1862. Breck experimented with different forms of catalogs, for one of his schemes he packaged a collection of seeds targeted at specific markets such as the West Indies.  Long essays on gardening were included with the products.  In 1856, he published The Flower Garden, a book about the cultivation of ornamental plants such as perennials, annuals, shrubs and evergreen trees.
Breck Nurseries in 1850, located in Brighton, MA

In 1833, he wrote The Young Florist to educate upcoming generations about natural history and flowers.  In this book, designed "to attract young persons to that delightful employment, the cultivation of a flower garden," he presents a rather complicated plan for a bed of garden flowers. The text is presented as a conversation between an older gardener and his young pupils.

H. You see here a square, within which are three circular beds, or concentric circles, having two rows of figures in each. Now these circles are to be filled with annual flowers, and each number represents a different sort, and you see they are numbered as high as 100, so that I have designed it for one hundred different kinds.

I shall shortly show you a list of these, with their numbers opposite to their respective manes.

I have contrived it so that the tallest plants shall be in the centre and cover an arbor, as you see I have marked. You see a walk from the outside of the square to the arbor, communicating with one large and two smaller circular ones.

For the inner circle of all, such plants as climb to the height of ten feet or more, as the Morning Glory, Flowering Beans, &c., for which it will be necessary to put down birch poles with the branches of the tops left on to form the arbor.

For the second row you will find I have selected Sweet Peas, Cypress Vine, Nasturtium, &c. which are also climbers, and will require brush for their support, neatly trimmed, about four and a half feet high.

For the third circular row, the tallest plants which do not climb; and each successive circle of plants diminishes in height to the outer one, which is composed of dwarfs--and you will find by inspecting the key that no two kinds or colors of flowers come together, so that when it is all in bloom, it will have the appearance of a cone of flowers of every shape, color and shade tastefully intermingled, as represented in the following drawing; in which, however, I have not introduced any arbor, which can be done or not, at pleasure.

M. This will be beautiful, surely, and must have taken some time and patience to arrange it; but I think it will be a perplexing piece of work to transfer it to the ground, and have all the plants sowed in the place you have allotted them.

H. Nothing will be easier, as you will see when I come to lay it out and sow them.

M. What is to be put in the outer part of the figure, and what is the meaning of the letters?

H. That is the place for the perennial plants that we have in our little garden, and for such as we may procure from other gardens and the fields, and may be arranged in any fanciful manner we please. The letters represent fanciful groups of flowers to be in bloom at the same time, for different months of the year, to be composed of annuals and perennials. Ju. for July, Au. for August, A. for April, M. for May, &c., and here you may have opportunity to exercise your taste.

M. That will please me; and by the time you get the ground in readiness, I will exhibit a plan for every month in the season. I wish you would give me a copy of that part which contains the annuals, as I wish to send it to cousin Eliza; she had but a small piece of ground and her father has no place of his own, and or course does not want to be at the expense of cultivating many perennials, as he moves so often from one place to another.

H. I shall be happy to furnish you with a copy for her, and will also send her a portion of our seeds, with directions how to cultivate them. On the following pages you will see a list of the plants arranged in order; you will find some numbers and plants inserted twice; this is done to fill out the circle; and some of them are very showy. Be particular not to make any mistake while you write it off for her.


First Circle.
1 Scarlet Flowering Bean, scarlet.
2 Blue Morning Glory, dark and light blue.
3 White Flowering Bean, white.
4 Rose Morning Glory, purplish red.
5 Purple Flowering Bean, purple.
6 Superb Striped Morning Glory, white striped.
7 Scarlet Morning Glory, or Ipomea, scarlet.
8 Two Colored Lemon Gourd (ornamental fruit), yellow.
9 Starry Ipomea, delicate blue.

Second Circle
10 Nasturtium, deep orange.
11 Scarlet Sweet Pea, red.
12 Balloon Vine, white, curious seed pods.
13 Purple Sweet Pea, purple.
14 Mexican Ximenisia, yellow.
15 Cypress Vine, brilliant crimson.
16 White Sweet Pea, white.
10 Nasturtium, deep orange.
17 Tangiers Crimson Sweet Pea, dark crimson.
12 Balloon Vine, white.
15 Cypress Vine (scald this seed), crimson.

Third Circle
18 Red Four o’Clock, deep red.
19 Violet Zinnia, violet.
20 Yellow Immortal Flower, brilliant yellow.
21 White Chrysanthemum, white.
22 Prince’s Feather, very dark red.
23 Tall Blue Larkspur, lively blue.
24 Yellow Four o’Clock, yellow.
25 Variegated Euphorbia, elegantly variegated white and green.
26 Red Lavatera, light red strip’d with deep.
27 Blue Commelina, celestial blue.
28 Yellow Chrysanthemum, yellow.
29 White Lavatera, pure white.
30 Love Lies Bleeding, blood red.
19 Violet Zinnia, violet.
20 Yellow Immortal Flower, brilliant yellow.
21 Variegated Euphorbia, white and green.
26 Red Lavatera, light red.

Fourth Circle
31 Grand Flowering Argemone, elegant white flower and yellow centre.
32 Yellow Zinnia, tawny yellow.
33 American Centaurea, pale purple.
34 Tricolored Amaranthus, each leaf red, yellow and brown.
35 Long Flowered Four o’Clock, white with purple centre.
36 Grand Flowering Evening Primrose, yellow.
37 Purple Amaranthus (soak the seed in milk 24 hours), purple.
38 Red Zinnia, red.
39 White Amaranthus (soak the seed in milk 24 hours), white.
40 Golden Coreopsis, fine yellow with brown centre.
41 Red Opium Poppy, purplish red.
42 Crimson cockscomb, deep crimson.
35 Long Flowering Four o’Clock, white with purple.
43 African Marigold, orange.
37 Purple Amaranthus, purple.
34 Tricolored Amaranthus, yellow, red and brown.
39 White Amaranthus, white.
44 French Marigold, brown velvet orange.
41 Red Opium Poppy, purplish red.
42 Crimson Cockscomb, deep crimson.
46 Night Flowering Primrose, yellow.
27 Commelina, bright blue.

Fifth Circle
47 Tricolored Chrysanthemum, white, yellow and brown.
48 D’ble white and variegated Balsams, white and variegated.
49 Fennel Flower or Love in a Mist, blue.
50 Red Quilled Aster, red.
51 Long Flowered Evening Primrose, yellow.
52 White Expanded Aster, white.
53. Blue Lupin, blue.
54 Double Carnation Poppy, of sorts, red, pin, &c.
55 Yellow Hawkweed or Crepis Barbata, yellow and brown.
56 White Quilled Aster, white.
57. Blue Bottle, blue.
58 Fire Colored and Crimson Balsams, red.
59 Scorzonera, deep yellow and brown.
60 Double White Fringed Poppy, pure white.
61 Purple and Lilac expanded Aster, purple and lilac.
62 Scarlet Malope, red, with purplish stripe.
63 Pot Marigold, orange.
64 White Catchlfy, white.
65 Lemon Balm, blue and fine scent.
66 African Rose, every shade of red.
67 Beautiful Ketmia, straw and purple.
68 Variegated Asters, white, with blue and red stripes.
69 Azure blue Gilia, fine blue.
70 Red Quilled Aster, red.
45 African Hibiscus, straw and deep purple.
71 Sweet Basil, or Lavender, white with delightful scent.
72 Mexican Ageratum, blue
73 Double Purple Balsams, purple.
66 African Rose, every shade of red.
55 Yellow Hawkweed, yellow and brown.
60 White Fringed Poppy, pure white.
69 Azure Blue Gilia, blue.
74 Convolvulus Minor, fine blue and yellow.
75 Scarlet Cacalia, scarlet.
76 Snails, yellow, with curious pod.
77 Sweet Alyssum, white sweet scented.
78 Purple Candytuft, purple.
79 Daisy Leaved Catchfly, fine pink.
80 Caterpillars, yellow, with curious pod.
81 White Evening Primrose, pure white.
82 Double Dwarf Larkspur, purple, pink and white.
83 Lobel’s Catchfly, red.
84 Mignonette, yellowish, very fragrant.
85 White Candytuft, white.
86 Purple Immortal Flower, fine light purple.
87 Beautiful Clarkea, red.
88 Horns, yellow, curious pod.
89 Venus’ Looking Glass, blue.
90 Red Hawkweed, pale red.
91 Hedgehogs, yellow, curious pod.
74 Convolvulus Minor, fine blue and yellow centre.
75 Scarlet Cacalia, fine scarlet.
84 Mignonette, yellowish, very fragrant.
77 Sweet Alyssum, white and fragrant.
92 Wing Leaved Schizanthus, light and dark, purple and yellow.
93 Sensitive Plant, pink, very curious plant.
94 Coronilla, beautiful leaf, yellow.
95 Ice Plant, curious plant, white.
96 Nolana, light and dark blue.
83 Lobel’s Catchfly, red.
84 Mignonete, yellowish, fragrant.
81 White Evening Primrose, white.
97 Forget-me-not, blue.
79 Daisy Leaved Catchfly, fine pink.
98 Thunbergia, fine new plant - yellow and brown.
99 Heart’s Ease, purple, yellow and white.
87 Beautiful Clarkea, red.
100 Purple Jacobea, purple.