Friday, January 31, 2020

Garden Labor - Family

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Family Garden Helpers
Surprisingly, landed gentry & small town merchants & artisans generally employed the same kinds of help in the garden during the latter half of the 18th century in the Mid-Atlantic & Upper South. (That region usually includes Delaware, Maryland, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Washington DC, & Virginia; but my research seldom is all-inclusive for the entire area.)

While there are not many records of exactly who was working in the garden during the growing season, there are a few. Hard-working Annapolis craftsman William Faris used apprenticed & indentured white servants, free & slave blacks, & his own family to maintain his Annapolis garden. Here the use of garden labor between the artisan & the gentry differed.

At the homes of the gentry, the family seldom helped with garden tasks, except that the wives usually managed the daily activities of the kitchen garden and the poultry yard, as well as daily tasks of the house staff.

All of craftsman Faris' children, who were living close to home between 1792 & 1804, (when Faris was recording daily in his diary) helped in the garden, usually assisting a slave or temporary hired help.

Faris’ unmarried sons still living in Annapolis, who had apprenticed under their father before going out on their own as professional clockmakers & silversmiths, continued to serve as occasional garden labor for their aging father, who was 64 years old in 1792. One son was 27, & the other was 23 in 1792.
The craftsman’s unmarried daughters all helped in the garden, until they left home. Faris first mentioned his youngest daughter’s helping in the garden in 1794, when she was fifteen. His two oldest daughters, unmarried & heavily into the Annapolis social scene, also assisted in Faris’s garden in 1799, when the eldest was 25 & her sister was 24.

Notation of garden work by Faris’s wife, Priscilla, appears only once. In his diary Faris noted that she was usually employed at “woman’s work.” She fed & sewed clothing for her family & helped Faris with his need for extra hands by raising a large family.

British agriculturalist Richard Parkinson & his family rented a farm in Baltimore County for several years at the end of the century before returning to England, where he wrote of his American experiences. Parkinson also noted that his children helped with gardening & farming chores but that his wife did not.

Thursday, January 30, 2020

Plants in Early American Gardens - Grapeholly

Grapeholly (Mahonia aquifolium)

As a member of the Barberry family, this shrub was initially known as Berberis aquifolium, before Thomas Nuttall honored Philadelphia nurseryman Bernard McMahon by renaming the genus. McMahon was the first nurseryman to successfully grow Oregon Grape-Holly from seeds brought back by Lewis and Clark. The great plant explorer, David Douglas, found this plant and a related species, Mahonia repens, during his travels through the Pacific Northwest between 1825 and 1827. He introduced it on a large scale and it was widely cultivated by 1828. This shrub is not attractive to deer.

For more information & the possible availability for purchase

Wednesday, January 29, 2020

Plants in Early American Gardens - Vines

Vines in Early American Paintings
Detail. 1772 William Williams (1727-1791). The William Denning Family.
1787 Detail. Salem, North Carolina.
Detail Lewis Miller (1796-1882) Lewis Miller Sketchbook.

During the 18th century, American gardeners trained vines to grow on wooden fences, brick walls, columns, dwellings, arbors, and outbuildings. Vines are plants with supple stems that can climb, trail, or creep which need some support to grow erect. Some are rambling, some twining, and some sprawling.
American Bittersweet (Celastrus scandens)

Trained climbing vines could supply early American gardeners with some edibles; dramatic decoration; cooling shade; food to attract songbirds; some privacy; & lingering fragrances as well as softening the lines of buildings & screening undesirable views. Fast-growing plants, like the Carolina Trumpet Vine, could offer a relatively quick solution to hide an unsightly area. Climbing vines could break up stiff horizontal and vertical lines. And most of the vines could be found in the surrounding woods.
Balsam Apple (Momordica balsamina)

Among the hardy vines in early American gardens were the Carolina Trumpet Vine (Campsis radicans), Dutchman's Pipe (Aristolochia macrophylla), Virgin's Bower (Celmatis virginiana), honeysuckles, and rambling roses like sweetbriars, treasured for both their fragrant leaves & flowers. The orange, red, & yellow flowers of the Trumpet Honeysuckles (Lonicera sempervirens) are an excellent source of nectar for hummingbirds.
Carolina Jessamine (Gelsemium sempervirens)

Thomas Jefferson grew the lush purple Hyacinth Bean (Dolihos lablab) as well as Scarlet Runner Beans (Phaseolus coccineus). He called the wonderfully scented Snail Flower or the Caracalla Bean (Vigna caracalla) with its twining stalk, "The most beautiful bean in the world." Philip Miller's 1768 edition of The Gardener's Dictionary noted that in Europe, "the inhabitants plant it to cover arbours and seats in gardens for which it is greatly esteemed...for its beautiful sweet smelling flowers."
Carolina Trumpet Vine (Campsis radicans)

Jefferson also grew the Nasturtium (Tropaeloum majus) as both a vegetable & an ornament in 1782. In Bernard M'Mahon's 1806 American Gardener's Calendar, he recommended the Balsam Apple (Momordica balsamina) as a tender annual flower of the "twining sort." Balsam Apple has lobed, glossy-green leaves, delicate tendrils, and soft pale-yellow flowers. But the resulting fruits are anything but delicate spikey yellow-green pods which turn a bright yellow-orange before bursting open with sticky bright red seeds. Jefferson tried this vine in his gardens, along with the Cypress Vine (Ipomoea quamoclit), the seeds of which he sent Patsy to grow indoors at Monticello in 1790.
Cypress Vine (Ipomoea quamoclit)

My favorite from the period is the Carolina Trumpet Vine. Its 3-inch-long tubular, horn-like, orange flowers are an amazing, defiant show of color blooming throughout the summer. For some garden visitors direct contact with the vine can result in skin irritation. I also enjoy the Carolina Jessamine (Gelsemium sempervirens) which keeps it shiny dark green leaves year-round & shows vivid yellow blossoms. A shrubby, vine of moderate growth, jessamine climbs by twining its stem around a supporting structure. The fragrant, tubular, yellow flowers form in clusters during the early spring.
Dutchman's Pipe (Aristolochia macrophylla)

Also used in early gardens was American Bittersweet (Celastrus scandens) whose orange & red berry-like fruits & seeds of are showy and provide winter food for wildlife. The leaves are glossy dark green, oval shaped, and turn yellow before dropping in the fall. Native American Bittersweet vine is often confused with the invasive, weedy pest Oriental Bittersweet, which appears to be reducing the number of American Bittersweet plants.
Hyacinth Bean (Dolihos lablab)
Some theorize that vines were not much used as ornaments in gardens in the colonial & early republic periods of our county's history. Gardens during the 18th-century Age of Reason are thought to be too orderly to tolerate vines. The 19th century would bring in the passionate, vine-filled, romantic garden. But, early American gardeners were intentionally planting vines on their grounds long before the Romantic period.
Nasturtium (Tropaeloum majus)
Early in the 18th century, Robert Beverley reported in in History and Present State of Virginia about the garden at Westover, "Have you pleasure in a Garden?....Colonel Byrd, in his Garden, which is the finest in that Country, has a Summer-House set round with the Indian Honey-Suckle..."
Scarlet Runner Bean (Phaseolus coccineus)

In 1743, Eliza Lucas Pinckney wrote of William Middleton's Crow-field in South Carolina, "The house stands a mile from, but in sight of the road...as you draw nearer new beauties discover themselves, first the fruitful Vine mantleing up the wall loaded with delicious Clusters..."
Snail Flower Vigna caracalla).

George Washington seemed to enjoy planting vines to soften the look of his covered walkways at Mount Vernon in Virginia. In March of 1785, he noted, "Planted the Scarlet or French honey suckle...at each Column of my covered ways, as also against the circular walls between the Store house."
Sweetbriar Rose

When Manasseh Cutler visited the public pleasure grounds in 1787, Gray's Garden near Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, he wrote, "At every end, side, and corner, there were summer-houses, arbors covered with vines or flowers or shady bowers encircled with trees and flowering shrubs, each of which was formed in a different taste."
Trumpet Honeysuckle (Lonicera sempervirens).

Francois Jean Marquis De Chastellux visited Westover many years after Beverley in 1782, noting, "As for the hummingbirds...the walls of the garden and the house were covered with honeysuckle, which afforded an ample harvest for these charming little animals."
Virgin's Bower (Celmatis virginiana).

Several years after planting his honeysuckle vines, George Washington wrote, "I desire that the honey suckles against the Houses and brick walls, may be nailed up and made to spread regularly over them. Should those near the Pillars of the Colanades, or covered ways, be dead, their plants should be supplied with others; as I want them to run up, and Spread over the parts which are painted green." Washington apparently liked the sweet smell of his honeysuckle vines and did not worry about the vine's affect on his wooden columns. Here was a man known to like the tried and true; and his fragrant, familiar honeysuckle provided him with that comfort.

Tuesday, January 28, 2020

Plants in Early American Gardens - Rough Blazing Star

Rough Blazing Star (Liatris aspera)

In the wild, the showy Blazing Star or Gayfeather occurs mainly in prairie or open woodland, on dry, stony ground in Eastern and Central North America. This species was collected by Meriwether Lewis near the Charles Mix-Brule County line in South Dakota on September 12th, 1804. Liatris are members of the Aster family whose flowers open from the top of the inflorescence downward. The flowers are attractive to bees, butterflies, and hummingbirds, and are good for cutting.

For more information & the possible availability for purchase

Monday, January 27, 2020

Gardeners - Searching for Work

Gardeners Looking for Work in the Mid-Atlantic & South

Independent professional architect and draftsman Peter Chassereau, newly arrived in South Carolina from London, advertised in the Charleston newspaper in January, 1734. "Mr . Peter Chassereau, newly come from London, surveys Lands, and makes near Maps thereof, draws Plans and Elevations of all kind of Buildings whatsoever, both civil and Military, likewise perspective Views or prospects of Towns or Gentlemens Houses or Plantations, he calculates Estimates for Buildings or Repairs, inspects and measures Artificers Works, sets out ground for Gardens or Parks, in a grand and rural manner, and takes Level ; young Gentlemen and Ladys will be attended at their own Houses to be taught Drawing ." He may have been visiting relatives in South Carolina. He would return to York, England and execute plans of towns, country houses, & gardens there.

Gardeners looking for employment began advertising for work in the Mid-Atlantic well before the Revolution. In 1749, a notice in the Maryland Gazette announced, James Cook, Gardener, from England…performs all Sorts of Gardener’s Work….by the Year.”

Cook initially had come to Annapolis to garden for Provincial Secretary Edmund Jennings four years earlier, as an indentured servant. Cook advertised for independent work as a gardener in 1749 & 1750, but evidently he was less than successful at finding steady employment.

On November 3, 1751, Cook reindentured himself as a gardener, this time to Edmund Jennings’ wife, Catherine. In 1752, the Jenningses attempted to sell the time of the indentured gardener, noting that he was “an extraordinary good Gardener… understands the laying out of new work or anything belonging to a Garden.”

In the 1751 Pennsylvania Gazette, a young man "having serv'd a regular apprenticeship to a gardener in Scotland, having proactised it for several years in England, and is ready to answer any quorum of society of gardeners, in the several brances of gardening" had just arrived from Antigua and was looking for a position as a gardener and foreman over garden labourers for a gentleman in the region. He could be contacted at the London Coffee House in Philadelphia.


In several notices in the South Carolina Gazette during November 1752, John Barnes advertised, “This is to give Notice, to such Gentlemen and others, as have a taste in pleasure and kitchen gardens, that they may depend on having them laid out, leveled, and drained, in the most compleat manner, and politest taste, by the subscriber; who perfectly understands the contriving of all kinds of new works, and erecting wa(ter) works, &c. as fountains, cascades, grottos, &c. Planting)) vineyards and making of wines. As his stay in the province) will be but short (if he does not meet with sufficient en(cou)ragement) he desires those who ware inclined to employ (him) will signify their pleasures as early as possible to him, at Thomas Doughty’s, and they shall be wafted on by JOHN BARNES, Garden Archite(ct). He continued to advertise in Charleston as a garden architect through 1764.

In 1756, William Meyer notified the citizens of Philadelphia that he had opened an employment office, which he called the Office of Intelligence at the sign of the Sun on Moyamensing Road. He stated that "Any merchant incling to emply a person in a midling was of trade" could contact him. In October of 1756, he was looking for a "gardiner." By 1774, the office had moved to Front Street next to the London Coffee House, and was once again looking for a "good Gardener." In the Pennsylvania Gazette in 1782, the Intelligence Office placed a notice that "Clerks, Gardeners, Coachmen...of every description, may enter their names in said Office, after paying Eighteen pence; the same sum is to be paid by persons who are accomodated with servants by means of the Office."

John Watson was an immigrant gardener from England who advertised in the June 12, 1755 South Carolina Gazette, “JUST come from England, a Man that is a good gardener. Any gentleman that has occasion for one, or any planter that would employ him as an overseer, may hear of him by enquiring of the Printer.”

Watson was to become a long-lasting figure in the South Carolina gardening scene. He imported plants and gardening tools for sale. He was still advertising in the Gazette of December 10, 1763, “GARDENING in all its various branches will be done by him, either by the day or year.” He placed a similar ad in the same paper on September 16, 1765, and on February and November 10, 1766.

On April 27, 1767, he placed a notice in the Gazette of his moving. "THE Subscriber returns his most hearty thanks to all his friends who have been pleased to favour him with their custom, and hopes for a continuance thereof, and begs leave to acquaint them that he has removed to the hose known by the name of the Brew House, where he still continues gardening, selling of seeds, tools, fruit-trees, American plants, etc. as formerly.”
Watson was Henry Lauren’s gardener among others. He was the son of James and Jan Watson. Watson’s wife Catherine was buried in St. Phillip’s Parish on June 8, 1782, and he died, in the spring of 1789.

His sons James Mark and John carried on his nursery business until 1802, when John left South Carolina for health reasons. The Charleston Times ran the following notice on April 30, 1802. “The Subscriber BEING obliged to leave the country on account of his bad state of health, offers his handsome retreat for sale-There is on the premises a small Dwelling House, Stable and Fowl House, known to be a part of the Watson’s Gardens. Lot No. 3; in the vicinity of Hampstead. It is well worth the attention of any gentleman wishing a situation of the kind, as there is not for miles equal to it; the land is in the highest state of cultivation, both with vegetables and as complete a Nursery as Carolina can produce. He likewise offers his valuable NEGRO FELLOW, complete gardener and understands perfectly the management of raising, grafting, budding, and pruning of trees-it is unnecessary to mention any particulars about him, as he is well known in this city, JOHN WATSON.”

Thomas Horsey was a Charleston tinsmith & gardener who placed notices in Charleston newspapers in 1765 and 1766 “acquainting his friends and customers” that he had moved from his house on Broad Street and opened a shop on Meeting Street opposite Dr. Alexander Garden's. Horsey was a native of London. Dr. Alexander Garden was one of Charleston’s physicians and botanists before the Revolutionary War. Unlike his neighbor, however, Horsey was sympathetic with the patriot cause and served in the Charleston Militia, after which he returned to live at 4 Guigrand Street.

Virginia also saw independent gardeners searching for work before the war . In 1766, an immigrant placed the following notice in the local paper, “Lately arrived in this colony a young man who professes himself a GARDENER, understanding both flower & kitchen garden…grafting & budding.”
George Renney, an English gardener, advertised in the 1769 Virginia Gazette in Williamsburg “to undertake by the year to keep in order a few gardens at a reasonable price.”
In 1768 James Callahan, lately from Philadelphia perfectly acquainted with all branches of gardening” advertised for work in the South Carolina Gazette on December 22. Perhaps the cold winters drove Callahan south.

In 1767, Alexander Petrie was advertising in the Savannah Georgia Gazette that, “GENTLEMEN in town or country may have their Gardens made in the neatest manner, or looked after by the year, by their humble servant, ALEXANDER PETRIE, at Mr. O’Connor’s. N.B. Work to be done by the day or piece.”

Apparently, Petrie moved throughout the South offering his gardening services. On December 13, 1783 Petrie placed the following ad in the Richmond Virginia Gazette and Weekly Advertiser, “Alexander Petrie, Gardiner (sic) and Ground-Workman, INTENDS living near this city, to carry on the different branches of his BUSINESS. He will take two or three boys as apprentices, if affable; their masters hay have them taught to any particular branch, as may be agreed on, such as ditching, ground-work, &c necessary to every Gentleman’s plantation, who wishes to improve it. He would be obliged to those Gentlemen who may choose to employ him, to acquaint him of it before the last of this month, that he may procure a number of hands to discharge what work he may undertake with punctuality and satisfaction.”

His name was listed as having an unclaimed letter as the Richmond Virginia Post Office in the Virginia Independent Chronicle of April 16, 1788. But, in October 8, 1796, he was advertising in The Norfolk Herald, Virginia, "ALEXANDER PETRIE, GARDENER, HAS FOR SALE, Asparragras Plants, of the best quality, N.E. Old beds replanted, where the ground is high and dry it is proper to plant this fall; if low and wet to plant in the spring, when the sap is rising."

By March 31, 1798, he had returned to Charleston and was involved in the 1798 Fire. His wife Eliza died in Charleston in 1801, after which nothing more appears about gardener Petrie.

Another professional English gardener immigrating to Charleston, was William Bennett. The May 13 and June 11, 1771 issues of the South Carolina Gazette and Country Journal, carried the following ad, GARDENING. The Subscriber takes this Method to acquaint the Public, That he will undertake to MAKE, or put in COMPLEAT ORDER, the GARDEN of any Gentleman or Lady in or within Two or three Miles of Charles-Town, at an easy Expence, either by the Day, Year or Quarter, as may best suit them; and can be well recommended by the Gentleman he came out of England with. Enquire at Mr. Harper’s, Taylor, in Church-Street, opposite Thomas Laughton Smith, Esq. WILLIAM BENNETT. Bennet also sold seeds in Charleston during this period.

"A Man who understands Gardening, and Plantation Work" was looking to work in Pennsylvania in 1774, as a gardener & overseer to a gentleman's country seat. As an enticement, the gardener noted that his wife was capable of all kinds of housework and they had no children. In the same year, a single man in Philadelphia "Wants a Place in the Capacity of a Gardener" who was "regularly bred to the Business."

By 1778 in Philadelphia, a man wanting employment in the gardening business advertised that he "understands both building and managing the hot and green huoses, and laying out ground." In the spring of the next year, a man placed a notice in the Pennsylvania Gazette seeking employment and calling himself "A Compleat Gardener."

After the Revolution, most professional gardeners, both those born in the colonies and those immigrating into the new republic from across the Atlantic, began to sell their services aggressively, through newspaper advertisements & personal promotion.

In 1781, Cornelius Heagerty, "Gardener and Nurseryman" advertised that he was available for gardening in & about the city of Philadelphia, for the rest of the season. He would also prune fruit trees of every kind from November 15th through March 15th of the coming winter.

In 1794, the following ad appeared in the Charleston City Gazette, "Wants a place, a French Gardener, from Paris, having been in this Country three or four years, during which time he was greatly improved under the skillful Mr. Michaux, a French botanist...at length, he knows every line of his profession and to conclude he is very well recommended."



An Englishman, John Bryant, advertised as a gardener in the City Gazette and the Daily Advertiser in Charleston on June 6, 1795. “GARDENING. THE subscriber, well acquainted with the European method of gardening, being a native of England, and likewise well acquainted with it in this state, having been in constant practice for some years, takes this method of informing his friends and the public in general that he proposes superintending ladies and gentlemen's gardens in or near the city, whether intended for pleasure or profit. He also plans and lays out gardens in the European taste on moderate terms.”

Bryant also sold seeds, trees and shrubs. On October 4, 1794, he married Jane Thornton in St. Philip’s Parish in Charleston. In 1796 he advertised for an apprentice to help him. “An Apprentice is wanted to the above business, either white or colored. A Lad that is honest and industrious will meet with every encouragement.”

Bryant continued in the gardening and seed business until the fall of 1809, when he died. Jane Bryant, his wife, kept the business going into 1810. The inventory taken at his death included a greenhouse in the garden and pots, shrubs, and trees in the garden valued, at $675.

Michael O’Brien was another gardener advertising for work in the City Gazette and Daily Advertiser on September 8, 1796. "MICHAEL O’BRIEN RESPECTFULLY acquaints the Citizens of Charleston, and its environs, that he proposes to undertake the LAYING OUT OF GARDENS, in all the different branches, comprizing taste and utility. He has been regularly brought up to the above undertaking, and practiced in Europe for many years with great success.”

William Aitkin advertised in the same newspaper on December 7, 1796. “A Gardener. WANTS A PLACE, a regular-bred Gardener. He can be well recommended. A line left for him with the Printers will be duly attended to.” Robert Day advertised as a projector and gardener in the January 9, 1798, issue of the Charleston City Gazette and Daily Advertiser.
One independent gardener searching for work, Luke O‘Dio, wrote to President Thomas Jefferson on June 23, 1801. As proof to Jefferson that he has gardened for notable men, O’Dio stated that he had “done 2 pices of work on the Eastern shore of Maryland & one for a Wm Paca Esqr. Who was once Governor of this state & one for Mr. Chew near the same place.”
Towns such as Philadelphia, Baltimore, Annapolis, Richmond & Williamsburg did not hold a monopoly on pleasure gardening in the Mid-Atlantic & Upper South after the Revolution. In the 1790s & early 1800s, gardeners placed notices in the Maryland Herald & Elizabethtown Weekly Advertiser advertising a full range of services to prospective clients in Washington County & Frederick. These gardeners offered to lay out & manage greenhouses, hothouses, kitchen gardens, flower gardens, orchards, nurseries, & pleasure grounds.

Edward Otter was a gardener who arrived in Charleston, South Carolina, from England in 1803. He brought seeds and trees with him and advertised in the Charleston Courier on December 28, 1803 that “He may be found in the Market on the Bay all the forepart of the season, or at the City Hotel. He would contract with any person to lay out ground and plant it.”

Other gardeners & nurserymen publicized themselves & their wares more subtly, by writing books on gardening. Two gardeners who lived in Anne Arundel County at the turn of the century were David Hepburn & John Gardiner.
David Hepburn had been gardener at General John Mason’s estate on Analostan Island in the Potomac River, & at Cedar Park, the seat of Governor Mercer in Anne Arundel County. Cedar Park boasted a deer park, a rare feature on Maryland estates.

Hepburn & Gardiner combined their knowledge with information lifted from English gardening books to write an early American gardening book, The American Gardener, which was published in Washington D.C. in 1804.

French gardeners were still flowing into Charleston, South Carolina, after the War of 1812. French gardener advertised in the December 12, 1818 Courier in Charleston. “Mr. MENANT, Gardener, A PUPIL of Mr. THGUIN, one of the Brothers of Mr. THOUIN, Professor of Culture of the Museum of Natural History of Paris, has the honor to inform the public, that he undertakes to construct all kinds of Terraces, lay out Ornamental Gardens, and attend to the Planting of Fruit Trees and Ornamental Shrubberies. He also arranges the Decorations for Entertainments; and request those persons that wish to employ him, to have the goodness to address themselves to MR. FRANCIS CARMAND, No. 96 Queen-Street, or to Mr. NOISETTE, Botanical Agriculturist, King-street Road.”

Sunday, January 26, 2020

Plants in Early American Gardens - Bare Root Twin Leaf

Bare Root Twinleaf (Jeffersonia diphylla)

This rare and desirable native woodland perennial was named to honor Thomas Jefferson in 1792 by the “Father of American Botany,” Benjamin Smith Barton. Jefferson grew the plant at Monticello in one of the oval flowerbeds in 1807. The attractive flowers last only a few days, often appearing about the time of Jefferson’s April 13th birthday. Twinleaf is well worth growing for its lush green foliage, which makes a beautiful groundcover for a shaded site. It is easy to grow, but is very slow to propagate and takes 5 to 8 years to bloom from seed. These are nursery-propagated plants.

For more information & the possible availability for purchase

Saturday, January 25, 2020

Garden History - Trees-Copse

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During the 18th century, a copse was a small area of dense thicket of undergrowth or brushwood or trees often planned in the pleasure ground to add variety to the otherwise open scene. A copse might be planted as a rude surprise in the midst of an otherwise peaceful lawn or meadow as a stimulating interruption.

The small trees or underwood of a copse were often cut to remain open and sometimes for economic or practical purposes of sale or firewood. Sometimes a copse was referred to as a copice or coppice.

Copse of Trees at Gettysburg.

Jedidiah Morse reported in 1789, that at George Washington's Mount Vernon in Virginia, "lands...laid out some what in the form of English gardens, in meadows and grass grounds, ornamented with little copcies, circular clumps and single trees."

In November of 1803, Manasseh Cutler described the grounds around William Hamilton's Woodlands in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, "Between are lawns of green grass, frequently mowed, and at different distances numerous copse of trees."
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Friday, January 24, 2020

Plants in Early American Gardens - Sea Lavender

Sea Lavender (Statice) (Limonium latifolium)

Limonium latifolium bears clouds of delicate, lavender-blue flowers that are perfect for arrangements, both fresh and dried, and also blend beautifully in rock gardens, coastal gardens, and other well-draining sites. In The English Flower Garden, first published in 1883, William Robinson called this larger species of Sea Lavender “the finest of all.” Long admired as a cut flower, Statice was included in the Garden Notes of 1793 by Lady Jean Skipwith of Virginia, who noted “dried - it retains its colour which renders it ornamental for a Mantel-piece in Winter.”

For more information & the possible availability for purchase

Thursday, January 23, 2020

From Garden to Table at Mount Vernon - Roast Ham with Garden Herbs & Vegetables

Martha Washington (1731-1802) - From the Garden to the Table 

While George Washington oversaw most aspects of managing Mount Vernon's  pleasure gardens & grounds, Martha Washington oversaw the Kitchen Garden (The Lower Garden), allowing her to keep fruits and vegetables on the table year round.

The Kitchen Garden at Mount Vernon

“…impress it on the gardener to have every thing in his garden that will be nece]ssary in the House keeping way — as vegetable is the best part of our living in the country.” – Martha Washington, 1792

Inside the Kitchen at Mount Vernon

Outside The Kitchen at Mount Vernon

Roast Ham or Gammon

Martha Washington took great pride in the hams produced at Mount Vernon. She supervised their curing and subsequent preparation for meals. Her grandson recalled that a “ham was boiled daily” for enjoyment at every meal. In a July 1798 letter to William Hambly, an English merchant, George Washington wrote, “Being in grateful remembrance the very fine Cheeses you had the goodness to send me, Mrs. Washington prays your acceptance of half a dozen Hams of her own curing.”

Gammon is the English corruption of the northern French word jambe. In Samuel Johnson’s Dictionary of the English Language, it is defined as the “buttock of an hog, salted and dried.” The word is interchangeable with ham, as reflected in the title of this Hannah Glasse recipe. Unfortunately, Mrs. Washington’s recipe for roasting ham has not come down to us. But because she owned a copy of Glasse’s cookbook, it is possible that this recipe was one she tried.

This recipe was adapted by culinary historian Nancy Carter Crump for the book Dining with the Washingtons.

Ingredients

1 bone-in Virginia ham (country ham) (6 pounds)

4 cups dry white wine

4 to 6 cups fresh breadcrumbs

1 bunch fresh parsley, stemmed and minced

Directions

1. Soak and scrub the ham according to the method suggested on the package or by your butcher. Put it in a large pot, and add enough water to cover it completely. Bring to a simmer, and cook for 2 to 2 1/2 hours (20 to 25 minutes per pound). Add water as needed to keep the ham covered. When thoroughly cooked, remove it from the pot and cool slightly until it can be easily handled. Cut off the skin and trim the fat to 1/4 inch thick.

2. Place the ham in a large pan or ceramic bowl, and pour the wine over it. Steep it for 8 to 9 hours, turning every 2 hours. Drain thoroughly, reserving the wine.

3. Preheat the oven to 400°F. Set a rack in a large roasting pan.

4. Wrap the ham in parchment paper, secure with butcher’s or kitchen twine, and place in the roasting pan. Roast for 35 to 45 minutes, basting every 15 minutes with about 1/2 cup of the reserved wine, until the ham is heated through.

5. Remove the ham from the parchment paper, and cover the top and sides with breadcrumbs and parsley. Return to the oven, and roast for 15 to 20 minutes until well browned.

6. To serve, place the ham on a platter, and cut into thin slices.

Research plus images & much more are available from Geo Washington's (1732-1799) home Mount Vernon website, MountVernon.org. 

Wednesday, January 22, 2020

Plants in Early American Gardens - Prairie Blazing Star

Prairie Blazing Star (Liatris pycnostachya)

Meriwether Lewis collected the Prairie Blazing Star, also known as Kansas Gayfeather, near Chamberlain in Brule County South Dakota on September 15th, 1804. In the wild Liatris, which are members of the Aster family, occur mainly in prairie or open woodland, on dry, stony ground in Eastern and Central United States. The flowers open from the top of the inflorescence downward and are attractive to bees and butterflies and good for cutting.

For more information & the possible availability for purchase

Tuesday, January 21, 2020

Garden History - Trees-Bosquet

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A bosket or bosquet is a plantation of trees in a landscaped ground, garden, or park. The term comes from the Italian bosco meaning grove or wood. The term is seldom used before 1820, in early America.

To encourage visitors to walk inside bosquets, in Europe they are traditionally paved with gravel, since maintaining grass under trees is usually difficult.

At Versailles the bosquets are defined by geometrical paths and many contain sculptures & fountains hidden in the trees to surprise the garden visitor. These arrangements of trees are often planted as a quincunx and appear as a formal outdoor room. A bosquet offers both shade from the sun and a chance to see the sunlit spaces of gardens & grounds from shade.

As they mature, the trees of the bosquet form an interlacing and cooling, shady canopy overhead. Trees forming the bosquet are frequently limbed-up to reveal the intriguing and artistic textures and patterns of the tree trunks.

Occasionally, in order to keep the bosquet a defined garden area, perimeter trees were pleached. Pleaching (or plashing) is the practice of bending and inter-twining plants. Pleached trees grow together to form a sort of hedge on stilts.

In Philip Miller's Gardener's Dictionary of 1737, he defines bosquets as "small Compartments of Gardens...form'd of Trees, Shrubs, or tall large growing plants."

Garden with a Wooded Bosquet Beyond.

In an 1800 Baltimore, Maryland newspaper advertisement in the Federal Gazette, Adrian Valeck's country seat is describes as having "a large garden in the highest state of cultivation, laid out in numerous and convenient walks and squares bordered with espaliers, on which...the greatest variety of fruit trees, the choicest fruits from the best nurseries in this country and Europe have been attentively and successfully cultivated...Behind the garden is a grove and shrubbery or bosquet planted with a great variety of the finest forest trees, oderiferous & other flowering shrubs etc."
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Monday, January 20, 2020

Plants in Early American Gardens - Bare Root Large-leaved Magnolia

Bare Root Large-leaved Magnolia (Magnolia macrophylla)

This spectacular but rare North American species is native to Central and Western Florida to Western Louisiana, North to North Carolina and the valley of the Green River, Kentucky. The showy blossoms have a distinctive purple spot at the base of each petal. It was discovered in June 1795, while in full flower, by the French naturalist, André Michaux, during his exploration of the Carolina Piedmont regions near Charlotte, North Carolina. This awe-inspiring tree was introduced around 1800 and created quite a sensation in France. The Empress Josephine was among the first to have this magnificent tree in her garden. In 1890, Peter Henderson described a 50-year old specimen planted on an estate in Queens, New York: “There is upon this tree every year hundreds of flowers, and it is no less conspicuous in autumn, with its large heads of bright scarlet fruit.”

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Sunday, January 19, 2020

Garden History - Location--View

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The view was the overall appearance of the landscape surrounding a house or a garden. It was one of the most important considerations when chosing a site for a dwelling in the 18th century, as we learned in the earlier posting Location, Location, Location...

We have seen in earlier postings that the words command and view were often used together, see Location--Commanding Views and Prospects. Here are a few more references to the term view as it visually connects the overall relationship between a dwelling or garden with the topography around it.

The Garden Facade of Mount Clare near Baltimore, Maryland. It faces downhill toward the Patapsco River which emptys into Baltimore Harbor.
Virginian Mary Ambler visited Mount Clare, the home of Charles Carroll and Margaret Tilghman Carroll in Baltimore, Maryland, in 1770, writing, The House where this Gentn & his Lady reside in the Sumer stands upon a very High Hill & has a fine view of Petapsico River You step out of the Door into the Bowlg Green from which the Garden Falls & when You stand on the Top of it there is such a Uniformity of Each side as the whole Plantn seems to be laid out like a Garden.
Margaret Tilghman Carroll at the Garden Facade of Mount Clare by Charles Willson Peale.

In 1771, the public commercial grounds called Vauxhall Gardens in New York City was mentioned in the New York Gazette and Weekly Mercury, The Commodious house and large gardens...known by the name of VAUXHALL...having a very extensive view both up and down the North River.
New York City's Vauxhall Gardens.
English officer Lt. John Enys visited Boston, Massachusettes, in 1787, noting that, After Dinner we took a walk on the Mall...From hence we went to Beacon Hill from whence we had a Charming View of the town and harbour...there are a number of houses situated on Beacon hill which stand high...That of Governor Hancock stands the most conspicuous 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.

1768 Sidney L. Smith after Christian Remick A Prospective View of Part of the Commons 1902 after a drawing from 1768 Engraving Concord Museum MA

In 1787, a visitor to New Bern, North Carolina, reported that the Governor's "palace is situated with one front to the River Trent and near the Bank, and commands a pleasing view of the Water."

When he visited in January, 1788, Governor John Eager Howard's Belvedere at Baltimore, Maryland, The Seat of Colol. Howard which ...has a charming view of the Water fall at a Mill, a long Rapid below it, a full View of the town of Baltimore and the Point with the shipping in the harbour, the Bason and all the Small craft.

1796 George Beck Detail of The View of Baltimore from Governor John Eager Howard's Garden Park. Maryland Historical Society, Baltimore.

Englishman Thomas Twining visited Governor John Eager Howard's Belvedere in Baltimore, Maryland, in 1788, I walked this morning to breakfast with Colonel Howard at Belvidere... Situated upon the verge of the descent upon which Baltimore stands, its grounds formed a beautiful slant towards the Chesapeake...The spot, thus indebted to nature and judiciously embellished, was as enchanting with in its own proper limits as in the fine view which extended far beyond them. The foreground presented luxurious shrubberies and sloping lawns: the distance, the line of the Patapsco and the country bordering on Chesapeak Bay. Both the perfections of the landscape, its near and distant scenery, were united in the view from the bow-window of the noble room in which breakfast was prepared, with the desire, I believe, of gratifying me with this exquisite prospect.

Six years later, visitors were still impressed with the view from Governor Howard's property in Baltimore, Maryland. Moreau de St. Mery wrote of Governor John Eager Howard's Belvedere in 1794, Its elevated situation; its grove of trees; the view from it, which brings back memories of European scenes; all these things together fill every true Frencman with pleasure and regret.
In 1789, Geographer Jedidiah Morse wrote of Nassau Hall at Princeton, New Jersey, The view from the college balcony is extensive and charming.

Detail of Nassau Hall at Princeton, New Jersey in 1764.

Abigail Adams, the wife of John Adams, wrote in 1790, of Bush Hill in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, A variety of fine fields of wheat and grass are in front of the house, and, on the right hand, a pretty view of the Schuylkill presents itself.

William Hamilton's Bush Hill in Philadelphia

Around 1734, the Penn family gave attorney Andrew Hamilton land in payment for legal services. In 1740, he built Bush Hill on the property. Vice President John Adams and his wife lived in the house in 1790 & 1791. During Philadelphia's yellow fever epidemic of 1793, a quarantine hospital was set up in the mansion.

Fairmount Park, Philadelphia. August Köllner, Bush Hill and Cholera Hospital.

When Moreau de St. Mery visited the New York in the 1790s, he wrote, In America almost everything is sacrificed to the outside view...The elevated situation of these country residences, in addition to being healthy, gives them the advantage of a charming view which includes New York and the nearby islands, principally Governor's Island, and is constantly enlivened by the passing of the boats which ply on both rivers.

In 1793, Rev. John Spooner described David Meade's Maycox in Prince George's County, Virginia, These grounds contain about twelve acres, laid out on the banks of the James river...which open as many pleasing views of the river. Rev. John Jones Spooner's papers are at the College of William & Mary Swem Library showing his election to the American Academy of Arts & Sciences, and his installation as minister to Martins Brandon Parish, Prince George County, Virginia.

David Meade's terraced gardens sat directly across the river from the terraced gardens of Westover, almost a mirror image of two landscapes divided by the river with its walled riverwalk. The houses were about a mile apart. The view from either house would have been beautiful.

Thomas Birch, Southeast View of “Sedgeley Park,” the Country Seat of James Cowles Fisher, Esq., about 1819.

Sedgley Park was built in 1799, near Philadelphia, by merchant William Cramond. It was one of the earliest Gothic influenced houses in America. A contemporary remarked "The natural advantages of Sedgley Park are not frequently equalled, even upon the banks of the Schuylkill. From the height upon which the mansion is erected it commands an interesting and extensive view. The scenery around is of unusual beauty, but its character is altogether peaceful and quiet."

In 1808, William Birch wrote of John Penn's Solitude in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, The flower garden was distant from the house, reached by a circuitous path which took in as many as possible of the best points of view.

Solitude in Fairmount Park in Philadelphia.

Solitude was built as a quiet retreat on the west bank of the Schulykill River. The most English of the country seats built along the river, Solitude was built by John Penn, "the poet," a grandson of William Penn, the founder of Pennsylvania. Today it is in the center of the Philadelphia Zoo, where it serves as administrative headquarters.

William Birch, "Solitude in Pennsylvana. Belonging to Mr. Penn." 1809.

Elbridge Gerry described the White House in Washington D. C. in 1813, A door opens at each end, one into the hall, and opposite, one into the terrace from whence you have an elegant view of all the rivers.

1803 White House [View from Blodgett's Hotel to the White House.] by Nicholas King in the Huntington Library, San Marino, California.

Saturday, January 18, 2020

Plants in Early American Gardens - Duchesse de Nemours Peony

Duchesse de Nemours 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 extremely fragrant and unusual ‘Duchesse de Nemours’ was introduced by 1856, although some believe it was earlier. Joseph Breck described it as “quite a novelty” in 1851. Peonies are deer resistant, and their flowers attract butterflies.

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Friday, January 17, 2020

Garden Design - Trees-Avenues & Rows of Trees

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1767. Detail. Charles Willson Peale (1741-1827) miniature of the home of Dr. Henry Stevenson. Baltimore, Maryland. Maryland Historical Society. See more complete image below.

By the mid-18th-century, plantation owners up & down the Atlantic Coast often employed larger avenues of trees as well as their smaller alleys when designing their gardens and grounds. Garden planners designed avenues as wide, straight roadways approaching plantation houses or public buildings lined with single or double rows of trees and often cutting through a lawn of grass. They often used rows of trees spreading from the side of the house outward into the landscape to draw the eye toward the dwelling; to separate the entrance facade from the more private rear garden and work yards; and to form a living wall.

The word avenue had expanded to include any broad roadway bordered or marked by trees or other objects at regular intervals.

English garden writers had referred to avenues, while colonization of America was just a twinkle in the eye of the mother country. John Evelyn wrote disapprovingly in his diary in the summer 1654, "The avenue was ungraceful." In 1664, he advised, "That this may yet be no prejudice to the meaner capacities let them read for avenue, the principal walk to the front of the house, or seat." 

English garden reformer John Worlidge wrote in his 1669 Systema Agriculturæ of, "Avenues, Ways or Passages, or Rows or Walks of Trees."

Planners left avenues wide enough for a horse or carriage to pass, and some were much wider with many being the width of the house. Avenues leading to the entrance facade of a dwelling were wider than subsidiary intersecting ones and often were wide enough that the entire facade of the house was visible from the far end.

Often a 200' long avenue was about 14-15' wide, a 600' avenue was about 30-36' wide, and a 1200' long avenue was about 42-48' wide. Gardeners occasionally manipulated the perspective of even these broad avenues as well, so that the apparent size of an avenue was lengthened by gradually narrowing the width of the avenue towards the far end.

In Williamsburg, Virginia, William Byrd noted in 1733, "This famous town consists of Col. Spotswood's enchanted castle...There had also been a chapel about a bow-shot from the colonel's house, at the end of an avenue of cherry trees."

In the Virginia Council Journal it was recorded on December 15, 1737, for Williamsburg, Ordered that there be paid to Mr Philip Finch the sum of ten pounds for laying and planting the Avenue to the Governors House.

In May, 1743, Eliza Lucas Pinckney wrote from Charleston, "I...cant say one word on the other seats I saw in this ramble, except the Count's large double row of Oaks on each side of the Avenue that leads to the house--which seemed designed by nature for pious meditation and friendly converse."

Growing an avenue of trees took special planning and many years. Often the avenue of trees was planted years before the house was built on the property. On June 18, 1753, William Murray wrote to John Murray Esquire of Murraywhaithe in Charleston, "By all means mention the fine Improvements of your garden & the fine avenues you've raised near the spot where you'r to build your new house."

Often, avenues extended into the countryside & terminated with impressive vistas. In 1762 Hannah Callender wrote of William Peters’ Belmont near Philadelphia, “A broad walk of English cherry trees leads down to the river….One avenue gives a fine prospect of the city…Another avenue looks to the obelisk.” Avenues of cherry trees were common on plantations in Pennsylvania at that time.

Twenty years later, commercial nurserymen promoted grown trees for sale to the Charleston public. On January 1, 1778, an advertisement in the South Carolina and American General Gazette offered, "For sale...Magnolia or Laurels fit for Avenues...any height from three feet to twenty."

Schoolmaster Philip Vickers Fithian wrote in his journal in 1773 of Nomini Hall in Virginia, Due east of the Great House are two Rows of tall, flourishing, beautiful, Poplars...these Rows are something wider than the House & are about 300 yards Long...These Rows of Poplars form an extremely pleasant avenue, & at the Road, through them, the House appears most romantic.

George Mason's son John described Gunston Hall in Virginia, From the front entrance...there was...an avenue of cherry trees, reaching to the gate...On the north front by which was the principal approach, was an extensive lawn kept closely pastured, through the midst of which ran a spacious avenue, girded by long double ranges of that hardy and stagely cherry tree, the common black-heart, raised from stone, and so the more fair and uniform in their growth, commencing at about two hundred feet from the house and extending thence for about twelve hundred feet; the carriage way being in the centre, and the footways on either side between the two rows, forming each a double range of trees, and under their shade....But what was remarkable and most imposing to be so aligned as to counteract the deception in our vision which in looking down long parallel lines makes them seem to approach as they recede; advantage was taken of the circumstance and another very pleasant delusion was effected. A common centre was established exactly in the middle of the outer doorway of the mansion on that front from which were made to diverge at a certain angle the four line son which these trees were planted, the plantation not commencing but at a considerable distance therefrom (about 200 ft...) and so carefully and accurately had they been planted, and trained and dressed in accordance with each other, as they progressed in their growth, that form the point described as taken for the common centre, and when they had got to a great size only the first four trees were visible...And in truth to the eye placed at only about two feet to the right or left of the first position there was presented as if by magic four long and apparently close walls of wood made up of the bodies of trees and above as many of rich foliage constituted by their boughs stretching as seemed to an immeasurable distance.

Bernard M'Mahon wrote in 1806, Straight rows of the most beautiful trees, forming long avenues ...were in great estimation, considered as great ornaments, and no considerable estate and eminent pleasure-ground were without several of them.

See: The Recollections of John Mason: George Mason's Son Remembers His Father and Life at Gunston Hall (2003, Terry K. Dunn, ed., EPM Publications, Marshall, Va.). 

Thursday, January 16, 2020

Plants in Early American Gardens - Bee Balm

Bee Balm (Monarda didyma)

This vigorous native perennial was recognized as a desirable ornamental and kitchen garden plant by the early 18th century, and seed was sent by John Bartram to England in 1744. It was reported that by 1760 there was “plenty in covent garden market” in London. Early American settlers, especially the Shakers in upstate New York, made a tea from the leaves, hence the name Oswego tea, which is now Earl Gray. Bernard McMahon listed “Crimson Monarda” in his 1804 broadside, and bee balm was cited as a garden worthy plant by many 19th century American garden writers, including A. J. Downing, Peter Henderson, Joseph Breck, and Robert Buist. Deer tend to avoid this plant’s fragrant foliage.

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Wednesday, January 15, 2020

Garden History - Trees-Bower

In an 18th century pleasure ground or garden, a bower was a shelter or covered place in a garden, overarched with branches of trees, shrubs, or other plants. A bower made with boughs of trees or vines bent and twined together served as a shady recess from the sun.

William Shakespeare referred to a 1596 bower in 1 Henry IV, "Ditties...Sung by a faire Queene in a Summers Bowre."

In 1667, John Milton wrote, "Where the unpierc't shade Imbound the noontide Bowrs."
Richard Bradley warned in his Dictionary in 1727, "Care must be had that you do not confound the Word Bower with Arbour, because the first is always built long and arch'd, whereas the second is either round or square at Bottom, and has a sort of Dome or Ceiling at the Top."

In 1776, while traveling in western North Carolina and perhaps a little homesick, William Bartram wrote of "companies of young, innocent Cherokee virgins, some busily gathering the rich fragrant fruit, others having already filled their baskets, lay reclined under the shade of floriferous and fragrant native bowers of Magnolia, Azalea, Philadelphus, perfumed Calycanthus, sweet Yellow Jessamine and cerulian Glycine frutescens."

In the new republic of the United States of America in 1787, Manasseh Cutler described Gray's Garden near Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, "At every end, side, and corner, there were summer-houses, arbors covered with vines or flowers or shady bowers encircled with trees and flowering shrubs, each of which was formed in a different taste."

The Viginia Argus advertised a house for sale in the summer of 1799, in Bowling Green, Virginia:
"Valuable Property FOR SALE at the Bowling Green, near Richmond, that much frequented Tavern and public Garden...The garden is very extensive...with Summer Houses, and bowers for the accomodation of company."

When planning the landscaping for Monticello in 1804, Thomas Jefferson declared, "The kitchen garden is not the place for ornaments...bowers and treillages suit that better."

In his 1806 Gardener's Calendar, Philadelphian Bernard M'Mahon described where to place buildings in the garden, "Various light ornamental buildings and erections are introduced as ornaments to particular departments; such as temples, bowers, banqueting houses...and other edifices ...usually erected...in openings between the division of the ground, and contiguous to the terminations of grand walks."

In Salem, North Carolina, Juliana Margaret Conner descriped an 1827 visit to the Moravian community, "Afterwards walked into the garden...we saw what I conceived to be a curiosity and in itself extremely beautiful. It was a large summer house formed of eight cedar trees planted in a circle, the tops whilst young were chained together in the center forming a cone. The immense brances were all cut, so that there was not a leaf, the outside is beautifully trimmed perfectly even and very thick within, were seats placed around and doors or openings were cut, through the branches, it had been planted 40 years."