Saturday, February 29, 2020

Plants in Early American Gardens - Guinea Hen Flower

Guinea Hen Flower; Checkered Lily (Fritillaria meleagris)

This delightful bulb is native to English meadows and was grown in American gardens before 1700. If well-situated in moist ground, it can persist for many years naturalized in lawns or beds rich in leaf mold. Guinea Hen Flower is known by several names, including Snakes-head Lily, Madam Ugly, and Drooping Tulip. 

The 1597 edition of John Gerard’s Herbal lists it as Checkered Daffodil and Ginnie Hen Flower and describes the flowers as “…checkered most strangely... surpassing…the curiousest painting that Art can set downe.”

For more information & the possible availability for purchase

Wednesday, February 26, 2020

Garden Tools - & a bit about John Evelyn

John Evelyn & Depictions of Early Gardening Tools

During the early 1990s, John E. Ingram, then the research archivist & curator of special collections at the Colonial Williamsburg Foundation, was working to transcribe diarist John Evelyn's (1620–1706) Elysium Britannicum, or The Royal Gardens in Three Books, which was languishing unpublished as MS 45 at the British Library in London.
Detail John Evelyn (1620-1706) by Hendrick van der Borcht, 1641.

Evelyn was a pivotal figure in 17th century intellectual life in England. He traveled, collected & read books and was intent on introducing a more sophisticated European high culture not only to his friends but to all of England. He had the leisure to do that thanks to a family fortune amassed by manufacturing gunpowder for Elizabeth I.

Evelyn worked for 40 years on his Elysium project, the purpose of which he wrote to a friend, "to refine upon some particulars, especially concerning the ornaments of Gardens, which I shal endeavor so to handle that persons of all conditions and faculties, which delight in Gardens, may therein encounter something for their owne advantage."

The main reason the project took 40 years and ended abruptly before its completion is that Evelyn loved lifting ideas & whole sections from the books he was collecting to incorporate into his Elysium manuscript, which was filled with notes in the margins, wholesale changes, & completely new insertions. He might have had the classics conquered; but science & horticulture were racing ahead of Evelyn, and he was determined to keep up, cribbing as fast as he read.

Evelyn peppered his manuscript with illustrations of garden layouts and embellishments for gardens & grounds. More important to this discussion, he included two pages of sketches of tools & small structures for nurturing new plants to be used in the garden. "Since Gardining...hath as all other Arts and Professions certaine Instuments and tooles properly belonging to it."
Evelyn (1620-1706) by Robert Walker, 1648.

Evelyn's work Elysium does open a world of connections between the changing philosophy of cultural, social & political thought and its reflection in gardens from Greek & Roman times to Evelyn's age.

During the 1980s, an article in the Journal of Garden History suggested that even Evelyn's depictions & discussions of garden tools might have "more subtle meanings" than mere illustrations, that perhaps they might be "charged with symbolic values," emblems for Evelyn's "gardiner" & the world beyond. After all, Evelyn wrote, "What is our Gardiner to be, but an absolute Philosopher!"
Well, back to the tools. (By the way, Dr. Ingram's transcription was published in 2001, go to to find it. You won't regret your purchase, if you are at all interested in gardening or in the intellectual life of 17th centrury England.)

One of Evelyn's unfinished chapters was to have been about ‘Watering, Pruning, Plashing, Nailing, Clipping, Mowing and Rolling.’ We could have used that in a discussion of tools, but his advice wasn't always that practical. For garden rollers, he recommends marble columns procured from the classical ruins in Smyrna.

Elysium is not a practical work like his Sylva, or A Discourse of Forest Trees (1664); Kalendarium Hortense: or; The Gard’ners Almanac (1664), a guide to gardener’s task, month by month throughout the year; or Acetaria: a Discourse of Sallets (1699), a proof that vegetarians could eat & live.

Elysium is not entirely void of practicality, but it is unabashedly aristocratic in both aesthetics & philosophy and full of irrelevant digressions, of which I am a huge devotee and part-time practitioner.
Early Garden and Agricultural Equipment.

Evelyn was certainly not the first to illustrate gardening and agricultural tools. Early manuscripts often depcited gardening. Two of my favorites are from 1410 Tres Riches Heures du duc de Berry.
Detail Vincennes Castle in France. 1410 Depiction.
Detail Paris. 1410 Depiction.

A more mundane engraving of instruments for grafting, engraving appeared in Leonard Mascall's, The Art of Planting and Grafting, in 1572. And an engraving of pruning tools appeared in Jean de La Quintinie, The Compleat Gard’ner in 1693.

Page of Garden Tools from John Evelyn's (1620–1706) Elysium Britannicum, or The Royal Gardens in Three Books.

Tools & equipment Evelyn felt were absolutely necessary for a garden depicted on this page include:
iron-clad spades,
pickaxe and shovel,
sieves and screens,
instruments peculitar to the surveyor
a planting lattice...for regular planting and setting of rootes and flowers...
turf lifter,
turf edger,
stone roller,
and long pruners.

Garden Tools from John Evelyn's (1620–1706) Elysium Britannicum, or The Royal Gardens in Three Books.

Evelyn continued with his depiction of mandatory garden tools & equipment on this page including:
3 different designs of watering pots,
water barrel,
water tanks,
forcing post,
protection cone,
bell glasses
hand light bedstead "furnished with tester and Curtaines of draw over and preserve the Choysest flowers, bing in their beauty, from the parching beames of the Sunn,
knife sharpener,
bird scarers (bells),
storage chest,
garden diary or register,
and traps.

In the Le Jardinier Solitaire by François Gentil & Louis Liger published in 1706, there is a list of the instruments necessary for a florist. Gentil wrote, As a Soldier can't fight without his Arms, so a Gardner can't work without proper Tools. The one is as necessary as the other.
This engraving from LE JARDINIER FLEURISTE by Le Sieur Liger d'Auxerre printed in 1787. Images taken from earlier publication Necessary Instruments for Gardening from Le Jardinier Solitaire by François Gentil, Louis Liger published in 1706.

1 Spade. The first instument the Gardener takes in his hand to learn a dexterity in turning up the Ground and working it smooth and even and it is chiefly used by Apprentices.

2 Shovel. Used for throwing Earth out of Trenches or Ditches or for throwing rakings into a Wheelbarrow or Dosser.

3 Rakes. This tool is in the Gardener's Trade. a symbol of Neatness. One for smoothing Beds and Plots, the other for cleaning the Walks.

4 Rakers. A necessary tool for keeping the Garden clean of weeds.

5 Displanter. Used for transplanting and for taking up all Flowers, that the Gardener is obliged to transplant from the place where they were sowed to another.

6 Prining knife. So necessary, that a Gardener ought always to have one in his pocket for there's a hundred occasions in the way of Gardening to make use of it.

7 Dibbles. For planting small flowers that have roots and for planting Bulbs.

8 Watering Pot. Nothing is more useful in a Garden than a Watering-Pot, so that a Gardner cannot be without it. It imitates the rain, falling from the Heavens.

9 Beetle. This serves to smooth the Walkes and hinders most effectively the growing of Weeds upon 'em.

10 Flower Basket. A Gardener that cultivates Flowers, ought to have Baskets by him, to gather the Flowrs in upon occasion. This sort of Basket, shew a Gardener's Neatness and the genteel way of his Profession.

11 Sieve. 'Tis by this that the Earth is reduced almost to Dust and is rendered fit for receiving Anemones, Rannunculas, and other fine flowers.

12 Saw. 'Tis used for cutting the Branches which he can't lop with his knife.

13 Transplanter. Used for raising together with the earth, plants for transplanting.

14 Garden Pot. A Gardner ought to have good store of Pots to put some Flowers in, that grow better fo than in full Earth, such as Pinks, Bears-Ears, Tube-roses, &c. These may be either of plain Earth, or of Dutch Ware, the former are much larger, for holding Jessamins, Clove-Gill-flowers, and such other Plants.

15 Plainer, or Rabot. Tho you run the Rake never so often along the Walks and Paths of a Garden, it will leave some Roughness which is easily rectified with an Inftrument call'd a Rabot; and therefore a neat Gardiner ought not to be without it.

16 Paillassons or Panniers of Straw. This is very necessary to keep out the Froft, which would hurt the Flowers that are sowed, especially those who can't bear much cold.

17 Mallet. Used with the Chisel for lopping the Branches, that can't be so neatly taken off with the force of one's hands.

18 Wheelbarrow. To carry the Stones and Rakings of a Garden, to, places appointed to receive 'em ; or, to carry Earth, or Mold, to improve such Grounds as are hungry.

19 Handbarrow. To carry into the Greenhouse, Trees or Shrubs, set in Boxes, which a Man can't carry upon his Arm. Tis likewise of use for carrying Dung upon the Beds.

20 Catterpiller Sheers. For removing Catterpillers, which would otherwise deftroy all- It has a Handle ten foot long fitted to it, that it may reach to the upper Pans of a Tree. They clip, or cut the end of the Branch upon which the tuft of Catterpillers is lodg'd.

21 Garden Sheers. They are of use for trimming the Box, Yews, and other Trees and Shrubs, that serve to embellish a Garden.

22 Double Ladder. For trimming the upper part of the Arbour, or high Bower.

23 Pickaxe. For raising the Plants that adorn the Borders...or for giving some small Culture to Trees and Shrubs.

24 Rolling Stone. For smoothing Walks after they are raked.

25 Hook. A Gardener that has Rows of Greens to dress, can't trim them well without a hook, which is used after a certain way.

26 Glass Bell. A Forist can't be without this unless he has a mind to run the risk of losing his Plants, such as are soon in Beds immediately after the end of Winter.

27 Straw Bell. Proper for covering Plants newly transplanted in order to guard them from the Heat or the Sun, which might annoy them at first.

28 Garden Fork. For spreding and disposing of Dung upon the Beds.

29 Trowel. By the help of which a Flower Gardener takes up Plants with Earth around them.

30 Hurdle. For passing the Earth through. Of great use for separating the good Earth from the Stones.
1761 Frontispiece Le gentilhomme cultivateur ou corps complet d agriculture. Paris.

Richard Bradley, an English garden writer who was appointed the first Professor of Botany, Cambridge University in 1724, and whose books were owned widely throughout the British American colonies, also included a page of garden tools in one of his books published about 20 years after John Evelyn's death.
Garden Tools from Richard Bradley's Survey of Ancient Husbandry and Gardening in 1725.

Garden Tools in Colonial America & The Early Republic
18th-century Depiction

By 1734, garden tools made in the colonies were being advertised for sale in local newspapers.LATELY set up at Trenton in New Jersey, a Plateing and Blade Mill, by Isaac Harrow, an English Smith, who makes ...GARDEN SPADES...COMMON SHOVELS, SCYTHES...BROAD AXES,...CROSS CUT SAWS...BARK SHAVERS, HAND SAWS...HAY KNIVES...TOBACCO KNIVES... GARDEN SHEERS...DITCHING SHOVELS, All Persons that have occasion for any of the above named Goods, may be supplied by George Howell, Lastmaker in Chesnut Street, Philadelphia, or by the Maker at Trenton aforesaid, at reasonable Rates as any that come from England.
Pennsylvania Gazette September 12, 1734.

Garden tools were considered valuable property in colonial British America. According to the Camden County Historical Society in New Jersey, in 1763, Adam Reed of Lancaster County, Pennsylvania, accompanied his local constable to a spot where they found Mr. Reed's stolen property "hid in the ground." Among the purloined articles unearthed were four grubbing hoes, four shovels and two spades.
'Recueil des Planches du Dictionnaire Encyclopédique de l'art Aratoire et du Jardinage' (1802)

In another instance cited during the Revolutionary War, John Jones of Southwark left personal tools in the care of Captain Christian Grover "at the time of the approach of the enemy" to Philadelphia. In 1778, Mr. Jones advertised for the return of his property, promising that whoever returned his belongings would be "rewarded in proportion to their trouble or expense." Among his prized possessions were two spades, five garden hoes, one grubbing hoe and two dung forks.
18th-century Depiction

Late in the 18th century, Evan Truman, blacksmith, and Thomas Goucher, a cutler by trade, provided garden tools to the public from their Philadelphia locations at the Sign of the Scythe and Sickle. Goucher advertised his skill in making "all kinds of edge tools and all sorts of hoes," while Truman's wares included ditching shovels, grubbing hoes, weeding hoes, picks and mattocks.
18th-century Depiction

On a much smaller scale, one-man cottage industries also provided garden tools in early America, as a listing from Stafford's 1800 Philadelphia City Directory attests: "Genter, Charlotte; rake maker; above Brown on St. John's Street."
18th-century Depiction

Whether these garden tools belonged to the gentry or to the everyday gardener or farmer, they were essential in the agricultural society that dominated early America. In the early decades of the 19th century, garden writers did not just write of the appropriate tools for the garden, some also sold them.
18th-century Depiction

At the Philadelphia shop of nurseryman Bernard M'Mahon (c. 1775–1816), author of the 1806 The American Gardener's Calendar, one corner was devoted to the various "spades, shovels, rakes, hoes, reels, lines, trowels, edging irons, garden shears, watering pots, pruning, budding and grafting knives so necessary for gardening."
Early 19th-century Depiction

It was not until the growing industrial economy of the mid-19th century, that manufacturers catalogues replaced list of tools in garden books. By then gardening was becoming a back-to-nature preoccupation of the industrial work force as a leisure-time activity.

By the early 19th century, as both disposable income and printing sophistication grew, some catalogues depicted gardening tools in color.
Figures Pour L'a Lmanach du Bon Jardinier. Outils de Jardinage. Early 19th-century Depiction.
Figures Pour L'a Lmanach du Bon Jardinier. Outils de Jardinage. Early 19th-century Depiction.
Figures Pour L'a Lmanach du Bon Jardinier. Outils de Jardinage. Early 19th-century Depiction.
Figures Pour L'a Lmanach du Bon Jardinier. Outils de Jardinage. Early 19th-century Depiction.
Figures Pour L'a Lmanach du Bon Jardinier. Outils de Jardinage. Early 19th-century Depiction.
Figures Pour L'a Lmanach du Bon Jardinier. Outils de Jardinage. Early 19th-century Depiction.
Figures Pour L'a Lmanach du Bon Jardinier. Outils de Jardinage. Early 19th-century Depiction.
Figures Pour L'a Lmanach du Bon Jardinier. Outils de Jardinage. Early 19th-century Depiction.
Figures Pour L'a Lmanach du Bon Jardinier. Outils de Jardinage. Early 19th-century Depiction.
Figures Pour L'a Lmanach du Bon Jardinier. Outils de Jardinage. Early 19th-century Depiction.
Figures Pour L'a Lmanach du Bon Jardinier. Outils de Jardinage. Early 19th-century Depiction.

Tuesday, February 25, 2020

Plants in Early American Gardens - Persian Fritillary

Persian Fritillary (Fritillaria persica)

The Persian Fritillary was introduced into English gardens in the late sixteenth century, but at the time did not capture the same attention as its cousin, the Crown Imperial Lily. This Fritillary’s unusual, deep violet blue flowers are perhaps more appealing to modern tastes. 

Bernard McMahon, Jefferson’s gardening mentor, listed the Fritillaria persica on his 1810 broadsheet.

For more information & the possible availability for purchase

Monday, February 24, 2020

An unusual early American garden + a little gossip in Portsmouth, New Hampshire

In 1740, Nathaniel Merserve (1705-1758) built his dwelling on the tidal North Mill Pond near his shipyard in Portsmouth, New Hampshire. He was the owner of the largest shipyard in Portsmouth, by then famous for its shipbuilding facilities. His home was contiguous to his shipyard; where he constructed a 50 gun frigate in 1749, for the Royal Navy called The America.  In the capture of Louisburg from the French in 1745, he was Lieutenant Colonel of the regiment which New Hampshire raised for the expedition; & in 1758, he sailed for the 2nd siege of the place with 168 carpenters. Soon after their arrival at Cape Breton, "his whole party, except sixteen, were seized with smallpox, of which disorder Colonel Meserve & his eldest son died." (1913 Harold Hotchkiss Bennett)
1774 The South West Prospect of the Seat of Colonel George Boyd of Portsmouth, New Hampshire

In 1763, the house was purchased by Peter Livius (1739-1795), son of a Hamburg German employed in an English factory at Lisbon. His British mother sent him to school in England where, in 1758, he married the daughter of wealthy Colonel John Tufton Mason.  In 1763, the newly rich Livius moved from England to New Hampshire, where his wife’s family had large land claims. He immediately established a lavish style in Portsmouth, showing a remarkable ability to generate personal animosities.  He attempted to buy his credentials in New England colonial society by a large gift of books to Harvard College in 1764, from which he did receive an honorary degree 3 years later. In September 1765, his wife's English connections put him on the council of New Hampshire; & in 1768, he became justice of the Inferior Court of Common Pleas. He was accused of partiality as a judge, even of counseling litigants who were to appear before him. Governor Benning Wentworth, with whom he had earlier quarrelled over land grants, even alleged that Livis had been “a principal Abettor in the Disturbances at the Time of the Stamp Act.” In 1772, Wentworth removed Livius from the bench.  The irate Livius returned to London.

Col. George Boyd,  one of Portsmouth’s wealthiest merchants before the Revolution, "purchased ... the mansion & ship-yard, of Peter Livius...He enlarged the house, materially. His garden in front extended to the site of the present depot...& water bounded his premises on the east. It was a magnificent seat, such as a nabob might envy, enclosed within a white open fence, & at regular intervals of some forty or fifty feet, those handsomely carved towering Grenadier's heads were placed on posts, & presented a very unique appearance...His gardener, John Cunningham, (who died a few years since, at the age of ninety-four) he also sent over from England, at an earlier date." (1859 Charles Warren Brewster)
1774 The South West Prospect of the Seat of Colonel George Boyd of Portsmouth, New Hampshire Detail

Boyd's garden is somewhat of a curiousity, even beyond the Grenadier's heads on the fence posts.  Boyd fenced his newly enlarged pleasure grounds with white fences painted red on the side near the road, which was popular in New England a that time.  The garden had a traditional central walkway leading out from the main door of the house, but here the plan diverged from the conventional.  In the middle of the garden, Boyd placed a basin, perhaps to contain fresh water, rather than salt water, for his garden, or perhaps as a home to fish.  He had probably seen such basons on his trips to England to purchase goods.  He built 5 walkways, not the usual 4, radiating from his bason in an irregular pattern, & along only one side he dug a canal, the length of the garden.  From the many buildings of one color which he erected, his estate became known as the "White Village."

Much to the consternation of the local patriotic officials, "during the Revolution, Colonel Boyd found it convenient to live in England, but upon the conclusion of peace, decided to return, bringing a new & handsome coach, an English coachman ... & an elegant monument for his grave at some future time. He found an earlier use for this possession than he anticipated, for two days before the arrival of the ship, on October 8, 1787, he died, and took his place in the North Cemetery instead of in his magnificent mansion with it's spacious garden." (1913 Harold Hotchkiss Bennett)
1774 The Estate of Col. Nathaniel Meserve 1705-1758 Portsmouth, NH 1740 Portsmouth Times, 18 October 1924

In the year 1832, George Raynes (1799-1855) bought the estate, & the family maintained a shipyard there until 1865, building between 60 & 70 vessels.  After George Raynes' death, the family entered a lawsuit contesting the will & the ownership of the business, which lasted for years.  The mansion on the south shore of the North Mill Pond, was demolished in 1938.  Rather amazingly, a depiction of the house & garden remains from a Portsmouth newspaper article published in 1924.

~Charles Warren Brewster, William Henry Young Hackett, Lawerence Shorey.  Rambles about Portsmouth: Sketches of Persons, Localities, & Incidents of Two Centuries: Principally from Tradition & Unpublished Documents, Volume 1.  Published by C.W. Brewster & Son, Portsmouth Journal Office, 1859 - Portsmouth, N.H.
Caleb Stevens Gurney. Portsmouth, historic & picturesque: a volume of information. Self Published by C. S. Gurney, 1902 - Portsmouth, N.H.
~Harold Hotchkiss Bennett  Vignettes of Portsmouth: being representations of divers historic places in old Portsmouth. Published by H. Pearson & H. H. Bennett, 1913
~Dictionary of Canadian Biography Online.  1771-1800 (Volume IV)
The New Hampshire Reports. Volume 54. New Hampshire. Supreme Court, Joel Parker. Capital Offset Company, 1875

Sunday, February 23, 2020

Plants in Early American Gardens - Kwanso Lily

Kwanso Lily (Hemerocallis fulva cv.)

Daylilies are tough, long-lived perennials that have been cultivated for centuries. The Chinese grew them for beauty and also for their edible flowers. The single-flowered species was grown in Europe since at least the 1570s. The double-flowered ‘Kwanso’ type, noted by a European traveler in 1712, was first brought to the West from Japan in 1860. 

It was offered in the London nursery trade by 1861 and soon thereafter arrived in America. Daylilies are more suited to the climate of the United States and their culture here eventually surpassed European efforts. Flowers attract butterflies.

For more information & the possible availability for purchase

Saturday, February 22, 2020

Botany spreads to the common man in the early Republic & flowers reappear

From Flowers to Grass to Flowers with Proper, Scientific Names

During & immediately after the Revolution, many gardeners began banishing intricate patterns of flowers in favor of the less ostentatious simplicity of turf. Philadelphian Elizabeth Drinker wrote in her diary, “flower roots…were dug out of ye beds on ye south side of our garden--as my husband intends making grass-plots and planting trees.”

During this period, plain grass flats often defined the terraces of the gentry. However, at the same time, a flood of newly arrived professional seed merchants were enticing the growing gardening public to plant curious bulbs & roots imported from Europe. And the middle class merchants and artisans were beginning to accumulate both leisure time that could be spent in improving their homes and grounds and a bit of extra cash to spend toward this end.  This flurry of marketing paid off, and the style that caught on. By the 1790s, specimen gardens & flowers once again flourished in the Chesapeake.

By the turn of the century, the popularity of intricate flower beds once again soared.  Flowers remained a garden favorite, but gardeners now tended to segregated flowers by type rather than integrating them into a complicated design.  Diarist Anne Grant reported that, in the gardens she saw before the Revolution, flowers “not seen in ‘curious knots’, were ranged in beds, the varieties of each kind by themselves.”

In the 2nd half of 18th-century America, small private & public botanical gardens were beginning to appear in the colonies & early Republic.  The public was becoming more familiar with the study of botany.  They were aware of the concept of botanical gardens which were the most structured way of observing plants where similar plants were grown & displayed together, often arranged by plant families, & labeled for easy reference.
The Paduan Garden, in Roberto de Visiani’s L’Orto Botanico de Padova nell’ anno MDCCCXLII (Padova, 1842, frontis.).

The great age of plant discovery which began in the 16th century with the exploration of the Americas triggered an interest in the scientific study & classification of plants. The plants & seeds which made their way to Europe from foreign ports were cultivated to determine their potential uses. At first this was chiefly to determine their potential medical applications.  The great botanical gardens founded in the 16th century at Padua, Leiden, & Montpellier were attached to medical schools.
Johannes van Meurs, 1579-16 Leiden University Garden. Engraving after a design by W. Swanenburgh (1608), from Orlers (1614).

The Hortus Botanicus in Leiden was established soon after the founding of the university in 1575. The head of the early garden there was Charles de l’Ecluse (1526–1609) or Clusius, who had a wide network of correspondents across Europe & had written extensively on botanical subjects. In 1593, he brought with him from Frankfurt a great number of seeds, bulbs & plants to form the foundation of the garden, which had about 1,000 plants when it opened. Other distinguished botanists associated with the garden were Herman Boerhaave (1668–1738) & Johannes Fredericus Gronovius (1686–1762), an early patron of Carolus Linnaeus(Carl Linnaeus, Swedish Carl von Linné) 1707-1778, who would transform plant collecting with his uniform system for classifying them (binomial nomenclature).
Oxford Botanic Garden

The Oxford Botanic Garden was founded in 1623, by Henry Danvers, later the 1st Earl of Danby (1573–1643), but was not planted until at least a decade later. Danby had arranged to appoint the great London-based gardener & plant collector John Tradescant the elder (1570-1638) as the first gardener, & there is some evidence that Tradescant may have been briefly involved in the planting before he died. Danby then appointed the German botanist Jacob Bobart (1599–1680) as gardener, who was succeeded by his son, also named Jacob Bobart (1641–1719). The 1st catalogue, listing some 1400 plants growing in the garden, was published in 1648.
Chelsea Physic Garden established in the grounds of Chelsea Manor owned by Hans Sloane. Engraving by John Haynes, 30th March 1751.

In England, the Chelsea Physic Garden, founded by the Society of Apothecaries in 1673, came to prominence under Scottish gardener Philip Miller (1691-1771) & remained the premier garden in the country during much of Miller’s lifetime. Sir Hans Sloane (1660-1753) had granted the Society a perpetual lease on the Chelsea property, & one of the conditions was that each year 50 new plants were to be described & donated to the Royal Society as dried specimens. This required the continuous introduction of new plants & ensured that Chelsea was at the forefront of knowledge about their cultivation. Miller was a highly skilled horticulturist & many imported plants & rare species of indigenous plants were successfully grown by him at Chelsea. Miller  networked, & he was at the center of a vast network of plant enthusiasts exchaning plants & seeds with other gardeners throughout Britain, her colonies, & Europe.
 Pagoda & Temperate House, Kew Gardens

As Chelsea was fading in the latter part of the 18th century, the great gardens at Kew were growing in importance under the leadership of Sir Joseph Banks & head gardener William Aiton (1731–1793) who had trained under Philip Miller at Chelsea. Aiton produced the 1st printed catalogue of the gardens at Kew, listing some 5600 species. Just over two decades later, the 2nd edition of the catalogue by his son William Townsend Aiton (1766–1849) listed over 11,000 species.
In London, street vendors were selling plants door to door. New Cries of London Sold by Darton and Harvey 1803 Flowers for your Garden

In Philadelphia, Bartram's is America's oldest surviving botanic garden. John Bartram (1699-1777), early American botanist, explorer, & plant collector, began his garden in 1728, when he purchased a 102-acre farm close to Germantown. Bartram's Garden grew into an extensive collection of familiar & intriguing native plants; as he devoted his life to the discovery of examples of new North American species. Bartram's lucrative business centered on the transatlantic transfer of plants.

In 1748, what is now Lafayette & Astor Place, was New York City’s first botanical garden, established by a Swiss physician, Jacob Sperry, who farmed flowers & hothouse plants. Jacob Sperry, born in Zurich in 1728, came to New York at the age of 20, & although educated a physician, decided to become a florist. He had means at his command, with which he purchased this then uncultivated tract of pasture land, & established himself as a horticulturist. He built a house near by, where he resided, rearing a family of 4 sons & 5 daughters. In 1804, Jacob Sperry sold the much improved property to John Jacob Astor for $45,000.
An 1801 map of the Astor Place when it was the land of Jacob Sperry, a Swiss florist, physician, and gentleman.

In the British American colonies, just as in Europe, many early botanical gardens focused on the medicinal uses of plants being collected.  In 1769, Dr Peter Middleton, professor of medicine at King's College, speaking at the opening of the Columbia Medical School in New York City stated, "By botany, we are  instructed in the natural history and distinguishing characters of plants. This, pursued as a science, or branch of medical study, presents to us a fund of knowledge, both valuable and ornamental  As this continent yields most of the medical plants now in use, and abounds also with a variety of others, whose qualities we are as  yet but little acquainted with... a teacher of botany will soon be appointed, and a botanical garden laid out, and properly furnished? This would open an extensive field for further discoveries in, and for large acquisitions to the materia medicia."  David Hosack, who would eventually establish the Elgin Botanic Garden, reported that in 1794, the New York Agricultural Society was endorsing that the botanical garden be connected with an endowed professorship in Botany.  In the next 20 years, botanical gardens would pop up at Harvard, Princeton, and at the universities of Pennsylvania & South Carolina.
 Botanic Garden at Elgin in the Vicinity of the City of New York. About 1806 William Satchwell Leney (American artist, b. England, 1769–1831) after Louis Simond (American artist, b. France, 1767–1831)

By 1785, George Washington had dedicated a part of his gardens to botany.  He wrote in his July diary, "Sewed one half of the Chinese Seed given me by Mr. Porter and Doctr. Craik in three rows in the Section near the Quarter (in my Botanical Garden.)"  In June of the next year, Washington recorded dining with Francois Andre Micheaux, "a Botanist sent by the Court of France to America...he returned afterwards to Alexandria on his way to New York...where he was about to establish a Botanical Garden."

In 1787, Rev Manassah Cutler wrote that Dr Benjamin Rush was "endeavoring to raise a fund for establishing a Botanical garden" in Philadelphia.

In both England & in the early American republic, botany & new classification systems for plants caused a surge in collecting plants. In 1789, William Hamilton instructed the gardeners at his Philadelphia estate, Woodlands, to plant “exotic bulbous roots…at six or eight Inches from each other…taking care to preserve the distinctions of the sorts.”
18th-century woodcut

In 1805, Rosalie Steir Calvert (1778–1821) wrote to her father from Riversdale in Prince George's County, Maryland, "The fancy for flowers of all kinds is really increasing; everyone takes an interest, and it is a great honor to have the most beautiful.”

The next spring, she was “curious to know if it is becoming fashionable in your country to become horticulturalists. Here we occupy ourselves with that more every day and are getting much better.”

Her father sent tulip bulbs in late 1807, and Rosalie Calvert wrote back, “now I will have the most beautiful collection in America, and I assure you my reputation is already quite exalted.”
In London, street vendors were selling plants door to door.  Tuer, Andrew White, 1838-1900 Old London street cries (1885) All a Blowin', Choice Shrubs and Plants, Alive and Growing

In the early republic, townsfolk began to frequent the local nurseries popping up in towns up and down the Atlantic coast.  A new cycle in English & early American pleasure gardening had begun.
In London, street vendors were selling plants door to door.  London Melodies; or Cries of the Seasons. Published anonymously (before 1818) All a Blowin, Choice Shrubs and Plants, Alive and Growing

Friday, February 21, 2020

History Blooms at Monticello - Yellow Crown Imperial Lily

Yellow Crown Imperial Lily (Fritillaria imperialis 'Lutea Maxima')

The Crown Imperial Lily was brought to Western Europe from Southern Turkey and Kashmir as early as 1576. By 1770 Dutch bulb growers had developed 13 distinct varieties. 

Thomas Jefferson ordered this lily from Philadelphia nurseryman Bernard McMahon five times before receiving three "roots" of the orange and a rare "silver striped" form in 1812. It is also called "Stink Lily" and "Old Stinky," because of its foxy odor.

For more information & the possible availability for purchase

Thursday, February 20, 2020

Garden to Table - The poor, forgotten quince...

In Praise of the Misunderstood Quince

Quince at the Cloisters Museum in New York. Photo by Tony Cenicola/The New York Times

After half a century in public life, the most famous quince trees in New York are looking — let’s say mature. Or how about distinguished? No need to beat around the bush, said Deirdre Larkin, the horticulturist who tends the four beloved quinces at the Cloisters Museum and Gardens, along the Hudson River in Fort Tryon Park.  “They are old, and nothing will change that,” she said.  Yet in Europe, where the quince’s yellow pome is a culinary treasure, orchardists will buttress the sagging limbs with a crutch...But, Ms. Larkin said, “trees can live for hundreds of years.” ...

What most Americans know about quince (Cydonia oblonga) — if they know about quince at all — is that it was once a fixture in Grandma’s garden. O.K., Great-Great-Grandma’s garden. As long ago as 1922, the great New York pomologist U. P. Hedrick rued that “the quince, the ‘golden apple’ of the ancients, once dedicated to deities, and looked upon as the emblem of love and happiness, for centuries the favorite pome, is now neglected and the least esteemed of commonly cultivated tree-fruits.” Almost every Colonial kitchen garden had a quince tree. But there was seldom need for two, said Joseph Postman, the United States Department of Agriculture scientist who curates the quince collection in Corvallis, Ore. Settlers valued quince, above all, as a mother lode of pectin for making preserves. And for that task, a little fruit went a long way.

“If you put the seeds in a cup of water, it becomes almost like Jell-O,” Mr. Postman said. This goo doubled as a pomade...Like so many American workers, the quince lost its job to a disruptive technology: powdered gelatin, introduced by Charles Knox in the 1890s...Today the nation’s entire quince crop covers a paltry 250 acres ... By contrast, farmers this year will raise some 350,000 acres of apples and 96 million acres of corn.
Quince Jacques le Moyne de Morgues (c. 1533–1588)

So we arrive, perforce, at a fundamental question: Is raw quince edible? ... The skin, fuzzy at first, has an objectionable texture,...And when the flavor is not sour, it’s sour and astringent...The key to enjoying quince at home, apparently, is to cook it and cook it and cook it. At that point, the quince is ready to cook...

The quince tree is self-pollinating: you need only one. If you train the growth to a few trunks, a quince shouldn’t get much taller than a gardener can reach with a six-foot ladder.

By now, Mr. Postman has probably grown more varieties of quince than anyone else on the continent. The Corvallis germ-plasm repository contains 50 or 60 edible varieties, and provides material to researchers and plant breeders...When I spoke to Mr. Postman, in fact, the couple was driving across Arizona with a fresh quince cutting in the back seat. Mr. Postman had just stopped at the historic Mission San José de Tumacácori, about 20 miles north of the Mexican border. Researchers there have been replanting the neglected orchard with the forgotten fruit varieties of 17th-century Jesuit missionaries...

A bushel of good quince will fetch $2.50 at farmers’ markets in New Jersey. At least it did in the late 19th century, when the Rev. William W. Meech published Quince Culture, in 1825.  It is the definitive — and possibly the only — guide to cultivating the fruit.  You can read the updated 1888 version here.  or the original 1825 edition here ...

The portingegale Quince. John Tradescant (c 1570-1632) 1634 Plant List

 John Tradescant the elder (c 1570-1632)

A few random quince facts...

Apples (Malus communis, M. pumila, & M. sylvestris), pears (Pyrus communis) & quince (Cydonia oblonga) belong to the rose family.

The homeland of the quince lies between the Caspian Sea & the Black Sea, a mountainous region called the Caucasus that touches northern Turkey & Iran as well as Southern Georgia.

Mention of quince appears in Greek writings about 600 BCE as a ritual item in wedding ceremonies. Pliny mentioned the Mulvian variety, a cultivated quince, as the only one that could be eaten raw. Columella described three other varieties he names as the sparrow apple, golden apple, & the must apple.

Cultivation of the quince began in Mesopotamia, an area now Northern Iraq between the Tigris & Euphrates Rivers. Between 200 & 100 BCE, this "golden apple" was cultivated by the Greeks. The quince was cultivated prior to the apple & reached Palestine by 100 BCE.

Following the battles for power between the Arabs & the Byzantines circa 763 CE, the some Arabs traveled to Isfahan in Persia for quinces, apples, saffron, & salt.

Charlemagne was partly responsible for introducing the quince into France with his orders in the year 812 to plant quince trees in the royal garden.

Chaucer mentions quince using the name coines, a word that comes from the French coing.
 O mosy quince, hangyng by your stalke,
 The whyche no man dar pluk away ner take,
 Of all the folk that passe forby or walke,
 Your flowres fresshe be fallyn away and shake.
 I am ryght sory, masteras, for your sake,
 Ye seme a thyng that all men have forgotyn;
 Ye be so rype ye wex almost rotyn.

When European & Near Eastern immigrants began to settle in the New World, they planted quince in North America.

Quince enjoyed the spotlight only briefly during the colonial period in New England. A March 16, 1629 entry in the Massachusetts Bay Colony's Memorandum listed quince as one of the seeds requested from England.
By 1720, quince was thriving in Virginia. Many home gardens throughout the colonies were reaping a fall harvest from their quince trees; however, apples quickly snatched the spotlight from the quinces. Americans had become accustomed to sweet fruits like the apple & found little about the quince to favor.
Quince cheese, an old New England specialty of the 1700's, required all-day boiling of quince preserves to achieve a solidified state, probably similar to the French specialty cotignac.
Quince grew traveling legs as the westward movement took hold in the United States. In the 1850's a Texan, who owned a large land grant, grew many fruit trees on his property. Among them was quince, along with peach, fig, raspberry, pomegranate, & plum.

Quince Folklore...

Aphrodite, the Greek goddess of love, was known to consider apples sacred. Historians believe the apple favored by Aphdrodite were really quince. The legendary golden apple of Hesperides that Paris gave to Aphrodite was really a quince.

The ancient Greeks considered quinces to be the symbol of fertility & dedicated them to the goddess of love.

An Athenian wedding tradition of the ancient Greeks had friends & family tossing quinces into the bridal chariot as the groom was escorting his bride to her new home. Once they arrived, the bride ate a ceremonial cake flavored with honey & sesame. To insure fertility, she was then presented a quince.

One myth says that pregnant women who indulge their appetites in generous quantities of quinces will give birth to industrious & highly intelligent children.

Quince Cooking...

Apicius, Rome's first cookbook author, first century CE, preserved whole quinces with their stems & leaves attached in a bath of honey diluted with defrutum, a newly prepared wine that is spiced & reduced by boiling.  Another quince dish prepared by Apicius, Patina de Cydoniis, combines them with leeks, honey, &broth in hot oil.

The earliest true preserves came about during classical times when quinces were cooked with honey & vinegar, a combination that produced a gel or pectin-like quality.

From the15th century to the present, Cotignac d'Orleans, a clear gel made from boiled quince juice & sugar, is set into small wooden boxes to form confections. These treats were originally presented to French royalty in honor of their visit to cities & outlying villages.

When Joan of Arc arrived in Orleans in 1429, to liberate the French from the English, she received the honored gift of cotignac.

The English, during the 16th & 17th centuries, delighted in preparing many variations of quince preserves which they called quidoniac, quiddony, marmelade or paste of Genoa. The preserves formed a thick paste that could be shaped into animals or flower forms. Though the quince paste is rarely found in England today, a coarse version, called membrillo, is a favorite treat presently served along with cheese in Spain.

In 1570, Pope Pius V gave a spectacular banquet that featured as its piece de resistance, a quince pastry that required "one quince per pastry."

In Britain, quince was incorporated into the cuisine in various pies & tarts. The British also prepared a sauce made from quince that became a traditional accompaniment to roasted partridge.

Although the most favored quince marmalade, called marmelada, originated Portugal during the 1500's, the British were preparing many versions of marmalade from quince well into the 1600's.

For even more on quince, see Vegetrians in Paradise