Monday, August 31, 2020

From Field to Table - South Carolina - Peanuts

Dr David S Shields, author and distinguished professor at the University of South Carolina tells us of the "Carolina African Runner Peanut.  This small sweet peanut was the variety brought over by enslaved Africans from the Gold Coast and Slave Coast at the end of the 17th century—it is the ancestral peanut of the South."

Slaves appear to have planted peanuts throughout the southern United States (the word goober comes from the Congo name for peanuts – nguba). In the 18C, peanuts, then called groundnuts or ground peas, were studied by botanists & suggested as an excellent food for pigs. Records show that peanuts were grown commercially in South Carolina around 1800 & used for oil, food & a substitute for cocoa.

Although there were some commercial peanut farms in the U.S. during the 18C & 19C, peanuts were not grown extensively. Until the Civil War, the peanut remained basically a regional food associated with the southern U.S.

The legumes eventually made their way to the South on board slave ships, which were stocked with peanuts for the long voyage. Some speculate that the peanut plant may have originated in Brazil or Peru, although no fossil records exist to prove this.

For as long as people have been making pottery in South America (3,500 years or so) they have been making jars shaped like peanuts & decorated with peanuts. Graves of ancient Incas found along the dry western coast of South America often contain jars filled with peanuts & left with the dead to provide food in the afterlife. Tribes in central Brazil also ground peanuts with maize to make an intoxicating beverage for celebrations.

In the Americas, peanuts were grown as far north as Mexico by the time the Spanish began their exploration of the New World. European explorers took peanuts back to Spain, where they are still grown. From Spain, traders & explorers took peanuts to Africa & Asia. In Africa the plant became common in the western tropical region. The peanut was regarded by many Africans as one of several plants possessing a soul.

During the 19C American Civil War, letters & memoirs from the Civil War relate that Confederate soldiers were without the basics of bread or meat, especially toward the end of the war. Peanuts were an available food & could be carried wherever they went. On the trail, soldiers roasted or boiled peanuts over campfires & added salt as a preservative.

Sunday, August 30, 2020

1764 Plants in 18C Colonial American Gardens - Virginian John Randolph (727-1784) - Hyssop


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

Hyssop

Hyssop, Hissopus, is a purging or cleansing plant, for in the Psalms it says, "purge me with Hyssop:" and though the Hyssop of the ancients we are in some respect unacquainted with, yet we have reason to believe it was a low plant, for Solomon is said to have described all plants, from the Cedar to the Hyssop. If propagated by seed, they should be sown in poor dry land in March, in beds, and when fit, should be transplanted where they are to remain, about two feet asunder. If from cuttings, they should be planted out in April or May, in a border defended from the heat of the sun. It is a hardy plant, and if not in dunged ground, which makes them luxurious and feeble, they will resist the severest weather. The winter is thought to be the ancient Hyssop, because it is much demanded, and used in the eastern countries in washings and purifications.

Saturday, August 29, 2020

South Carolina - A bit about Garden & Field Labor 1765 Charleston

Philadelphia merchant, Pelatiah Webster (1725-1795), wrote of his business trip to the city in 1765, "The laborious business is here chiefly done by black slaves of which there are great multitudes...Dined with Mr. Liston, passed the afternoon agreeably at his summer house till 5 o’clock P. M. then went up into the steeple of St. Michael’s, the highest in town & which commands a fine prospect of the town, harbour, river, forts, sea, &c...The heats are much too severe, the water bad, the soil sandy, the timber too much evergreen; but with all these disadvantages, ’tis a flourishing place, capable of vast improvement."
Pelatiah Webster, Journal of a voyage from Philadelphia to Charles Town, May-June 1765

 Philadelphia merchant, Pelatiah Webster kept a daily journal of his two-month business trip to Charles Town.  T. P. Harrison, ed., “Journal of a Voyage to Charlestown in So. Carolina by Pelatiah Webster in 1765,” Publications of the Southern History.  Association 2:1 (January 1898), pp. 131-148.

May 27. Spent in viewing the town. It contains about 1000 houses, with inhabitants, 5000 whites and 20,000 blacks; has 8 houses for religious worship, viz. [namely] St. Philip’s & St. Michael’s, Ctch. [Church] of England, large stone buildings with porticos with large pillars and steeples. St. Michael’s has a good ring of bells. 1 Scotch Presbyterian Ctch.; 1 Independent, called the New England Meeting; 1 Dutch Ctch., and two Baptist meetings, & one French Ctch.: these 3 last very small.

The State-House is a heavy building of about 120 by 40 feet. The Council Chamber is about 40 feet square, decorated with many heavy pillars & much carving, rather superb than elegant. The assembly room is of the same dimensions, but much plainer work, ’tis convenient enough.


The streets of this city run N. & S., and E. & W., intersecting each other at right angles. They are not paved except the footways within the posts about 6 feet wide, which are paved with brick in the principal streets.


There are large fortifications here but mostly unfinished and ruinous. There is a pretty fort on James Island called Johnson’s fort  which commands the entrance of the harbour . . .

The laborious business is here chiefly done by black slaves of which there are great multitudes.  The climate is very warm; the chief produce is rice & indigo; the manufacture of hemp is set afoot & likely to succeed very well. They have considerable lumber and naval stores [tar, pitch, and 
turpentine]. They export annually 100,000 barrels of rice & 60,000 lbs. indigo, . . 

The[y] have no considerable seminaries of learning [colleges], but many youth of quality go to London for an education. The people are vastly 
affable and polite, quite free from pride, & a stranger may make himself very easy with them. . . 

Wedsday 29 [May 1765]. Still sauntering about town as much as the great heats will permit. Dinner with Mr. Tho[mas]. Smith, a reputable merchant in this town & in very fine business: is an agreeable sensible kind man: passed my time with him very pleasantly several hours.


Thursd. 30. Dined this day with Mr. John Poaug, a Scotch merchant in this City, a very genteel polite man. . . 


Monday, 3 [June 1765]. Dined this day with Mr. Thomas Liston, a reputable merchant born here: is a man of great openness & politeness, of generous sentiments & a very genteel behaviour: passed the afternoon very agreeably in his summer house with him & Mr. Lindo, a noted Jew, inspector of Indigo here.


Tuesd. 4. The militia all appeared under arms, about 800, & the guns at all the forts were fired, it being the King’s Birthday. The artillery made a good appearance and performed their exercises and firings very well. The militia were not so well trained & exercised but made a pretty good & handsome appearance. N. B. [nota bene; note well] The militia & artillery of Charlestown are said to consist of 1300 men in the whole list from 16 to 60 years old. . . 


Saturday 8. Very hot. Met with disappointment in the sale of my flour which lies on my hands & I fear I must leave it unsold or expose it to vendue [auction] with loss of what I have procured with long pains & industry: my mind is somewhat depressed.  Dined with Mr. Liston, passed the afternoon agreeably at his summer house till 5 o’clock P. M. then went up into the steeple of St. Michael’s, the highest in town & which commands a fine prospect of the town, harbour, river, forts, sea, &c. . . .


Tuesday 11. Sold 12 BBl. flour at £4 [four English pounds] currency pr. ct. which is about first cost to Mr. Peter Boquet & the rest. Mr. Liston procured me a sale of at 90/ pr. ct. So I am over the difficulties of my sales. Dined with Mr. Liston, Capt. Bains from London & Mr. Head. Passed the evening at the Reverend Rob[er]t Smith’s.


Wednesday 12. Spent most of this day in settling my little accounts business], exchanging my monies into dollars. The season is gay but the air sultry, yet cooled by frequent squalls of wind & rain. Passed some hours in Mr. Liston’s summer house and the evening with Mr. Glen.


Thursd. 13. See an alligator of which there are many in the rivers & bays in this country. They are made much like what is called swift in N[ew] ngland. This I see was about 3 feet long & three inches diameter in

the body: his skin was scaly much like a snake, his mouth very large and cavernous, his teeth irregular, long, partaking partly of those of fish & partly of those of a dog. Some of these amphibious animals here are surprisingly large & 15 or 18 feet long. . . 

Friday 14 [June 1765]. A hot sultry day. Went with Mr. Liston in a boat to Sullivan’s Island where there were 2[00] or 300 Negroes performing quarantine with the small pox. This island is 7 miles E. from the town, about 4 miles long, very sandy, hot, and barren, though there are some groves of

trees in it. There is a pest-house  here with pretty good conveniences. The most moving sight was a poor white man performing quarantine alone in a boat, at anchor ten rods from shore, with an awning & pretty poor accommodations. . . 

Sat. June 15. Warm & sultry. Dined with Mr. Liston, & passed the forenoon at the library. Passed some hours this afternoon with some Guinea captains,  who are a rough set of people, but somewhat carressed by the merchants on account of the great profits of their commissions. Spent the evening in walking and smoked a pipe at Mr. Glen’s.


Sund. 16. A. M. attended Divine service at the Scotch Presbyterian meeting. Rev’d. Mr. Hewett preached. Dined with Mr. Glen & sundry [various] other gentlemen, viz. [namely] Mr. Miche, McCauly, merchants, &c. P. M. Attended Divine service at the New England Independent meeting. . . Had a fine walk with Mr. Carpenter, a gentleman from Jamaica just arrived, & afterwards spent the evening very agreeably with Mr. Glen. . . 


Tuesday 18. . . . embarked on board the brigantine Prince of Wales, Thomas Mason, Commander, for Philadelphia; took leave of all my Charlestown friends. At 4 P. M. made sail: at 7 anchored off the fort, not being to get over the [sand] bar. I have Mrs. Phanny Johnson an infant of 5 years old in my care for the voyage. She is a fatherless child & bound to Philadelphia in her way to Quebec to her grandfather, the Rev’d. Mr. Brooks, who has sent for her.


Now I have left Charlestown, an agreeable & polite place in which I was used [treated] very genteely & contracted much acquaintaince for the time I stayed here. The heats are much too severe, the water bad, the soil sandy, the timber too much evergreen; but with all these disadvantages, ’tis a flourishing place, capable of vast improvement: will have, I fear, some uncomfortable bands of banditti on its frontiers soon, its distance from proper authority having already drawn there great numbers of very idle dissolute people who begin to be very troublesome.

Weds-day 19th [June 1765]. At 4 A. M. weighed anchor & made sail. The wind headed us and we turned it over the Bar at 12, wind at N. E.: steered E. S. E. ’till we gained a good offing, then tacked & steered N. ’till we were at night abreast Bull’s Island, then tacked again & stood off from the land.   [Webster’s ship arrived in Philadelphia June 25.] 


Pelatiah Webster, while not known for his gardening efforts, was the author of a number of thoughtful and accurate pamphlets on the potential finances and government of the United States, most of which he reprinted in his “Political Essays” in Philadelphia in 1791. He was such an ardent supporter of the patriot cause, that the British imprisoned him for 4 months in Philadelphia; before they were dispatched back to the beautiful emerald isle..

Friday, August 28, 2020

1764 Plants in 18C Colonial American Gardens - Virginian John Randolph (727-1784) - Marsh Mallow


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

Marsh Mallow

Marsh Mallow, Althaea, gr.from Althos, gr. medicament. These may be raised from seed sown in March, and transplanted into pots or elsewhere, or from cuttings planted in May in a light soil, and shaded.

Thursday, August 27, 2020

South Carolina - 1742 Charleston through the eyes of Eliza Lucas Pinckney (1722-1793)

Born in the West Indies where her father, a British army officer, was based, Eliza Lucas was educated in England and moved with her family to South Carolina in 1738 when she was fifteen. Her younger brothers lived in London, England. Agriculturalist & gardener Eliza Lucus Pinckney (1722-1793) wrote to her brother Thomas in England in 1742,

Eliza Lucas [Pinckney], Letter to her brother, Thomas Lucas, 22 May 17
I am now set down, my Dear brother, to obey your commands and give you a short description of the part of the world I now inhabit. South Carolina then is a large and Extensive Country [colony] Near the Sea. Most of the settled parts of it is upon a flat ⎯ the soil near Charles Town sandy, but further distant clay and swamplands. It abounds with fine navigable rivers and great quantities of fine timber. . . 

The people in general [are] hospitable and honest, and the better sort add to these a polite gentile behaviour. The poorer sort are the most indolent people 
in the world or they could never be wretched in so plentiful a country as this. The winters here are very fine and pleasant, but 4 months in the year is extremely disagreeable, excessive hot, much thunder and lightning, and muskatoes [mosquitoes] and sand flies in abundance.

Charles Town, the Metropolis, is a neat pretty place. The inhabitants [are] polite and live in a very gentile manner; the streets and houses regularly built; the ladies and gentlemen gay in their dress. Upon the whole you will find as many agreeable people of both sexes for the size of the places as almost any where. St. Philip’s Church in Charles Town is a very Elegant one and much frequented. There are several more places of public worship in this town and the generality of people [are] of a religious turn of mind. 


"The people in general hospitable and honest, and the better sort add to these a polite gentile behaviour...4 months in the year is extremely disagreeable, excessive hot, much thunder and lightning, and muskatoes and sand flies in abundance. Charles Town, the Metropolis, is a neat pretty place. The inhabitants polite and live in a very gentile manner; the streets and houses regularly built; the ladies and gentlemen gay in their dress."

Eliza Lucas Pinckney (1722-1793) is often credited for the development of the successful indigo industry in the mid-1700s in South Carolina.  Her unique situation as the manager of her father’s lands helped carve her name into the history of South Carolina.

The National Park Service tells us that she was born in Antigua...the eldest daughter of George Lucas, lieutenant governor of the island. She was raised on a Caribbean plantation. At a young age she was skilled in botany—a life passion of hers. She cherished her education saying “education which esteems a more valuable fortune than any could have given, will make me happy through my future life.” Under her father’s request, Eliza along with her sister Polly & mother were sent to South Carolina when she was only sixteen. There the Lucases owned three Lowcountry plantations.

It was at their Wappoo Plantation, located about 3 miles southwest of Charleston that Eliza chose to take residency. Keenly aware that rice was the only major cash crop of the region, she was determined to increase the wealth of the Lowcountry. She did so by experimenting in the agricultural world. When she was nineteen she wrote that she had planted a large fig orchard “with design to dry & export them.” She was always creating schemes to make the plantations more profitable. She wrote to her friend Mary Bartlett: “I am making a large plantation of oaks, which I took upon as my own property, whether my father gives me the land or not.” She believed the oaks would be “more valuable than they are now—which you know they will be when we come to build fleets.” She was hoping to contribute to the future market of American ships.

While Eliza spent the majority of her time on her plantations, the summer months & swampy environment attracted unwanted pests like mosquitos to the lands. During these months it was customary that planters of Eliza’s status would socialize in Charleston—removing themselves from the unsavory conditions of the plantations. She preferred her Wappoo residence; however, she could be found visiting the home of Charles & Eliza Lamb Pinckney on occasion. The Pinckneys acted as guardians & friends to Eliza while her father remained in Antigua.

Her relationship with the Pinckneys was quite close. Charles Pinckney, in particular, was very skeptical of Eliza’s interest in planting. He wrote “Tell the little visionary come to town & partake of some of the amusements suitable to her time of life.” To which she responded “Pray tell him…what he may now think whims & projects may turn out well by & by. Out of many surely one may hit.” And one did—Indigo.

Eliza’s experiments with indigo were ridiculed by her neighbors. They had known that the tropical plant did not do well in the winter months. Years of persistence paid off, however, when in 1744, she was able to grow enough indigo to begin the process of producing the dyes. Under the guidance of a Frenchman from Monserrat, sent by her father, Eliza was able to send a small sample of the indigo dye to the Mother Country. She was seeing success. However, the same year brought her devastating news. Her father desired the family return to Antigua. And soon she found that her dear friend Eliza Lamb Pinckney had passed way.

Having been widowed, Charles Pinckney proposed to the young Eliza. He was forty-five & she twenty-two. The marriage saved her from returning to her father’s home. Prior to their marriage, Charles Pinckney fathered no children. Eliza mothered four children. Her first son Charles Cotesworth was born in 1746. Their second child, George Lucas, was born in 1747 but passed way soon after. Then her only daughter Harriot was born in 1749. And finally the youngest son, Thomas, was born in 1750.  Motherhood was an exciting new experiment that Eliza took on happily.

Eliza’s family along with her production was growing. She was able to send a substantial export of indigo to England in in return the Mother Country responded with the bounty to Carolina planters in an effort to cut out the French from dominating the market.

In addition to economic motives, indigo production also succeeded because it fit within the existing agricultural economy. The crop could be grown on land not suited for rice & tended by slaves, so planters & farmers already committed to plantation agriculture did not have to reconfigure their land & labor. In 1747, 138,300 pounds of dye, worth £16,803 sterling, were exported to England. The amount & value of indigo exports increased in subsequent years, peaking in 1775 with a total of 1,122,200 pounds, valued at £242,295 sterling. England received almost all Carolina indigo exports, although by the 1760s a small percentage was being shipped to northern colonies.

By the beginning of the American Revolution, Indigo made up 1/3 the exports from South Carolina. In less than fifty years the market had grown substantially. However, the tension with the British & the establishment of the East India Trading Company led to the diminishing of the Carolina indigo trade.

Wednesday, August 26, 2020

South Carolina - Seed Dealers & Nursery Owners

Charles Fraser (1782-1860) Golden Groves The Seat of Mrs (John) Sommers Stono River. Carolina Art Association Gibbes Museum, Charleston, South Carolina

South Carolina was a world of its own in the early 18th century, & it might be interesting to compare & contrast the marketing of plants & the growth of professional seed & plant dealers there with the more northern colonies.

Searching for Native Plants

In warm, nearly tropical South Carolina, naturalists Mark Catesby (1682-1749) amp; John Bartram (1699-1777) both visited the intriguing colony, increasing botanical awareness in the area & abroad. Catesby & Bartram took samples of new plants they found & traded them with others, on both sides of the Atlantic Ocean.

John Bartram, the Philadelphia gardener, explorer, & botanist, regularly sent plants to English merchant & botanist Peter Collinson (1649-1768). His famous garden at Mill Hill contained many American plants.

c. 1796. Charles Fraser (1782-1860). The Seat of James Fraser, Esq., Goose Creek, South Carolina. The Carolina Art Association Gibbes Museum of Art, Charleston, South Carolina. James Fraser was the older brother of Charles. The house was called Wigton

Whether planting their lands for necessity or pleasure, early South Carolina gardeners were initially bound to write back to England for gardening manuals & for many of the specific plants & seeds they were familiar with from their mother country. But soon, commercial seed dealers & nursery owners began importing plants to sell directly to South Carolina gardeners.

Many South Carolina gardeners ordered their seeds directly from England. In the December 19, 1754, issue of the South Carolina Gazette, Captain Thomas Arnott noted that he brought a box of “Tulip, Narcissus, & other Flower Roots” from England “supposed to have been ordered by some person of this province” & that the “person that can properly claim them, may have them.”
c 1796. Charles Fraser (1782-1860). Rice Hope viewed from One of the Rice Fields. South Carolina. The Carolina Art Association Gibbes Museum of Art, Charleston, South Carolina.

Comparison of seed dealers & nursery owners in South Carolina & the Mid-Atlantic & Upper South

The pattern established by the growing South Carolina seed & nursery trade is similar to that of the Mid-Atlantic & Upper South, but there are some significant differences. In the extended Chesapeake region, gardeners & plant dealers dedicated to promoting & selling plants found their most secure footing after the Revolution.

Female Pennsylvania & South Carolina nursery owners & seed merchants successfully began selling both useful & ornamental plants decades before the Revolution. In South Carolina, much seed & plant material was imported from England, both before & after the Revolution.

In the Chesapeake, the earliest seed merchants & nursery owners, appearing after the Revolution, were from France & Germany. After the war, Dutch bulbs & roots found their way into South Carolina as well; & itinerant French seed merchants also peddled their wares in Charleston, but English nursery proprietors continued to own the majority of Carolina businesses.

In both regions, English gardeners & nursery owners came to dominate the local seed & nursery trade by the turn of the century. Both Chesapeake & Carolina garden entrepreneurs offered a full range of stock from greenhouse plants to seeds for field crops, from traditional medicinal herbs to fragrant shrubs by the beginning of the first decade of the 19th-century.

Seed merchants & nursery owners in both areas aggressively advertised their services & stock (at both retail & wholesale prices) in regional newspapers, & sometimes offered free printed catalogues to prospective clients. Gardeners in both regions sold seeds & plants at their nurseries & stores; at local farmers’ markets; & through agents at various locations throughout their regions.
Jacques Burkhardt (1818-1867). Home of Gabriel Manigault.

Gardeners from both regions sold seeds & plants imported from Philadelphia & New York, as well as those from their local suppliers. A new nationwide network of capitalistic nursery & seed business was nipping at the heels of traditional garden barter exchanges in the Mid-Atlantic, Upper South, & South Carolina as the 19th-century dawned over the horizon.

Tuesday, August 25, 2020

Processing Cotton in the 19C Reconstruction Carolinas

Cotton Picking After Slavery - Six African American Women in a Cotton Field by Mary Lyde Hicks Williams  

Mary Lyde Hicks William (1866-1959) Mary's paintings of freed slaves reflected daily life she saw on her uncle's plantation during Reconstruction in North Carolina.  The central figure with her hands on her hips is Aubt Betsey George.  The woman with the basket on her head Anna Stevens, who worked as a housemaid. Cotton was traditionally picked in splint baskets, or in cotton sheets, which would be tied to make a bag.  When it was "cotton picking time," all hands were utilized in order to get the cotton safely stored before bad or wet weather came.
After Slavery - Weighing Cotton by Mary Lyde Hicks Williams
After Slavery - Seeding and Carding Cotton by Mary Lyde Hicks Williams

Monday, August 24, 2020

Garden Design - Mount or Mound

Colonial British American gardeners often constructed artificial viewing sights called mounts or mounds to survey their gardens and the nearby countryside. These mounts usually consisted of a pile of earth heaped up to be used as the base for another structure such as a summerhouse or as an elevated site for surveying the adjoining landscape or as an elevated post for defensive reconnaissance or just a spot for fresh and cooling air in the summer.

Occasionally gardeners planted their mounts with ornamental trees and shrubs. Mounts were often formed from the earth left from digging of cellars and foundations. Walks leading up the slope of a mount sometimes has their breadth contracted at the top by one half to add the illusion of greater length.
European pleasure gardens & parks often contained a model Greek Mountain of Parnassus [see Catshuis for example]. In antiquity, the Parnassus, dedicated to Apollo & the Muses, was the traditional home of poetry & music. Deer are being hunted at the foot of the 'mountain.'

Francis Bacon, (1561-1626), English philosopher, statesman, scientist, lawyer, jurist, & author, wrote in his 1625 Essayes or Counsels, Civill and Morall in the essay entitled Of Gardens, "I would also have the alleys spacious and fair. You may have closer alleys upon the side grounds, but none in the main garden. I wish also, in the very middle, a fair mount, with three ascents and alleys, enough for four to walk abreast; which I would have to be perfect circles, without any bulwarks or embossments; and the whole mount to be thirty feethigh, and some fine banqueting house, with some chimneys neatly cast, and without too much glass."

Bacon added, "At the end of both the side grounds I would have a mount of some pretty height, leaving the wall of the enclosure breast-high, to look abroad into the fields."

English writer John Evelyn had mentioned a mount in the middle of his garden in his 1641-1705 Diary. In his 1718 Ichnographia Rustica; or The Nobleman, Gentleman, and Gardener's Recreation, Stephen Switzer described a garden, "On one Side you ascend several Grass Steps, and come to an artificial Mount, whereon is a large spreading Tree, with a Vane at the Top, and a Seat enclosing it, commanding a most agreeable and entire Prospect of the Vale below."

Switzer describes another garden of the period, "From hence you advance to a Mount considerably higher... on the Top of which is a large Seat, call'd a Windsor Seat, which is contriv'd to turn round any Way, either for the Advantage of Prospect, or to avoid the Inconveniencies of Wind, the Sun... Here 'tis you have a most entertaining Prospect, all all round, and you fee into several Counties of England, as well as into Wales."

"There are abundance of Ever-greens, and Green Slopes regularly displayed; and to the West of the Garden, on an artificial Mount, is a pleasant Summer-house." This description is from one of Daniel Defoe's (1659-1731) greatest works, (often overlooked) the magisterial A tour thro' the Whole Island of Great Britain (1724–27), which provided a panoramic survey of the British landscape & trade on the eve of England's Industrial Revolution.

South Carolinian Eliza Lucas Pinckney described her neighbor William Middleton's mount at his estate Crowfields in 1743, “to the bottom of this charming spot where is a large fish pond with a mount rising out of the middle-the top of which is level with the dwelling house and upon it is a roman temple.”

By the fall of 1769, William Eddis wrote of the Governor's House at Annapolis, Maryland, "The garden is not extensive, but it is disposed to the utmost advantage; the center walk is terminated by a small green mount, close to which the Severn approaches."

Also built in Annapolis during the 1760s is the 2 acre William Paca Garden. Multi-tier terraces define the garden. The lower terraces feature a fish-shaped pond whose bridge leads to a 2-story summer house built upon an artificial mount, plus serpentine paths through lush lawns & past beds of native plants.
William Paca Garden in Annapolis, Maryland. Dr. Jean Russo, historian for Historic Annapolis, writes that Paca built his garden mount with dirt dug out of his fishpond to give visitors a prospect from the summer house of the harbor & river over his brick wall and to keep "an eye eye on the governor on the other side of the (governor's) pond!"

George Washington wrote in his spring 1786 diary from Mount Vernon, Virginia, "I set the people to raising and forming the mounds of Earth by the gate in order to plant Weeping Willow thereon."

In 1787, the Rev. Manasseh Cutler described the mall in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, in his journal, "The artificial mounds of earth, and depressions, and small groves in the squares have a most delightful effect."

Eliza Clitherall wrote in her 1801 diary when visiting, Wilmington, North Carolina, "In this Garden were several Alcoves, Summer Houses, a hot-house ...Upon a mound of considerable height was erected a Brick room containing shelves and a large number of books--chairs and table and this was call'd the family chapel, for in those days there was no regular worship in Wilmington."

More detailed descriptions of garden mounts are easier to come by in British publications mid-century. Details of the New College garden at Oxfordshire appeared in a 1755 issue of The Universal Magazine in London, "In the middle of the garden is a beautiful mount with an easy ascent to the top of it, and the walks round about it, as well as the summit of it, guarded with yew hedges." The children of the gentry in the British American colonies often made their way to Oxford to continue their education during this period.

In 1783, the garden at New College in Oxford was described in a guidebook, "In the Garden is a beautiful Mount well disposed, behind which and on the North Side are some curious and uncommon Shrubs and Trees. The whole is surrounded by a Terras. Great Part of the Garden... is encompassed by the City Wall, which serves as a Fence to the College."

An issue of the 1773 London Magazine published a view of Mr. Garrick's House and Gardens at Hampton. "At the north part of the garden is a mount, which commands an extensive prospect into Surry; from thence, by a gradual descent, you pass through an arch, and immediately you are surprised with a prospect of the Thames."

Some British American gardeners constructed more than one mount on their grounds during the colonial period. An advertisement offered for sale “a very large garden both for pleasure and profit, with a variety of pleasant walks, mounts, basons, canals” in the South Carolina Gazette on January 30, 1749.
Artist Diane Johnson's Depiction of Thomas Jefferson's Plan for Poplar Forest.

Thomas Jefferson built two mounts at his retreat Poplar Forest 90 miles south of Monticello in Bedford County, Virginia. Poplar Forest was an estate of 4,800 acres which Jefferson inherited in 1773, from his father-in-law, John Wayles. He supervised the laying of the foundations for a new octagonal house in 1806, in accordance with Andrea Palladio's architectual principles.

The house includes a central cube room, on a side, porticos to the north and south, and a service wing to the east. On either side of the house, Jefferson had mounts built. Two artificial mounds on either side of the sunken lawn behind the house served as ornamental architectural elements and screened identical octagonal privies.
Poplar Forest Mound and Privy.

Palladio’s architecture normally featured a central architectural mass, flanked by two wings, each ending in a pavilion. However, Jefferson substituted landscape elements for bricks-and-mortar: double rows of paper mulberry trees formed the “wings” and earthen mounds replaced the pavilions.

In Europe, Jefferson had seen mounds placed away from the houses to serve as vantage points for surveying ornamental grounds. At Poplar Forest, Jefferson placed his mounds close to the house, planted them with circles of aspens and willows, and used them as a component of his symmetrical landscape.
Thomas Jefferson used the landscape he planted around his house, including the mounts, to visually imitate a Palladian archiectural plan. Poplar Forest with earthen mounds planted with trees subsituting for traditonal pavilions and lines of trees forming Palladian“wings” or “hyphens.”

The house, “wings” comprised of trees, and earthen mounds formed an east-west axis, separating the ornamental grounds within the circle into two distinct areas which Jefferson designed to reflect opposing sensibilities. At the front of the house, he created a landscape that appeared natural, even wild, like gardens he had seen in England.
Poplar Forest Mound or Mount.  See: Masters thesis on Poplar Forest , University of Virginia School of Architecture: C. Allan Brown, "Poplar Forest: Thomas Jefferson and the Ideal Villa," UVA Landscape Architecture 1987

A Curiosity
William Stuckeley (English, 1687–1765)  1723 image of Marlborough “Mount” Wiltshire, England
William Stuckeley (English, 1687–1765) 1723 image of Marlborough “Mount” Wiltshire, England Detail

An article on 31 May 2011 from the BBC notes, Marlborough Mound: 'Merlin's burial place' built in 2400 BC. "A Wiltshire mound where the legendary wizard Merlin was purported to be buried has been found to date back to 2400 BC.  Radiocarbon dating tests were carried out on charcoal samples taken from Marlborough Mound, which lies in Marlborough College's grounds.  The 19m (62ft) high mound had previously mystified historians...Silbury Hill, an artificial man-made mound about five miles away, also dates back to 2,400 BC. Marlborough Mound was reused as a castle and became an important fortress for the Norman and Plantagenet kings.  It was also the scene for major political events, such as the general oath of allegiance sworn to King John in 1209."  It had previously been suggested the Mound dated back to about 600 AD, the Arthurian Age, legend claiming it as the elusive site of Merlin’s grave. Merlin, as Arthur's wizard, is largely the creation of Geoffrey of Monmouth, Vita Merlini, (Life of Merlin) c.1150AD.
1810 Engraving of Marlborough Mount from Colt Hoare's Ancient Wiltshire
Marlborough Mount today

Sunday, August 23, 2020

19C After Slavery - Gathering Broom Straw

After Slavery - Gathering Broom Straw by Mary Lyde Hicks Williams

Mary Lyde Hicks William (1866-1959) Mary's paintings of freed slaves reflect daily life she saw on her uncle's plantation during Reconstruction in North Carolina.

Saturday, August 22, 2020

Old, but proper, potting sheds

Taking a break from being in the house typing. Each year at this time, I long to be outdoors in a garden somewhere. I will take you along with me...Today is a good day to dream about those old pots & proper potting sheds. 
Down House, Home of Charles Darwin, South East, Kent, England
Calke Abbey. Ticknall, Derby, Derbyshire, England
Royal Horticultural Society Harlow Carr Botanical Gardens, Harrogate, North Yorkshire, England


Beningborough Hall, North Yorkshire, England

Beningborough Hall, North Yorkshire, England
Blenheim Palace, Woodstock, Oxfordshire, England



Down House, Home of Charles Darwin, South East, Kent, England
Exbury Gardens, Southampton, Hampshire, England
Royal Horticultural Society Harlow Carr Botanical Gardens, Harrogate, North Yorkshire, England
Lost Gardens of Heligan, South West, Cornwall, England
Royal Horticultural Society Harlow Carr Botanical Gardens, Harrogate, North Yorkshire, England
Lost Gardens of Heligan, South West, Cornwall, England

Lost Gardens of Heligan, South West, Cornwall, England
Royal Horticultural Society Harlow Carr Botanical Gardens, Harrogate, North Yorkshire, England

Royal Horticultural Society Harlow Carr Botanical Gardens, Harrogate, North Yorkshire, England