Springtime is here and millions of Americans have turned their attention to tending lawns and gardens. A new, richly illustrated book, America’s Romance with the English Garden, by Thomas J. Mickey, tells the story of how the look of American lawns and gardens was shaped by nineteenth-century seed and nursery catalogs.
In his book, published this May by Ohio University Press, Mickey explains that Americans were practically “seduced” by the rich imagery and lush writing they found in catalogs. The seed companies and nurseries were selling more than seeds and plants, Mickey discovered during his research; they were also selling the way to plant and landscape. “Though the company owners knew French, Italian, Spanish, and Dutch gardens,” Mickey says, “the English garden, with its signature lawn, became the brand to sell seeds and plants in the nineteenth century.”
Readers of America’s Romance with the English Garden will learn how the lawn became such a prominent feature of the American landscape, how English garden writers inspired nineteenth-century seed company and nursery owners, how these companies taught Americans how to garden through their mass-marketed catalogs, magazines, and books, and how the obsession with new plant varieties became established.