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Gardening In the Media During The 19th Century

The period between the late 1800's and the onset of World War II was a time when articles in gardening magazines had a powerful influence on Americans. There were many home gardeners-middle class amateurs-who favored old fashioned plantings that reflected traditional values.

A Back To Nature Movement

A trend in the 19th century media called the Arts and Crafts movement in both England and America focused attention on native plants.The Englishman William Robinson published a book, The Wild Garden, in 1870 that advocated cottage gardens with a back to nature approach using wildflowers and other native flowers and plants.

Magazines favored the Country Life movement-a trend that favored rural culture and agricultural affairs-and emphasized naturalism as opposed to the perceived vulgarity of rich people using their gardens to advertise their wealth and status. In other media, Henry David Thoreau wrote poetry during this time that advocated the spiritual value to be gained from a close relationship with nature.

Magazines: A 19th Century Medium

In magazines, the designs of the popular Frederick Law Olmsted's landscapes in public parks were described as wonderful imitations of nature. Publications such as the popular Women's Home Companion, The CraftsmanCountry Life in America, and House and Garden showed lovely pictures of landscapes for home owners to emulate. Magazines were a major vehicle that communicated the political, social and aesthetic values of the period and how they were reflected in home and garden design and lifestyle.

Of course, television and other electronic vehicles have now become more influential media outlets for the transmission of cultural values and have eclipsed the role of magazines. However, some of the horticultural themes emphasized in the varied media outlets available to us today are strikingly similar to those in the magazines that were so popular in the late 19th and early 20th century.


The importance of native species is still a persistent theme nowadays in all media outlets. Gardeners with woodland or other shade areas may be interested to read about the research and propagation of Tiarella and the development of varieties such as T. Oakleaf, Brandywine, Laird of Skye and Winterglow.

Tiarella is a lovely native plant and has become endangered in New Jersey and Wisconsin. Sinclair Adam is one of the researchers who has worked on tissue culture and dissemination of Tiarella. He is associated with Dunvegan Nursery in Western Chester County in Pennsylvania.  (Go to Plants Nouveau's website or visit Adam Sinclair's MySpace page to learn more about the potential use of tiarellas and their value to a threatened global ecology.)

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