America's Romance with the English Garden.

Author:Jodoin, Aimee
Position:Book review

Thomas J. Mickey (author); AMERICA'S ROMANCE WITH THE ENGLISH GARDEN; Ohio University Press (Nonfiction: Gardening) 26.95 ISBN: 9780821420355

Byline: Aimee Jodoin

This niche book for history buffs and professional gardeners offers rich insight into how seed catalogs influenced the American obsession with social status.

When Martha Stewart wrote about hydrangeas in her magazine, nurseries around the country sold out of hydrangea plants within days, proving that mass media can influence the general public to buy almost anything. In the nineteenth century, advertising had its first major foray into popular culture when seed catalogs sold the English gardening style to American homemakers. America's Romance with the English Garden details the growth of the advertising and gardening industries as the country's mainstream culture was developing. Exploring the decisions of major home and garden magazine founders and plant nursery specialists, the book illuminates how companies used seed catalogs to sell the English form of gardening as a way to create social status for the emerging middle class.

Each chapter explores one aspect of America's gardening history -- one details the impact of social changes on the seed industry, for instance, and another is solely concerned with the legendary rose -- and each chapter concludes with a discussion of a "featured plant" from the author's own garden. Also detailed is the rise in popularity of various plants, such as water lilies, perennials, and house plants. Brief sections on the social implications of advertising's influence, especially on women, who constitute the majority of gardeners, may leave some readers...

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