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America’s Romance with the English Garden

Afternoon Seminar

Sunday, November 17, 2013 - 3:00 p.m. to 5:00 p.m.
Code: 1W0004

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The Victorian elegance of the Haupt Garden at the Smithsonian’s Castle reflects a horticultural dream of America’s growing middle class in the late 19th century: to cultivate a garden in the English style. That dream, says author and landscape designer Thomas J. Mickey, had its roots in marketing. Cheap paper, faster printing, rural mail delivery, and chromolithography combined to pave the way for the first modern, mass-produced catalogs. The most prominent of these, reaching American households by the thousands, were seed and nursery catalogs with beautiful pictures of homes surrounded by sprawling lawns, exotic plants, and the latest garden accessories—in other words, the quintessential English-style garden.

That story provides the basis for Mickey’s book America’s Romance with the English Garden (Ohio University Press). He’ll discuss that work’s themes, including how new communications technologies and modern advertising created the first gardens (and corresponding social aspirations) that were marketed by mass media. He will be joined in conversation by horticulturalist Cynthia Brown of Smithsonian Gardens, who’ll talk with him about his fellowship at the division and show original materials from his research collected at the Archives of American Gardens.

Mickey is a professor emeritus of communication studies at Bridgewater (Massachusetts) State University, a graduate of the Landscape Institute at Boston Architectural College, and a garden columnist and blogger. Copies of his book will be available for signing.

Smithsonian Connections

The W. Atlee Burpee & Company Collection in the Smithsonian’s Archives of American Gardens provides a view of the major seed companies of the late 19th and early 20th centuries and how they marketed their products.

Thomas J. Mickey’s blog American Gardening offers a mix of history and horticulture, as well as reports of his visits to influential British and American gardens.


S. Dillon Ripley Center
1100 Jefferson Drive, SW
Metro: Smithsonian Mall Exit (Blue/Orange)