Popular Annuals of Eastern North America, 1865-1914

Newcomb, Peggy
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University of Delaware
The form and diversity of annual flowers help us to understand the social and technological influences of their times when studied in light of their changing roles in past gardens. The nineteenth century in particular was an age marked by rapid and profound changes in American life, especially in the industrial regions then emerging in eastern North America. All facets of horticulture were swept along by the progressive atmosphere of the era. Fluctuating tastes and styles, dictated by cultural impulses and attitudes, also affected the kinds of plants most commonly used. This thesis examines a selection of annuals as they developed within this historical context from 1865 through 1914. After addressing in general some of the major characteristics of this era which affected horticultural matters, a chronological approach is utilized to discuss the three distinct periods: 1865-1875, 1876-1893, and 1894-1914. Chapters III and V address each annual individually, first discussing briefly its history in cultivation, and then, in greater depth, its subsequent development through the Victorian and post-Victorian years. The specific general under consideration are: Abronia, Callistephus (China aster, Celosia (cockscomb); Clarkia, Collinsia(Chinese houses), Eschscholzia (California poppy), Gaillardia, Gilia, Impatiens (balsam), Lathyrus (sweet pea), Petunia, Phlox (Drummond's phlox), Portulaca, Reseda (mignonette), Tagetes (marigold), Tropaeolum (nasturtium) Viola (pansy), and Zinnia. Their development is traced through popular magazines, gardening books, journals, catalogues, and other ephemera. Chapter IV still within the chronological scheme, focuses on the impact of major public events in generating ideas and trends in the use of flowers. The prominence given annuals in public displays at major exhibits such as Philadelphia's 1876 Centennial and Chicago's 1893 World Columbian Exposition, and the affect of countless fairs, shows, and flower trials popular in the last quarter of the nineteenth century, had an accelerating effect upon the refinement and diversity of many annuals. The appendices appear in two sections. The first, a collection of four complete lists of annuals offered by seedsmen during the 1830's and 1840's, establishes the nature of catalogues at the beginning of the period under study for comparison with later lists. The second section documents the nature of the changes in each annual through specified intervals of time.
Horticulture , Annuals , History-public gardens