06 March 2018

American Cottage Gardens
Circa 1850

Back in my March 3 blog entry I told you about the journal of Susan Fenimore Cooper titled, Rural Hours. It is about the natural history and rural culture of Cooperstown, NY, circa 1850. Today I present another excerpt from the book...

Thursday, June 21st— Extremely warm; thermometer 92. Happily, there have been pleasant western breezes through these warm days. Strolled about the village in the evening; saw an old neighbor of threescore and fifteen at work in his garden, hoeing his dozen corn-hills, and weeding his cucumber vines.
One always loves a garden; labor wears its pleasantest aspect there. From the first days of spring, to latest autumn, we move about among growing plants, gay flowers, and cheerful fruits; and there is some pretty change to note by the light of every sun. Even the narrowest cottage patch looks pleasant to those who come and go along the highway; it is well to stop now and then when walking, and look over the paling of such little gardens, and note what is going on there.
Flowers are seldom forgotten in the cottage garden; the widest walk is lined with them, and there are others beneath the low windows of the house. You have rosebushes, sun-flowers, and holly-hocks, as a matter of course; generally a cluster of pinks, bachelor's buttons, also, and a sweet pea, which is a great favorite; plenty of marigolds, a few poppies, large purple china asters, and a tuft of the lilac phlox. Such are the blossoms to be seen before most doors; and each is pretty in its own time and place; one has a long-standing regard for them all, including the homely sunflower, which we should be sorry to miss from its old haunts.
Then the scarlet flowering bean, so intimately connected with childish recollections of the hero Jack and his wonderful adventure, may still be seen flourishing in the cottage garden ... The ambitious bean seldom reaches higher than a low roof, nor is its growth always sufficiently luxuriant to shade the window, for it often shares that task with a morning-glory.
The plan of these leafy blinds is a pretty one, but they are often trained in stiff and straight lines ... When hop vines are used for screening the windows, which is often the case, the plant is not so easily restrained; and throwing out its luxuriant branches right and left, it takes care of itself.