In the aftermath of the Wardian Case invention, these times were filled with the promise of success that seeds presented. But at the end of each issue catalogs had information listing sources for rare bulbs – in their hundreds. This would have been a very difficult task for someone in the 21st century.
Today, our selections in many ways have been reduced to seeds that we can grow easily and have a large market demand. We leave out selections that are hard to grow or seem unusual and grow only those that perform very well. Sounds great for those just starting out. But if you are like me who likes to try something botanically important, something unusual or different – then it’s much harder work. For those who lived in 1835, this might have even been a less difficult task. Because in the entire world right now, for bulbs I’d likely have one source while I’ll have 2 seed sources if I wanted lachenalia species seedlings.
If this were to be 1835, I would have made my way to several nursery stock houses in Boston via carriage and got all I needed. They’d have been species from different places such as the Cape of Good Hope to Guernsey, where I’d get Babiana bulbs and sarniensis respectively. It does come to mind that almost all these ships carried slaves, medical opium, fur and other likely profitable goods – so I’m not going to be all lovey-dovey about everything concerning Victorian horticulture. I’m also not oblivious that only clients in the usual 1% upper strata (that still have the privilege today) could afford such plants that would be raised in their greenhouses. The plant selections from these journals were posted over 100 years old, but they are what spur me.
I’m simply in awe at the information they hold whenever I open them up each weekend. I find something that was available and as if they were commonplace then. Sometimes the nomenclature is messy so a little research is done to get the names right. It’s challenging working around the taxonomy at times as several changes have been made to the Latin name since 1835. However, most times I’m on a virtual journey set off by notes I come up with.
I looked for the Paeonia moutan var. Banksii today also called the suffruticosa. The plant grew in Boston as a greenhouse plant and later on displayed at an exhibition during a snowstorm when it was in bloom at Massachusetts Horticultural Society. Really amazing, right? A lot of the time, though, I feel proud of content I put out. Sometimes the topics on my blog and that of other gardening blogs don’t sound exactly alike. Sometimes I amuse myself with the thought of – but can’t bring myself to do stuff like – writing content with SEO titles in ‘top 1’ posts style or with the use of keywords like “Awesome DIY Seeds Bombs” or “life hack”. It’s not that doing this isn’t fun or it doesn’t work but hey, some of us started with the easy stuff, so I’ve come to appreciate how raising something like a sunflower might be really fun for a child or how a beginner gardener might feel about manure tea. In a broader sense, I’m trying to say that the description of my blog is subject to the person who the answer is directed at – “Well, I’m into Victorian flowers” or “heirloom vegetables are my primary talents and then some fruits”. While others in describing my content may say, “he focuses on writing about both the amazing plants in his greenhouse and the greenhouse itself”. Well, I’m sure there’s more to it even that says a lot about what I do.