Walk into any nursery, florist, or supermarket, and you’ll encounter displays of dozens of gorgeous flowers, from chrysanthemums to orchids. At one time these fanciful blooms were the rare trophies of the rich and influential—even the carnation, today thought of as one of the humblest cut flowers. Every blossom we take for granted now is the product of painstaking and imaginative planning, breeding, horticultural ingenuity, and sometimes chance. The personalities of the breeders, from an Indiana farmer to Admiral Lord Gambier’s gardener, were as various and compelling as the beauty they conjured from skilled hybridization.
In Visions of Loveliness: Great Flower Breeders of the Past, Judith Taylor wrote engagingly about the vivid history and characters behind eighteen types of popular flowers. In this companion volume she uncovers information about another eight familiar flowers: poinsettias, chrysanthemums, gladioli, pansies, carnations, water lilies, clematis, and penstemons.
Taylor has tapped into an enormous trove of stories about extraordinary people with vision and skill who added to our enjoyment piece by piece, starting about 150 years ago. This beautifully illustrated book will please flower enthusiasts, gardeners, and history buffs alike.
A nineteenth-century entrepreneur’s bold, innovative marketing helped transform flower gardens into one of America’s favorite hobbies.
“There is much that is hard and productive of sorrow in this sin-plagued world of ours; and, had we no flowers, I believe existence would be hard to be borne.” So states a customer’s 1881 letter—one of thousands James Vick regularly received. Vick’s business, selling flower seeds through the mail, wasn’t unique, but it was wildly successful because he understood better than his rivals how to engage customers’ emotions. He sold the love of flowers along with the flower seeds.
Vick was genuinely passionate about floriculture, but he also pioneered what we now describe as integrated marketing. He spent a mind-boggling $100,000 per year on advertising (mostly to women, his target demographic); he courted newspaper editors for free publicity; his educational guides presaged today’s content marketing; he recruited social influencers to popularize neighborhood gardening clubs; and he developed a visually rich communication and branding strategy to build customer loyalty and inflect their purchasing needs with purchasing desire.
Amidst Mad Cow scares and consumer concerns about how farm animals are bred, fed, and raised, many farmers and homesteaders are rediscovering the traditional practice of pastoral farming. Grasses, clovers, and forbs are the natural diet of cattle, horses, and sheep, and are vital supplements for hogs, chickens, and turkeys. Consumers increasingly seek the health benefits of meat from animals raised in green paddocks instead of in muddy feedlots.
In All Flesh Is Grass: The Pleasures and Promises of Pasture Farming, Gene Logsdon explains that well-managed pastures are nutritious and palatable—virtual salads for livestock. Leafy pastures also hold the soil, foster biodiversity, and create lovely landscapes. Grass farming might be the solution for a stressed agricultural system based on an industrial model and propped up by federal subsidies.
In his clear and conversational style, Logsdon explains historically effective practices and new techniques. His warm, informative profiles of successful grass farmers offer inspiration and ideas. His narrative is enriched by his own experience as a “contrary farmer” on his artisan-scale farm near Upper Sandusky, Ohio.
All Flesh Is Grass will have broad appeal to the sustainable commercial farmer, the home-food producer, and all consumers who care about their food.
Named one of “the year’s best gardening books” by The Spectator (UK, Nov. 2014)
The 1890s saw a revolution in advertising. Cheap paper, faster printing, rural mail delivery, railroad shipping, 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 middle-class homes surrounded by sprawling lawns, exotic plants, and the latest garden accessories—in other words, the quintessential English-style garden.
America’s Romance with the English Garden is the story of tastemakers and homemakers, of savvy businessmen and a growing American middle class eager to buy their products. It’s also the story of the beginnings of the modern garden industry, which seduced the masses with its images and fixed the English garden in the mind of the American consumer. Seed and nursery catalogs delivered aspirational images to front doorsteps from California to Maine, and the English garden became the look of America.
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