Sunday, March 15, 2015

The Coming of the Seed Catalogs

image from

Joanna here, being topical over at Word Wenches.

My seed catalogs have arrived. This is the first sign of spring for me — not a sighting of the first robin — the sighting of the first seed catalogs. Now the truth of the matter is I don’t so much buy seeds and plant them. I live on stony, steep ground here and grow my plants in a few miserable little pots. But I dream with these catalogs. I meditate upon all the wondrous flowers and vegetables I’m growing in my mind rather than in reality.

Wenches ‘Catastrophe in the Conservatory’ by Thomas Rowlandson, c. 1816Anyhow, this got me thinking about woman gardeners in 1800 or so. The eons’ old association of women and healing
plants, edible garden herbs, and flowery borders made them natural gardeners.

About at this time botany got an intellectual boots with the Linnaean system of plant classification. Thank heavens this was one ‘science’ considered suitable for genteel women. They began collecting plants and writing about them. We have pictures of these women carrying their watering cans — dressed in a way we’d consider problematic for gardening work — headed out to botanize.

I delight to imagine the glasshouses filled with interesting specimens and women tending and caring for them. Studying them. Learning how to grow the most troublesome of their charges.
Describing the exotics.
Writing, y’know, monographs and papers.

There's a bit more of this over at Word Wenches ... here.


  1. How appropriate that today's Google doodle celebrates Anna Atkins, botanist, born 216 years ago:

  2. I arranged this to coincide with my posting. *g*