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Early Canadian Gardening

Early Canadian Gardening: An 1827 Nursery Catalogue

Eileen Woodhead Illustrated by the author
Copyright Date: 1998
Pages: 313
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    Early Canadian Gardening
    Book Description:

    Reproducing a rare 1827 plant and seed catalogue, possibly the earliest extant catalogue of its kind in Canada, Early Canadian Gardening presents an extensive range of garden plants -- trees, shrubs, fruits, and flowers -- that were grown for food, medicines, and dyestuffs as well as ornamental purposes. Eileen Woodhead provides a detailed description and brief history of the cultivation and use of each plant up to the present day. Most of the descriptions are accompanied by detailed drawings by the author, who found and grew many of the original varieties in the catalogue.

    eISBN: 978-0-7735-6721-4
    Subjects: History
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Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents (pp. v-vi)
  3. Introduction (pp. vii-2)

    Trade catalogues are generally overlooked as sources of historical information, yet they contain details about the past that few other documents provide. Commercial trade catalogues began in the eighteenth century as books that manufacturers supplied to their travelling salesman, listing assortments of goods with details of sizes and styles from which retailers place orders. Many of these books were illustrated, especially those hardware and furniture. The advantages of catalogues were soon realized by the retailers themselves, who began to use the method to attract customers.

    Nurserymen in England started publishing catalogues in the eighteenth century, and the practice was initiated...

  4. 1 The Toronto Nursery (pp. 3-16)

    TheCatalogue of Fruit and Ornamental Trees, Flowering Shrubs, Garden Seeds Greenhouse Plants, Bulbous Roots & Flower Seeds,published in 1827 by the Toronto Nursery, near York in Upper Canada, was one of the first nursery catalogues in Upper Canada. The eighteen-page Toronto Nursery catalogue was printed by William Lyon Mackenzie, “Printer to the House of Assembly,” and editor of the newspaper theColonial Advocate;Mackenzie was later to find a place in Canadian political history as one of the leaders of the Reform Party in Upper Canada, and later as an instigator of the 1837 Rebellion. The catalogue is...

  5. 2 The Toronto Nursery Catalogue (pp. 17-36)

    The 1827 Toronto Nursery catalogue is reprinted here in its entirety. In his “Prefatory Remarks” nurseryman William Custead puts forth the history his enterprise, declares his intention to satisfy his customers, and outlines means by which he proposes to provide service and advice. Some of personality of the man comes through his writing: his enthusiasm, his ambitious goals, and his desire to share his knowledge and experience.

    The plants and seeds to be supplied by the nursery are listed under headings according to the nature of the plants: fruit trees, ornamental trees and biennials and perennials, vegetables, herbs, and annuals....

  6. 3 Horticulture in the Early Nineteenth Century (pp. 37-55)

    The value of the Toronto Nursery catalogue cannot be adequately assessed without a brief review of horticultural history at the time it was published. The first decades of the nineteenth century evolved as a period of cultural transition between the eighteenth century’s Age of Reason and the extravagant Victorian epoch. Worldwide explorations and scientific discoveries changed the manner in which the natural world was approached and fuelled the rapid development in science and technology that took place Queen Victoria ascended the throne of the British Empire. These changes were felt by all who were involved in horticulture, for the field...

  7. 4 Fruits (pp. 56-73)

    Three and a half pages of the Toronto Nursery catalogue are devoted to of fruit-producing plants. Fruit-bearing species were among the first brought to America by the early European colonists. Once matured, could supply crops for many years, a reliable source of familiar food people trying to adapt to a strange new country. Tree fruits were paramount, with apples and pears frequently mentioned in early documents. every home had a small orchard, and the garden held a number of bush fruits. The first nurseries in the English colonies propagated trees almost exclusively. Eventually large orchards were established for crops to...

  8. 5 Ornamental Trees and Flowering Shrubs (pp. 74-103)

    Trees and shrubs form the backbone of a garden, providing architectural around which other features can be displayed. Woody plants tend to longer and grow to a greater size than herbaceous plants, so the choice suitable species should be made with care. The Toronto Nursery catalogue offered several European species of trees and shrubs, but a good number were of American origin. Early collections of American plants taken Europe included numerous species of woody plants that by 1827 were grown in many European gardens. It was ironic that a number of were re-introduced to America at a later date, although...

  9. 6 Biennials and Perennials (pp. 104-150)

    Biennial and perennial plants are herbaceous — fleshy, often green stems, woody as in trees or shrubs — and live for two or more years. Many are for their usefulness as foods, medicines, or in other domestic applications. But the decorative qualities of some of these “useful” plants should be overlooked. Kitchen gardens in the eighteenth and early nineteenth contained both annual and perennial plants, serviceable and ornamental. The fern-like foliage of asparagus or the large leaves and tall flower of rhubarb added visual interest to the garden. The dense, dark foliage of hop vines shaded verandah and covered fences.

    Biennials and...

  10. 7 Roses (pp. 151-156)

    Although roses are woody plants, they were not included under “Flowering Shrubs” in the Toronto Nursery catalogue. Instead they were given a separate section, for roses were regarded as candidates for the flower garden, not the typical nineteenth-century shrubbery. Among Custead’s long of roses were many old varieties which are now rare or unavailable. tended to be large, widely branching hardy bushes that bloomed for a few weeks in early summer with richly fragrant flowers. In 1827 the hybridization that took place after the introduction of Chinese roses was in infancy. When new hybrids entered the market, offering more choices...

  11. 8 Bulbous Roots (pp. 157-180)

    Plants that grew from bulbs, tubers, or corms featured strongly in the Nursery catalogue. While there is a botanical difference between plant designations, all were listed under the general heading “Bulbous Roots.”

    Bulbous rooted plants were popular with gardeners as most were assured flowering. Bulbs reproduced easily by offshoots and bulbils over a relatively short period of time, making them a good investment for the nurseryman and the gardener. in the catalogue included many like the tulip and narcissus, suitable for planting in the garden, and others more suited to the greenhouse, or living room. There was a range of...

  12. 9 Greenhouse Plants (pp. 181-197)

    The list of greenhouse plants in Custead’s 1827 catalogue is perhaps the remarkable of all the entries. It presents an unexpected view of horticulture in early Canada, and demonstrates the wide-ranging interest in plants by both professional and amateur gardeners at that time. Few records in the early history of Upper Canada suggest there was any for luxury goods or any appreciation of expensive, rare plants such supplied by the Toronto Nursery. (Not only were tropical plants in the Canadas but a few listed in the catalogue were relatively new introductions to America.)

    There are no physical remains of Custead’s...

  13. 10 Seeds of Esculent Vegetables and Plants in Their Season (pp. 198-218)

    For most families in Upper Canada in the early nineteenth century the source of vegetables was the home garden. The kitchen garden, small enclosed area, contained vegetables grown from seed each year few perennial plants that would provide crops for many seasons. Vegetables required in large quantities, whether for home use or for the were grown as field crops. Potatoes, turnips, beans, and peas were principal field-grown vegetables.

    Immigrants from Britain were instructed to bring seeds with them. Many arrived with seeds for the foods they were familiar with, and later “home” for further supplies. Published instructions to immigrants Catharine...

  14. 11 Seeds for Pot and Sweet Herbs; Medicinal Herbs (pp. 219-243)

    In the late twentieth century, herb gardens have been revived, and we are enjoying the decorative textures, tastes, and scents of these historical plants. Herbs have been grown in gardens for many centuries, and most remained unchanged from the original species form. A number are in daily use in kitchens around the world, while others have lost their popularity or usefulness for domestic purposes. Our medicine cabinets are longer stocked with medicinal herbs, although an increasing number of herbal preparations are available today as a result of recent interest in alternative medicine. A large percentage of accepted drugs are derived...

  15. 12 Seeds for Annual Flowers (pp. 244-277)

    Custead’s seeds for annual flowers included thirty-two species representing plant families. The selections included colourful ornamentals, plants economic potential, and others that were simply “curious” plants. There were tall and short plants and a number of pretty climbers, many attractive flowers for cutting blooms or dried winter bouquets. Nearly annual plants had a lengthy history of cultivation in English gardens. About one-third were native to Europe, many originating in the Mediterranean region. One species was South African; the remainder were introductions from Asia and the Americas. The catalogue gave no indication of quantities of seed available for any species nor...

  16. 13 Afterword (pp. 278-284)

    A thorough examination of William Custead's Toronto Nursery catalogue of 1827 has revealed that in the first few years of settlement in Upper Canada there was an ardent interest in gardens and a quite sophisticated knowledge of horticulture. The Toronto Nursery could provide a variety of plants and seeds to grow the basic requirements for food, home remedies, shade, and shelter, and in addition to these necessities, ornamental plants for the most ambitious of pleasure gardens and interior decorations.

    When I first discovered the Toronto Nursery catalogue in the Toronto Metropolitan Reference Library, I felt challenged not only to identify...

  17. Appendix: Historic Sites and Botanical Gardens (pp. 285-292)
  18. Bibliography (pp. 293-298)
  19. Index (pp. 299-304)