Between 1850 and 1880, Americans of all ranks and circumstances planted shade trees, cultivated flower gardens, and established lawns with a new-found enthusiasm that both astonished and delighted horticultural advocates. For Shade and For Comfort explores this unprecedented burst of horticultural interest, and documents its influence on Midwestern domestic landscapes. Drawing upon a wide range of largely unexplored resources -- including lithographic images of farm, village, and city homes; agricultural society records; nursery and seed catalogues; and the diaries and letters of local residents -- this innovative study examines how advocates encouraged ornamental plant interest, and then considers the significance of trees and flowers for their mid nineteenth century promoters and for the people who planted and nurtured them. From these diverse perspectives, ornamental plants emerge as densely layered cultural symbols offering not only a very real touch of shade or beauty, but for many, a sense of security and comfort amidst a rapidly changing American society. With its careful portrayal of actual ornamental plant use, its examination of nineteenth century horticultural advice literature and the nursery and seed trades, and its insightful analysis of the meanings attached to shade trees and flower gardens, For Shade and For Comfort will appeal to rural, cultural, and environmental historians, historians of the Midwest, historic preservationists, and those who simply love horticulture and gardening.
Cheryl Lyon Jenness