Myrtle fans know that a spectacular Victorian garden forms the backdrop for Premeditated Myrtle. Here in Kansas City, it’s a glorious April day, perfect for thinking, writing, and posting about gardens! And, I suppose, actual gardening, if you like that sort of thing…
Wealthy English people had enjoyed ornamental gardens for centuries, but it wasn’t until the Industrial Revolution ushered in more income and leisure time for the middle classes that ordinary folks could afford to devote valuable crop-growing land to purely decorative plants. Gardening in the 19th century meant big business, career opportunities, and a popular middle-class pastime—particularly for Young Ladies of Quality.
Girls and women had of course been engaged in agriculture since the dawn of time, but gardening appealed especially to 19th century middle-class aspirations and virtues—the idea of owning and managing your own patch of land, importing exotic plants from colonial lands overseas, embracing healthful fresh air and industrious effort.
Gardening was often included in school curricula for girls, teaching the skills and values of nurturing plants.
It also gave young women a socially-acceptable outlet for scientific curiosity.
As the 19th century drew to a close, career opportunities in the garden began to open up for women, too.
Horticultural Colleges were aimed at middle-class young women, as the cost of tuition, equipment, boarding, and clothing would have been prohibitive to girls of lesser means. In contrast to more academic colleges, they trained women for physically demanding careers involving strenuous manual labor.
All these black and white photos do not do justice to the vivacity and exuberance of the real Victorian gardens—so I have some seed catalogues and other images to make up for that.
Of course, you’ll need things to take care of all those beautiful plants, too.
And I have no idea what’s going on here, but these anthropomorphic vegetables were wildly popular among seed companies for a time!
And what would a Myrtle Mondays post be without a Victorian cyclist?