National Geographic : 1947 Jul
The World inYour Garden plants fitted for that climate.* 'At Otranto, Alexander Garden, physician and plantsman, was carrying on a correspondence with Lin naeus, the great Swedish botanist. The Gar denia was named for him. And itwas at Charleston that Andre Michaux, that peer of early American plant explorers (page 6), had one of his nurseries and collecting stations. Another Charlestonian-but of asomewhat later period-is especially remembered during our winter holiday season, for the Poinsettia was introduced by and named inhonor of Joel R. Poinsett. The Virginians were not behind their neighbors. Those who visit Mount Vernon can easily see in therestored garden, laid out according to the diary and notes kept by George Washington,that hewas alover of plants and a gardener of no mean ability. With a scientific turnof mind, Thomas Jeffer son-who wrote on matters of natural history as well as on government, had, like Bartram, a wide correspondence and introduced many new plants and garden methods.t Other gardens were springing up. In1801 Dr. David Hosack acquired aplot of20acres from the City of New York and laid out a botanical garden. The Elgin Gardens, ashe called the plot, lay onwhat now is5th Avenue between 50th and 51st Streets, where Rocke feller Center stands.The roof and terrace gardens now atop this modern structure, commemorating Dr.Hosack's efforts, are reminiscent of the "hanging gardens" which Nebuchadnezzar builtinBabylon (page 9). Since the days of the early Dutch, French, and English colonists,botanical gardens have been active in the discovery and development of new garden materials inall parts ofthe world. Large and famousprivate nurseries had been springing up because ofthe increased interest in gardens. And many ofthem had their own botanicalexplorers who brought together stocks of additional garden material. Furthermore, especially inEurope, these nurseries became thecenters ofhybridization and selection of new forms of ornamentals. This activity eventually came tothis side of the Atlantic; andAmerican nurserymen, with the newer techniques supplied by recent * See, in the NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC MAGAZINE: "Ashley River and Its Gardens," by E.T. H. Shaffer, May, 1926; and "Charleston: Where Mellow Past and Present Meet," byDuBose Heyward, March, 1939. t See, in the NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC MAGAZINE: "Home of the First Farmer inAmerica (Mount Ver non)," by Worth E. Shoults, NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC MAGAZINE, May, 1928; and "Jefferson's Little Moun tain," by Paul Wilstach,April, 1929. advances inthe knowledge ofthe breeding of plants, are now taking the lead inthis neces sary andbasic phase offloriculture. Today one cannot walk into agarden with out seeing on every side the results ofthe work ofthe plant breeder. Itisthejob ofthe plant explorer tobring the material out ofthe world's far places. The hybridist and selector then work over it,sometimes for years, finally topass iton tousinthe form of choice garden flowers, often quite different from what they originally were inthe wild. Selection ofPlants for This Series Some time ago Mrs. Bostelmann, already well known tome through her paintings, came into my office and asked ifIwould give her alist of about ahundred kinds offlowering plants commonly grown inAmerican orna mental gardens, together with the countries where they originally were native. Itseemed like asimple affair; that is,until Ireally got into thejob. Today man cultivates about 25,000 species ofplants. Ofthese about 10,000 arecherished for the ornamental value oftheir flowers. Ofthis latter number, several thousand might beclassed asbeing fairly "common" inAmerica. Inmaking up this list, we selected arep resentative number. The name and country of origin of each was put on acard, andcards were sorted bythe geographic regions of origin so astogive some idea ofthe proportion ofthe paintings tobedevoted toeach region. Then byaprocess offurther selection the list was reduced toonly two hundred species -still twice too large. Discarding that last hundred seemed almost like turning one's back on one's best friends. As alast resort, incertain instances the cards were turned face downward, shuffled, andthe number which Mrs. Bostelmann needed tocomplete aplate selected at random. Ifyour favorite garden flower happens tohave been omitted, itvery likely was among those which were not pulled out ofthe pile. This also will explain togardeners why species with greatly dissimilar climatic and soil requirements, or ofdifferent blooming periods, sometimes appear inthe same picture. For perhaps six months amost miraculous thing happened. All Idid was tolay out the plot. The artist planted the garden and tended it;and there onher easel these plants bloomed. The following series ofpaintings-"Mrs. Bostelmann's garden," asher friends called it-is certain evidence ofthe marvelous climate andgrowing conditions which can befound inan artist's studio inManhattan.