All about Flowers: James Vick’s Nineteenth-Century Seed Company

Swallow. Apr. 2021. 204p. ISBN 9780804012294. pap. $26.95. GARDENING
A lion of 19th-century horticulture, often mentioned in the same breath as Darwin in his era, James Vick has since largely faded from public consciousness. Mickey (communication studies, Bridgewater State Univ.) describes Vick’s innovations as not only a seed purveyor but a marketer, whose catalogues popularized the nascent Victorian fad for growing flowers and educated new growers. Vick’s publications were didactic and persuasive, with illustrations designed to catch the eye and inspire seed purchases; many of those illustrations are reproduced in this book. Some values espoused by middle-class Victorians were evident in Vick’s work; for example, he encouraged women to pursue “floriculture” (flower gardening)—a field in which women could find independence and a creative outlet, but remain in the domestic sphere. Many of today’s gardens and public spaces owe their design and philosophy to Vick and his ilk.
VERDICT Illuminating reading for those interested in the history of horticulture and landscape design, or 19th-century American culture.
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