The Workers - Gardeners and Nurserymen

The Workers

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Gardeners and Nurserymen

Janet Montgomery had initially formed a partnership with James McWilliam to run a commercial orchard and nursery, but after that business relationship ended she decided to hire a gardener rather than seek another partner.

The first was a local man named John George. After him, she took on a Scotsman named James Davidson. After Davidson left, Janet looked directly to Europe for nurserymen. She was not alone in this practice. She recognized that many professional gardeners in Europe were anxious to come to America in search of greater opportunity. They often had more formal training and specialized experience than did American gardeners, and they were also willing to work for lower wages.

As the nineteenth century progressed, many estate owners hired formally trained landscape professionals from Europe to supervise their estates. In an 1835 issue of The Gardens Magazine,  the English design expert and magazine publisher John Claudius Loudon noted that “many hundreds of [European] emigrants, chiefly agriculturists, have gone to the United States within the last three or four years; also a good many gardeners, and some British architects.” Hazen’s Panorama of Professions and Trades (1836), a book offering occupational guidance, noted that, in Europe, professional gardeners “constitute a large class of the population. They are employed, either in their own gardens or in those of the wealthy, who engage them by the day, or year. There are some who devote their attention to this business in this country; but these are chiefly from the other side of the Atlantic. In our southern states, the rich assign one of their slaves to the garden.”

The Englishman William Cobbett, a sometime-resident of the United States and landscaping expert who wrote a book specifically for American estate builders in 1819, took a darker view of these recent arrivals. He sharply observed that:

“Everyman, who can dig and hoe and rake, calls himself a Gardener as soon as he lands here from England. This description of persons are [sic] generally handy men, and, having been used to spade-work, they, from habit, do things well and neatly. But as to the art of gardening, they generally know nothing of it.”

Cobett’s own publication, The American Gardener, worked to increase knowledge of gardening.

The Gardener, from The Panorama of Professions and Trades, by Edward Hazen (1836).

A model garden plan, from The American Gardener, by William Cobbett (1821).

A grapevine trellis, from The American Gardener, by William Cobbett (1821).

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