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Daffodils in American Gardens, 1733–1940

 

Sara L. Van Beck

A multifaceted history of daffodils and the historic and modern gardens they have called home

Since their earliest identification in the mid-1500s, more than twenty-eight thousand hybrid daffodils have been named and registered with the Royal Horticulture Society of England. Daffodils began as wildflowers in the Mediterranean basin, then spread and flourished in Europe's alpine and coastal environments. Sara L. Van Beck, an attentive historian and skilled horticulturist, traces the history of the garden daffodil, including its early days in Europe, especially the Netherlands; the importation of flowering bulbs to colonial America; and plant breeding and the dissemination of plants throughout the United States until World War II.

Illustrated with nearly two hundred color and black-and-white images, Daffodils in American Gardens examines gardening by era—European beginnings; colonial, federal, antebellum, and Victorian periods; and World War II—with a comprehensive chapter for daffodils in cemetery plantings. Van Beck combines the disparate disciplines of archaeology and plant science to discover and re-create important gardens in the United States. Combining primary research from a variety of rare publications, especially nursery catalogs and seed lists, she integrates old and new scientific botany by correlating older, uncertain scientific terms, common names for the daffodil, and modern taxonomies. Historic and modern botanical illustrations embellish the volume and complement Van Beck's narrative.

Case studies of surviving historic gardens from the early Republic era to the twentieth century examine how old daffodils have survived the vagaries of time. Van Beck surveys historic properties in Delaware, Florida, Georgia, Kentucky, Maryland, Mississippi, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, Tennessee, and Virginia.

This multifaceted history, examining high style, vernacular, and commercial landscape architecture, is geared toward general gardeners interested in heirloom plants and historic gardens. Moreover, extensive endnotes and a comprehensive bibliography provide valuable references for professionals working in historic landscapes preservation and garden restoration.

Sara L. Van Beck, horticulturist and plant historian, is an officer of the American Daffodil Society and serves on the board of the Cherokee Garden Library at the Atlanta History Center. Van Beck has worked as a museum curator with the National Park Service and is the former president of the Georgia Daffodil Society. She is co-author of Daffodils in Florida: A Field Guide to the Coastal South and has written articles for the Daffodil Journal, the Magnolia bulletin of the Southern Garden History Society, and Florida Gardening.

"To say this beautifully researched book is simply about daffodils understates the enormity of the range of horticultural and social history it holds."—Lexington Herald-Leader

"Van Beck presents a thorough study of the daffodil in all its glory"—The Garden Club of America eNews

"One of our best-loved spring flowers, the daffodil has been grown for hundreds of years. Possibly the daffodil's finest virtue is its persistence, becoming a telltale of a long lost garden. Ever the meticulous researcher, Sara Van Beck relates the intriguing story of our beloved daffodil: how it got here and where it came from."—Gordon W. Chappell, Fellow, American Society of Landscape Architects and former landscape director, Colonial Williamsburg Foundation

"Daffodils in American Gardens is a book long needed—a comprehensive history of the American culture of daffodils. Both a plant history and an excellent chronicle of gardening in Europe and America, this story of the daffodil is intertwined with the history of major gardens and significant gardeners in America."—Joel Fry, curator, Bartram's Garden

"Daffodils in American Gardens: 1733–1940 is a well-researched, hugely informative book that will thrill Narcissus aficionados. Van Beck explores not only horticultural development and dispersion of Narcissus from France, Italy, Germany, Holland, and England into America, but simultaneously provides insight into taste standards that fluctuated and greatly influenced American gardeners' plant material preference. It is a worthwhile addition to the bookshelves of avid gardeners, historic plant researchers, and garden designers alike."—Cari Goetcheus, associate professor, College of Environment and Design, University of Georgia

"In one of the most interesting and engaging studies of American garden evolution yet, Van Beck uses the story of the oft-neglected daffodil to trace the much larger history of garden design, popular taste, and the commercial nursery industry in America."—Suzanne Turner, Professor Emerita of Landscape Architecture, LSU

 
 

 

book jacket for Daffodils in American Gardens, 1733–1940


 

NATURE & GARDENING
(2015)
7 x 10
360 pages
134 color and 58 b&w illus.
ISBN 978-1-61117-401-4
hardcover, $44.95t
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