Blog post 13 -Bergamot Balm and Verbenas: The Public and Private Meaning of Ornamental Plants in the Mid-Nineteenth-Century Midwest By Cheryl Lyon-Jenness

In this article, Lyon-Jenness discusses the cultural trend that happened in Michigan during the mid 19th century on people having ornamental plants. She points out that journals such as theĀ Michigan Farmer and others had commented that having ornamental plants can make one’s house visually and aesthetically pleasing, but also they pointed out that “they had a positive moral influence on family members, and that they communicated the family’s virtue to the rest of the community” (Lyon-Jenness 202). In discussing this garden-based culture in Michigan during this time, Lyon-Jenness also emphasizes the social effects that this culture had on the mid 19th century Michigan communities. She points out that this “ornamental plant culture” (Lyon-Jenness 202) mirrored the person’s morality and certain values they hold in society based on how beautiful the front yards looks. One example that are referred to in this article are if a person makes their front yard in a orderly and precise way, then they are seen as having improved their own sense of morality and social values. However, if a person makes their yard in a messy fashion, then that person believed to be not interested in what they are doing. Lyon-Jenness further discusses the social impact that this culture had on Michigan society and in midwestern societies, but also focuses on three families and individuals in order to get a better understanding of its overall importance to society. One of those individuals that she discusses is Esther Lawrence. Lyon-Jennes goes into detail on discussing her life as well as her relationship with her family members and her interest in gardening. One example of her life is her routines in doing gardening and how she likes doing it. Lyon-Jennes near the end of this article points out how Esther related to the death of her plants to her son, Archie leaving her. Esther in turn had felt agony and regret from this, but she eventually looked to plant for contentment. This article overall is a bit intriguing to me as well as interesting to learn about this garden-based culture and its overall impact on society during this time.

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