“Ornamental Plants in Mid-19th c. Midwest” Blog Post

This article discussed how ornamental plants were used among three prominent families in Michigan in the mid nineteenth century. Ornamental plants generally gave off certain messages depending on how they were used in a family’s yard or garden. According to this article, these types of plants could “tell” strangers about the family’s “values.” Because of this, ornamental plants were “quiet yet very public reminders of middle class values and respectability” (Lyon-Jenness, 203). However, these social messages of plants were not as clear in the mid-west, according to the author of this article. While these plants were used to express “refinement, respectability, or progressive tendencies” in the mid-west, the author wanted to figure out the “public and private significance of ornamental plants in the lives of several intertwined Midwestern families” (Lyon-Jenness, 204). To do this, the author studied the Lawrence, Copley, and Buell families, who were long-established families of Volinia Township, Cass County, Michigan.

While this article may not be as riveting as some of the other articles or book chapters read in this class, this one was pretty amusing to read. It was amusing because I never would have thought that something as simple as “pretty little yard plants” could have an extensive backstory in American history. My mother works at a Botanical Garden (administrative work, however) and has some knowledge on certain flowers, shrubs, or trees. Because of this, all I could think about while reading this article is wanting to share it with my mom!

 

Sarah E Jones

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