In the course of writing a rather half-assed sidebar on Buffalo garden history for the GW book, I did come up with some interesting tidbits, none of which seem to fit together.
For example, an organization that is just as Maoist as it sounds, the People’s Garden Association, formed in 1910 to help provide co-op gardens in vacant lots to feed the city’s working class and unemployed poor. Their manifesto?
“The people are brought together; they talk together, especially about their crops; become friendly; help each other; trespass becomes rare. They are drunkards, worn-out or disabled men, washerwomen—all but the rich and lazy.”
I applaud their not classing drunks with the lazy. Drinking is hard work.
On quite the other side of the coin, a book called Buffalo, the City Beautiful celebrated the estates of city’s well-to-do. Most were clearly modeled after Georgian and the more formal Victorian gardening principles, with large areas of lawns and shrubberies, and some very severe-looking bodies of water. Out in the burbs—back then they would have called it the “country”—people seemed to have more lively perennial gardens, sort of the opposite of the way it is now.
Finally, I read with interest the vigorous attempts of the 1930s-era Buffalo Garden Club to get the petunia named Buffalo’s municipal flower. These women were dedicated and persistent, but, as far as I know, they were ultimately unsuccessful. It could be that when WWII came along, the mania for Victory Gardens made obsessing over petunias seem rather trivial. I’m still tracking this down though. I’ll let you know.