My name is Lisa Orgler and I love teaching garden design in a fun and simple way. Click here to learn more.

On the Fringe 19th Century Garden Writers

On the Fringe 19th Century Garden Writers

I love garden history, so collect a lot of dusty, crackly old garden books (I especially enjoy those that focus on design). I've always been infatuated with the how and why people garden, particularly in the past. Maybe someday I'll share my thesis on farm gardens with you, but I digress.  

Yesterday my husband and I were antique shopping and while there I stumbled across a couple of lovely garden books.  One was written by Shirley Hibberd and the other by Jane Loudon (both written in the 1800s).  I was not familiar with either one (though I knew of John C. Loudon a landscape gardener during the same time period...were he and Jane related perhaps?). I bought Hibberd's book, but sadly left Loudon's book behind since it was way out of my price range.  

I mistakenly thought Hibberd was a female author, but found out not.  This confusion, turned into curiosity about other female authors at that time...and brought me back to Jane Loudon, plus additional female authors found on my bookshelf. Late into that evening I did some quick research and found some tidbits on Loudon, plus two other authors during the 19th century. There were others like Gertrude Jekyll, but I decided to focus on three that were on the fringe of garden writing and ones I barely knew about.  They all wrote at least one garden book, but also wrote fiction, poetry, children's books, plus two also illustrated (women after my own heart).  

Jane Loudon (1807-58)

Fiction writer (she wrote The Mummy!), turned garden writer, Jane Loudon spurred excitement in women to take up gardening as a hobby.  Her books were beautifully illustrated and allowed a lovely way for plant identification.  Her shift to garden writing occurred after she married John Claudius Loudon (they were related!) a scottish landscape gardener and architect. (

Some of her books include:

  • Gardening for Ladies (1840)
  • Botany for Ladies (1842)
  • The Ladies Companion to the Flower Garden (four volumes 1840-44)

Catharine H. Waterman (1812-?)

Waterman is well known for her book Flora’s Lexicon: An Interpretation of the Language and Sentiment of Flowers in 1839. This is a handbook, of sorts, to aid in the art of courting by providing a language of flowers to communicate sentiment. The perfect companion for a Victorian romance. She is also known for a non-garden reader...The Book of Parlour Games. Unfortunately, there isn't much information on this author.  I'd love to know if any of you have resources. (

Kate Greenaway (1846-1901)

I stumbled upon Greenaway while researching Waterman and simply fell in love with her illustrations!  She was formally trained as an artist, but also wrote poetry.  Her popular garden book, The Language of Flowers, was written in 1884 (click on the title of the book, so you can take a peek!). This book also focused on the sentiment of flowers during the Victorian age, but in a much more illustrative way. Greenaway also wrote many children's books. Oh, and she drew the bow illustration at the top of this post and the poppy below too (neat!). (

I hope to learn more about these authors, plus Shirley I can share additional tidbits in future posts. 

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