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USC Press

Gardens & Historic Plants of the Antebellum South


A lavishly illustrated history of antebellum gardens and the plants that have become synonymous with southern gardening

Gardens and Historic Plants of the Antebellum South is a beautifully illustrated volume that features botanical prints, lithographs, garden plans, historic photographs, and contemporary photography to reveal the rich garden history of the South. A pictorial splendor as well as a treasure trove of cultural history, this volume is unique in its field. James R. Cothran invites plant enthusiasts, gardeners, and individuals interested in the history of the South to experience the glorious gardens that flourished in the region from 1820 through 1860.

During this period of enormous wealth, prosperous southerners built stately houses and established high-style gardens in towns and cities, as well as on plantations. The South's mild climate, long growing season, fertile soil, and traditional ties to the land fostered an abiding interest in gardening that encompassed the region.

Cothran's research included travel throughout the South to examine a multitude of historical sources—diaries, letters, travel accounts, garden plans, maps, paintings, photographs, nursery catalogs, garden books, and agricultural journals. In the resulting volume he describes the distinguishing features of antebellum gardens, sources for seed and plants, and dissemination of gardening information and fashion. Cothran also identifies landscape plans executed and plants cultivated during the golden age of horticulture in the South.

Of particular interest to contemporary gardeners is an extensive list of ornamentals—American natives, European favorites, and a wide selection of newly introduced exotics from China and Japan—that were hallmarks of antebellum gardens and that remain mainstays of southern gardens today. In addition, Cothran provides profiles of prominent gardeners, horticulturists, nurserymen, and writers who, in the decades preceding the American Civil War, were instrumental in shaping the horticultural and gardening legacy of the South.

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