Ohio University Press · Swallow Press ·

America’s Romance with the English Garden

By Thomas J. Mickey

“Nursery catalogues sell more than seeds and plants; they also sell dreams and aspirations…. Mickey has thoughtfully woven together an American landscape design history with a critical examination of how commercial interests and mass media shape our preferences, even in our humble backyards.”

Publishers Weekly

“This is an illuminating book packed with very readable results of dedicated and thoughtful research. It helps give a greater understanding of how and why English garden style has been admired in North America for such a long time.”

Gardens Illustrated

“Mickey convincingly demonstrates how catalog companies used advances in color printing, rural postal service, and railroad networks to reach a mass audience, uniformly promote the English ideal, and create demand for their own products. Thoroughly researched and footnoted, the book includes examples from powerful and enduring catalogs such as Burpee's but also from lesser-known and regional seed companies, including some from the burgeoning West.”

Library Journal

“In his wonderfully enlightening book, Thomas J. Mickey describes how the garden of this early period in this country became a cultural symbol for the American middle class. Also this period of our history was when our fascination with expanses of green lawn originated. If you read America’s Romance with the English Garden, you will be glad that you did. Better still, you could share it with a fellow gardening Anglophile.”

Focus on Flowers, Indiana Public Media

Named one of “the year’s best gardening books” by The Spectator (UK, Nov. 2014)

The 1890s saw a revolution in advertising. Cheap paper, faster printing, rural mail delivery, railroad shipping, and chromolithography combined to pave the way for the first modern, mass-produced catalogs. The most prominent of these, reaching American households by the thousands, were seed and nursery catalogs with beautiful pictures of middle-class homes surrounded by sprawling lawns, exotic plants, and the latest garden accessories—in other words, the quintessential English-style garden.

America’s Romance with the English Garden is the story of tastemakers and homemakers, of savvy businessmen and a growing American middle class eager to buy their products. It’s also the story of the beginnings of the modern garden industry, which seduced the masses with its images and fixed the English garden in the mind of the American consumer. Seed and nursery catalogs delivered aspirational images to front doorsteps from California to Maine, and the English garden became the look of America.

Thomas J. Mickey is Professor Emeritus of Communication Studies at Bridgewater State University, Bridgewater, Massachusetts. He is a graduate of the Boston Architectural College’s Landscape Institute, a Master Gardener, and a garden columnist. His other books include America’s Romance with the English Garden, from Ohio University Press, and Best Garden Plants for New England.   More info →


Trailer for America‘s Romance with the English Garden

Q & A with Thomas Mickey


Table of Contents and Introduction


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Retail price: $26.95, T.
Release date: April 2013
41 illus. · 272 pages · 6 × 8½ in.
Rights:  World

Release date: April 2013
41 illus. · 272 pages
Rights:  World

Additional Praise for America’s Romance with the English Garden

America’s Romance with the English Garden is a must for gardening history collections, highly recommended.”

The Midwest Book Review

“If ‘the Redcoats are coming, the Redcoats are coming‘ was a rallying cry for freedom from foreign rule, independence from England was never achieved in one realm: the garden. In America’s Romance with the English Garden, Thomas Mickey details how the British landed in our landscapes and remain the dominant influence in the design and contents of American gardens today.”

Long Island Gardening Quarterly

“In this thoughtful, thoroughly researched book, writer and gardener Mickey explores Americans’ enduring love affair with the English style of gardening.”


“An engaging story that will delight almost any avid gardener, and it makes great summer reading.”

Garden Design Online

“With admirable ease and lucidity in America’s Romance with the English Garden, Thomas Mickey reveals the historical development of these strategies aimed at middle-class Americans anxious for enhanced social status…. America’s Romance with the English Garden is not only an informative delight to read, it is also (as suits a book about gardens) a delight to the eyes.”

Texas Gardener’s Seeds

“It was fascinating to read how the advent of the railroads and the U.S. Postal Service facilitated the delivery of seed catalogs and their products, and how inventions made it easier for them to produce literature filled with illustrations of those products within landscape settings.”

Susan’s In the Garden

“This is an excellent historical account of how the gardens of both countries share common roots (pun intended) and how they influenced each other. From colonial Williamsburg, to the heyday of American seed and nursery vendors using the railroads to ship their plants and seeds throughout the nation, this is an excellent read for any gardener interested in history on either side of the ‘pond'. Gardeners in the UK will find it as enlightening as those in the US.”

Dave’s Garden

“For readers interested in the history of American gardening, this book gives a tour worth taking.”

Home Greenhouse magazine

“With colorful reproductions of original catalog artwork, this engaging book conveys a wonderful insight into how … nursery companies had a profound and lasting influence on American garden design. There may be other books explaining America’s enchantment with the English garden style, but none, I’m sure, match the scope or contents of this one.”

Betty Earl, author of Fairy Gardens and In Search of Great Plants

“Thoroughly researched and lushly illustrated, this book is more historical documentation than gardening guide, as it provides insight into the lasting impact of gardening advertising on American culture…. Though certainly a niche book for American history buffs and professional gardeners, America’s Romance with the English Garden will also appeal to readers interested in architecture, landscaping, design, botany, and English and American culture.”

ForeWord Reviews

“Thomas Mickey is both a historian of public relations and a passionate Master Gardener, and his engaging book is full of colorful personalities—both plants and humans.”

Ariel Swartley, Master Gardener, photographer, and author of In Xanadu: A Little Book of Poppies

“A penetrating look at the standardized English garden’s grip on the American imagination.”

Ted Steinberg, author of American Green: The Obsessive Quest for the Perfect Lawn

“I loved this meticulously researched guide through the history of American gardening. It’s fascinating to discover how much has changed in our gardens over the last 200 years, and how much has not.”

Susan Harris, author of the award-winning blog Garden Rant

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