As the brilliantly hued trees slowly begin to lose their leaves and harsh, cool winds begin to swirl around campus, any thoughts of delightfully growing flower gardens are likely far from mind. To Bridgewater State University Professor Emeritus and visiting lecturer, Thomas Mickey, however, nothing could be further from the truth.
Just recently, Mickey, who takes great joy in cultivating gardens, recently completed a book about gardening, entitled America’s Romance with the English Garden.
Coupling his two loves of public relations and horticulture, it is safe to say Mickey’s newest work is a unique and informative contribution to the world of communicative and agricultural literature.
“The book is basically history of public relations and gardening,” Mickey said. “I took my interest in public relations and my gardening experience and I brought those two things together.”
Mickey spent a year at the Smithsonian Institute studying gardening in the nineteenth century, and his book focuses on the messages and forms of inspiration that were prevalent in the American nineteenth century seed catalogs.
Mickey said the premise of his book is the gardening catalogs that instructed Americans to imitate English lawns, by providing inspirational images of flourishing flower gardens and beautiful grounds.
“You don’t want people to connect with a product without inspiration,” Mickey said.
As the Ohio University Press website explains,“ It’s…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.”
Mickey noted one interesting aspect of the seed catalogs was they presented idealized images of upper class female gardeners wearing lovely dresses, which hardly looked like they’d actually be spending time kneeling in the dirt of their gardens.
In his book, Mickey also taps into the common nineteenth century belief that having a garden would deem one an acceptable member of society.
“You have to have a garden because people that come by your house will think well of you,” Mickey said.
Mickey said the writing of his book was a long process, due to making careful revisions.
“The book took me six years to write because I had to rewrite it and rewrite it,” Mickey said.
Mickey’s hard work has certainly paid off, with America’s Romance with the English Garden in its second printing, and it has been featured in the Boston Globe.
Elizabeth Sekkes is a Comment living-arts writer. Email her at firstname.lastname@example.org.