May 3d Saturday Early Orinthia & I went to work on the flower
beds to lower them. We cut the center bed down
about three or four inches and have got some of
the others done I worked most all the forenoon
moving plants Have been to N Bridgewater this
afternoon with O A & Frank Have engaged
a new bedstead for my chamber and a small one
or a lounge in the dark bedroom
Although we don’t know how Evelina arranged the flowers in her garden, she gives us a clue today about the overall formation of her plantings. She and Orinthia Foss worked on a central bed with other beds placed around it. This kind of design was very common in the 18th century and into the 19th. It could well have been the pattern of a garden that Evelina’s mother-in-law, Susannah Angier Ames, might have started in the yard. Susannah had died five years earlier; Evelina could have inherited the design and was in the process of making it her own. Sarah Witherell, her sister-in-law who lived in “the other part of the house,” was apparently less interested in gardening than Evelina, so Evelina made most of the decisions about the flower beds on the property.
Any good gardener knows that personal flower gardens are as unique as snowflakes. No one is exactly alike. Even a repetitious scheme with a central bed surrounded by a formation of other beds will differ from gardener to gardener. Some central bed gardens have each bed replicate the plantings in the other beds, so that a particular pattern of flowers is repeated. Other central gardens, such as the John Jay garden in the illustration above, feature different groupings in each square.
How did Evelina approach her garden? We might guess that her taste was broad and reactive rather than predetermined. She planted a wide variety of flowers, so her garden undoubtedly featured a sampler of colors, shapes and textures. Certainly, her taste was less formal than her sister-in-law, Sarah Lothrop Ames. At their property next door, particularly after they built their new house in 1863, Oliver Jr and his wife hired a gardener and cultivated more modern Victorian plantings. Their gardens were probably less rambunctious than Evelina’s, featuring formal walkways, lengthy borders and other haute designs. Anyone who knows their house, Unity Close (which still stands today), will know that later generations of Ameses, under the guidance of landscape architect, Fletcher Steele, built upon that landscape.
On another front entirely, Ralph Waldo Emerson gave a speech today in Concord on abolition. That speech is in the collection of the Concord Library, should anyone care to track it down.**
*18th-19th c. garden at John Jay Homestead Historic State Park, New York, from themarthablog.com