May 3, 1851




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


3 thoughts on “May 3, 1851

  1. I noticed she said she got “a new bedstead for my chamber.” Does that mean separate bedrooms? I guess it was quite common in the day.

    • Tad – She does say “my chamber” here and in one or two other places. Yet she also suggests once or twice that Oakes was in the “bed chamber” also. Their sleeping arrangements aren’t crystal clear, and you’re right, some couples did sleep in separate rooms. That house was so crowded, however, that I suspect that they did share a room. Perhaps she offhandedly claimed the room as hers because she was responsible for its furnishings?

  2. Thanks.

    I realize this takes a lot of time and effort. Thank you so much for doing it and bringing so much history, suspense, and joy to us every morning.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s