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Planting a Nineteenth Century Garden

Now that Spring has finally arrived, warmer weather is hopefully here to stay. Flowers are beginning to emerge making it the perfect time to sit outside in the garden enjoying the outdoors. Perhaps you are wondering what to plant in your garden. How about a flower with a vibrant color? Or maybe one with a softer look? April is National Garden Month and a perfect time to highlight some of the options.

Described in the catalog as a “perfectly hardy” plant, the Golden Day Lily’s color is striking to the eye. Shown on the front cover of Vick’s Garden and Floral Guide, an 1898 seed catalog by James Vick’s Sons, the color of the Golden Day Lily really stands out. The catalog includes a description of this plant: “The habit of the plant is very vigorous; the foliage rises to a height of two feet, and is of a deep green; the flower spikes are strong, bearing as many as twelve flowers in succession, which are very large, some seven to eight inches across, of a rich orange yellow, quite distinct.”

Golden Day Lily
James Vick’s Sons, Rochester, NY. Vick’s Garden and Floral Guide, 1898, front cover of catalog, Golden Day Lily.

Illustrated on the back cover is another flower but one with a more delicate look. The Aster Daybreak’s color is a “soft sea shell pink.” It is described as a plant with a “delicate pink color, erect and graceful habit and immense display of flowers when seen in a mass is simply charming beyond description.”

Aster Daybreak with two birds sitting above the flowers
James Vick’s Sons, Rochester, NY. Vick’s Garden and Floral Guide, 1898, back cover of catalog, Aster Daybreak.

Vick’s Garden and Floral Guide and other seed catalogs are part of a special horticultural collection within the Trade Literature Collection located at the National Museum of American History Library.


  1. […] directions are really great, even for a novice like myself and I love that they provide a link to vintage seed catalog covers that you can print and decorate the box […]

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