All the rage

In recent years, prognosticators who identify the latest garden trends tout the garden as an “outdoor living room.” Looking back 80 years, however, we find that this trend is nothing new. In the July 1, 1931, issue of The National Nurseryman, the previous incarnation of American Nurseryman, there’s a brief story titled, “The Outdoor Living Room Becomes the Fashion.” Written as a quasi-advertisement by landscape contractors Godding & Van Melle, Poughkeepsie, N.Y., the article states, “It is said that we Americans plant not from a sheer love of foliage and flowers, but from the love of building, of architecture, that is in our blood.

“That describes, indeed, the way we deal with our suburban properties. It may be that as gardeners, pure and simple, we do not quite measure up to some of our European cousins, but we flatter ourselves, that perhaps we make up for this, in our own, peculiar way, by our appreciation and use of the architectural value of trees and plants – by our sense of the unity of House and Grounds.

“The Englishman wins the Community prize with a border of monster Larkspurs. We win ours with a well-balanced picture.

“The English suburbanite knows two worlds – the Garden and the House. To us there’s only one, which is House-and-Grounds. We do not separate them. … The front lawn is no longer just a place for Salvias. It is the public Reception Hall, built out from the house front. The service area is ordered like a modern kitchen – efficient and compact. And the great, valuable area in the rear pleasantly framed and shaded and carpeted, becomes, with careful planning and furnishing, the Outdoor Living Room.

“It is in the OUTDOOR LIVING ROOM that the Nation’s gardening interest is centered today. It is the Vogue of the day, from Coast to Coast.

“Today exquisite skill in designing and decorating is required of the nurseryman. He must be able to help express, in terms of foliage and flowers, this new phase of the national building instinct.”