<cn>Chapter 5

<ct>The Horticultural Community

<txf>Frederick Law Olmsted’s importance <AU: rep. next sentence>preeminence in Brookline is unquestionable, and the prevailing wisdom has always decreed that Henry Hobson Richardson’s presence drew people to the Warren Street neighborhood, in particular Olmsted himself. Historically, however, there has been a missing third corner to what turns out to be an important triad in the history of architecture, landscape architecture, and horticulture in Brookline and in the larger world: Charles Sprague Sargent, director of the Arnold Arboretum and longtime Brookline resident. Sargent’s presence, his wealth, social standing, and familial connections, combined with his own considerable contribution to the fields of horticulture and dendrology, figure significantly in Brookline’s importance <AU: watch overuse>standing within the Boston area and beyond. Indeed, as has already been observed both by Peter B. Wight in 1886 and by James O’Gorman almost one hundred100 years later, Richardson’s choice of residences reflected “social and professional aspirations,”[1] and the “refined and cultured society whose association and sympathy he craved.”[2] Olmsted, visiting Richardson, followed suit. Sargent would certainly have been among those he sought out, because of his social and professional stature, but also because his estate, Holm Lea, reflected not only his own landscape ideals, but also<AU: “Not only” requires “but also.”> those promoted by Olmsted and admired by Richardson. As we shall see, his professional position, as director of the Arnold Arboretum, brought him both regional and international renown, but he was also active and influential in his own town. These three men were admiring colleagues; their work and their collaborations significantly affected the community they lived in, the larger metropolis of Boston, and beyond that, national policies, particularly in relation to the case of Olmsted and Sargent. Brookline’s bucolic character provided the perfect setting for these men to inhabit and interact in, their personal and professional lives constantly and effortlessly interweaving.

<txt>Crucial in to Sargent’s development was the environment in which he grew up; not only the Brookline estate so lovingly established by his father, Ignatius Sargent, but also the aura of intense horticultural and design practices that permeated the large estates dotting the verdant landscape. It has already been well established that from the seventeenth century onward, Brookline’s environment was rural in nature. Early allotment farmlands, originally apportioned to citizens of Boston in the hamlet of Muddy River, passed with the following over the next century into the settled farming community of Brookline (incorporated in 1705). Toward the end of the eighteenth century and early in the nineteenth century, with the opening of thoroughfares between Boston and Brookline, wealthy Boston merchants began purchasing large farms or piecing smaller ones together to form significant estates, chiefly inhabited in the warmer months.[3] “For the fashionable gentleman,” observes Ronald Dale Karr,“a country estate was mandatory; but in the best English tradition, a nearby urban townhouse was of equal necessity. Most of these genteel newcomers therefore retained Boston addresses and only occupied their Brookline estates from April to October.”[4] These men, by in and large well -travelled, especially in Europe, brought back sophisticated and cultured design concepts as well as horticultural practices directly resulting from their travel observations. The importation and introduction of plants and trees were the inevitable result. It is important to remember in thinking about the various properties in Brookline that many of the species that seem commonplace today were exotics in the nineteenth century, including the rhododendrons and kalmias that eventually becaome ubiquitous landscape material.

Early on, in 1792,prominent Bostonians established the Massachusetts Society for Promoting Agriculture, a group consisting of one -third “merchants; another third lawyer-statesmen; and the rest a mix of physicians and ministers,” who banded together to acquire and disseminate information about, and promote agriculture in Massachusetts.[5] Later, in 1829, many of these same citizens created the Massachusetts Horticultural Society (based on the Horticultural Society of London, later the Royal Horticultural Society<AU: Note deleted; this can go in text.>[6]) as a means of advancing horticultural knowledge, but also, according to Tamara Plakins Thornton,in Cultivating Gentlemen: The Meaning of Country Life among the Boston Elite, 1785–1860, <AU: Let’s delete this lengthy title; there’s no obligation to name it in the text.>because “Iidentification<AU: Silently (i.e., no brackets) cap. or lc first word of a quote to fit context.> with horticulture . . . assured Boston’s industrialists and merchants that the historical stage of materialism was a thing of the past. The very practice of horticulture was evidence of an advanced civilization and the formation of a horticultural society an emblem of cultural refinement.”[7] Many of these early large landholders in Brookline were either founders or active members of the Massachusetts Horticultural Society, both supporting it and exhibiting the products of their elaborate cultivating in its numerous exhibitions.

Among its initiators was Colonel Thomas Handasyd Perkins (1764–1854), a wealthy Boston merchant trader, who bought up large tracts of land and built a summer home sited atop one of Brookline’s rolling hills, artificially elevated so that it had to give an “uninterrupted view of Boston,” writes Harriet F. Woods in her 1874 Historical Sketches of Brookline, Mass.,:and Colonel Perkins so planned his house as to command the fine prospect from his parlor windows [(fig. 53)]. The whole line of the Mill-dam, and the beautiful expanse of Charles River [sic] <AU: Use sic sparingly, and only in the case of a glaring error.>and Back Bay were included in this extensive panorama.,” writes Harriet F. Woods in her 1874 Historical Sketches of Brookline, Mass.[8] Initially what he called his “Brooklyne Farm” was a working farm, but by 1818, taking advantage of his numerous ships sailing around the world, he began importing an assortment of trees. According to Andrew Jackson Downing, writing in 1865, Perkins’s estate was “one of the most interesting in this neighborhood. The very beautiful lawn . . . abounds with exquisite trees, finely disposed; among them, some larches and Norway firs, and with many other rare trees of uncommon beauty and form.”[9]

Toward the end of his life he Perkins was particularly interested in rhododendrons and azaleas.[10] “He was naturally a lover of the beautiful both in nature and art,”’adds notes Woods, “and spared no pains in the importing and cultivating of choice plants and trees on his beautiful place in Warren Street, which was quite a resort for visitors from many places.”[11] Those visitors included President James Monroe in 1817, the Mmarquis de Lafayette during his 1824–1825 tour, and John James Audubon in 1836.[12] Frequent trips abroad brought visits to private estates, botanical gardens, and plant nurseries, and his professional correspondence is laced with requests for seeds from exotic places.[13] His library contained a significant collection of agricultural and garden books.[14]

Perkins kept extensive glass houses, said to be among the earliest in the Boston area. These three-hundred-foot-long greenhouses were devoted to grapes, peaches, and nectarines, as well as exotic fruits and flowers, especially camellias, for which he was renowned.[15] Marshall Pinckney Wilder, himself the owner of a substantial estate in Dorchester called Hawthorn Grove, wrote for of Perkins in the Memorial History of Boston,1630–1880, that<AU: Run in quotes under 8–9 lines. But also see if some of the quotes over the next six or seven pages can be trimmed or deleted. Each in its way is well written and descriptive, but all together they seem excessive.Colonel Perkins’s his “residence in France and other foreign lands, where he had seen fine fruits and flowers, stimulated his natural taste, and induced him to purchase this estate in 1800, when he began to build his house, to lay out his grounds, and to erect greenhouses and glass structures for the cultivation of fruits and flowers.<AU: Include end punctuation before ellipsis.> . . . For fifty years Colonel Perkins’s estate was kept in the best manner by experienced foreign gardeners, and at an expense of more than ten thousand dollars annually.” The article confirms that Perkins spared no expense, importing trees and plants from Europe and exhibiting their “products” at the Massachusetts Horticultural Society. “In 1840,” Wilder concludesd, “he introduced the Victoria Hamburg, West St. Peter’s and Cannon Hall Muscat grape-vines, presented to him by Sir Joseph Paxton, gardener to the Duke of Devonshire.”[16] In the 1880 History of the Massachusetts Horticultural Society, Perkins is frequently mentioned for his exhibitions of fine specimens. At the first anniversary dinner, held in 1830, he was among the group singled out who had “by precept and example, assiduously fostered a taste for cultivation, and successfully promoted developments in all the various branches of rural economy.”[17]

Colonel Perkins’s brother and business partner, James Perkins (1761–1822), maintained an equally fine estate at nearby “Pine Bank” in Jamaica Plain. “The Thomas<AU: OK?> Perkins estate,” writes Downing,

<ext>on the border of Jamaica lake [now Jamaica Pond],<AU: moved from notes>[18] is one of the most beautiful residences near Boston. The natural surface of the ground is exceedingly flowing and graceful, and it is varied by two or three singular little dimples, or hollows, which add to its effect. The perfect order of the grounds; the beauty of the walks, sometimes skirting the smooth open lawn, enriched by rare plants and shrubs, and then winding by the shadowy banks of the water; the soft and quiet character of the lake itself . . . all these features make this place a little gem of natural and artistical harmony, and beauty.[19]

<txf>Harriet Whitcomb described it in 1897 as having “a broad, winding avenue, beneath noble pines and larches,” providing affording “many rich landscape features” that won the estate admiration for its “grandeur and nobility.”[20]

<txt>Across Jamaica Pond, industrialist Thomas Lee (1779–1867) became a resident of Brookline in 1845, along with his wife, Eliza Buckminster Lee (1794–1864), the author of Sketches of New England (1837) and Naomi (1848), “with its beautiful descriptions of colonial Brookline”(fig. 54).”[21] Once again Harriet Woods waxes lyrical about the landscape, revealing not only that the local landowners not only imported trees and shrubs, but also that some, like Lee, were interested in retaining and nurturing native landscape features. Although he was a frequent traveler in Europe, “Mr. Lee was a great lover of natural beauty, and preserved the forest trees which adorned his place, and admired the natural rocks with their wild mosses and vines about them, too much to permit them to be removed by blasting. What a man of less taste would have regarded as blemishes, he looked upon with the true eye of one who lived close to the heart of Nature, and won from her many a secret.”[22]<AU: break para.>

Downing’s praise of nine years earlier enlarges upon her Woods’ observations:.“Enthusiastically fond of botany, and gardening in all its configurations, Mr. Lee has here formed a residence of as much variety and interest as we ever saw in so moderate a compass—about 20 acres. It is, indeed, not only a most instructive place to the amateur of landscape gardening, but to the naturalist and lover of plants. Every shrub seems placed precisely in the soil and aspect it likes best, and native and foreign Rhododendrons, Kalmias, and other rare shrubs, are seen here in finest condition.” Re-einforcing Woods’s comments about the natural aspects of Lee’s place, he goes on: “There is a great deal of variety in the surface here, and while the lawn-front of the house has a polished and graceful air, one or two other portions are quite picturesque. Near the entrance gate is an English oak, only fourteen years planted, now forty feet high.”[23] Robert Manning describes Lee as a “lover and cultivator of our native flowering plants.” In 1839, before his move to Brookline, Lee, a founding member of the Massachusetts Horticultural Society, funded a Society prize specifically designed to encourage the cultivation of native plants.[24]

Slightly later, a small but highly cultivated nine-and-one-half-acre place in Brookline was developed by Augustus Lowell (1830–1900), long associated with the manufacture of cotton and the East India trade as well as the Lowell Institute.[25] Lowell came by his interest in horticulture naturally. His grandfather, the industrialist John Lowell, a founder and president of the Massachusetts Society for Promoting Agriculture, was an avocational horticulturist, with a handsome country estate in Roxbury called “Bromley Vale.” The first orchids known in America graced his greenhouses.[26] Lowell’s son, John Amory Lowell, himself a founding member of the Massachusetts Horticultural Society, continued those traditions at Bromley Vale. According to his grandson, the astronomer Percival Lowell (1855–1916), he was as an avid horticulturist: “Aas a botanist he was known not only at home but abroad, and was on terms of correspondence, not to say criticism, with botanists of his day.”[27]<AU: run in>Although Augustus Lowell became active in the field later in life, horticulture proved, according to son Percival Lowell, “a very deep-seated passion,” which “became his most pronounced avocation.”[28] Returning in 1866 from almost three years abroad with his family, Lowell cast about for a country place for himself, his wife, and (eventually) seven children.[29] He found it in Brookline, in a place he named “Sevenels,” in honor of his progeny (fig. 55).

The property already had an unspecified form of garden and two greenhouses, begun in 1800 when Boston merchant Stephen Higginson (1743–1828) purchased the land for “what was then a large country seat in Brookline,” according to his grandson Thomas Wentworth Higginson.[30] “It is fair to presume that Mr. Higginson brought back [from England] a love of smooth lawns and patterned gardens, for here they are and here ever since, through successive ownerships, have they remained,” adds Lowell’s daughter,Amy, the poet Amy Lowell (1874–1925).<AU: Her dates are also given in a note. I suppose we can let them stay here as well. But in general, be on the lookout for duplicated information that can be cut.>[31] In these gardens, writes Percival Lowell, the emotionally remote Augustus Lowell “centered his affections, greenhouse and garden dividing the year between them.” He recalls:<AU: Added to avoid abutting two separate quotations.>“Two hot-houses of grapes helped to shield the [garden], which lay in a hollow open to the south. Natural embankments enclosed it on the east and west, and a raised roadway, shut off from view, made artificial protection on the north. Clipped evergreens stood for sentinels along a terraced path, ending in an arbor which fringed one side of it, and a corresponding row faced them upon the slope opposite. In this sheltered spot he spent much of his time”.(fig. 56). The family decamped for Brooklinefrom Boston in each April and did not return to Boston until November; the children, in the academic interim, were driven to school by horse and carriage every day by Augustus Lowell, just as he had been driven by his father from Roxbury. The children thought of “Sevenels” as their real home. <AU: Run in so all quotes are cited.>“His botany was of the old-fashioned kind,” Percival Lowell continues about observes of his father. “He did not pursue it as a science, but cultivated it as an art. . . . Pretty much every tree upon his place (and it included some rare ones) was personally know to him. . . . He was constantly importing new plants and then watching them succeed. Though he made no parade of knowledge or of success, he not infrequently had plants which knew no rival in the neighborhood.”[32] In the Brookline of that period, this is a powerful statement. Lowell packed the property with trees and plants, but he did so in such a skillful manner that it intimated suggested a much larger estate (fig. 57). In his hot houses he raised hundreds of plants to be tried out on his grounds.

When Amy Lowell inherited “Sevenels” upon her father’s death in 1900, she continued the cultivation of gardens and grounds in the same configurations and with equally tender affections. “The love of flowers has persisted in our family for many years,” she wrote,“and on Mr. Higginson’s admirable ground-plan my father raised up such spaces of flowering beauty as few children can have the good fortune to look back upon (fig. 58).”[33] In her an essay entitled “Sevenels” she describes the estate in detail, with its dense plantings <AU: taut. with “plants”>arrangements of trees, shrubs, and plants, and an open meadow, thick with daisies and buttercups in June. The land beyond the meadow became a grove, “a little handful of land so cunningly cut by paths and with trees so artfully disposed that one can wander happily among them and almost believe that one is walking in a real wood.”[34] She goes on: