University of Vermont Extension 
Department of Plant and Soil Science

Anytime News Article

FAMOUS PERSONS OF HORTICULTURE, M-O

Dr. Leonard P. Perry
Extension Professor
University of Vermont

The well known Olmsted and little known McMahon are some of the key figures that shaped our gardening plants and practices, whose names begin with the letters "M through O".  Previous ones can be found in articles on the web (http://pss.uvm.edu/ppp/articleA.htm#History).

Bernard McMahon (c.1775-1816) is a name known to those of us who collect old catalogs and books.  This Irishman ran a well-known nursery in Philadelphia, published a catalog, and in 1806 the first book on gardening in America (The American Gardener's Calendar).  This book had a listing of his nursery plants, with eleven subsequent editions until 1857. He corresponded and "networked" with many gardeners at the time, including Thomas Jefferson who sent him some seeds from the Lewis and Clark expedition.

Andre Michaux (1746-1802) was a French botanist, who should be known particularly to those interested in trees.  He was sent by his government to America where he traveled extensively until 1796, exploring for plants and, in particular, trees.  He covered eastern North America at a time when much of it was still wilderness, from Florida to Hudson's Bay and west to the Mississippi.  From his nurseries he established in New Jersey and South Carolina, he introduced many American trees, rhododendrons, and azaleas to Europe, and some trees such as the Ginkgo to this country.

Another historic horticulturist, this one of Scottish descent, Philip Miller (1691-1771) ran the Chelsea Physic Garden in London for almost 50 years.  At the time this was one of the more important centers for introduction of new plants in the world, and it is through there and Miller that such plants as the tree of Heaven (Ailanthus altissima) were introduced from China.  This is a common urban tree now found in cities such as New York.  There were many editions published of his book (Gardener's Dictionary), covering all aspects known then of gardening.

Although Andre LeNotre, covered in a previous article, is the best known French landscaper and responsible for the gardens at Versailles, it is actually another who actually developed the classical French style of parterres.  Parterres are those terraces with intricate patterns of low plantings, often resembling designs on Persian carpets and so called "parterres de broderie".  Andre Mollet (died about 1665) was the author of a book (Le Jardin de plaisir) which originally set out such design ideas.  Other members of his family designed famous gardens in this style, such as those of his father Claude I at the Tuilleries in Paris and Fontainebleau, and Claude II at Versailles prior to LeNotre.

Thomas Nuttall (1786-1859) was an English plant collector, who mainly collected plants from the central states along the Mississippi.  From 1822-1834 he was curator of the Harvard botanic garden.  A dogwood he discovered in the Rockies (Cornus nuttallii) is named after him.  Some of the native flowers he introduced to Europe include evening primroses (Oenothera) and the bulb Indian hyacinth (Camassia).

Frederick Law Olmsted (1822-1903) is the most famous American landscape architect, primarily of public parks as part of large scale city planning, with examples to be found nationwide.  His most famous is Central Park in New York City.  Other famous projects include Prospect Park in Brooklyn, the Capitol grounds in Washington, and the Boston park system.  The Biltmore estate in North Carolina is one of the few such private properties he designed, although it too resembles a public park in a farm setting.  Many of his designs resemble the picturesque English landscape tradition which influenced him.


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