Amazing Digital Archives

January 21, 2021 Newsletter

When I first started gardening, I was desperate to learn how to create the gardens I saw in magazines. You know the ones. Those double herbaceous borders filled to the rim with flowers. How the heck did they do that?

I started reading every garden book and magazine I could get my hands on. One day, I stumbled onto a garden design resource that’s not obvious. Digital archives. Did you know you can reference old House and Garden magazines? Or how about looking at the actual garden plans designed by Gertrude Jekyll and Ellen Biddle Shipman?

The internet is a treasure trove of information to help us learn about garden design and this week I’m sharing some resources to teach you what plants to grow, how to space them, and how many to grow.

Photo courtesy Cornell University Digital Collections

Ellen Shipman’s Perennial Planting Plans

Looking for timeless gardening tips? Check out the planting notes found on Ellen Biddle Shipman’s 1938 planting plan for perennials and roses developed for Mr. and Mrs. Robert Stranahan.

Ellen Biddle Shipman was known for including detailed planting instructions and plant care tips on her garden plans. She included notes like “…seed Shirey poppies among iris for fall bloom…” and “…after the preparation of the soil and planting, the next most important thing for the success of the garden is proper staking…“.

Ellen Biddle Shipman (1869 – 1950) was an American Landscape architect famous for her lush planting plans. She designed gardens for the famous Industrialists of her time. You can learn more about her here.

Shipman created extensive plans for her gardens broken into categories:

  • Perennials and roses
  • Trees and shrubs
  • Bulbs

Ellen Biddle Shipman Collection at Cornell University

Ellen Biddle Shipman’s Stranahan Perennial Planting plan

Long Border at Gertrude Jekyll’s Munstead Wood

Gertrude Jekyll’s Garden

Gertrude Jekyll (1843 – 1932) was a famous English garden designer. She designed over 400 gardens. A true Renaissance woman, Jekyll was an established painter, photographer, author, and craftswoman. I was lucky enough to visit her home in 2019. I wrote an article about it that you can read here.

Her design aesthetic was influenced by the Arts and Crafts movement. Her garden books are filled with planting tips on how to hide dying foliage from bulbs and how to design a great color scheme.

The University of California Berkeley is home to a vast collection of Jekyll garden plans that can be accessed online. There is much to be learned from studying these designs.

Garden plans for Gertrude Jekyll’s personal garden Munstead Wood

Gertrude Jekyll Collection UC Berkeley Environmental Design Archives

Photo from Unsplash

Garden Magazine Archives

If you’ve ever wondered what a Garden magazine from 1901 looked like, you’ll love looking through the old archive editions of Home and Garden and County Life. It’s fun to leaf through these old magazines and learn what gardeners were reading back in the day. The old advertisements are the best.

Check out the online archives for House and Garden and Country Life magazines.

House and Garden Magazine Archives

Country Life Archives

Resources and Tools

Soil 101 – A great article about creating healthy garden soil by Garden Design.

Cold Stream Farm – Wholesale shrub and bare root tree farm in Michigan.

Mid Atlantic Natives – Specializing in mid-Atlantic native plants. This nursery carries bare root shrubs, trees, and plugs.

Rogue Hoe – Handcrafted, high-quality garden hoes and rakes. Made in the USA.

Thanks for reading. If you found this newsletter helpful, please forward it to your friends and family. I’ll see you next week.

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