Later flowers for the bees
This post is provided by Anne Marie Creighton, who joins us this year as a research fellow in the Dumbarton Oaks Library.
The lady ginkgoes are dropping their weird, squashy fruit all over the sidewalks and the glossy, dark-fruited chokeberries have sprouted and died, which means it’s finally full fall here in Georgetown. It’s a sunny day at Dumbarton Oaks, and the signs of autumn fill the gardens. Between the pinks and oranges rapidly appearing among the green of the summer leaves and the fall flowers blooming with every shade of the rainbow, the gardens are brimming over with color.
As great as the gardens look today, a wild palette of fall color can also be found inside the Dumbarton Oaks Rare Book Room. In the eighteenth century, gardeners could buy seeds from beautifully illustrated seed catalogs, showing fruit, flowers, or both. One of the first of these, and so beautiful that its illustrations were reproduced in new editions long after they stopped serving as a catalog, was Twelve Months of Flowers, circulated by Robert Furber. (He was the subject of a previous blog post here.) Below, to match the season, is the image for October. Although they’re faint in this image, each flower is numbered and labeled below. The large yellow flower at the very center of the image, for instance, is a yellow poppy, a perennial. Each of these flowers would have been available for purchase from Furber’s business, as was the print itself separate from the catalog.
The Twelve Months of Flowers, published in 1730, was very popular, and followed two years later by Twelve Months of Fruit. The image for October is below, full of cherries and apples and pears. None of these varieties seem to be common today, at least under the names they have here, but I think they look delicious.
Furber, Robert. Twelve Months of Flowers: From the Collection of Robt. Furber, Gardiner at Kensington. London: s.n, 1730. [HOLLIS]
Furber, Robert. Twelve Plates of Fruit: From the Collection of Robt. Furber, Gardiner at Kensington. London: s.n, 1732. [HOLLIS]