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Horticulture Hysteria: The Wylie Family's participation in the 19th Century Gardening Craze


As Theophilus and Rebecca Wylie moved their family into Wylie House in 1859, a movement was
overtaking American society. An interest in horticulture, or appreciating plants apart from their
nutritional value, was no longer only for the elite, but became popular throughout all levels and
locations of American society. Americans of the Victorian era believed that getting back to nature was
the cure for industrialization and the ills of modernization. The wealthy of America were encouraged to
practice horticulture as a way to distance themselves from their material possessions. The middle class
was pushed to garden as a cure for the mental strain of modern life. Many organizations worked to
provide gardens and green space for the lower classes believing that gardening would inspire them.
Conservation was also in its infancy. City parks which gifted green space to those living in crowded urban
areas gained popularity. The first national parks were also carved out during the nineteenth century. The
people of 19 th century America appreciated the natural world and its benefits after witnessing an ever-
increasing industrialized landscape.

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