A show of mums

The Library of Congress labels this photo “Agriculture Department Dahlia Show,” 1911, but I’m sure it’s from the USDA’s annual Chrysanthemum show, which was held in one of the Department’s greenhouses in Washington, D.C.

The show in 1917.

The first of the annual exhibitions opened in October of 1902. I haven’t been able to find out anything more about them, but they were still being held in 1937.

In 1917.

All the photos here are by Harris & Ewing, via Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division.

Between 1915 and 1923.
In 1917.
Also 1917.

My advice to the women of America is to raise more hell and fewer dahlias.

William Allen White (1868 – 1944)

I’m sure the same applied to mums.

Chaplin, West Virginia

Back garden and porch of Hungarian-American coal miner’s home, Chaplin, West Virginia, September 1938, by Marion Post Wolcott, via Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division (all three photos).

The miner’s wife and their back gate and fence. (Cropped slightly by me.)

Wolcott was on assignment for the U.S. Farm Security Administration.

Her neighbor — top left, in the straw hat — seems to have had a good flower garden, as well.

The Sunday porch: The Appletrees

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“The Appletrees,” Henry Eugene and Eva Johnston Coe house, Southampton (on Long Island), New York, 1914, by Frances Benjamin Johnston,* via Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division.

The porch of this 19th century “cottage” is actually an arbor — covered, I believe, in grape vines.  The flower-filled boxwood parterre immediately surrounding the house ends rather abruptly in country fields and woods.

I haven’t been able to discover much about the property and its owners:  Mrs. Coe co-authored a book on American embroidery samplers, and Mr. Coe was evidently considered an arbiter of social acceptance for the wealthy Southampton of his time. He signified who was in and who was out by issuing (or not) invitations to his annual dinner at The Appletrees (or The Apple Trees).

I could not find out whether the house still exists.

This hand-colored glass lantern slide was used by Johnston in her  garden and historic house lectures.

*Photographed when Frances Benjamin Johnston and Mattie Edwards Hewitt worked together.

ADDENDUM, October 2018: A kind reader who lives in Southampton just wrote to me and confirmed that the Coe house no longer exists.

“The last time I was on the property was in the 1960’s. It was a beautiful house and had wonderful out buildings, one of which was a large 2 story barn which was located near the property line that abutted the Catholic Church to the south. The horses were stabled below and the men were housed above.”

My bargain dahlia

It’s amazing what you can get at Costco.


I bought a fairly cheap bag of dahlia tubers in mixed varieties there last spring. Then I left it sitting next to my desk until September, when I finally planted the (by then) shriveled-up tubers.


They came up strong, nevertheless, and this light yellow and burgundy one surprised me; I didn’t remember anything so nice on the photo on the bag (which I had tossed).

The others were more ordinary:  a couple in yellow with just a bit of burgundy streaking, three in solid burgundy, and one in yellow with orange streaks (sent right to the cutting garden).


I put the burgundy- and yellow-flowered plants in the center of the long border along the lower lawn.


Their bi-color streakiness will go well with the red, yellow, and green tropical foliage of the plants pictured above* and with the yellow and green variegated gingers below on the left.

Growing behind the dahlias and blooming all the time is a shrubby Hypericum, possibly H. perforatum or St. John’s wort.


The dahlia plants as a whole are not very pretty at the moment, mainly because I didn’t stake them early enough. I’ve planted two shrimp plants** up front to hide their legginess


. . .eventually.  There’s one in front of the gingers too.  I should be able to maintain them at about 2′ high.


I think the whole yellow and burgundy arrangement will give some drama to this center section — once everything grows a little more.  Those gingers will get at least 12″ taller.

down the border

Above:  looking down the border to the left to a pink and burgundy (dahlias) section –also still in progress — then yellow, purple, and, at the end, red with some pink and blue/purple around the edges.

Click any of the photos for a larger look.

*I think a croton and a coleus.

**Justicia brandegeeana.