The LuEsther T. Mertz Library


Joseph Addison, English essayist, poet, classical scholar and statesman, founded the daily paper The Spectator. In 1712 an essay appeared that many consider the birthday of the natural garden. The essay includes his plea for contriving a winter garden.

"I have often wonder’d that those who are like my self, and love to live in Gardens, have never thought of contriving a Winter-Garden, which would consist of such Trees only as never cast their Leaves. When Nature is in her Desolation, and presents us with nothing but bleak and barren Prospects, there is something unspeakably chearful in a Spot of Ground which is cover’d with Trees that smile amidst all the Rigour of Winter, and give us a view of the most gay Season in the midst of that which is the most dead and melancholy. …I have set apart a whole Acre of Ground for the executing of it …The Laurel, the Hornbeam, and the Holly, …grow so thick in it, that you cannot imagine a more lively Scene. The glowing Redness of the Berries with which they are hung at this time, vies with the Verdure of their Leaves, …It is very pleasant, …to see the several kinds of Birds retiring into this little green Spot, and enjoying themselves among the Branches and Foliage, when my great Garden…, does not afford a single Leaf for their Shelter."

"Helleborus niger Officinarum"
Nicholas Robert
Hand-colored engraving
from Denis Dodart (1634-1707)
[Recueil des plantes dessinees et gravees par ordre du roi Louis XIV]
Paris: Impr. royale, 1701
With its blossoms appearing in the depth of winter and thereby earning for it the favorite name of Christmas rose, Helleborus niger can actually bloom anytime between November and April. Deriving from the Greek word helleboros meaning ‘food that kills’, it contains a highly active cardiac poison similar to digitalis.
The illustrator of this work, Nicholas Robert, was one of the most accomplished botanical illustrators in 17th century Europe.

"The crested Jay"
Mark Catesby
Hand-colored engraving
from Mark Catesby (1683-1749)
The natural history of Carolina, Florida, and the Bahama Islands;
London: Printed at the expence of the author, 1731-43
A winter garden offers respite to a number of bird species that appear all the more colorful against a snowy background. Over 200 species of birds have been spotted at the New York Botanical Garden.
Catesby’s celebrated work features 220 hand-colored plates and was the first natural history to systematically illustrate the flora and fauna of America. John James Audubon used it as a model for his celebrated Birds of America.
"Ilex Aquifolium"
Pierre-Joseph Redouté
Stipple engraving printed in color, finished by hand
from Henri Louis Duhamel du Monceau (1700-1782)
Traite des arbres et arbustes que l'on cultive en France en pleine terre
Paris: Chez Didot aine, et al. [1801-1819]
Holly (Ilex aquifolium), a broadleaved evergreen with attractive foliage and colorful berries, is valued as a wintertime decorative accent. There are about 400 species of holly and numerous horticultural varieties. Hollies can be found in many parts of the world and certain species produce a fine hardwood.
[Passage from The Spectator]
From Joseph Addison (1672-1719)
The Spectator
London: Printed for J. and R. Tonson, 1739.
Joseph Addison’s daily paper, The Spectator was unlike other papers in that each issue consisted of one long essay which appealed to the taste of a growing affluent middle class with no inclination to read lengthy books. In his thoughts on gardening, he praised the natural and criticized the artificial; the perfect garden being guided by both nature and reason.


"Abies Albertiana"
"Cupressus Lambertiana"
"Pinus Insignis"
W. Richardson
Hand-colored lithograph
from Edward Ravenscroft (1816-1890)
The Pinetum Britannicum
Edinburgh and London: W. Blackwood, Edward Ravenscroft, 1863-1884
Conifers provide texture, structure, and color interest while their branches give shelter to a number of creatures in winter. Often overlooked throughout the year, when foliage has disappeared from other plants, conifers become strong garden focal point in winter.
The Pinetum Britannicum with its exquisite large hand-colored plates illustrate the various hardy conifers that were available for sale in Great Britain.
Story of Winter        Orangeries         Hothouses           Old New York        Contriving          Walk Through        Florists
Exhibition Homepage