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When Jefferson noted the "Lychnis bloom" at Shadwell in 1767, he was probably referring to the wooly-leaved Rose Campion, also very popular in early American gardens.1 Rose Campion was sold by Bernard McMahon, the Philadelphia nurseryman, who listed three color forms in his 1804 broadside catalog including a bi-colored form called "Painted Lady." Jefferson received seed of "Lychnis" from McMahon in 1807.2
The species rose campion, also called rose campy, is a native of Europe. It was being cultivated in English gardens by the 17th century (including cultivating double forms) and in American gardens by the 1700s. According to Denise Adams, the first known mention of the rose campion by an American source is in Thomas Jefferson's garden book.3
The rose campion is a hardy, early summer flowering biennial or short-lived perennial with brilliant, magenta-colored flowers and contrasting thick, fuzzy, gray-green foliage.
Primary Source References
- Coats, Alice M. Flowers and Their Histories. London: Black, 1968.
- Leighton, Ann. American Gardens in the Eighteenth Century. Amherst: University of Massachusetts Press, 1986.
- Seeds available for purchase at Monticello Museum Shop.
- Stuart, David and James Sutherland. Plants from the Past: Old Flowers for New Gardens. London: Penguin Books, 1989.
- Thomas Jefferson Center for Historic Plants.
- 1. Betts, Garden Book, 6. Manuscript and transcription available online at Coolidge Collection of Thomas Jefferson Manuscripts, Massachusetts Historical Society.
- 2. Ibid., 335.
- 3. Denise Wiles Adams, Restoring American Gardens: An Encyclopedia of Heirloom Ornamental Plants, 1640-1940 (Portland, OR: Timber Press, Inc., 2004), 193.
- 4. Ibid., 352-53. Transcription available at Founders Online.