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“When the robins are ready, these and all other pinks will be dressed for the new growth and I shall watch for every bright and spicy flower. Yet I sometimes think I like the pinks best when they are not in bloom, but when growth is quick and joyous in them and each kind takes its due shape and presents its best dress of different leaf and sheen. In bloom anyone can see them, and even the crudest hastiest visitor will note the differences; but when they are not in flower, nobody comes to see and they are mine alone. I know them as they are. […] This is my evergreen garden, under the snow.” –LHBGC, p. 210
As described in greater depth on our Childhood page, Bailey attributed his first gardening experience to the death of his mother Sarah and the garden of pinks, or Dianthus, she left behind for him to care for. As with many of the plants he grew, throughout his life Bailey would collect different varieties and species of pinks and grow as many of them in a single garden as he could, so that he could note the similarities and differences and make pressings for future reference in his Hortorium. His science was intimately connected to his practice as a gardener. Late in life, he devoted an entire volume to his horticultural and taxonomic studies of Dianthus, which he titled The Garden of Pinks.
The illustration above and to the left was made for that book, documenting the pinks found in the 1872 issue of Vick’s Catalogue and Floral Guide—a seed catalog that made its way to Bailey’s childhood home in Michigan, which became part of Bailey’s personal collection of seed catalogs. “It was probably from Vick,” Bailey wrote in The Garden of Pinks, “that I learned of the Chinese pink and the carnation and how to grow them” (LHBGC 207). The original illustrations and the pages on which they appeared are reproduced below—one can imagine a young Bailey poring over the pages, learning to care for the flowers that linked him to his mother and to the growing earth at his feet.
See Bailey’s horticultural entries on Dianthus here: