Two centuries separate the creation of the Boston Common and the Public Garden, and what a difference that period made.
In 1634 the Common was created as America’s first public park; it was practical and pastoral with walkways built for crosstown travel. In contrast, the Public Garden was the first public botanical garden in America. It was decorative and flowery from its inception, featuring meandering pathways for strolling.
The Victorian Touch
The Victorians ushered in the style of park which featured the gardener’s art. They designed vibrant floral patterns in the Garden which utilized new techniques of collecting, hybridizing, and propagating plants. With access to showy annuals and greenhouse-grown plants they bedded the Garden with colorful displays and planted exotic imported trees. George Meacham used these new techniques to win the public design competition held for the Garden, for which he received a $100 prize.
In the early days, some complained that the unnatural combinations of colorful plants were garish beyond the bounds of good taste. Now Boston calls the Public Garden one of its greatest attractions.