Flowering Shrubs a Hundred Years Ago

18-year-old Helena Muffly wrote exactly 100 years ago today: 

Friday, May 9, 1913:  The weather has quite suddenly changed and it is very cold.  That’s all I have to write about.


Her middle-aged granddaughter’s comments 100 years later:

Brrr—cold weather in May is no fun. But even cold days are almost tolerable when I see all of the beautiful flowers and flowering shrubs erupting into bloom. .

Today, I’m going to share pictures of flowering scrubs that were in the April 1913 issue of Ladies Home Journal.  Some of the plants are still popular today—others I don’t recognize or seldom see anymore.

Weigela Rosea
Weigela Rosea
Tatarian Honeysuckle
Tatarian Honeysuckle


White Lilac
White Lilac
Kerria Japonica
Kerria Japonica


30 thoughts on “Flowering Shrubs a Hundred Years Ago

  1. Isn’t it interesting the way plants go out of style/fashion? I see some of the plants in your post but usually they are simply stragglers from days gone by. For instance, along the boundary of my property which once had an old house on it , there is a remnant of a japonica.

    1. It is interesting how plants go out of style. I have a vague memory of our yard having a japonica when I was a small child. And, I’m thinking that it would be really nice to get another one–maybe I can create a new style. :)

    1. They are lovely! I learn so much about art from you. Until I read your comment, I wasn’t familiar with Wallace Nutting. I then googled his name, and enjoyed looking at some of his wonderful pictures. They do have a similar style to these. I went back to the Ladies Home Journal to see if the article said who the artist was–but unfortunately there is no indication of who did them.

    1. No, I’m not writing a diary–I’m too busy blogging :) That said, I probably should think about it. It won’t take a more than a few moments to jot down a few notes about the highlights each day.

  2. We have the first two but they don’t look so beautiful as your pictures. Could be the way we are pruning them. Once again, a lovely post Sheryl. You are so skilfully connecting the present with the past!

    1. I have a lavender lilac. I trim it really hard every other year to keep it a manageable size. It blooms less the year after I trim it–but it gets a massive number of flowers the second year.

  3. Don’t really recognize them, though the Tatarian Honeysuckle looks similar to, ah, oleanders (?). Yes, I think that’s spelled right.
    Kansas has apparently had some cold weather lately, too.

  4. We use a few of those flowering shrubs in our landscapes too. I had a white Lilac and just loved the smell. I’ve seen Forsythia around too but it’s unpredictable here.

    1. When I was a child our family had a white lilac in the yard. I used to think that lavender lilacs were prettier than our white one–but now I like the elegance of white lilacs.

  5. Forsythia is very popular here and is a sure sign of springs return, i have several that i want to grow into a hedge and I have a japonica that i planted and have been nursing along for 4 years, its still small but puts out lovely blooms

    1. I love to bring forsythia stems into the house in the early spring and “force” them to bloom. It makes the house seem so cheery on those gray late winter/early spring days.

  6. I have been looking for a Spirea Van Houttei (SP?) but it has also gone out of style. You see them in the yards of older homes so maybe I will have to go ask if I can pull out a piece of rooted stem. My grandmother had them and I just loved the look of the “Bridal Veil.”

  7. Sheryl, this is a fascinating blog.I grow all of the shrubs here except the tatarian honeysuckle (invasive). The rest are lovely shrubs for the modern garden and landscape as well, especially the Kerria japonica; I grow the “picta” form which has a variegated leaf.

    1. I wish that I had these old shrubs in my yard and want to plant them soon. It’s good to know that tatarian honeysuckle is an invasive species.

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