Johann Heinrich Seidel
(Augustus I (1526 - 1586) in Dresden, the capital of Saxony, promoted agriculture and wrote a small garden book, Künstlich Obstund Gartenbüchlein.)
Now, the Seidel family began in Bohemia, but during the 30 Years’ War (1618-1648), their ancestors fled to Saxonia to the northwest for religious reasons and established themselves in Radeberg, approximately 20 kilometres north-east of Dresden. Christoph Seydel served in the office of the mayor and in 1717 created the Augustusbad, a natural-spring spa 10 mi. E. from Dresden, close to Radeberg.
His grandchild, Johann Heinrich Seidel, was born in Radeberg on November 22, 1744. Johann Heinrich became the royal yard gardener (kurfürstlicher Hofgärtner) in Dresden in 1778. Fourteen years later he was the first to cultivate the camellia in Saxony, that pastel-colored "queen of the winter flowers" in the Dutchess' Garden. Then in 1794 Seidel was visited by Johann Wolfgang von Goethe who was attempting to find information about the Gingko biloba tree. The Dresden garden was one of the places in Europe cultivating that ancient Asian tree.
In Seidel's 1803 book Der Frühlings- und Sommergärtner, oder Anweisung, jede Art von Blumen, wohlriechende niedrige Strauch -- Stauden -- und rankende Gewächse, nebst Küchengartenkräutern, so wie auch Obstorangerie, nach Art der Chinesen, in Scherben zu erziehen, zu pflanzen und abzuwarten, und dieselben für den Winter aufzubewahren und zu erhalten; nach eigenen Erfahrungen bearbeitet u.s.w. (Spring and Summer Gardener, or instruction, every kind of flower, fragrant low bush - perennials - and climbing plants, together with kitchen garden herbs, and also fruiting orange trees, in the Chinese manner raised in broken pieces, to plant and ____ , and the same for the winter; after my own experiences and so forth) published in Leipzig, there is a section "Von der chinesischen Zwergbaumzucht oder Obstorangerie" ("On Chinese dwarf tree breed or Obstorangerie"). The cover page of the book is illustrated with a copper-plate engraving showing Chinese carrying dwarf trees. At the time Seidel already had knowledge and experience for the cultivation of dwarf trees, which found their expression in the cultivation of dwarf fruit wood in the orangerie of the Saxonian yard.
In 1806, Seidel was made royal gardener (königlicher Hofgärtner) and was attending to 4,300 species, one of the most comprehensive botanical collections at that time. He died in 1815.
Seidel came from a very well-educated and traveled family. He fathered ten children, four of them continued his work as gardeners: Jacob Friedrich, Traugott Leberecht, Gottlob Heinrich, and Carl August. They were sent, as was usual at that time, for training in Austria, Holland, France, England. In the spring of 1813, Jacob Friedrich, not quite legally, helped cuttings of three of the "royal plants" to "escape" from Empress Josephine's court in Paris and travel back to Dresden in his knapsack. He and his brothers established the first special market garden market in Germany of ornamental plants that June. The first special cultures of this market garden were the camellia and azalea. (Previous to this, England had been the main source for camellia in Europe.) By mid-century the Seidel brothers' was the largest production garden in Europe and supplied prospective customers from the Atlantic coast to Odessa in Ukraine on the Black Sea using horse carts and ships. Some plants were even sent to America. For the Russian aristocracy during its annual Paris attendance, it was obligatory to make a stop in Dresden in order to experience and purchase plants.
Members of the Seidel family continued to operate a garden center for the next century. Their inventory – at its peak estimated to have 1,500 varieties -- resulted from and was noted for not only production history, but from the high quality of the plants, with bright, pure colors and robustness which was obtained by stringent selection. The enterprise was moved in 1865 to the Striesen section of eastern Desden. Striesen eventually became a center of horticulture in the German-speaking countries. At its peak, over 50 gardening enterprises existed in the area. The Seidel's breeding of winter-hardy Rhododendrons was the most lucrative portion of their business. Traugott Hermann Seidel (1833-1896), only son of Jakob, was initiator of the first international horticulture exhibition 1887 in Dresden and chairmen of the garden federation of the kingdom of Saxonia. And Traugott J.R. Seidel in 1904 wrote the book Johann Heinrich Seidel und seine Pflanzen about his famous ancestor. After WWII the family’s firm was nationalized. Today what remains of the collection stands under monument protection, cared for by the Riedel family in the city of Pirna, southeast of Dresden.
Today, there is an outstanding garden of hortensia, bonsai, ivy, and camellia at the Saxony castle Zuschendorf (built in 1553), where every March the most beautiful camellia bloom in Germany takes place.
Frederick Pursh (b Friedrich Traugott Pursch in Grossenhain, Saxony 4 Feb 1774; d at Montréal 11 July 1820) was a German horticulturist, botanist, and explorer. He studied horticulture under Johann Heinrich Seidel, and joined the staff of the Royal Botanic Garden at Dresden. In 1799 he came to the United States. In 1814 his two volume Flora Emericae Septentrionalis; or, a Systematic Arrangement and Description of the Plants of North America was published in London, the first North American flora to include plants of the Pacific coast. Pursh obtained his knowledge of many of these from the Lewis and Clark specimens. 1
"Von der chinesischen Zwergbaumzucht oder Obstorangerie" ("On Chinese dwarf tree
breed or Obstorangerie")
It does not seem that J. H. Seidel ever travelled outside Saxony, so where did he get his information about Chinese dwarf trees?
"1907 - 2007, 100 Jahre Bonsai in Deutschland,"
Das Gelehrte Teutschland: oder Lexikon der jetzt lebenden Teutschen Schriftsteller by Georg Christoph Hamberger (Lemgo: Meyersche Buchhandlung, 1810), pp.422-423 ;
"Goethe und sein Interesse an Ginkgo biloba," http://www.gallasverlag.de/verlag_kal.php ;
"Gärtnerisch-Botanischer Brief, Nr. 141, 200/4," pp.13, 20 ;
"4.1 Exemplarisches aus der Historie des Gartenbaus in Sachsen und Dresden," http://www.bsz-agrar-dd.de/de/php/schulgeschichte_4.php ;
"Personen," http://www.laubegast-online.de/personen1.htm ;
"Alte Kamelien in Deutschland," http://www.kamelien.de/zitate/alte.htm ;
“Pursh, Frederick,” http://www.thecanadianencyclopedia.com/index.cfm?PgNm=TCE&Params=A1ARTA0006575 ;
"Frederick Traugott Pursh (1774-1820)," http://www.lewis-clark.org/content/content-article.asp?ArticleID=502.
Many of these sources were provided to RJB in a personal e-mail 14 Aug 2007 from Ken Roberts courtesy of an unnamed librarian at the Desert Botanical Gardens, and then rough translated using Babel Fish Machine Translation.