Help the Smithsonian solve a garden mystery

The Smithsonian Institution is trying to identify images of American gardens in its archives.

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Actually, you may be able to help the venerable institution solve a number of garden mysteries -- or maybe it's more accurate to say, mysteries of gardens.

Its Archives of American Gardens contain more than 80,000 images of gardens -- from drawings of Colonial kitchen gardens to black and white photographs of 1930s landscapes.

Unfortunately, many are unidentified. And that limits their usefulness. So they've posted the images on the Web in hopes that someone will recognize them and let them know the details.

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They're posted by state -- California, Connecticut, Florida, Georgia, Illinois, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Minnesota, Missouri, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, North Carolina, Ohio, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, South Carolin, and Virginia -- as well as unidentified locations.

If you know where any of the gardens were located and details about them, theĀ  Smithsonian asks that you contact the staff by e-mail at aag@si.edu or by phoning (202) 633-5840.

For anyone who loves historic gardens or is interested in garden design, this is a treasure trove. I couldn't stop clicking from one state to another. California reminded me of John Muir; Florida of a bygone era.

Many of the unidentified gardens gave teasing glimpses of landscapes that caused you to wonder: Who lived there? Who planted that garden? Who took the photo or made the drawing? And why, why, why?

If you have a blog, you may want to help publicize this effort. But in any case, it's a fascinating bit of Americana.

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