See whats coming up in the historic garden at the Oldest House. NHA Grounds and Landscape Manager, Kathrina Marques, will share her knowledge of the plants in the garden and plant lore of colonial times. Learn about what Mary Gardner Coffin may have been growing and their many uses for the household, medicinal, and culinary.
Today’s recreated garden relies on various sources for its design and plant choices, including seventeenth-century English gardening literature, settlers’ accounts and plant lists, and early travelers’ journals that detailed what plants grew in the colonial gardens of New England. Much consideration was also given to the cultivation practices and Mary Gardner Coffin c.1717 gardening techniques of the time period, in order to most accurately represent what Mary Gardner Coffin’s garden might have looked like around the year 1700.
Formally laid out ornamental gardens were not common at this time because one garden would often serve both practical and aesthetic purposes. Mary Gardner Coffin’s garden was the kitchen garden or the “Garden of Useful Herbs,.” Here the housewife typically grew a wide range of plants, all kept in order with a system of beds and paths. Besides helping to maintain order, this traditional layout of narrow beds with paths between simplified cultivation—the plants could be closely spaced and tended from the paths without treading on the beds. This also facilitated the creation of deep, manure-rich planting beds, which maximized production and efficiency in a small space.
Plants in similar kitchen gardens included, culinary, medicinal, and household herbs; greens for “sallets”(salads) or for the pot; reliable vegetable staples (cabbages, parsnips, onions, carrots and leeks); small fruits like currants and gooseberries; and flowers for fragrance and beauty.