A Historical Look at Heirloom Gardening in America

Learn about heirloom gardens with these two useful garden books

| August/September 2004




Herb gardeners often are invited to help plant and tend public and private historic community properties. Sometimes though, resources to direct such an effort with historical accuracy are sparse. Two newly published heirloom gardening books offer fresh guidance (Restoring American Gardens, 1640-1940, by Denise Wiles Adams, and Gardens and Historic Plants of the Antebellum South, by James R. Cothran) and they promise to be as useful to herb growers as they are to heirloom enthusiasts.

Adams’ book covers the whole country and all ornamental plants — not just herbs — grown from 1640 to 1940. But her content, from the initial chapter on “Reading the Historic Landscape,” to her outlines of historic U.S. garden design and plant lists, can help keep you on the correct historic path with your herbs.

In any such planting project, it’s important not to destroy history in the process of interpreting it; Adams gets right to the heart of that subject in Chapter One of her book. Later, she provides lists of historic commercial nurseries, which may provide clues to your own local historic resources that are yet to be discovered — one of the most exciting aspects of this relatively young field of historic American gardening. Adams also gives contemporary sources for purchasing true historic plants today.

Cothran takes the regional approach, mining the South’s rich garden history in fine style. Many of the influences he writes of were felt in the North, too, so don’t dismiss the book out of hand if you’re not exactly living in Dixie. The period incorporated is shorter, 1820 to 1860, which allows him to delve deeper than Adams into the cultural pressures that helped shape gardening trends. Those years were also very active on the frontier, and as Southerners moved westward, they took their gardening culture with them, if not always their more-tender plants.



Like Adams, Cothran incorporates historic information on herb growing as part of his general overview, and the information he includes gives accurate direction if you’re trying to figure out how to incorporate herbs in a historic planting today.

Both writers elaborate on the links between early American gardens and the English gardening world, out of which so much of today’s herbal traditions grew, and Cothran does a great job of giving stateside historical context, too, from the Eastern seaports to the Southern frontier. “Given a conductive climate, long growing season, fertile soil and traditional ties of its people to the land, it was inevitable that an abiding interest in and love of horticulture and gardening would develop throughout the region,” he writes.



Subscribe today and save 58%

Subscribe to Mother Earth Living !

Mother Earth LivingWelcome to Mother Earth Living, the authority on green lifestyle and design. Each issue of Mother Earth Living features advice to create naturally healthy and nontoxic homes for yourself and your loved ones. With Mother Earth Living by your side, you’ll discover all the best and latest information you want on choosing natural remedies and practicing preventive medicine; cooking with a nutritious and whole-food focus; creating a nontoxic home; and gardening for food, wellness and enjoyment. Subscribe to Mother Earth Living today to get inspired on the art of living wisely and living well.

Save Money & a Few Trees!

Pay now with a credit card and take advantage of our earth-friendly automatic renewal savings plan. You’ll save an additional $5 and get six issues of Mother Earth Living for just $19.95! (Offer valid only in the U.S.)

Or, choose Bill Me and pay just $24.95.




Facebook Pinterest Instagram YouTube Twitter

Free Product Information Classifieds