Posts Tagged ‘garden’
December 11, 2013
With the cooler weather it is now necessary to cover the parsley at night to preserve the foliage. Parsley is a biennial plant so it is adapted to over-wintering in most parts of the country but in severe weather the leaves fall down and are not useable by the cook. This would be a great disadvantage as there are few members of that tribe of plants known as the sweet herbs which are more useful in the kitchen. Stephen Switzer observed in The practical kitchen gardiner (1727): “The cook can never be without it, there being nothing more proper for stuffing and other sauces.”
Parsley is native to the Mediterranean shores of Southern Europe and was used as both a culinary plant and a medicine by the Greeks and Romans. It was almost certainly introduced to Northern Europe and England by the Romans legions. The first reference to parsley in England came in a Latin vocabulary written by Aelfric, the Abbot of Eynsham, in 995 CE.
There are two forms of parsley, the curled and the flat (also known as Italian parsley) and there is quite a lot folklore about the method of obtaining the two leaf forms. Thomas Hill recorded in 1577 that the flat leaf is obtained by tying the seeds in a linen cloth before planting and the curled leaf is obtained by wrapping the seeds in a ball and breaking them with a staff. Surflet’s The Country Farm, a 1616 translation of the 16th century French work, Maisons Rustique, advises that in order to make parsley curl we must bruise the seed and roll it when it first comes up.
The flat leaf has always been preferred by cooks while the curled is, as recorded by Mr. Miller, “sown in some curious Gardens, for garnishing Dishes.”
To preserve the parsley through the winter months the parsley is covered under bells every evening when the temperature is liable to plunge below 30 degrees on Mr. Fahrenheit’s scale. A little straw laid among the plants will greatly assist in keeping the frost from their roots.
With this simple precaution there will be sufficient parsley for sauce and stew as well as for its most famous use, as noted by Mr. Hill, “There is nothing that doth like sweeten the mouth, as fresh and green Parcely eaten.”
June 10, 2011
Nestled amid the historic houses, taverns and trade shops of Colonial Williamsburg’s Historic Area are the 18th-century-style gardens of the restored town. Programs and tours feature the history of the gardens from the colonial era to the present.
“Through the Garden Gate” focuses on the historic documents and archaeological evidence used in creating the Historic Area gardens. The tour begins at 9:30 a.m. on Mondays, June 13-27 and July 11-Aug. 29, Wednesdays, June 15-Aug. 31 and Saturdays, June 18-25 and July 9-Aug, 27. A free reservation is required along with a Colonial Williamsburg annual pass, Hotel Guest pass or Good Neighbor pass.
Guests discover how gardens reflected status and wealth in the 18th century during “Gardens of Gentility.” This escorted walking tour visits the gardens of the Governor’s Palace and other gardens along Palace Green. The program takes place at 9:30 a.m. Tuesdays, June 14-June 28 and July 12-Aug. 30 and Fridays, June 17-Sept. 2. A free reservation is required along with a Colonial Williamsburg annual pass, Hotel Guest pass or Good Neighbor pass.
A new tour, “Herbs in the Garden,” discusses tips on growing herbs and how they were used by the colonists. The tour is offered at 10:30 a.m. Mondays, June 13-27 and July 11-Aug. 29 and Tuesdays, June 14-Aug. 30. A free reservation is required along with a Colonial Williamsburg annual pass, Hotel Guest pass or Good Neighbor pass.
During “Meet the Gardener,” garden volunteers answer questions about growing flowers and vegetables in the Historic Area. The one-hour tour is offered at 10:30 a.m. Thursdays, June 16-Sept. 1. A Historic Area admission pass is required to take the tour.
For more information or to make reservations for these garden tours, contact 1-800-HISTORY.
April 1, 2010
Colonial Williamsburg’s large, formal gardens are justifiably famous for their tulip displays. The grandest may be the one found in the Governor’s Palace Garden, which is a series of garden chambers, reflecting the taste for small intimate green chambers made from boxwood, yew, and holly. Each chamber, or garden room, is distinctly planted.
The large garden lying west of the ballroom and above the canal is the Parterre Garden, composed of four grand panels of asymmetrical design. Within this pattern are planted 2400 “Rembrandt Mix” tulips, the multicolored and mottled tulips that were the rage of Holland. The bright red tulip variety “Kingsblood” dominates the central panel of the beds.
Other beds burst with “Negritta” (purple), “Bellona” (yellow), “Don Quichotte” (pink), “Striped Bellona” (yellow with red flame), “Jan Reus” (orange with pink highlights) and “Francois” (yellow & white). The beds are further accented with anemone “De Caen,” a very floriferous and large flowered form of the ancient Grecian windflower.
The tulips in the small holly garden which lies to the east of the main block of the mansion are “Couleur Cardinal” (red with purple highlights), “Sorbet” (white with pink highlights) and “Maureen” (white). In the arbors that flank the perennial beds and formal flower beds is a mixed planting of bulbs for different seasons of the year. The Persian fritillary can be found here, the “Delft Blue” and “Carnegie” hyacinths, and the later blooming martagon lilies.
Gardens throughout the Historic Area are awash in the colors of flowering trees, budding vines, and blooming bulbs. Plan your visit.
March 2, 2010
In March, the earliest spring blooming bulbs begin their color burst. Expect to see crocus, hyacinth, and narcissus begin to bloom, depending on the warming of the month. Spring starflower (Ipheon uniflorus) and Star of Bethlehem, with their white flowers striped with green, (Ornithagalum umbellatum and O. nutans) are very familiar to our return visitors.
This part of the South is lucky to have winter months mild enough to allow some annuals, such as English daisy (Bellis perennis) and pansy varieties (Viola sp.) to survive, and in many cases, bloom throughout the winter. These annuals are over-planted above tulips so that the spring effect is one of a multi-layered composition with complementary tulips blooming above a groundcover effect of hardy annuals.
In the last two weeks of March, expect to see periwinkle (Vinca minor) and Virginia bluebells (Mertensia virginica) begin to bloom. If the days are mild, you might see golden Carolina Jasmine (Gelsimium sempervirens) begin to bloom on fences, while flowering quince and some fruit trees will bloom in their permutations of white and pink.
November 9, 2009
Gardeners are harvesting the last of the sweet potatoes from several kitchen gardens in the Historic Area. According to Colonial Willliamsburg garden historian Wesley Greene, the use of the sweet potato (Ipomoea batatas) in Virginia predates the use of the white potato by about one hundred years.
English author Philip Miller wrote in his book The Gardeners Dictionary (1754) that the sweet potato was cultivated in Spain and Portugal and shipped to England. Miller writes that sweet potatoes “… are by some Persons greatly esteemed; tho’ in general they are not so well liked as the common Potato, being too sweet and luscious for most Palates.”
Whereas Miller describes their taste, Robert Beverly, a substantial planter and colonial official in Virginia describes what they look like in his book, The History and Present State of Virginia, (1705) saying, “Their [the Natives] Potatoes are either red or white, about as long as a Boy’s Leg, and sometimes as long and big as both the Leg and Thigh of a young Child, and very much resembling it in Shape.” Even though Colonial Williamsburg’s well-manured vegetable plots produce large sweet potatoes, they have not yet reached the size of a boy’s leg.
Another crop being harvested in our gardens now, unfortunately more by the squirrels than the gardeners, is the bull nose pepper. The three most common peppers in the colonies seem to have been the cayenne, tomato, and the bell or bull nose pepper. The bull nose pepper was grown at Monticello by Thomas Jefferson. It has been described as one of the best pickled peppers because of its mildness and thick rind. As the pepper matures from green to scarlet it becomes sweeter.
Wesley believes that although the bull nose pepper is the best representative we have today of the old bell peppers, it is probably larger than the original bell pepper. Wesley’s research indicates that although bell peppers are appropriate for the 18th century, we should grow them in only a few of our gardens, primarily at the homes of experimental gardeners or perhaps slave dwellings. Hopefully the squirrels will let us do so.
October 13, 2009
Colonial Williamsburg’s landscape department sustains the rich genetic heritage of plants by saving seed varieties. Ongoing research enables the department to locate plant varieties appropriate to the 18th-century. Once the seed is procured, it is carefully planted and tended with the intent of eventually harvesting and saving more seed for future generations to use.
By growing heirloom plants, we help prevent extinction and promote biodiversity in plants. The Seed Savers Exchange (SSE), a non-profit organization dedicated to collecting and preserving heritage seeds from the past, estimates that over 90 percent of the fruit and vegetable varieties grown in the United States in 1900 have since been lost.
Fortunately, more and more people are realizing the importance of saving seeds and preserving the cultural and historical heritage of plants. Through the efforts of SSE and other organizations, Colonial Williamsburg’s landscape department has been able to obtain seed from around the world. Recently we have acquired a 14th-century variety of pea from The Henry Doubleday Foundation in England, an 18th-century cockscomb from the Thomas Jefferson Center for Plants, and a London flag leek from the Vavilov Research Center in St. Petersburg, Russia.