|Thursday Tips & Techniques: Colonial Gardens|
|Written by Heleigh Bostwick Thursday, 03 January 2013|
Colonial gardens it seems are the next big trend in gardening. White picket fences, small yards, efficient use of land, simple gardens of flowers, herbs, and home-grown fruits and vegetables, and yes, even dovecotes, today’s colonial style garden is often a mish-mash of several colonial garden styles.
The Colonial garden period lasted roughly 250 years, from the early 17th century and the mid-19th century when Victorian gardens came into fashion, and can be divided into three styles: Merchants, wealthy landowners, and New England rural gardens. Merchants generally lived “in town”, that is in one of the major colonial cities that included Williamsburg, Philadelphia, Boston, and Baltimore. Their gardens were formal, symmetrical, and balanced, often with hedges, walls, or fences for privacy. Linear walkways and geometrical-shaped beds were prevalent similar to those they had left behind in England.
Wealthy landowners such as George Washington who presided over Mount Vernon in Virginia and Thomas Jefferson’s Monticello also in Virginia, owned country estates with large tracts of land. These estates typically had smaller formal gardens near the house that included a kitchen garden, while the surrounding grounds were more naturalistic in design, similar to those of English landscapes designed by Capability Brown and others of that period.
Colonial gardens in New England were utilitarian in nature reflecting the early colonists’ beliefs and the harsh weather conditions. Fences were used to contain livestock, rather than for privacy or decorative purposes. Plants were grown for food and medicinal purposes rather than ornamental ones.
The Gardens of Colonial Williamsburg
Restoring American Gardens: An Encyclopedia of Heirloom Ornamental Plants, 1640-1940
From A Colonial Garden: Ideas, Decorations, Recipes