Williamsburg’s Colonial Garden and Nursery
With camera in hand, I buzzed about the historic section that is Colonial Williamsburg today and found even more wonderful garden nuggets. Most may think, as I did, that the gardens are all but dead in the winter. After all, there is a great deal of snow and ice about and only a rare handful of colorful flower blooms to be seen. But I was wrong, the winter garden is the garden for everyone.
One of the Colonial Williamsburg gardeners explained that, most commoners in Colonial Times could not afford a summer garden. The manual labor involoved with the heat, hard work and simple watering would require the man of the house to be around. In most households however, the men were off working during the day and were unavailable to be at home for gardening chores. Women of course were working their own full time jobs keeping the household up. Thus, only those with the money or an extra labor force could have a nice Summer garden on display. The winter garden however was one everyone could have.
Being full of hearty plants, these gardens were used mostly for food and required far less upkeep to sustain families through the cold harsh winters.
In this garden the Romanesko Broccoli, celery, Purple Top turnips and Welsh Onions are among the many hearty winter specialties.
The Colonial Garden and Nursey is an outdoor garden year round. It’s the same working garden as it had been in Colonial times. It harnesses the power of ingenuity and hard labor. There are three green houses that are used to keep specific plants warm. These low rise green houses are made of wood with three window panes placed atop. The windows can either be propped up with sticks or taken off completely.
Inside this one are several varieties of lettuces including Brown Dutch, Aleppo and Imperial.
During expected colder winter nights, the Colonial gardeners layer the greenhouses with a few inches of hay before covering them with a sturdy canvas blanket. This would normally only be needed when the tempertures get into the teens but It never hurts to be ready, just in case.
Another way to help keep plants warm or get them started a bit earlier in the season is to use these handblown glass bell jars. They are made of the same type of glass and configuration as the original Colonial warmers. Inside these rest happy little cauliflower plants.
The winter garden is mainly a haven for vegetables and herbs which explains the great fare that was served for Holidays. Winter could be some of the best weather for a great meal. As it was explained to me today, by the same very kind Colonial Gardener, some vegetables, such as Kale and turnips taste thier best if picked the morning after a good frost. This would go under the Garden Photo Bee’s “who knew?” catagory. Well true winter gardeners and cooks know!
This particular garden is wonderful because it displays its sense of history through the tools it uses. As an authentic colonial garden, you won’t find a Home Depot spade in the lot. You’ll find the same hoes, twine and wheelbarrows of the day.
Within the garden lot is also a sales area for flowers, herbs etc. This time of year it’s the place for all natural things for true colonial christmas decor. (see yesterday’s post).
There is a roaring fire keeping those warm who are out buying wreaths and decorative contents. If I lived near hear, the nursery would be the start of a new excursion tradition for Christmas decorations.
Here they sell everything from great and authentic 18th century Christmas decor to lovely soaps. The hunt around the variety of items is half the fun!
The Colonial Garden is fantastic. Seeing it as the exemplary Winter garden for those who first started this country helps put their lives in a wonderfully realistic perspective. You really get the feel of what it was like for Colonial mean and women to live, work and to come in from the cold and eat a regular meal here. It is an experience with great charm and comfort. Eating here reminds me of just how important the meals were and still are, here in Colonial Williamsburg. It’s not just a time to grab a bite. It’s the event of the day.
As I travel from garden to garden, I find each one has a wonderful aspect about them that stays with me. This garden’s living history has given me a whole new view of and even greater appreciation for gardening. As a learning garden this is also a great place for kids. I’ll be back here in the Spring and Summer to view more of Colonial Williamsburg’s gardens. There are many and they come in all shapes, sizes and types. I can’t wait to see them all.
Well the Bee is off to another garden shoot as we speak. As for tomorrow, come back for another Christmas extravaganza, this time at one of the great garden destinations in the country – Biltmore.
Britt : )
- Part II: Colonial Williamsburg Christmas!
- Colonial Williamsburg’s Christmas Wreaths
- Longwood’s Idea Garden has given me my best ideas.
- The Lurie Garden, a great garden for Spring and every other season.
- Part VI: Some of the Flowers and Garden areas at Brookside Gardens.