Creating a modern historic garden

Sari Carp, of Woodstock, combines her interest in history and gardening. Courtesy photo

MIDDLETOWN – Sari Carp, of Woodstock and co-founder of Sustainability Matters, said she believes recreating a historic garden requires good judgment in construction, historical knowledge and skill in planting.

“The idea is to create a modern take on a historic, living, working, productive garden similar to the ones early settlers made when they arrived in the new world,” Carp said. “In doing that, we’re showcasing a wide range of traditional crops, which would have supplied the plantation but combined with more modern equivalents for today’s gardeners.”

Historic gardens were traditionally built in raised beds in structured rows to serve as an alternative gardening tool. Traditionally built out of wooden, split logs or timber planks, they were located near the kitchen for easy access.

“Early gardens served a purpose,” she said. “They provided sustenance or medicinal purposes. By planting them outside the kitchens, early settlers were able to quickly grab what they needed similar to today’s herb gardens.”

Historic gardeners typically created their raised beds based on a geometric pattern, most commonly a four square garden. A path was strategically placed around each bed to create an easier access point for harvesting and amending the gardens faster.

Placement of herbs and flowers were often planted closer to the homes to ward off strong, unpleasant smells. Strong smelling plants like onions, were often planted farther away.

Perennials that weren’t required to be harvested annually were typically planted together so their roots were not disturbed during harvest.

“Gardeners still follow the traditions early settlers laid out for us, even if we aren’t aware of it,” Carp said. “Over the centuries, we’ve just become more aware of how other cultures use plants in their own gardens, and were taken to incorporating them into our own.”

Carp said creating a historic garden isn’t difficult, it just takes a little prior planning and research.

“Virginia is one of the best places to live because we have such vast plantation history,” she said. “Those plantations are some of the best resources for gardeners because they can teach a gardener how to recreate history while modernizing to today’s needs.”

To create a historically accurate garden, Carp said to first research the microclimate of the desired garden location.

“Living outside of Woodstock, I’ve learned that my garden is typically two weeks behind those that live within the town,” she said. “There are things I can’t grow that someone just a few miles away might be able to grow, so understanding your climate is really beneficial.”

After that, Carp said it’s all about preference. She suggests picking plants gardeners have time to care for and maintain.

“Incorporate annuals and perennials that bloom throughout the four seasons,” she said. “From there, it’s really about personal preference.”

A few of Carp’s favorites include gooseberries, lavender, trees, shrubs and other native plants that also aid in pollinating and maintaining a positive ecosystem.