Make your own free website on

Colonial Herb Gardens

Edited by Mrs. Paul H. Walker

As long ago as the early Christian era medicinal plants were cultivated in manastery gardens. In 1636 many of them were identified by the English expert John Gererde in his well-known volume: "The Herball as Gernal Historic of Plantes."

Our colonists imported many plants for culinary and medicinal purposes. Displays of the early-used herbs can be seen in the small house-wife cultivated gardens beside their thatch-roofed homes on Plimoth Plantation. A much larger collection is nurtured and displayed in the formal garden and greenhouses maintained by the University of Rhode Island's College of Pharmacy in Kingston. Students of pharmacology today acknowledge what herbalists have always believed" the secrets to some cures grow all around us. The garden director, pharmacologist Yuzuro Shimizu, says the extensive gardens are used for education, for conservation, and for study by the bio-tech industry.

Some plants on view at the Youngken gardens in Kingston have seen different uses over the years. Nicotene from tobacco was once used as an insecticide. It is now used for short-term sedation of wild animals that are being relocated. Other plants are being used in products that would be recognized by several generations. The popular extract made of bark and leaves of which hazel is still used to threat bruises and skin irritations, just as it was in 1636 when Gerarde claimed that: "It healeth greene (new) wounds and cureth ruptures newly made."

The Youngken formal garden, graced with wide circular pathways in brick, will soon be abloom with pretty blue lobelia, golden yarrow and myriad other colors. However, it wil not be necessary that far to see the beauty of a colonial functional garden. Right in Plymouth, should you be strolling the waterfront, a similar lovely and informative site on a smaller scale will be there for you to enjoy.

Colonial herbs will be abloom in the circular formal gardens surrounding the Pilgrim Mother Fountain. You can sit and rest a few moments on the curved stone benches as you read the identifying signs on the plants and admire their beauty to the soft, gently splash of the fountain.

This new attraction will exist because Scout William Finn of Plymouth is undertaking restoration of these gardens as his Eagle project. All the new plants were tucked in and mulched for the winter early last fall. This spring and summer will be their first blooming.

[Resource: A Boston Herald article of April 7, 1996 by Rosemary Herbert]

Back to the Articles Index