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Rooted in History

A Day in the Life of Colonial Pennsylvania: Tending a Garden

March 20th, 2021

Many modern-day Pennsylvanians grow vegetable, herb and flower gardens, but few of us rely on them to stock our pantries or medicine cabinets. For families in colonial-era Pennsylvania, however, the kitchen garden was an important aspect of day-to-day life and a necessary source of food and medicine. Let’s explore how a colonial-era family used their gardens and what a typical day of garden work entailed. A Woman’s Work In the spring, summer and early fall, it would be common to find a colonial Pennsylvania woman tending her kitchen garden in the early morning. The kitchen garden – a small plot of land beside her home Read More

Poison or Panacea?

December 14th, 2020

How well do you know your horticultural history? These plants were known to the colonists back in George Washington’s day – but not all of them could be used to heal. Washington Crossing Historic Park’s historical horticulturalist Anna Davis-Agostini shares four plants that were known to the colonists.   White Horehound (Marrubium vulgare) Anna has grown this plant at the Thompson-Neely Farmstead. Used for centuries and spoken of by both Dioscorides and Pliny, Horehound is renowned for treating asthma, coughs, pulmonary consumptions, some liver and spleen disorders, and “filthy ulcers.” “It was used as a dry or fresh herb in Read More

These Locally-Grown Plants Were Once Used to Treat Battlefield Ailments

June 22nd, 2020

The avid gardeners among us may know that peppermint, sage, and lavender featured prominently in the most common medicines during the American Revolution. But there are a host of lesser-known plants that proved to be just as valuable to the doctors on the battlefields, says Anna Davis-Agostini, the park’s historical horticulturist. We’re featuring four of them here. Please Note: Although you can find these plants among the park’s gardens—which Davis-Agostini designed and maintains, with help—the park’s gardens are not pick-your-own. If you spot these plants, please leave them be. In addition, the information provided below is informational only. All of these plants Read More

Planting New Opportunities for Historical Education

July 3rd, 2019

If you’ve visited the Historic Village in the last two months, you’ve probably noticed the fencing and new beds around the Hibbs House. It’s the makings of Washington Crossing Historic Park’s third—and, when it’s done, most robust—historically accurate garden. “The Hibbs House garden will offer lots of new educational opportunities centered on the role of kitchen gardens during the late 18th century,” says Jennifer Martin, Executive Director of the Friends of Washington Crossing Park. “We’re envisioning lectures, scout programs, hands-on history classes, and field trips. It’s also going to enhance the experience for visitors who would prefer to tour the Read More

Garden Goody Sale

October 2nd, 2017

Fall is here once again, and while the garden slowly fades, new thoughts stir of spring—and spring plantings. During Autumn Market & Encampment on October 14, 2017, we will be presenting our first ever seed and spice sale with all proceeds to benefit Washington Crossing Historic Park’s garden programs. All of our seeds, teas, and spices are proudly non-GMO and organic. Supplies are limited and these items will be sold ONLY on Saturday, October 14. Seeds to be showcased include our gorgeous Flanders poppies, my all-summer blooming calendula, the rare and ancient blue-podded capucinjer peas, catnip, and some other special finds. We will Read More

Rooted in History: Corn Poppy

May 26th, 2017

Currently, the park garden is blooming with poppies. These glorious red corn poppies, sometimes known as Flanders poppies, have held renown for quite sometime. As medicine they have been used as a mild sedative, and they are the culinary poppy seeds commonly used in baking. The petals can also be used as dye. However, we may know them better now as the symbol for Memorial Day as they were the flowers that sprang from the disturbed battlefields of Europe during World War I. Certainly a touching reminder of the burial sites of many an unknown and unrecovered soldier. This Memorial Read More

Rooted in History: Spring’s Messenger

April 6th, 2017

Welcome back to Rooted in History! Spring is all about new beginnings, so let’s begin. This is always an exciting and busy time of the year for gardeners. My first focus of the year is the Hibbs garden. The work began by raising the bricks around the beds so that the pathway stones will not bleed into the new and rich soil. Then a nice new layer of organic (always organic) soil is laid on weed-free and well turned earth. All of this is preparation for the new seedlings, which went in yesterday. Most of what you see when visiting Read More

Rooted in History: St. John’s Wort

September 16th, 2016

St. John’s Wort is a plant richly steeped in lore and practical medicine. Even the etymology of its name is full of tradition and celestial serendipity. Called the Wort of St. John, likely because of its blooming on the Summer Solstice corresponds with the Feast of St. John the Baptist on June 24, this plant’s strong association with the sun is apparent. Petite yellow petals splayed from the center and a halo-like spray of stamens are rich with solar and heavenly symbolism. I adore its soft blue-green shading, and it will stain your fingers red when you bruise the leaves of a Read More