I pledge allegiance to the Flag of the United States of America, and to the Republic for which it stands, one Nation under God, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all.
Gardens of early America were managed according to the idea that all plants grown in a garden should be useful in some way: whether for “meate” (to eat – e.g., sallet herbs and roots, pot herbs) or for “physick” (to heal or provide other household assistance – e.g., strewing herbs, medicinal plants).
Early American settlers relied heavily on botanicals for various practical uses, including food, medicine and hygiene. These useful botanicals were either grown in kitchen gardens or gathered from the wilderness, and many of these plants served multiple purposes.
The settlers brought seeds and cuttings of their favorite plants with them to the New World, and discovered many new and unfamiliar plants once they arrived. Native American indians were especially helpful in teaching the settlers about useful botanical resources in their new surroundings. A number of these useful native plants eventually found their way into cultivated gardens.
Known as “kitchen gardens”, they were typically tended by the lady of the house. The gardens found in rural areas were much less formal than those found in cities and towns; however, they were all arranged in an orderly manner. Every garden would have a border or fence around the perimeter, dedicated plots inside for various types of plants, and paths for walking among them.
Kitchen gardens contained a wide variety of vegetables, herbs, and flowers and many of them served multiple purposes.
Physick herbs of early America were used medicinally for healing various ailments, and commonly used as ingredients for tinctures and teas. The following list comes from famous botanist Leonard Meager. While not all of the botanicals listed here are advisable for healing uses nowadays, it is interesting to note that many of today’s synthetically produced pharmaceuticals are based on extracts or derivatives found in nature.
- Bears-foot (Setterwort)
- Fetherfew (Feverfew)
- Goats Rue
- Garlick (Garlic)
- Harts tongue
- Horse radish
- Lavender Cotton (Santolina)
- Pelletary of the Wall
- Pionies (Peony)
- Solomon’s Seal
- Greek Valerian
- Great Valerian (or Setwell)
- Winter Cherries
- Wormwood (both English and Roman)
Any plant that has historically demonstrated beneficial effects on life may be considered an “heirloom botanical,” worthy of being preserved and passed on to future generations.
These particularly useful plants, especially aromatic herbs and flowers, have been prominently featured in important life situations throughout history… helping to celebrate special events, recognize accomplishments, treat ailments, console the grieving, and of course, express love and affection.
Over time, many of these wonderfully beneficial plants have been marginalized, forgotten and gradually replaced with modern, artificial alternative solutions. We are now realizing that many of these man-made replacements are negatively affecting our health and spirit.
If you are re-evaluating your way of life, trying to regain a sense of well-being and looking to strengthen your relationship with nature, it is the perfect time to rediscover these amazing gifts. Heirloom botanicals are treasures that are inherently practical and easy to use.
Colonial Botanicals shows you how to invite heirloom botanicals into your life with small, simple steps. Browse around, share your thoughts and let’s get started improving your life.