From the Colonial Garden
In the spirit of the 1734 to 1746 correspondence between Williamsburg resident John Custis and his "Brother of the Spade" Peter Collinson in London, Colonial Williamsburg garden interpreter Terry Yemm shares news of the Colonial Garden on Duke of Gloucester Street, where gardeners use 18th-century gardening techniques and period tools.
April 12, 1997
Spring is surely upon those of us who toil in the Colonial Garden, thus on a rainy day I write to share with you the Fruits of our labours. While I cannot send you the Flowers, Vegetables or other Products from our cultivation of the Plants, it is my hope to interest you with some of the Knowledge we have gleaned.
I have again had a lesson of the importance not to defer one task in favor of another. Wesley Greene worked mightily through January and dunged the upper vegetable bed in a timely manner. I began the lower bed in March, exhausted our supply of Dung and now must finish the bed with leaf Mold while trying to plant spring seeds. Next year I must complete the spading of the vegetable beds in January and February.
Despite my procrastination we are posssessed of Peas planted from March first, along with Onions begun from bulblets and transplanted Brassicas nurtured under glass. Tender Seedlings of Broad Windsor Beans and Salsify planted on March 17th stretch heavenward. Of course we still impress visitors to our garden by sharing a taste of the Peas and Lettuce planted in the Hotframe at the start of last December. The second hotframe is currently occupied with seedling Melons and Cucumbers growing in Pots or Baskets for transplanting to the garden in a few days.
We are near the middle of the Spring flowers. The Crocuses, Daffodils, and Narcissus have nearly left us for this year, but the Tulips are near their peak. Many of the smaller bulbs still reveal their glory, such as the Spanish Squill, the Anemone and the Grape Hyacinth. The early perennials such as the Cowslip, Candytuft, along with natives such as Green- and-Gold, Spring Beauty, and Foamflower are spreading carpets of color.
The Flower Stall vendors find it easy to interest visitors in their goods when the plants are busy displaying their qualities. A Dogwood, Lilac, or Redbud is worthwhile to buy as a young whip when its more mature brother or sister is grandly draped across the fence. Further, I impress upon you Friend, the flower merchants have expanded their wares this year with many new plants to sell, along with Seeds, dried flowers, and an assortment of garden Utensils.
Wesley and I renewed acquaintance with a family from the Upper Chesapeake this week. They had visited our garden last September and returned to share the culmination of that encounter. While they were here we had given the children a Chrysalis attached to one of the plants. They took it home, kept it warm until the Butterfly emerged, and brought it back to release it in the garden. 'Tis a wonder indeed how such a small act on our part can encourage others to admire Nature.
I hope to be able to inform you of the progress of our oeconomy in the future. Much More I have to say but I will tire you no Longer but only to assure you that I am Your sincere Friend
Terrance Yemm, Gardener