asket of heritage vegetables from Museum garden

Keep Calm and Carry on Gardening!

Gardening is well known for being beneficial to our physical and mental well-being. So that seems even more relevant and important than ever during these unprecedented and challenging times.

Spring is a very busy time for gardeners, but also an exciting one… full of promise and optimism, so whether you have a small or large garden, or even a windowsill… let’s all get gardening!

Fortunately we were able to sow and plant quite a lot of produce in the historic gardens before the lock-down, such as heritage varieties of; broad beans, leeks, onions, parsnips, peas, potatoes and shallots. So we still hope to have a good harvest and look forward to demonstrating stringing our onions later in the year! 

We are very fortunate and proud to be supported by a dedicated team of hardworking volunteer gardeners at the Museum, and whilst we are all missing gardening at the Museum, it’s also an opportunity for us all to get ‘stuck in’ in our own gardens! But let’s hope it won’t be too long before we are all gardening again at the Museum, with renewed energy and enthusiasm, and visitors can enjoy exploring our six historic gardens and grounds again soon! I for one can’t wait for the heavily scented Apothecary Roses to bloom in June!

Our six delightful historic gardens at the Museum have been recreated to show the transition of gardens from the early 16th century through to the late 19th century. Each garden represents the period and social status of the house to which it is attached, with each garden containing the herbs, vegetables and plants that would have met the needs of the rural household.

The earliest gardens are purely utilitarian, but as we move through the centuries and social levels some plants begin to be grown for their aesthetic qualities – the first beginnings of decorative planting and display on the public face of the garden.

We grow several heritage varieties of vegetables in the historic gardens, many of which closely resemble the original varieties. Some of the vegetables grown are:

  • Skirrets (a multi-rooted winter vegetable similar in taste to parsnips): introduced to Britain from East Asia in the 15th century, but fell out of fashion in the late 17th century.
  • Broad bean varieties include Martock, thought to date back to the 13th century, Crimson Flowered, dating back to the 18th century, and a Victorian variety called Bunyard’s Exhibition.
  • Carlin peas, which date back to the 16th century.
  • Pink fir Apple potatoes, one of the oldest varieties still in existence.

Written by our wonderful and dedicated Museum Gardener, Carlotta Holt