Spring is such a hopeful and beautiful time of year and the Museum Historic Gardens are bursting with flora and fauna.
Warden pears, a 13th century variety, are just coming into blossom and heritage apples will soon follow, giving a magnificent display and providing nectar rich sources of food to bees and other pollinating insects, hopefully followed by a good harvest later in the year. We have seen the return of Orange-tip butterflies; a true sign of spring, feeding on nectar plants and the caterpillars feed on cuckoo flower and garlic mustard.
Carlotta Holt, Museum Head Gardener, and the dedicated volunteer gardening team have been very busy preparing and sowing in the Historic Gardens this spring. Some of the heritage vegetables we have planted and sown are 13th century Martock broad beans, 16th century Carlin peas, 18th century Crimson Flowered broad beans and 19th century Salad Blue and Pink Fir Apple potatoes.
The woodland team have been busy coppicing and they provide material for use in the historic gardens for fencing, supporting and protecting crops; hazel makes excellent sustainable supports for climbing beans and peas.
Herbs played an important role through the centuries and were widely grown. As well as growing them for culinary purposes; they were also reliant on them for a number of other reasons.
Some of the seasonal herbs you will see in the Museum Historic gardens at the moment are:
Alexanders (Smyrnium olustrum)
Folkname: Poor Man’s Celery
Introduced by the Romans. Its leaves, root tops, stems and flower buds all feature in medieval recipes. The dried leaves were taken on long sea voyages to prevent scurvy. A valuable ‘hungry gap’ crop as it is one of the first plants to emerge in the spring.
Sweet Woodruff (Galium odoratum)
Folkname: New Mowed Hay
Traditionally used as strewing herb, bed-stuffing and to perfume linen.
Aromatic, culinary, decorative and medicinal. Flowering stem used in garlands, dried leaves added to pot pourri and herb pillows.
Sweet Cicely (Myrrhis odorata)
Folkname: Wild Myrrh
16th century Herbalist Gerard recommended as a pick-me-up for people who were ‘dull’. Leaf used to sweeten tart fruit to reduce the amount of sugar needed. Whole plant considered to be a ‘wholesome’ tonic.
Woad (Isatis tinctoria)
Has been used as a dyestuff for centuries. Various shades of blue can be obtained. Traditional medicinal use – leaves are antibacterial, antiviral and astringent and were used to staunch bleeding.
Spring is a perfect time to see the Museum’s gardens blossom – have you booked your tickets yet?Book Your Tickets
Our next Historic Life Weekend: May Day
Our next Historic Life Weekend: May Day is on 1 & 2 May
A time to celebrate the resurrection of nature after the winter months. The Historic Gardens will have an abundance of herbs and flowers traditionally associated with May Day. We will be gathering herbs such as Hawthorn (May bush), Meadowsweet (Meadow Queen), Periwinkle (Sorcerer’s Violet) and Sweet Woodruff (May bowl) to make garlands and also focus on herbal folklore and traditions.