History and Development of the Perennial Garden
by Margie Brown
In 1967 the newly formed Four Seasons Garden Club was looking for a civic project. At the same time the Orleans County Historical Society was looking for an organization to plan and implement a period garden at their museum complex in Brownington. We got together with a representative of the museum and then started to work on our project.
Our goal was to establish an early 19th century display garden that would be in keeping with the rural area and time when the Old Stone House (1836) and the Cyrus Eaton House (1834) were built. We wanted to give the public an idea of what horticultural endeavors of that period were like. The garden was to be of appropriate size and design and consist of herbs and perennial flowers grown in the 1800’s.In January of 1980 we established our committee and set about researching. We read many books , had Mrs. Pat Otto as a guest speaker on period gardens at a club meeting, visited other period garden , researched local land records, newspapers and other publications of the time. We also talked to local historians about our project.
In March of 1980 two members of our club along with the president of the Historical Society went on the WIKE Radio program “Open Line” to inform the public of our project and to see if anyone had any information that may be helpful to us. After all our extensive research we came up with a garden plan. The garden is 25’ x 50’ with a central grass path and two “U” shaped beds on each side of the path. There is a rectangular bed within each “U” with secondary grass path around the inner beds. The beds are raised about 6 inches using untreated cedar logs. Since the garden is in what used to be a hay fields behind the Cyrus Eaton House, much ground preparation was necessary.
During the summer of 1980 the plot was roto-tilled, top soil brought in and black plastic was left on the entire plot until the following spring to help kill weeds. Then in April of 1981 the plastic was removed and the soil dried. In May we removed stones, spread fertilizer and peat moss and roto-tilled the plot. We also laid the cedar logs for the raised beds by notching and overlapping them. We planted the grass paths too. In June we spread manure in the beds along with several inches of cedar chips. We planted annuals and a few perennials in the beds. Around the outside edge of the entire plot we planted 66 Dwarf Barberry shrubs. After maintaining the garden all summer we mulched again with cedar chips around the shrubs and in the beds.
In the spring of 1982 we pruned the shrubs and then planted the herbs and flowers we wanted there on a permanent basis. Many of them had been grown from seeds for us by the Horticultural Department of our High School. Also, many donations were received from the general public.
Of course all of this cost a considerable amount of money. A lot of fund raising was done, including food sales, selling crab trees and stationary, holding a raffle, an auction and a few speaking engagements to local organizations.
The Four Seasons Garden Club continues to maintain and improve the garden each year.