Connecting History and Your Garden with Colonial Inspiration

When it comes to creating a colonial garden, it can be a little bit tricky as there are a wide range of styles and designs that make up colonial gardens. Colonial gardens ranged from the first settlement until the mid-19th century, incorporating many different cultural and ethnic designs as well as patterns, and regional variations. For example, the Spanish colonial garden will look completely different from the New England colonial garden. Furthermore, the colonial style should not be confused by the colonial revival style of the 20th century. This is a romanticized version of our early history.

Even with the differences in regional colonial gardens, there are many features that are standard across all gardens. The key to creating the garden is to take small space with clear edges. In colonial times these garden seemed much cluttered, because they often included the beautiful flowers mixed in with the practical needs. The gardens were completely organic, having little structure, and being located anywhere from around a mailbox to lining a livestock yard. These gardens did not contain symmetry, but were practical in layout, as there was often not time, plant availability or money for the ornate. The original colonial gardens inspired garden of today, as they changed over time.

In the country, where space was more readily available, there was more room for gardens. The problem was there was not time for the beautiful, the farms and livestock needed tended to, so the gardens were more for practical purposes. In the village, the colonial gardens were useful for denoting property lines, acting as borders. The areas of the garden coordinated with the areas of the house.  You can easily create a similar set up in your very own garden by using large, window box shaped planters to create borders if you do not already have plants and trees creating a natural border. You could also add a brick patio to an outdoor area that would easily give a large backyard the definition similar to that of colonial gardens. The land outside the kitchen was reserved for the kitchen garden, and growing food needs. The area outside the parlor was planted in prettier flowers to create a nice view. The well manicured gardens we think of today, were simply not the case, and time and energy did not allow for it.

When it comes to creating a modern colonial garden, it really depends on your set up. It is more difficult to create this type of garden in a small urban plot where the yard is in the front. A country setting can pose the challenge of restoring the definition of the intimate spaces. Depending on the space available to work with, divide the plot into small squares that are separated by grassy walkways. Each square should be planted with vegetable, herbs, and flowers mingle together. Trees should be kept to the rear of the garden property.

Some planting options include delphinium, heliotrope, phlox, columbine, and foxglove. Herbs and spices should also be used in the colonial garden, as well as vegetables, which are suited best planted in plots near the kitchen. Colonial garden can have decorative features like a garden bench or a sundial as well.

Colonial gardens are a beautiful way to connect to our history while creating a decorative and practical garden for your home. Enjoy the whole process, from designing your perfect layout, to planting and cultivating, to harvesting you crops!
By: Susan Soler of the Team