The Foreman’s Cottage garden is currently planted as a medicinal herb garden and showcases several other useful herbs and plants. Gardens during the late 1700s and early 1800s tend to be square and rectangular. They were enclosed by a hedge row or fence to keep animals out. Gardens tended to be a mix of ornamental, herbal and medicinal plants. Here are some of the plants in the Foreman’s Cottage:
This tall plant produces a cluster of bright magenta flowers in the summer that are beloved by butterflies and hummingbirds. The plant was used by Native Americans to treat various lesions and infections because of its antiseptic qualities. However, these properties are be agitated by the sun causing rashes. Tasting somewhat like mint and oregano, this plant was often used to season birds.
Historically, large boxwoods were planted near the doorway of homes. Wet clothes or linen could be draped upon the plant to dry in the sun. The leaves were also used as packing material to protect dishes and pots from breaking during journeys.
Traditionally comfrey was used for medicinal purposes. Today we know that the plant is a carcinogen and should not be ingested. However, the plant is great to have in gardens because it adds nitrogen to the soil and helps to fertilize the garden.
The velvety soft leaves were used to clean wounds. The leaves would absorb the blood or could be used to wrap around the injury. The chemical properties of the leaves help relieve the pain of the injury. The leaves can also be turned into a poultice, or paste, and used to cover a wound.
Lily of the Valley
Lily of the Valley is the national flower of France. Since James P. Allaire, the owner of Howell Works, was of French descent this plant in included in many of the gardens as an intellectual nod to this heritage. In France on May Day, May 1st, Lily of the Valley can be sold without paying taxes on the sales. These bell-like flowers can be seen in abundance that day. The plant was also used for heart medicine.
Lemon Balm is a plant that is easily identified by its strong lemon sent. The leaves appear in pairs and are serrated. The leaves can be brewed into a tea that produces a calming effect. Present day researchers are discovering that remedies that produce calming effects are helpful in treating Alzheimer’s disease.
These tall green plants produce delicate white and purple flowers come the summer. Phlox is a plant native to North America.
This short plant produces a long flowering stalk that sends out pungently perfumed flowers. The root can be used in various dishes and is said to supply the person who eats it with a calming effect.
Violets are rather easily identified by their heart shaped leaves and purple flowers. The flowers are edible and are often included in salads. The leaves can be brewed into a tea that helps with stomach trouble. Violet flowers were also candied and were a popular sweet treat for centuries.
There are two varieties of yarrow in the Foreman’s Cottage garden. The white variety is native and can often be seen growing along road sides. The yellow variety in variety that was later introduced to America from overseas. Medicinally yarrow has been used to help with ear infections and pregnancy symptoms.