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Seeds for an
18th Century Historically Themed Garden


Planting a garden with a historical period theme is an exciting prospect.  It creates a very real setting for connecting with a time long passed and tasting foods that nourished our ancestors. Period gardening also provides an opportunity of protecting and preserving heirloom seeds.  Click here for a list of locations that maintain period specific gardens.

There are several considerations to take into account when planning an 18th century period garden. Most plants that were grown in home gardens were either family heirlooms (seeds passed down from generation to generation) or varieties that were locally traded within a community.  Additionally, in the case of American gardeners, indigenous people.  The commercial seed trade really did not boom until the 19th century.

Along with planting varieties appropriate for the region you are recreating, you also should remember that the 18th century was 100 years long!  An obvious statement, but the popularity of varieties changed with time.  In researching your garden, look for plants that fit your exact period and location.

That said, locating "exact" varieties may be difficult or impossible.  Agriculture, has drastically changed our potherbs and table vegetables in the past 200 plus years.  Many varieties are extinct or extremely different from their ancestors.  For example, according to a research study published by the Colonial Williamsburg Foundation, "Most, maybe all, 18th century varieties of Brassica (cabbages, kales, broccoli, etc.) have disappeared." 9

This list contains varieties which are appropriate for an 18th century kitchen garden and herbal pharmacy.  They are either actual varieties used in the period or close in characteristics to varieties described in primary source documentation.

This list will be updated as new documentation becomes available and seed stocks are discovered and grown out.  If you have additional materials, either appropriate seed samples or source documentation, please consider making a contribution.

Click the Variety Name for Ordering Information

Vegetables
Artichoke (a.k.a. French Artichokes)4

It has been cultivated since at least the 1500s.  Thomas Jefferson grew them in his gardens and documented them off and on from 1770 until 1825.

Bean, Scarlet Runner4

A native of Mexico.  Grown in Europe and early American gardens.

Bean, Carolina (Sieva) Lima3,4

Thomas Jefferson records using a "White Carolina" bean in his 1794 Garden Book. Similar beans have been excavated from Inca burial sites in South America, there origination point.

Bean, Broad Windsor Fava3

Fava Beans are also known as "Broad Beans" or "English Beans".  They were a common garden fare that lasted in popularity into the 19th century.  Very few of the old named varieties are available today.  'Broad Windsor' is one of the few.

Cardoon4

They were first cultivated as a vegetable by the French and said to have been brought to America in the 1790s by the Quakers.  A relative of the artichoke, the growing characteristics and requirements are similar.

Chard10

Chard has an ancient history as a salad green. Also known as White Beet and Spinach Beet, it was very common in England.  Several American references include Jefferson's garden notes for 1774.

Cucumber, White Wonder6

Listed by Steven Switzer in The Practical Kitchen Gardener (1727). It is likely that the white cucumber varieties were cultivated in the gardens of the gentry.

Lettuce, Parris Island Cos4,10

Thomas Jefferson cultivated numerous varieties of lettuce in the gardens at Monticello. Cos or Romaine was one type.

Pumpkin, Connecticut Field4

Native American staple for the table and for animal fodder.  This variety was grown by Thomas Jefferson for both of these purposes.

Spinach, New Zealand10

Introduced to England in 1772 by Sir Joseph Banks.  Discovered on Captain Cook's expedition to the South Seas.

Medicinal and Culinary Herbs

Basil, Sweet4,5
Ocimum basilicum

A native of Europe and used as a culinary herb, sweet basil was common in America by the late 1700s.

''Koehler's Medicinal-Plants'' 1887Fennel, Florence4,5
Foeniculum vulgare

A southern European native that was cultivated in American gardens by 1800.

Lemon Balm4
Melissa officinalis

Cultivated in Europe as early as the 1500s.  Thomas Jefferson listed Lemon Balm in his 1794 herb list.  It is useful in cooking, herbal teas, and home remedies. A tea made from the leaves is pleasant tasting and has calmative and carminative properties.

''Koehler's Medicinal-Plants'' 1887Parsley, Italian4
Petroselinum crispum

It has been cultivated as a garden and medicinal herb for centuries.  Thomas Jefferson grew it as early as 1774.

Spearmint1,5
Mentha spicata

Native to England (possibly arrived with the Romans). It was growing in William Brewster's Plymouth, Massachusetts garden before 1630 and has been popular in gardens since then.

Click here for tobacco seed.Tobacco
Nicotiana sp.

Although not "politically correct" in modern day America, tobacco is indisputably the single most significant commodity that built our nation's economy.  Long before the current oil-based economy, tobacco reigned supreme.  Every farm grew it for use or trade.

Flowers
Black-eyed Susan1
Rudbeckia hirta

Native to eastern North America.  First sent over to England in 1714.

Note:  At this time it is only being offered in some of our flower seed mixes.

Blanketflower15
Gaillardia aristata

Collected near the Lewis & Clark Pass area of Montana on July 7, 1806.

The blossoms are yellow and red. Flowers from summer into autumn. Thrives in dry soil in full sun.  Grows 18 to 30 inches in height.

Blue Flax16
Linum perenne lewisii

Blue Flax was collected at Sun River, Montana (near Grand Falls) on July 9, 1806.  By 1815 it was in Bernard McMahon's seed catalog and widely cultivated.  Perennial.

Calendula1, 4
Calendula officinalis

Popularized in England from southern Europe in 1573. Used as a pot herb to season soups and stews, it was known as 'Pot Marigold'.  Documented in gardens of New Netherlands (1642), Virginia (1650) and New England (1672).

Columbine1,5
Aquilegia canadensis

Native to central and eastern North America. Plants were sent from Virginia to Charles I in 1640.  Thomas Jefferson documented that he cultivated it.

Coreopsis1
Coreopsis lanceolata

Also called 'Tickseed', it is a native of eastern North America and cultivated since early settlement of the continent.  Sent to England from Carolina in 1724.

Note:  At this time it is only being offered in some of our flower seed mixes.

Cornflower1,4
Centaurea cyanus

Also known as 'Bachelor Buttons' and 'Bluebonnet', Cornflower is native to Europe and found growing wild in grain ("corn") fields, hence the name.  It is said to have arrived in America between 1700 and 1750.

Four-O'clock (Marvel of Peru)1,5,7
Mirabilis jalapa

Native to Mexico, Central America and the West Indies.  Taken to England in 1596.  In 1767, Thomas Jefferson noted, "Mirabilis just opened, very clever."

Foxglove1,2,5
Digitalis purpurea

An English native grown in gardens from the earliest times.  It likely was brought over very early in the history of the colonization of North America.  Specifically mentioned in 1748 by Peter Kalm.

Johnny Jump-ups4
Viola cornuta

An old time favorite. It was established in American gardens before 1700.  Thomas Jefferson wrote that he sowed its seeds at Shadwell on April 1, 1767. The flowers are small and look like miniature pansies.

Rocky Mountain
Bee Plant
13
Cleome serrulata

A North American native, it was collected along the Vermillion River in South Dakota on August 25, 1804.

Sweet William1
 Dianthus barbatus

Native to Southern Europe and one of the oldest garden plants.  It was introduced into England in 1573 and was a familiar plant in colonial gardens.  It was advertised for sale in Boston in 1760, cultivated by Thomas Jefferson, and sold by Minton Collins of Richmond in 1793.

Sweet William Catchfly7
 Silene armeria

This native of central and southern Europe has been cultivated for centuries.

Listed as early as 1804 for American gardeners, it was probably cultivated here much earlier.

Thickspike GayfeatherThickspike Gayfeather14
Liatris pycnostachya

Collected near Chamberlain, South Dakota on September 15, 1804.

The purple flowers bloom during the summer. 24 to 48 inches. Perennial.


17th, 18th, 19th, Century Style Shears / Scissors


Historically Accurate Scissors / Shears
Note: Fur and powder horn are shown for display purposes.

This design of shears has been the same since at least the 17th century. They are constructed of carbon steel, very sharp, and hold an edge well.

A perfect addition to a historical period sewing kit, your haversack, "possibles bag", or hunting pouch.  Great for history buffs, re-enactors and living historians fitting nearly any early American period.  Also useful as bonsai, floral, and sewing snips.

Manufactured by the Hangzhou Zhang Xiaoquan Scissors Factory which was established in 1663.  Should be appropriate for French & Indian War, Colonial, Revolutionary War, Longhunter, Fur Trade / Mountain Man, early American settler periods or reenacting or living history presentation.

 Click here for ordering information


Bibliographic Sources and Links:

  1. Plants of Colonial Days, Raymond L. Taylor, Dover Publications, 1996.
  2. America in 1750: Peter Kalm's Travels in North America, edited by Adolph B. Benson, Wilson Erickson, Inc., 1937.
  3. A Discussion of 18th Century Beans, Wesley Green, Colonial Williamsburg Foundation, 2002.
  4. The Thomas Jefferson Foundation, Inc., www.Monticello.org.
  5. The Colonial Williamsburg Foundation, www.history.org.
  6. A Discussion of 18th Century Melons and Cucumbers, Wesley Green, Colonial Williamsburg Foundation, 2002
  7. Bernard McMahon, Seedsman, A Catalogue of American Seeds, 1804 (Note: This catalog is available for viewing online at reference "8" below.).
  8. The Seedsman Hall of Fame and Historical Agriculture Library - www.Seedmen.org.
  9. A Discussion of 18th Century Brassica, Wesley Green, Colonial Williamsburg Foundation, 2002.
  10. A Discussion of 18th Century Salad Greens, Wesley Green, Colonial Williamsburg Foundation, 2003.
  11. Pioneer American Gardening by Elvenia Slosson, Coward-McCann, Inc., New York, 1951.
  12. Classic Cookbook Reprints
  13. Lewis and Clark as Naturalists, Smithsonian Museum of Natural History.
  14. Lewis and Clark as Naturalists, Smithsonian Museum of Natural History.
  15. Lewis and Clark as Naturalists, Smithsonian Museum of Natural History.
  16. Lewis and Clark as Naturalists, Smithsonian Museum of Natural History.

 

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