A Colonial Herb Garden Grows In Wilton

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Certified master gardeners, from left, Diana Arbshire, Thomas MacGregor and Rosemary Volpe help in the creation of the Colonial Garden for the Wilton Historical Society at is 224 Danbury Road site.
Certified master gardeners, from left, Diana Arbshire, Thomas MacGregor and Rosemary Volpe help in the creation of the Colonial Garden for the Wilton Historical Society at is 224 Danbury Road site. Photo Credit: Frank MacEachern
Herbs that Colonial settlers would have used in the 1740s have been planted at the Wilton Historical Society at 224 Danbury Road.
Herbs that Colonial settlers would have used in the 1740s have been planted at the Wilton Historical Society at 224 Danbury Road. Photo Credit: Frank MacEachern
Leslie Nolan, executive director of the Wilton Historical Society, stands in front of the society's herb garden. It's located at 224 Danbury Road.
Leslie Nolan, executive director of the Wilton Historical Society, stands in front of the society's herb garden. It's located at 224 Danbury Road. Photo Credit: Frank MacEachern

WILTON, Conn. -- In a place that had become overgrown with weeds, a new herb and flower garden such as the ones our Colonial ancestors would have sowed is growing on the grounds of the Wilton Historical Society.

Colonial life was hard and demanding, and Colonists had to be as self sufficient as possible because medical care was almost nonexistent. Therefore, to deal with life's ailments, people turned to the land and what it offered to help them, such as the coneflower, which was used for the relief of colds and the flu, and the yarrow, which was used to stop bleeding.

"They planted these truly to make poultices and medicines and they worked to an extent," Diana Arbshire said. She, along with Thomas MacGregor and Rosemary Volpe, are certified master gardeners through the Fairfield County Agricultural Extension Center and worked to restore the Colonial garden, which was unveiled last week.

Arbshire noted that digitalis is used to make medicine for congestive heart failure. It would have required skill and some luck when Colonists prepared their potions.

"The tricky part for them was to get the home remedies right, in knowing how much of everything to use because too much digitalis can kill you," she said about one medicinal plant.

The three master gardeners were looking for a project to volunteer on and heard that the historical society was planning to revive a herb garden at its 224 Danbury Road site.

Historical society members Carol Russell and Kate Glucken had started the process by cleaning out an area that had become overgrown a few years ago, said communications and membership coordinator Katherine Demo.

They discovered that there had been a garden and work started to rejuvenate it. Two years ago, Volpe, MacGregor and Arbshire volunteered their time and continued that work on the herb and flower garden.

"Many of the plants were already there," MacGregor said. "We threw out what shouldn't be there and kept what should be there and moved them around and weeded them."

The garden helps the Wilton Historical Society's mission and adds an extra layer of awareness on how Colonial people lived, said Leslie Nolan, the society's executive director.

"The society really tells a story of how our ancestors lived and worked here in Wilton and it is just a lovely addition," she said.

The 1740 Colonial Herb Garden is now open to the public, and visitor are welcome. For more information, visit the Wilton Historical Society's website.

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