Saturday, December 24, 2011


Wishing all a Joyous Holiday Season
a happy , healthy and peaceful New Year.

Thursday, December 15, 2011

December in the Gardens of Strawbery Banke, Portsmouth, NH

This is the Sherburne Garden at Strawbery Banke Museum. It is the oldest garden here and dates to 1695. It remains on it's original site framed by a Colonial house, a board fence and Roxbury Russett heritage apple trees. These raised beds supplied not only food but medicinal herbs for the family.

"Let your food be your medicine, and your medicine your food."

A quote by Hippocrates from text at the museum.

Continuing our garden walk......

Up the path, inside a fenced yard of this 18th Century house is this wonderful pergola. This is my favorite garden structure here at Strawbery Bank. If I could duplicate one for our garden this would be it.
Portsmouth was as important trade port in the 18th Century, so new plants, from China for example, were introduced into gardens .

James and I were both interested that Strawbery Banke Museum has an Heirloom Seed project. It made sense since their mission here is to preserve not only buildings that span four centuries but also the gardens. We are certainly interested in learning more about this and the program Historic Foodways.

Follow a path towards a multi-tiered fountain, through an arch formed by the cedar and find yourself in the formal Victorian garden, circa 1862. I love walking under the cedar arch, it sets the stage for a romantic Victorian garden.

Paths lead to this garden building with decorative painted iron chairs. Here in the Victorian garden things taken on a more formal appearance, and the use of annual bedding plants for color and pattern.

A rose post adorns the corner of the Victorian garden. We first saw a rose post in the gardens here several years ago, when we were fortunate to have a private tour of the grounds and gardens. Our guide was John Forti, The Curator of Historic Gardens & Landscape at the Strawbery Banke Museum. It was a memorable tour that we often recall. Back then there was a small garden shop on the grounds where we bought a number of herbs including sweet cicely and bronze fennel that remain in our garden.

Here we are in the restored 20th Century Colonial Revival garden. There is so much going on here with plants and structures. Come along as we wander through .....

In this Colonial Revival garden the use of textural paths of stone and brick lead to an interesting pergola that connects the garden to the house. I have never seen a garden structure quite like this. I can imagine dining under the shade of the pergolas canopy in the warm months. It is impressive.

This garden will be glorious in the spring and summer, but this time of year the structure is the star.

The urn sits proudly on top or the trellis like structure. This garden has a good sense of scale.

The Herb Garden
This garden has been planted as a teaching garden. The bench adds an interesting focal point against the dark greenery of boxwood. The pea stone gravel paths are like what we have in our own gardens, I love the feel under foot and the sound of footsteps walking through the garden.

One of the reasons we are visiting the gardens here today is that we are considering changes to our garden. Our plan is to revise and edit our rose garden. Certain rose will remain others moved. Moving roses is a task and not always successful, but we must be courageous and move ahead! In their place herbs will be planted. So we came here today to see and fill our heads with the herb gardens.

A detail of the Herb Garden. It looks very pleased to share the names of all the plants.

Here we are at the Victory Garden reading the helpful text. Many American households relied on their backyard Victory Gardens to help provide food for their tables due to food rationing during World War II. We learned of a tomato that was new and planted in many of these backyard gardens called "Mortgage Lifter" a name appropriate to those difficult times. We have
since planted a couple Mortgage Lifters in our garden each summer.

The Victory Garden

The stakes remain where summer tomatoes grew. Next summer,with the cooperation of nature and human hands tilling, renewing and enriching the soil,they will once again be heavy with ripe tomatoes. Canning fruits and vegetables became more common in the American kitchen in efforts to let the garden feed the family.

In another garden, summer finds cabbages, garlic and foods that represent the cultures of the immigrants that came to America and to this area of the seacoast.

The shadows grow longer as the afternoon passes. On our way out of Strawbery Banke we stop for a few moments, we each make note of this garden entrance. How inviting it must be on a warm summer day to rest on the benches beneath a cover of shady green. This is the entrance to the Heritage Orchard, where heirloom apples are being grown.
I think we will return next summer to see what this all looks like then, and return home to our garden with a few ideas.
May I suggest taking along a sketchbook or notebook on your visit.

For information on the historic gardens click on: Strawbery Bank Gardens

The museum offers programs on traditional recipes cooking including hearth cooking, as well as use and preservation of heirloom produce. For information on these interesting demonstrations and programs, click on:

Wednesday, December 7, 2011


The Strawbery Banke website opens with,
"Strawbery Banke is about connecting with the past."

This is a living museum. It is our opportunity to have a glimpse of life in this seacoast village from the late 17th century to the mid-2oth Century.
Dirt roads and paths lead past ordinary houses , fancy homes, a store, sheds, artisan shops and gardens. The oldest of the 42 buildings dates from the Colonial times circa 1695. The most recent building here takes us up to World War II, with a Victory Garden behind it.

With Four Centuries collected here, we find many of the buildings have been preserved and several are in the process of restoration. These buildings are here thanks to citizens that understood the importance of historic preservation.
The restoration continues. There is a program called
The Heritage House Program,
it's goal is to restore and preserve ten additional properties on the site.

We visit on a warm and clear December afternoon. The sun is low in the sky creating long shadows and of course there will be an early sunset. But the day is beautiful and it is quiet here. We are happily lost in time.
Along this street some of the buildings have been restored others stand waiting their turn to be brought back to what they once were.

A window draws attention to itself against the plain wooden boards. One of the oldest buildings on the grounds, this house has spectacular form and the diamond window panes are a lovely detail.

On the other hand, down another street we climb into the time machine and travel ahead a few hundred years. A feeling of nostalgia seeps in when approaching this building, a restored general store.....from an era not all that long ago.

A restored home is seen in the distance with a dory here in the foreground, put up for winter. Portsmouth has been an important seaport since the 1600's, so boats, both large and small have played an important role here. Boat building, trade and fishing are central to this seacoast community.
This area where Strawbery Banke was once an immigrant community known as Puddle Dock.

This fence is just a glimpse of some of the details and structure of the gardens that can be seen on a visit here. But more on that soon. Here we look through the fence to the surrounding neighborhood that is Strawbery Banke.

There are some interesting gardens to explore at Strawbery Banke. Behind this fence is one of those gardens that we will enter in an upcoming story!

As we exit the grounds we follow along the edge created by this unique white washed fence. This December evening is the annual Holiday Candlelight Stroll, a very festive occasion celebrating the season and this special historic place in the heart of Portsmouth.

Strawbery Banke

Strawbery Banke Candlelight Stroll
Sat. & Sun. Dec. 10& 11
Sat. & Sun. Dec. 17 & 18
For further information and tickets for this season's Candlelight Stroll click on:

Gundalow Company
Puddledock Boatyard