A Statement of Purpose

Since 2012 I have been responsible for
the garden at the Pry House Field Hospital Museum on Antietam National Battlefield. The Pry House garden began as a 19th century style medicinal and kitchen garden, including medicinal plants, herbs, and vegetables. As close as possible, these plants mirrored those available to the Pry Family in the 1860s, meaning heirloom varieties. Since then, the garden has transformed to focus exclusively on medicinal plants, becoming an exhibit of the flora that was employed by military and civilian caregivers in the Civil War Era.

I am strictly an amateur, with no real experience in growing a garden. The purpose of this blog is to document my experiences as I learn by doing. It is anything but authoritative and I welcome any comments and advice for a greenhorn. Please be kind!

Thursday, June 7, 2012

Limited Prosperity

It has been inexcusably long since this blog has been updated, but hopefully I can begin to make amends for that. I have been very busy with the garden over the past few weeks, and have had plenty of great help from our two new interns at the Pry House, Mike Wilburn and Caroline Schoonover.

Caroline, our expert weeder, in her anti-gnat hat

A few weeks ago I went to the Landis Valley Herb and Garden Faire in Lancaster, Pa, where I picked up numerous plants to add to the garden, including some that are fairly hard to find. It is quite an experience to see so many vendors selling such a colorful variety of plants, some common and familiar, some bizarre and exotic. I was able to procure numerous native medicinal plants and very happy with my haul. I was only constrained by my finances.

I returned from Lancaster with two dozen unique plants to add to the garden. I have also been finding some great additions locally, from the Washington County Master Gardeners plant sale, and the Middletown farmers market. All of these new additions have been planted in the garden and most are flourishing in their new home.
Unloading new plants with my grandmother

We recently cleared out the remaining areas in the rear of the garden. After a great deal of digging, turning, and transplanting, we now have two varieties of squash, pumpkins, watermelons, and gourds growing in the garden! They are doing very well and seem to have escaped the carnage of cutworms thus far! I started them from seedlings and am proud to see how well they are doing.
Summer Squash (with pokeweed in the background)

Summer Squash


I have been enjoying harvests of radishes, lettuce, claytonia, and various herbs for weeks now. I am hoping that more vegetables will be available soon, like peas and beans. If the flea beetles can be kept at bay, I should eventually have some tasty cabbages to harvest.

Claytonia, or Miner's Lettuce

Claytonia is an almost succulent leafy green. It is native to the west coast of the United States. It's flavor is very mild and it is well-suited to eating in green salads. It is called Miner's Lettuce because during the California Gold Rush many prospectors were purportedly saved from scurvy by eating the plant, which has a  high Vitamin C content.

Unfortunately not everything in the garden has gone perfectly. My tomatoes have all expired and my cucumbers  are just barely hanging on. I believe that these beds were accidentally exposed to herbicides. I will allow these beds to lay fallow for a time and try again to plant in the fall. Encouraging carrots to germinate has also been a challenge.

Most plants are doing very well though, and I am very pleased with my first efforts at gardening. The garden looks great and is fully under cultivation. Come and see some of our unique plants!

Lavender in bloom!