Wednesday, April 22, is Earth Day - the perfect day to start your own herb garden. These medicinal, savory and aromatic plants are easy to grow in containers on your terrace, deck or porch even if you don’t have a garden. We are lucky to have so many local garden centers that can supply them like Fowler’s, The Halsey Farm and The Green Thumb. You can find almost any herb seedling you’d like to get you started.
The Halsey House and Herb Garden in bloom - photo by Jeff Heatley
The Thomas Halsey Homestead, located at 249 S. Main St. and managed by the Southampton History Museum, has NYS’s oldest English style wood frame house and an herb garden designed by Marge Sullivan and Tish Rehill. Just a few herbs are beginning to peak through the soil this Earth Day, but by June 1st it will blossom into a spectacular garden.
The Halsey Garden in April 2020
A traditional dooryard garden, facing south, would likely have been planted here following gardening traditions brought by the English settlers, with raised rectilinear beds. A household garden in the 1680s would not have been devoted to just herbs, but would have included vegetables, such as radishes, carrots, beets, parsnips, corn, beans, squash and lettuces. The garden would have been enclosed with fencing and, if not in the garden, there probably would be a few fruit trees nearby.
We don’t have a record of what was actually grown in the kitchen garden at the Halsey House in 1680, but we can guess.
The herbs might have included parsley, thyme, sage, dill, rosemary, sorrel, spearmint, lemon verbena and coriander. If there were any flowers, they might have been marigolds, poppies, mallow and hollyhocks.
Guests making sachets out of herbs collected from the Herb Garden
with Museum Manager Laurie Collins
The current interpretation of the Halsey House Herb garden is made up of four parterres. Each having its own identity: Medicinal, American Native, Kitchen and Housekeeping.
The Medicinal parterre includes Clove, Egyptian Onion, Germander, Lady’s Mantle, Wormwood, Horseradish, Lambs’ Ears and Sage. The Housekeeping herbs include Lemon Verbena, Marigold, Rue, Soapwort, Sweet Cicely, Rosemary, Lavender, Flax, Basil, Marjoram and Rosemary. The kitchen quadrant has Dill, Chive, Sage, Parsley, Spearmint, Fennel, Thyme, Sorrel, Tarragon and Oregano. The American Native section includes Milkweed, Joe Pye Weed, Sarsaparilla, Soloman’s Seal, Wintergreen, Bee Balm, Blood Root, Echinacea, Sassafras, Spider Lily and Tobacco.
Excerpts from "In and Out of the Garden" by Sara Midda