The summer gives me an opportunity to visit gardens which is always fun for me.
On a recent afternoon I drove north of Boston to Ipswich, Mass. to the kitchen garden at the Whipple House, built in 1677. History weaves through many of the towns on the north shore.
When I arrived, the gardener Judith Hallberg gave me a tour of the areas around the house. The raised beds of the kitchen garden, designed by garden historian Isadore Smith (AKA Ann Leighton) and landscape architect Arthur Shurcliff, caught my eye immediately.
In the early 1960s Smith and Shurcliff set out to recreate what would have been a typical wife’s kitchen garden of the seventeenth century. They designed a garden with mostly herbs since the wife was responsible for both the food and the medical needs of the family.
In the eighteenth century there was not much time for a pleasure garden of decorative flowers so the plant choices of the kitchen garden were based on the cooking and health needs of the family. That was clear from the plant varieties I saw in the garden.
The English style of a fenced-in kitchen garden with raised beds lined up in a symmetry is also the style at the restored gardens of Colonial Williamsburg. There is a link between the Whipple House and the Williamsburg garden restoration. In the 1930s Boston landscape architect Shurcliff, who previously had worked with American landscape pioneer Frederick Law Olmsted, recreated the garden of the Governor’s Palace at Williamsburg.
According to landscape architect and garden writer Rudi Favretti, the Whipple garden style, centered on the practical needs for plants, continued as the predominant form of gardening well into mid nineteenth century America.
The Whipple House illustrates the early influence of English garden design on American gardening.