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Searching for Flowers and Herbs of Early America

I once spent an entire day at Colonial Williamsburg in Virginia and I loved it.

The various houses, along with their gardens, especially the Governor’s Palace, made the visit a journey into American garden history.

Lawrence D. Griffith in his book Flowers and Herbs of Early America sets out to discover the plants of the early decades of America’s colonial and Federal garden by looking at the early plants at Williamsburg.

He documents fifty-eight species of flowers and herbs and explores how they were cultivated and used.

The book is filled with plants, and tells the story of how each found a home in a Williamsburg garden.

Griffith is curator of plants at Colonial Williamsburg, so he knows the plants well.

He set out to create a list of early flowers and herbs at Williamsburg.

He even read the works of Dioscorides.

Dioscorides was the eminent first-century Greek physician and surgeon who served in the Roman army.

Griffith writes, “For almost fifteen hundred years, Dioscorides was regarded as the ultimate authority on plants and medicine.”

He searched also in early English plant directories, of which there are several.

Building a Garden

Griffith’s goal was to create a garden of early plants at Williamsburg.

After research of the plants he would use, he tracked down seeds for them.

He prepared the soil, planted the seeds, and watched how they grew.

The book is his journey of discovering and growing those early Williamsburg plants.

He lists flowers first and then the second half of the book he devotes to herbs.

I thoroughly enjoyed the historical background of the plants. At the same time I was surpised to see that many of them are still popular in gardens today.

Griffith not only provides a history of each plant, but also recommends the best method in encouraging their growth in your own garden.

Who could ask for anything more?

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