A Colonial Garden

During an enjoyable trip last week to Historic Colonial Williamsburg in Virginia, one highlight was visiting the Colonial Garden on Duke of Gloucester Street.

There we had a chance to speak with the garden’s founder, Wesley Greene, who has recently authored the book, Vegetable Gardening the Colonial Williamsburg Way: 18th-Century Methods for Today’s Organic Gardeners. 

Dressed in eighteenth-century garb, Greene was quite friendly and generous in sharing his time and knowledge.

The garden, which I have seen many times, seemed especially compelling this time. Researched and planted to accurately represent the colonists’s choice of vegetables and growing methods, this productive garden was irresistible in its beauty.

Pomegranate trees orange with flower and fruit were first to catch my attention.


Woven supports for the vegetables were artistic as well as practical and that notion of craftsmanship carried throughout the garden.

There were lovely Cleomes, back in the garden for the first time in many years, according to Greene, now that archaeological evidence in another Virginia garden has confirmed it was planted during the timeframe covered by Colonial Williamsburg.

Nearby was the exotic-looking cardoon. Cardoon, it was explained by one of the garden’s helpful Colonial interpreters, is an ancestor of the modern artichoke. The leaves of the cardoon plant would be stripped away, leaving the stalk to be eaten somewhat in the manner of celery today.

The combination of vegetables, herbs, flowers and history made the Colonial Williamsburg garden an inspirational garden to explore.

Note: View each of the galleries in this article at a larger format by clicking on one of the images within a set.

14 thoughts on “A Colonial Garden

    1. pbmgarden Post author

      I agree. The supports were beautifully constructed. The cleomes in that garden were very healthy–I was glad they were able to be documented as belonging to that historic period.

  1. Christina

    Looks like a great place to visit. Cardoons are still eaten here in Italy. The stems are tied up to blanch the stems and then stripped back. I have to admit, they aren’t my favourite vegetable, they always seem tough. Strangley in dialect here in Viterbo the name is ‘Gobbo’ which means hunchback?????????? Christina

    1. pbmgarden Post author

      That’s interesting about the preparing the Cardoon to eat Christina. The flowers were very attractive, but the plant was rather large for my little garden. The Williamsburg garden also had 8-foot tall leeks that were lovely, the seeds for which are purchased in The Netherlands.

  2. fredgonsowskigardenhome

    Hi there pbmgarden, I remember, way back in the day, when my Mother and Father brought my sister and I to Colonial Williamsburg. I had never seeing a place or gardens like that here in up state New York. It was Magical to me. My parents also brought up to Mount Vernon at that time. After that vacation as a kid, I thought when I grew up I was going to have one of those gardens. And you know what, I do have my own version of an estate garden here at Whimsey Hill House and even some topiary. It is funny how / what a kid sees, can effect / inspire something in adult hood.

    1. pbmgarden Post author

      I really like your garden and it’s great your early experience with gardens at Williamsburg and Mount Vernon influenced you so profoundly. I’m so glad your parents took you on that trip! Thanks for stopping by.


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