Though some days it may seem that Spring has forgotten to come, the plants are indeed blooming here at Ker Place! Thanks to the Garden Club of Virginia, the back pathways are now lined with Hypericum, which will bloom later this season. Hypericum, also referred to as St. John’s Wort, is a plant that would have been common to use to line pathways back when John Shepperd Ker and his wife, Agnes, built Ker Place in 1799.
We are excited to restore our garden paths to how they may have looked when John and Agnes owned the house. The restoration of a historic property’s landscape may be overlooked due to the restoration of the house itself, but it is no less important to the interpretation of a historic home. Instead of the imported and exotic flowers, shrubs and trees that are common in today’s gardens, 18th century gardeners and landscapers would have relied on what was local to the area to create magnificent gardens.
We are also grateful to the Master Gardeners of the Eastern Shore for the planting and maintenance of our Kitchen and Herb Garden, which is open to the community. Educating visitors on the historic and modern uses for many herbs, the garden is a wonderful addition to the interpretation of Ker Place. When the Ker Family lived here, it is likely they would have had a similar garden in their yard, providing easy and immediate access to medicinal herbs such as fever few, Star of Bethlehem, and yarrow. Culinary herbs such as rosemary, thyme, and sage would have also been a common site in 18th century gardens, which were planted for household use as well as beauty.
On a much grander scale, a new exhibit at Washington’s Mount Vernon showcases this idea of use and beauty, which George Washington called his “Republican Stile of Living”. The exhibit, Gardens and Groves: George Washington’s Landscape at Mount Vernon is the first museum exhibition to focus specifically on Washington’s landmark achievements as a landscape designer combining rarely-seen original documents, artworks, and books with period garden tools, gorgeous landscape photography and a stunning scale model of the Mount Vernon estate. The exhibit also tells the stories of the men and women both hired and enslaved who created and maintained George Washington’s gardens.
Have you had the chance to see Mount Vernon’s gardens this year? If not (or even if you already have!) the Eastern Shore of VA Historical Society invites you to join us as we explore Mount Vernon this May. The Staff at Ker Place has organized a day’s worth of activities, including a VIP tour of Mount Vernon and the Gardens & Groves Exhibit. We will also enjoy lunch at The Mount Vernon Inn Restaurant. For the full itinerary and ticket information for the May 10th Bus Tour, please visit our Facebook Page: Mount Vernon Bus Tour
We also invite you to purchase your tickets to the Eastern Shore Garden tour here at Ker Place. The Garden Tour held on April 30th invites visitors to venture through the gardens and interiors of several historic Eastern Shore homes.