The Carlisle Mosquito Online

Friday, April 23, 2004


Horticulturalist discusses garden restoration

Priscilla Hutt Williams said that plant availability can limit precise garden restoration. If a plant is extinct, a gardener must decide whether to eliminate it or substitute a similar modern-day variety. (Photo by Anne Marie Brako)

Priscilla Hutt Williams shared her expertise on restoring colonial gardens with Carlisle residents on Monday, April 12. The horticultural export spoke to about 40 attendees of the lecture, funded jointly by the Carlisle Garden Club and Carlisle Historical Society.

Williams shared photographs and recollections from her work at the Reed Homestead, the 1809 headquarters of the Townsend Historical Society in central Massachusetts. After reviewing the property's history, she discussed the issues with the site gardens. These problems, common to many public and private gardens on older properties, included:

•inappropriate plantings,
•overgrown shrubbery,
•high lead content in soil, and
•shading from large trees.

"How do you know what are the appropriate plants?" Williams asked, "Well, you have to do some research. A lot of is a detective game. It's fun; it's trial and error." She recommends looking at old photographs, diaries, letters, and reminiscing with older town residents.

After considering the history of a property, a gardener must decide what time period to reconstruct. It may not be the oldest period or most documented, but the one the gardener feels most appropriate, attractive, and functional today. For example, the availability and cost of items in the current plant market affect the decision. With the Townsend property, Williams elected to restore in the style of 1890s Colonial Restoration gardens. She had an old seed list from the site to use as a guide.

Today Williams operates Pumpkin Brook Organic Gardening, Inc., in Townsend. She provides organic-based gardening services to her clients. She has done garden restoration work for SPNEA (Society for the Preservation of New England Antiquities), specifically at the Barrett House in New Ipswich, New Hampshire.

Williams invited Carlisleans to attend a plant sale at the Townsend Historical Society on May 29, 9am-4pm. The event will benefit the society which will offer house tours on that day. The home features a bedroom decorated with murals attributed to Rufus Power, artist, inventor, and founder of The Scientific American Magazine.

2004 The Carlisle Mosquito