The Northern Neck Master Gardeners are assisting with on-going maintenance of the historical vegetable garden at Stratford Hall. The work is part of Northern Neck Master Gardeners’ ongoing efforts to support historical gardens on the Northern Neck including gardens at the George Washington Birthplace National Monument and Historic Christ Church and Museum.
Located in Westmoreland County, Stratford Hall is a National Historic Landmark that sits on nearly 2,000 acres along the Potomac River. It was home to four generations of the Lee family and birthplace of General Robert E. Lee. Today it is a showcase of 18th century plantation life and features interpretative displays of the social and cultural life of colonial times.
In 2018, after three years of archaeological investigation and research by Stratford Hall and The Garden Club of Virginia, a mid-18th century plantation garden was added to the upper tier of the East Garden. The garden features ornamental flowering plants, evergreen hedges, vegetables, and espalier-trained fruit trees.
Although a gardener was hired to develop and tend this addition of plantation life, it was a significant undertaking. Extension Master Gardener Diane Smith, who was already volunteering in the research library at Stratford Hall, offered to help with the garden. Soon a group of Northern Neck Master Gardeners living in the area joined in the effort. The group rapidly became involved in the ongoing demands of maintaining the garden including working the soil, pruning, weeding, and attempting to keep the groundhogs at bay.
For the Northern Neck Master Gardeners, most volunteer activities and programs have traditionally been located in Northumberland and Lancaster counties. “Those of us who live in Westmoreland and Richmond counties welcome any additional projects closer to home such as the Stratford Hall vegetable garden,” said Diane Smith, who spearheaded the NNMG involvement.
“We can spend more time working and less time driving! Unfortunately, COVID-19 prevented us from working a good part of this year,” Smith continued. “We are looking forward to returning to the Stratford Hall garden as soon as possible.”
The ornamental plants in the garden are types that were commonly available at the end of the 18th century. The vegetables are mostly chosen from Richard Henry Lee’s memorandum of the same time period. According to the Stratford Hall website, the East Garden is now “…one of the most visually stunning and accurate displays of 18th century landscape in the country. The East Garden showcases juxtaposed authentic 18th century and colonial revival garden designs.”
For more information on Stratford Hall, visit their website at www.stratfordhall.org.