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Heirloom gardens aren’t new. The concept has been around for years. These are sometimes referred to as folk gardens, a term I first heard over five years ago when I attended a lecture by author Jo Ann Gardner at Cornell University.
According to Gardner, folk gardening is another term for cottage gardens. She said these can be seen in most parts of the western world, including Europe, Britain, and even the Middle East.
Sometimes these gardens are known as “granny’s garden.” Michael Weishan refers to them as traditional gardening in his magazine and his books.
Common Ties and Garden Traditions
Whether we refer to them as heirloom gardens, cottage gardens, or folk gardens, these focus on the old fashioned way of doing things, whether its plant selection or garden design. This also involves ethnic gardens of all sorts from that of the Native Americans to those of American immigrants. Each ethnic group brings its own traditions and repertoire of favorite plants to the gardening palette.
The plants are generally heirloom varieties. Unlike modern hybrids, these
have retained their romantic, old-fashioned charm. And they’re more likely to be fragrant than contemporary varieties.
For some years the heirloom garden approach seemed to fade into obscurity. In those days everything modern became quite desirable. Then, the Seed Savers Exchange and other similar groups began grassroots effort to save these valuable varieties. The heirloom/folk garden is largely a response to urbanization, suburban sprawl, and a loss of tradition.
Heirloom Garden Style
This is a down-home, back-to-basics garden style that’s especially suitable for those living in older homes. It is also suitable for new traditional-style houses that have been erected in new subdivisions.
Such a garden ties the house to the land, and gives us a sense of place. Otherwise the landscape would seem sterile and isolated.
Whether you live in a 1960’s ranch-style home or a saltbox, the tradition of the folk garden has much to offer.
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