Surratt House Herb Garden
The herb garden at the Surratt House Museum features many of the herbs which were important to running a household in the Victorian era. The Hilltop Garden Club of Clinton, Maryland started the herb garden when the museum opened in 1975.
Herbs were essential for the myriad tasks that were part of daily life for Mrs. Surratt. She used herbs to flavor the food she prepared for her family and tavern guests, and in medicinal applications. Everything from treating fevers to settling upset tummies to relieving female complaints was treated with herbs. Herbs also were important in keeping the house. They were used for as diverse purposes as cosmetics, dyes, cleaners, insect repellants, air fresheners and sachets.
A typical kitchen garden of the 1850s would include, "Marigolds to keep the bugs away, Coreopsis for dyeing wool, Cone Flowers for colds, Hyssop for sore throats, Peppermint and Chamomile for upset stomachs, Sage to improve memory, Tansy to ward off insects, Lavender for sachets, Parsley for cooking and to ease the pain of bee stings, Basil (used with nutmeg) to help ease childbirth pains, Chives for cooking, Marjoram and Thyme for softening skin, Dill for colicky children, and Lemon Balm for melancholia."†
The herb garden at the Surratt House Museum was originally planted on the site where the kitchen stands now. When the little kitchen wing was reconstructed, the garden was relocated to its current site near the spring house.
When the garden was opened, the Hilltop Garden Club published a booklet called “The Mary Surratt House Victorian Herb and Flower Garden” to commemorate the event.
The herb garden at the Surratt House Museum serves as a living reminder of life in Victorian times. Come for a walk in the garden, learn what grows there, see how herbs were used in Mrs. Surratt's day, and the many ways they continue to enhance our lives today.
†“The Gardens at Living History Farms.” Living History Farms. 1999. (10/13/99).