Monday, May 26, 2008

Shaker Gardens

Today my family visited the Canterbury Shaker Village in Canterbury, New Hampshire. The Shakers were a religious sect practicing in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. Shakers lived among 19 villages in the United States. They believed in devoting their lives to God and hard work. They are best known for their furniture making skills, but were also innovative inventors. For example, they invented the flat broom to which we are accustomed today. The downfall of the Shakers was their practice of celibacy. The grounds of the Canterbury Shakers is beautiful and it was an extremely enjoyable day.

Most interesting to me was the variety of plantings on the site. The Shakers were self sufficient and therefore incorporated large gardens into their landscape. The gardens are maintained today and I've included photos of them here. The Shakers also were seasoned herbalist, using a wide variety of herbs regularly in their infirmary and some for cooking. I purchased three varieties of sage, a variety of oregano I had never before seen, and lemon verbena. This year, one of my goals in my own garden is to collect as many new perennials herbs as I can. This trip helped launch me toward achieving this goal. The gift shop in Canterbury also sells seeds and here I picked up some hollyhock, a plant I admired in a new friend's garden last summer.

The trees in the landscape were amazing. What a treat to catch the spring blossoms of lilac, apple, dogwood and others. The large trees leading to the Shaker meeting house were particularly noteworthy. They were aged trees with rough bark leading one through a grass and dandelion strewn field. My daughter played here and picked yellow flowers as our tour guide introduced us to the Shaker lifestyle.

A visit to the Shakers village is well worth any gardener's time. I highly recommend it. See the Boston Globe article The Last Ones Standing for an interesting article about the four Shakers remaining. See Shakertown.net for information about Shaker sites to visit.

1 comment:

Victoria said...

This brings back memories of my visit to Canterbury a few years ago. It's a really magical place, isn't it? I wrote an article about it for my newspaper which you still might be able to find online, if you're interested. Google 'Victoria Summerley New Hampshire'. It would be interesting to hear the reaction of a native to an outsider's view!