The Heritage Garden is one of the favorite attractions at Crossroads at Big Creek. The Garden was started in 1998 by the Sturgeon Bay Home and Garden Club as a memorial to honor two of their members–June Mackey and Gertrude Olson.
Because there were no reference books describing rural gardens of 1900, the garden club members created the garden with cuttings and bulbs from their grandmother’s gardens, and they saved seeds from one year to the next. Over the years, dozens of volunteers from the Home and Garden Club, Master Gardeners, and students from the Sturgeon Bay and Sevastapol have kept the garden going, each year striving to make a garden which was historically correct. Whatever that was.
As our Garden grew, the Lee Somerville, head gardener at Heitage Hill Historical Park was struggling with the same questions of authenticity because, as she wrote in the Introduction of her book “Vintage Wisconsin Gardens, “Over time, I found myself more and more involved in the history of the gardens surrounding the homes, and began a quest to discover how they were originally planned and planted. The staff and volunteers had noticed that visitors to the park with increasingly interested in what was growing int he gardens and landscapes and why, and we wanted to be able to answer their questions accurately. We also realized the that lanscape around the building should be incorporated into the existing interpretive plans that told the stories of the lives and interests of the people who settle and lived in northeastern Wisconsin.”
Much had been written about the fabulous gardens of the fabulously wealthy of the 1900, but as we at Crossroads had found, few references described vernacular gardens–the gardens of ordinary people who lived in ordinary homes. Lee was accepted into a master’s program of the Department of Landscape Architecture at UW-Madison where she “was encouraged by an extremely supportive group of faculty members to locate, consolidate and document the horticultural and garden literature written specifically for Wisconsin homeowners in the late nineteenth and early twentieth century.”
Lee’s grew into a book “Vintage Wisconsin Gardens” which was published last year–the same year in which Lee assumed leadership for the Heritage Garden. What amazing good fortune for Crossroads and the Door County Historical Society. Our head gardener literally wrote the book on vintage gardens.
And we are exceedingly proud to share that Lee’s book has won a number of prestigious awards including the 2012 National Indie Excellence Awards, Winner in the Gardening Category; 2011 ForeWord Reviews’ Book of the Year Awards, Finalist in the Home & Gardening Category; 2011 Midwest Independent Publishers Association Midwest Book Awards, Winner in the Cover-Paperback Design Category
Finalist in the Midwest Regional Interest-Text Category; 2011 USA National Best Book Awards, Finalist in the Home: Gardening Category; 2012 Independent Publisher Book Awards,Bronze in the Home & Garden Category.
So we are delighted that Lee Somerville will be our guest presenter at the will guide visitors through the Heritage Garden and other areas of the Historical Village at Crossroads, explaining and demonstrating late nineteenth-century uses for the flowers, herbs, and vegetables that fill the beds. Visitors can make herb posies to take home. Books will be available for sale.