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Plants

The flowers, native and exotic, that fashion our gardens.

baptisia

The baptisia, native, is useful for its ability to make an attractive mass of foliage after it flowers, making it a valuable, multi-season perennial. Baptisia was thought, erroneously, to be a source of purple dye, hence its other common name, false indigo.

In the choice of plant material for the Historic Area, Colonial Williamsburg horticulturists weigh the evidence that allows one flower to be used in Historic Area gardens, such as the blue balloon flower, below, or disallow another flower, such as the lovely red blackberry lily, below right. Often, it is a tough call as to whether a plant is appropriate for Historic Area gardens, and our garden historians continually review the extant horticultural documentation.

Together, with the baptisia, right, the balloon flower and the blackberry lily would make an colorful combination in an informal perennial bed incorporating native and nonnative plants, a trend current among modern gardeners. At Colonial Williamsburg's hotel properties and other contemporary sites, horticulturists can and do mix native and non-natives, finding combinations that are suited to the hot, humid summers and frosty winters while imbuing even the most contemporary flower bed with the prosaic charm of "unimproved" native plants.

blue balloon flower
lovely red blackberry lily

In the choice of plant material for the Historic Area, Colonial Williamsburg horticulturists weigh the evidence that allows one flower to be used in Historic Area gardens, such as the blue balloon flower, top, or disallow another flower, such as the lovely red blackberry lily, middle. Often, it is a tough call as to whether a plant is appropriate for Historic Area gardens, and our garden historians continually review the extant horticultural documentation.

Together, with the baptisia, bottom, the balloon flower and the blackberry lily would make an colorful combination in an informal perennial bed incorporating native and nonnative plants, a trend current among modern gardeners. At Colonial Williamsburg's hotel properties and other contemporary sites, horticulturists can and do mix native and non-natives, finding combinations that are suited to the hot, humid summers and frosty winters while imbuing even the most contemporary flower bed with the prosaic charm of "unimproved" native plants.


Calycanthus floridus, Sweet shrub, Carolina allspice

Calycanthus floridus, Sweet shrub, Carolina allspice

Magnolia grandiflora, Southern magnolia

Magnolia grandiflora, Southern magnolia

Hydrangea quercifolia, Oakleaf hydrangea

Hydrangea quercifolia, Oakleaf hydrangea

Gardeners and horticulturists typically divide plant material into 2 categories, herbaceous, meaning the plants that don't produce wood, and woodies, those plants that produce a true wood. The "woodies" provide the structure in a garden, defining areas in the garden because of their size, form, and permanence.


Dill

Botanists use the word "herb" to mean those plants that only make the soft foliage that is devoid of the materials that characterize woody plant parts. Herbaceous plants, which include annuals, biennials, bulbs, vegetables and perennials, come in infinite varieties. Dill, right, native hibiscus, bottom left, and cardoon, bottom right, are examples of a biennial, perennial, and perennial vegetable, respectively, and could be found mixed haphazardly in what were known as kitchen gardens.

hibiscus
cardoon

passionflower

At the DeWitt Wallace Decorative Arts Museum, the modern atmosphere makes possible the use of tropical exotics, many which have their cousins among the wildflowers of Virginia. The wild passionflower, or maypop for example, may be a parent of the blue passionflower, right, and below, while the red passionflower is a strictly frost sensitive tropical vine.

passionflower
passionflower

perennial bed

Even the Historic Area and the selective range of plants that can be used within its precincts offers exciting opportunities to use historically appropriate plants in exciting combinations. Globe thistle in a perennial bed, right, the luster of sunlit grape leaves in a nearby arbor, bottom, and pots of red geraniums would make a garden scene accurate in its choice of plant materials and striking in its use of color.

sunlit grape leaves
pots of red geraniums

Wild violet bergamot and changing maple leaves herald different seasons in the Historic Area. Colonial Williamsburg is dedicated to sustaining our gardens into the distant future. Our legacy is a collection of gardens whose genius is both their consistency of style and the complex ingenuity within that style. We rely on donors to support our stewardship of these gardens bequeathed to us by designers and patrons now gone.

Wild violet bergamot
maple leaves


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