A 21st Century experience at a colonial garden in Southold

Southold Historical Society is ramping up the visitor experience at the Colonial Herb Garden behind its 18th century Thomas Moore House, with QR codes linking to historical context for each plant species. 

Twenty-four herbs from the garden are featured in profiles on a website called Plants Map, a platform designed to document, map and share information about the plants. Each profile outlines how the plant was used throughout history, especially during the colonial period, complete with photos of each. 

“It gives [visitors] permission to pause and have a cognitive and sensory experience with the garden,” said master gardener and Southold resident Carol Brown. 

Ms. Brown, along with fellow master gardener and Southold resident Cara Cunneen, used the project to obtain her certification as a master gardener through Cornell Cooperative Extension of Suffolk County. Ms. Brown is also a member of the Southold Garden Club, which maintains the Colonial Herb Garden. The project was funded by David and Liz Shanks of Surry Lane Vineyard Orchard Farm in Southold, in memory of David’s mother, master gardener Nettie Shanks. Trimble’s of Corchaug Nursery in Cutchogue donated annuals to the garden. 

“We are excited for visitors to discover this new feature in the Colonial Herb Garden,” said Deanna Witte-Walker, executive director of the Southold Historical Society. “The QR codes offer depth and breadth while also making the experience fun for all ages. We are truly grateful to be the recipients of Carol and Cara’s project.” 

Ms. Brown at the garden Thursday. (Credit: Brianne Ledda)

Ms. Brown, who has a background in education, started the project with Ms. Cuneen in 2019. She said the project was inspired by signs in Cutchogue Library’s perennial garden. 

“I saw them and I said this is great because it will help people stop and pause and maybe learn something, or engage and say this is not only pretty, but it has a purpose,” she said.  

The project’s completion comes just before the historical society’s museums and shops open for the season in early July for the first time since summer 2019. The Southold Historical Society also plans to unveil a logo and name change around the same time.  

Among the opening exhibits is a seasonal display in the Ann Currie-Bell house called “The Roaring Twenties,” that examines Prohibition-era speakeasies and rum-running, lifestyle and fashion in the 1920s, and women’s suffrage.  

The society also expanded its “Enslavement in Southold” exhibit from one room to encompass the entire Thomas Moore/Samuel Landon house, with a reinterpretation that includes the narrative of people who were enslaved in the house.   

The Southold Historical Society is celebrating its reopening with a ceremony at the Maple Lane Complex on July 1 at 4 p.m. and a brick dedication at its Boxwood Garden on July 3 at 12:30 p.m. 

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