Garden History & Restoration
Carolina allspice Calycanthus floridus
“A View of Salem in North Carolina 1787”
detail of watercolor by Ludwig G. von Redeken
turning compost pile at the Miksch Garden
heirloom beans trellised in Garden at Triebel
The Garden Shop at T. Bagge Merchant
The Moravians settled their North Carolina colony in the 1750s with a keen awareness of the need to understand and manage their environment. To their 100,000-acre Wachovia Tract, they brought a land stewardship ethic that included: resource identification; inventory and management; land use policies; and conservation practices (the Moravians appointed a forester in 1759, the first in America).
Salem, founded in 1766 as the central town of Wachovia, was the craft, trade and professional center to the surrounding Moravian farming congregations. The legacy of Moravian foresight in community planning can be appreciated today in Old Salem.
Although Salem was not a farming community, each residential lot had a yard for household chores and a large garden area, all neatly fenced. The garden area was used intensively, with vegetables, herbs, and flowers planted together in the European style of garden squares divided by paths. Grapes might be along the fence and fruit trees at the rear.
The Moravians are excellent record keepers and from their diaries and journals, paintings and drawings, maps and photographs, we know much about what they grew, when and where. In addition, botanists were among Salem’s residents and recorded important inventories of local flora, collected specimens, and made contributions to the broad science.
With this rich body of documentation, the Horticulture Program at Old Salem has worked for more than forty years to create a landscape recalling early Salem. Native trees and shrubs have been reintroduced, historic fencing styles separate lots and meadows, and gardens are featured throughout the historic area. Stream reclamation has cleaned waterways, and with a mature tree canopy and passive land use in the historic area, habitat supports a variety of wildlife.
The Old Salem Horticulture Staff is committed to sustainable practices including “feeding the soil”, growing heirlooms, and seed saving. Staff researches and plans the gardens; composts and sows green manures for high soil fertility; and plants and maintains only those things believed to have been grown in Salem, or the area, before 1850. These open-pollinated heirlooms supply seed for the important seed saving program at Old Salem. The staff also provides Old Salem residents authentic plans for their own private gardens.
Old Salem shares information with the public through workshops, garden tours, tree tours, lectures, conferences, and exhibits. Heirloom plants and seeds, as well as garden accessories, are sold at The Garden Shop at T. Bagge Merchant in Old Salem. Old Salem Museums & Gardens is open for touring Tuesday-Sunday.
An excellent resource for garden history.