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Award blooms for Henderson Hall garden efforts

The Wood County Master Gardeners was awarded one of the coveted Projects of Excellence award by the Master Gardeners Association of West Virginia for its Heritage Garden at Henderson Hall in Williamstown. (Photo Provided)

WILLIAMSTOWN — Wood County Master Gardeners were awarded a coveted Projects of Excellence award by the Master Gardeners Association of West Virginia for its Heritage Garden at Henderson Hall in Williamstown.

The award included the 2019 and 2020 growing seasons.

Master Gardeners are a program of the WVU Extension Service in Wood County. WVU Extension Service also provides opportunities for 4-H Youth, Community Education Outreach Service and traditional agriculture.

The Heritage Garden is a kitchen garden located at historical Henderson Hall. Wood County Master Gardeners grew vegetables, herbs and flowers that are as historically accurate as possible to the mansion and era.

“The Heritage Garden was beautiful and very productive,” Master Gardener Andrea Duke said. “It was a lot of work, but we had tomatoes, peppers, half runner beans in addition to lettuce and many different herbs such as rosemary, parsley and basil.

Some of the herbs grown by the Wood County Master Gardeners at the Heritage Garden at Henderson Hall in Williamstown. The group recently won the Projects of Excellence award by the Master Gardeners Association of West Virginia for its work at Henderson. (Photo Provided)

A kitchen garden was important for settlers in the Mid-Ohio Valley, not only for food but to provide medicinal herbs, she said.

The Heritage Garden is 20-by-40 feet and is near the original kitchen of the Henderson Hall Mansion. The garden is surrounded by a picket fence to provide an animal deterrent, as well as to maintain a historical look. The interior of the garden includes four squares intersected by a 3 foot gravel pathway with brick edging.

“The Henderson Hall Heritage Garden Project is an exceptional example of our Master Gardener volunteer’s dedication to the community,” J.J. Barrett, WVU Extension agriculture agent, said. “Master Gardener Volunteers are to be commended. This partner project with Henderson Hall is an excellent example of community organizations working together for a common goal. I am confident that this project will not only improve each year in teaching gardening and horticulture skills, but also serve as a demonstration garden.”

Henderson Hall Plantation is an historical landmark in the Mid-Ohio Valley. The house, grounds and Henderson family cemetery is designated the Henderson Hall Historic District and is on the National Registry of Historic Places.

Henderson mansion, which stands on a terrace overlooking the Ohio River, was completed in 1859 using brick, stone and timber from the Henderson property. The 29-room Victorian-era Italianate style home contains priceless artifacts, antiques and furnishings, handmade linens, books dating to the 1600’s and important historical documents.

The “Heritage Garden” at Henderson Hall in Williamstown includes a number of herbs including basil, rosemary and thyme among others. The garden is worked on by the Wood County Master Gardeners. (Photo Provided)

Master Gardeners worked with Randy Modesitt, curator and historian at Henderson Hall Plantation, to plan the project. Construction of the garden and fencing was completed by contractors funded by Henderson Hall.

Working with Modesitt, research was conducted by the Master Gardeners on the history of the Henderson Hall kitchen garden as mentioned in letters, diaries and poems of the Henderson family.

“We are always excited for people to learn about the history of the Henderson family and Henderson Plantation,” Modesitt said. “The Heritage Garden was a wonderful project to collaborate with the Master Gardeners on. It turned out great.”

Many of the seeds for the project were purchased from the Monticello heirloom seed collection of the Thomas Jefferson Foundation to remain as true to the original heritage garden as possible. Wood plant markers were each customized with the HH monogram and appropriately labeled according to the location of specific plants.

Several Master Gardener volunteers chose one or more varieties of seeds to grow at home so seedlings would be ready to transplant into the kitchen garden. As the growing season progressed throughout the summer months, associated produce from the garden was given to Henderson Hall visitors/tourists as it was picked.

The Heritage Garden at Henderson Hall in Williamstown includes herbs such as sage and dill. The garden is maintained by the Wood County Master Gardeners. (Photo Provided)

Master Gardeners Duke and Krista Rogers were in charge of the planning and planting of the Heritage Garden. Master Gardener volunteers were responsible for regularly watering the garden in addition to weeding and maintaining it during the spring and summer.

Master Gardeners involved in taking care garden included Duke, Rogers, Marcia Campbell, Earlene Carpenter, Robin Clark, Susan Dale, Lynn Greenly, Marty Hamilton, Bob High, Tony Playtis and Velda Settle.

Additional responsibilities for the gardening group included picking produce during the harvest season and preparing the garden for winter. The harvest season concluded in September with an herb workshop hosted in the kitchen garden by the Wood County Master Gardeners.

Henderson Hall Plantation hosted over 2,000 visitors in 2019 before the COVID-19 pandemic. Many benefited from the addition of the heritage garden project to experience the farm to table lifestyle of the 1800’s.

“Not only was the vibrant beauty of the garden greatly admired, the educational aspect of the plants enriched each visitor’s perception of agriculture and its importance to society,” Rogers, president of the Master Gardeners, said. “Henderson Hall Heritage Garden Project was a great success.

“We are currently in the process of planning the 2021 season,” Rogers said. “Hopefully this project has inspired others to become gardeners themselves.”

For more information about the Master Gardener Program in Wood County, contact Barrett at (304) 424-1960 or email jj.barrett@mail.wvu.edu.

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