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Their Struggle, Our History

Heritage Gardens

The Beginning

The idea of the Stanhope Heritage Garden came to fruition in February 2001. The Heritage Garden contains plants of historic interest to Stanhope Township. Some are native to this region and others were brought in by settlers.

The garden pays homage to the pioneers who adapted their farming and gardening knowledge to this climate at the height of settlement in the late 1800s and early 1900s.

The Heritage Garden consists for four different sections: the Perennial Garden, The Herb Garden, Trees, and the Vegetable Garden. It’s a constant work in progress and we welcome your frequent visits throughout the growing season to enjoy the latest blooms.

Digging In

The pioneer era of gardening in Canada began in the 1800s with Samuel de Champlain in Quebec and the Hudson’s Bay Company posts up north.
Throughout Canada’s history, tenacious pioneers have struggled with a land that was sometimes fertile but more often rocky or densely forested.
In order to survive, however, pioneers had no choice but to persevere to raise crops.

Old World Skills
Immigrants to Upper Canada from England, Scotland, Ireland and the United States brought with them their knowledge as well as seeds, plants and trees.
Once settled, they often sent home for seeds and books, and then experimented with adapting them to the Canadian climate.

Image shows packets of old-fashioned gardening seeds.
Pioneer Spirit
Daily pioneer life in this region is illustrated in the books and letters of Catharine Parr Traill and her sister, Susanna Moodie.
In “The Backwoods of Canada," Traill describes her early years in the Peterborough area in the 1830s, when she and her husband had to clear the land, fence it, build a house, dig a well and construct a root cellar.
Their garden contained peas, beans, lettuce, cabbage and root crops. Life would have been similar for Stanhope pioneers.

Lending a Hand
In the 1855 “Canadian Settler’s Guide,” Traill recommended planting potatoes, Indian corn and turnips the first year, and encouraged gardeners to save seeds.
”If you have more than a sufficiency for yourself do not begrudge a friend a share of your superfluous garden seeds. In a new country like Canada a kind and liberal spirit should be encouraged,” she wrote.
Every pioneer family had a garden in which potatoes and turnips, pumpkins, peas and melons were planted and, in keeping with Traill’s advice, sharing was commonplace.

A Comfortable Life
By the early 19th century, settlers had their vegetable gardens in check and more and more decorative gardens were appearing. A variety of Ontario publications were produced, including helpful guides about gardening in the Canadian environment.
Seed companies had become well established and their catalogues contained beautifully detailed illustrations of flowers, vegetables and fruits.

Heritage Preserved
The concept of heritage gardening has acquired renewed interest over the last decade. Books, websites and magazines and newspaper columns provide advice and instruction on developing and maintaining gardens populated with historically appropriate plants.
In keeping with this trend, the Stanhope Heritage Garden will continue to expand in honour of our ancestors and their well-documented dedication to life on the land.

Image shows small purple flowers. Image shows large red flowers. Image shows yellow flowers. Image shows tall purple flowers.
Creeping Phlox
Black-eyed Susan


“How much pleasanter is the aspect of a house surrounded by a garden…What home affections can it nourish in the heart of the immigrant wife..?”
~ The Canadian Settler’s Guide, 1855

The Pioneer Woman’s Backyard Pharmacy
In the early settlement days of this area, doctors were few and far between. Pioneers had to rely on their own knowledge of herbs and plants for homemade medicine. These are just some of the plants found in a pioneer garden, and what they were used for.

Basil To calm the stomach
Borage A tincture from the roots was used for menstrual disorders
Chives Antibacterial oil was made from the stems
Echinacea An immune system stimulant and antioxidant
Foxglove To alleviate heart pain
Horehound To soothe coughs
Hyssop An expectorant
Mullein Tea made from these leaves was used for coughs, cramps, and general pain relief
Oregano An antispasmodic when taken as a tea
Rosemary A common circulatory stimulant and antioxidant
Rue To alleviate “chest complaints”
Tansy Tea made from the leaves was thought to cure colds, fevers, and stomach aches
Yarrow Crushed leaves were used to staunch bleeding; a tea was used for “lung complaints”

NOTE: This information is for interest and education only and is not meant to be medical advice.

The first section of the garden are the perennial beds around the museum building itself, which began in May 2001 and are still evolving.

The purpose of the perennial garden is to grow flowers that pioneers would have planted in the late 1800s. This includes the old-fashioned perennials, such as peonies and hollyhocks, sometimes grown from seeds sent by relatives in England or ordered from seed catalogues.

Also included are some wildflowers domesticated from the forest, such as the wild rose bush, and some herbs for medicinal use and cooking.

A flower garden was an immense source of pride to settlers. When friends visited, they would be invited to walk in the garden, to smell the flowers, and share stories.

Flowers in the perennial garden include Sweet William, Primrose, Shasta Daisy, Daylily, Creeping Geranium, Cosmos, Iris, Blue Cornflower, Purple Coneflower, Wild Rose, Lilac, Peony, Foxglove, Mum, Sunflower, Hollyhock, Nasturtium and Bergamot.

The garden is always changing, so please visit often to enjoy the blooms.

Pioneers grew most of their own food and surprisingly, they had a greater choice of species in nursery catalogues than we have today.

It was the duty of the housewife to tend the vegetable garden, to grow fresh fruit and vegetables in summer and preserve enough for winter use. The garden was also an escape from the burdens of the kitchen; a place for a few moments of leisure and beauty.

A typical 19th-century vegetable garden would include basic root plants, such as beets, carrots, turnips, and radishes, and leafy vegetables, such as lettuce, chard, cress, and legumes.

Although flowers were occasionally found in vegetable gardens, most often they were grown in separate beds. Some varieties like nasturtium have a dual role of being edible and decorative.

The first species to be planted in our garden was pumpkin, a staple of any pioneer garden. Next came garlic, asparagus, rhubarb, potatoes and corn, all crops that were grown and enjoyed in the summer and autumn months by our ancestors.

The Heritage Vegetable Garden, like the others, is a work in progress so visit often to see the changes.

Contact Information

Stanhope Heritage Museum
1123 North Shore Rd
Algonquin Highlands, Ontario
K0M 1S0

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