Bob Wildfong is the Horticultural Specialist at the Waterloo Region Museum. For the past twenty years Bob has cared for the gardens in Doon Heritage Village. These gardens feature over 200 species of heritage plants.

Bob is also the Executive Director of Seeds of Diversity, an organization that conserves Canadian heritage seeds and plants from coast to coast.

 

Martin Farm Garden

Martin FarmThe garden behind the Martin House is restored as a traditional "four-square" kitchen garden. It was the job of the housewife to tend this garden, to grow fresh fruit and vegetables in summer and to preserve enough for winter use. It was also a place for a few moments of leisure and beauty.

Religious symbols are found everywhere in Mennonite life. The four-square design symbolizes the garden of Eden, and there are several plants which represent Adam and Eve here. The Tree of Life would have stood at the intersection of the paths, where the yucca is often used as a substitute. Large crops, like squash, would have been planted in a separate row garden called a "truck patch" or schtick. The kitchen garden was mainly for smaller vegetables and flowers. Culinary herbs were important in the kitchen, and medicines were still made according to generations-old lore.

McArthur House Garden

McAurther HouseThe Peter McArthur house has the only gardens at Doon Heritage Village that are restored to a documented historical plan. We have photos of the house and gardens as they appeared at the turn of the century, and detailed information about the plants which were in the yard and garden.

The flowerbeds contain shrubs and perennial flowers that were popular in 1914, as well as asparagus, rhubarb, and many useful herbs.

Seibert House Garden

Seibert HouseAlthough this family would have, in all likelihood, had a kitchen garden, they would also have had an ornamental garden, where they could grow the latest flowers the seed catalogues could offer. Gardening was a popular pastime in 1914, and there was a real appetite for plants that were novel and unusual.

Many of our favourite annual species were brought from the tropics during Queen Victoria's reign, and were then incorporated into gardens as showcase plants, many available from local greenhouses. These plants would have certainly been topics of conversation, as the lady of the house toured her guests through the gardens.

The tree at the back of the garden is a mulberry tree, which bears fruit from late June until early August. The shady area under the tree is planted with several kinds of forest and riparian wildflowers and ferns, since there was a major revival of interest in wildflowers beginning around 1890. 

Sararas-Bricker Farm Garden

Sararas HouseAt the Sararas farmhouse, there is a long row garden which provides an ample supply of fruits and vegetables.

The Sararas family grows much of their own food, either in the kitchen garden or in fields (not part of our restoration). What they do not grow themselves, they purchase in trade for their extra harvest.

Whereas the Martin garden demonstrates traditional gardening methods and formats, the Sararas garden represents the kitchen garden of an up-to-date 1914 farm. These farmers would have been using chemical insecticides, probably some fungicides, and possibly artificial fertilizers, though manure was still the fertilizer of choice for most gardens.

It is important to the family that their house and yard appear prosperous and well-maintained. They have planted colourful daylilies and roses along the garden fence and landscaped the area to the side of the house. Most families maintained at least a small area of lawn where they could sit and play games. The arc of Bridalwreath spirea encloses the lawn and separates it from the forest behind, giving the yard and house a cultured look.

Mrs. Sararas grows a small herb and flower garden near the pump. The herbs are used in cooking, so they are kept close to the kitchen. Some of the herbs are thyme, winter savoury, sage, chives, hyssop and lemon balm.

The orchard contains a selection of heritage apple trees, including Roxbury Russet, Maiden's Blush, Yellow Transparent, Gravenstein, and Tolman Sweet, as well as pear trees. The trees are standard size, as was typical at the time, and will eventually reach a height of 20-25 feet.