Mrs. G. Douglas Krumbhaar is a gardener's gardener.

For the past year she has weeded, pruned, and planted the Mission House garden in Stockbridge back into shape for this week's visit by the Garden Club of America convention. A bystander says the gardeners, 420 strong, were delighted with the garden — described it as "fascinating … beautiful … used all the adjectives."

Mrs. Krumbhaar, wife of the rector of St. Paul's Episcopal Church in Stockbridge, was asked by the late Mrs. Rodney Procter to revamp the Mission House garden, originally designed by Fletcher Steele. According to Mrs. Krumbhaar, the garden had been "let go" for quite a few years. When she took over last August she dug up, divided, and moved many of the plants, but followed Mr. Steele's original plan in general. Her principal innovation was dividing the outer beds into smaller segments, edging them with borders of the soft, fuzzy plant known as Lamb's ears.

The garden is as authentic as possible in this day and age. With only a few exceptions, all the plants in it are known to have been grown in New England before 1820 — during the time the Mission House was lived in by John Sergeant and his descendants. Many of the rare old species have been obtained from Caprilands Herb Farm in Coventry, Conn., owned by Mrs. Adelma Simmons. Included are common cooking herbs of that era — marjoram, basil, rosemary, tarragon, savory, thyme. "They must have had to use them, with imagination, to make the uninteresting diet of that time more palatable," says Mrs. Krumbhaar. There are also swatches of herbs and roots used for medicinal purposes during Colonial times — lily of the valley root, for instance, cultivated in making a heart stimulant, while the plant was used as a cathartic. In addition, there are plants which were used by the early settlers for dyes — plants like wild indigo.

Quince trees shade the center of the garden. Lacing the top of a near-by arbor are wild grapes; "there's a marvelous crop of hops, too," laughs Mrs. Krumbhaar. "Evidently people throughout the settlers made their own beer," she adds.

This Story in History is selected from the archives by Jeannie Maschino, The Berkshire Eagle.

Community News Editor / Librarian

Jeannie Maschino is community news editor and librarian for The Berkshire Eagle. She has worked for the newspaper in various capacities since 1982 and joined the newsroom in 1989.