Establishment of a Heritage Garden has turned a currently under-utilized portion of the park into an outdoor classroom, available for school groups as well as adult education classes year-round. Funded through the National Park Service Parks as Classrooms® program, the Heritage Garden is based on the typical Victorian-era kitchen garden, flower beds, and traditional commodities grown on 19th-century southern farms. The opportunity to present the life of the average civilian during the Civil War - the hardships faced, their ingenuity, and how they cared for their family - encourages visitors to establish a tangible connection to this by-gone era, and more importantly, provides the opportunity for those who visit to learn by experience through hands-on interpretive and educational programs.
The garden was planned and developed through partnership with the Warren County Mississippi Master Gardeners, who, along with park staff, provide in-kind labor, interpretation, educational workshops, and garden materials. Master Gardener programs exist across the country, and are comprised of volunteer educators trained by Land Grant Agriculture Universities to assist in providing information to the public about home gardening. The Warren County Master Gardener program is supported through the Extension Service of Mississippi State University, and this partnership will allow the garden to remain viable for many years to come.
Several of the plants found in the garden are classified as 'heritage' or 'heirloom' varieties. Definitions vary, but generally, heirlooms are considered plant varieties with stable traits from one generation to the next. They are fairly similar to each other but are more diversified than the modern-day hybrid varieties found in today's grocery stores. They are open-pollinated and usually grown in fields where they self- and cross-pollinate. The advantage of heirloom plants is that they can continually be grown by carefully saving the seeds. A heritage plant can be one that has been successfully grown from these seeds which have been collected, dried, and replanted for many years. In 2014, approximately 50% of the plants grown in the summer vegetable plots of the garden are heirlooms.
The Heritage Garden provides an opportunity for the audience to learn about key park themes as well as providing an outdoor classroom. As a part of Let's Move Outside initiative, students will not only get a chance to be active while outdoors, but they develop a greater relationship with their food sources through gardening. By creating an immersive experience the students and visitors gain a chance to physically interact with the resource, thus establishing a sense of ownership.
The success of the Heritage Garden has been recognized by the Mississippi State Master Gardeners Association by being awarded the Outstanding Project Award for a Large Group in 2012, and the Mississippi Historical Society Award of Merit in 2014.
The garden is located on Pemberton Avenue approximately one mile from the main entrance along the park tour road. Situated in front of the Old Administration Building, the garden was created on an idle, grassed island surrounded by the structure's circular drive. The site is open to visitors during regular park hours (entrance fees apply), and can be entered through pedestrian gates (ADA-accessible) located at either end of the garden.
Parks as Classrooms Program®
Did You Know?
Thomas O. Selfridge, captain of the USS Cairo, commanded three boats which sank during the war. Each began with the letter "C"-Cumberland, Cairo, and Conestoga. The coincidence was noted after the Conestoga sank, and Selfridge was assigned to the USS Osage, which survived to the end of the war.