18th Century Garden Plants Claire's Garden Fraser's Ridge Outlander North Carolina

18th Century Gardens and Plants on Fraser’s Ridge

August 28, 2019

Guest post from Tara Heller

Back in the eighteenth century, having a garden was part of the homestead and landscape of society. People produced their own food or purchased it at the market. Herb or kitchen gardens were usually right outside the kitchen door in the dooryard, as they were called, and mentioned throughout the later Outlander books. Garden plots were generally about 1/4 of an acre or up to eight acres, depending on family needs.

Home, Home on the Ridge

Now that the Frasers are settled on the Ridge, I wondered what Claire’s garden would look like in the STARZ Outlander series Season 4, as well as the upcoming fifth season. I was curious about what crops she might be growing. She would need to grow plants for food and medicinal purposes. Claire was certainly interested in wildflowers and their medicinal benefits, as it’s because of the flowers at Craigh Na Dun that she went back in time to begin with!

“Daddy always used to say it, when he’d come home and find Mama puttering in her garden – he said she’d live out there if she could. He used to joke that she- that she’d leave us someday, and go find a place where she could live by herself, with nothing but her plants.”
– Bree (Drums of Autumn, Chapter 43)

But did you ever wonder what Claire and her contemporaries would grow in a kitchen garden? (Yes, I wrote that in the present tense because let’s face it, she exists presently in our minds, amiright?) Some of the crops grown in the eighteenth century were: spearmint, sorrel (a salad plant), parsley, marjoram, thyme, onions, and leeks; marigolds would be planted around the perimeter for pollinators and as a repellent for insects that could do serious crop damage. Wormwood, lemon thyme, mint, horehound, savory were also planted.

Other plants Claire might have grown, and their uses:

Barley– Without barley, you might not have whiskey, which we all know is very prevalent in the Outlander books and especially Drums of Autumn and Fiery Cross. Photo: public domain

Basil– which is actually in the mint family, was used in salads and soups, namely pea soup. The Colonists used it in its dried form as a snuff to help relieve headaches and colds. Photo by Markus Spiske on Unsplash

Bee Balm– I’ve been wanting to grow this plant in my garden. Bees love it and funny enough, it was used to relieve bee stings. It is also in the mint family, and is native to North America. Its leaves were used to make tea. Photo: Takkk • CC BY-SA 3.0

Borage– when dried, you could make a tea for depression or menopausal discomforts. Bees love it as well. Borage is mentioned in Outlander, Chapter 24, growing at Castle Leoch. Photo by Lucy Kral on Unsplash

Chamomile– As you may have guessed, it was used for tea, but not just for enjoyment! Chamomile is said to aid in indigestion, gas and basically any stomach issues. It was also strewn about and used as an insect repellent. Photo: by kallerna – Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0

Dill and Fennel– Used in salads, breads, soups, stew, fish, potatoes, pickles and gin! dill: Photo by Jay Jay on Unsplash fennel: By Alvesgaspar – Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0

Garlic– believe or not, garlic is an antibiotic and antifungal. It is high in vitamin C and supposedly helps reduce cancerous tumors. Photo by LoboStudio Hamburg on Unsplash

Lavender– This was used as a way to make things smell better and also an insect repellent. It can help soothe burns, and can also be used in cooking. However, we know too well that Jamie Fraser was not fond of it, so maybe Claire didn’t put that in her garden. Photo by Janine Joles on Unsplash

Lemon Balm– this was used in tea to help with headaches, indigestion, and nausea. It was also distilled to treat, clean and heal wounds. Photo By Andrea_44 CC BY 2.0

Parsley– used in cooking and the seeds were used as a diuretic. Photo: https://www.almanac.com/plant/parsley

Peppermint– used as a breath freshener. The leaves were used for tea and might have been used to help with stomach issues as well. It also has antiseptic properties. The oil was also used to flavor tea, foods, and medicine. In Drums of Autumn, Claire mentions that she has a bottle of wash made of distilled alcohol, garlic juice, and mint. Photo by Josefin on Unsplash

Yarrow– Used to keep away from other plants and is used for disinfection. Photo: Frank Mayfield CC-BY-SA 2.0

Then there’s the addition of the bees. I hope we see more of Claire’s garden in Season Five since we see it in ‘The Fiery Cross’. Those that have read through TFC know that Claire will definitely need her herbs.

Colonial Americans would use a similar set up for beehives in “bee gums,” made from hollow trees, especially gum trees, hence the name. Photo from https://grossmannsbees.wordpress.com

Do you have a garden? Does it have some of these herbs and plants?

Stay tuned for ways to incorporate eighteenth-century techniques and style in your garden.

Tara Heller is the mother of two boys, who lives in South Central Pennsylvania, however, her heart is in the South. Although she is fairly new to Outlander, she has truly immersed herself in it. She also loves history, especially the 18th century, genealogy, visiting the coast, spending time with family and blogging at www.ladyoutnumbered321.com.
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6 Comments

  • Reply Lisa Margulies August 28, 2019 at 8:24 am

    Totally fascinating and comprehensive! Thanks for cultivating this garden in my mind. Makes me want to plant the real thing – I just wouldn’t know how to harvest the plants after growing g them!

    • Reply Tara Heller August 30, 2019 at 7:21 am

      Thanks Lisa! Start small, maybe herbs? Do some research about what you could use them for. It’s ok I gotcha on the next post 😉

  • Reply Jan Grupp August 28, 2019 at 8:43 am

    Nice going Tara. I’ll bring you some verbal and a couple more!

  • Reply Alysen August 29, 2019 at 1:37 pm

    What an interesting, well-documented post! Yes, I do have a garden, though have been away from it for 2.6 years now. Last time I saw it was in Sep. 2018. It’s always been my 3rd baby, raised from nothing at a new home. I hope most of the perennials (lavender included) survived our wicked summer drought, since daughter’s dog chewed the drip watering system last year … it’s been a truly ‘natural’ one, depending on Mother Nature’s wiles … :/

  • Reply Tara Heller August 30, 2019 at 7:23 am

    I’m so glad you have a garden! I hope it survived as well 🙂

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