Standing on a plot of land owned by Joseph Bonaparte – the former King of Naples and Spain and brother of Napoleon – park hostess Lara Peryard shares her enthusiasm for the development of historic Point Breeze Park.
“This project is unique for several reasons,” said Beryard. “Unlike an ordinary vegetable garden or farm, their purpose is to represent the history of the land, as well as to grow food to donate to the community. We grow historical crops, primarily what could have been grown by a Bonaparte gardener at the time.”
The first cultivation includes carrots, fennel, parsnips, beans, beets, pumpkins, turnips, turnips, radishes, and cabbage. Volunteers also planted flowers, lavender and berries at home, according to a press release via D&R Greenway.
Connecting visitors and locals to the land and to each other is another reason for Beryard’s enthusiasm. D&R Greenway’s Garden and adjacent gardener’s home are part of a 60-acre permanently preserved December 2020 Land Trust in partnership with the State of New Jersey and the City of Bordentown.
Linda Mead, President and CEO of D&R Greenway, invites the public to join Periard to celebrate the newly planted garden and its first harvest on October 1.
The inaugural tour will start at 2 pm and will last for an hour as participants learn about the sights and elements of the park. Led by Mead and gardener Beryard, the free event is open to the public with pre-registration available at drgreenway.org or [email protected]
This event serves as the kick-off for Garden to Bistro Month in Bordentown. At this event, participating Bordentown restaurants will be honored as founding sponsors of the Historic Park. Throughout October, sponsoring restaurants will be rewarded with a harvest of produce of historical interest to be featured on their menu, allowing patrons to enjoy a taste of history.
The goal of the park is to restore historical landscapes that benefit today’s society. Just after Labor Day, the first harvest — a box of summer squash and radishes — was donated to Christ Church in Bordentown for distribution to those in need, according to the press release.
Father Matt Tucker and his wife, Doan Huỳnh Tucker, said they are “grateful for the donation of local produce grown and harvested by the D&R Greenway Land Trust in Bordentown’s newly preserved Point Breeze Historic Vegetable Garden” and will be shared with the community.
“If you’ve been driving down Park Street this summer, you may have noticed changes to the historic site, from the removal of a non-native fence that was blocking the view of the house, to an attractive wooden fence enclosing the garden,” Mead said. historical maps and what you can expect to see when the Discovery Center opens at Point Breeze in the home of former Bonaparte gardener this fall.”
Bordentown was a preferred location for Bonaparte’s home because of the rich horticultural soil, proximity to land and water transportation across the Delaware River, and the land’s natural beauty, according to the press release.
“I’ve worked on designing the crop plan to have visual interest, grouping crops by beds, and designing the layout of crops by elevation, so when you look at the garden from the front, you’ll see crop heights ascending, and you’ll look at crop blocks of varied textures,” said Beryard. “The carrot family is very similar to fronds. Pumpkins grow large and streak, and beans are grown on climbing trellises.”
The wooden fence that surrounds the garden has been designed with beauty and amenities in mind. Its lattice frame allows visitors to see the garden while keeping deer and rabbits out. D&R Greenway land and property host David Seiler built the wooden fence modeled on a vegetable and herb garden at Robert Todd Lincoln’s home in Manchester, VT. The hand-forged iron work on the gates came from England, according to the press release.
Periard and local resident Val Sassaman, a member of the Bordentown Historical Society, researched garden seeds that could have been used in Bonaparte’s time, and D&R Greenway purchased some seeds from Monticello, Jefferson’s estate in Charlottesville, Virginia.
“We also grow some heirloom grains and squash, and next year we will be planting some types of maize that are indigenous and important to the Lenni-Lenape people, whose ancestral homelands we grow. The name for the indigenous people in this area is Lenapehoking,” Beryard said.
The garden was an important element of Bonaparte’s estate because its harvest was used to feed his family and his guests, including political and military figures, artists, and business owners. Bordentown Historic Society mentions quite a few visitors, including Henry Clay, Daniel Webster, and John Quincy Adams.
The creation of the new park reflects the work of dedicated volunteers. Bordentown resident Joel Dauchin represented Bordentown on the advisory committee. A group of six area residents joined forces with Periard and fellow D&R Greenway Kirsten Clerico to plant the primary crop, build trellises, and tend the garden. Local volunteers include Val, Dean Sasaman, Mona Watnick, Judy Craig, Brittany, Bernie Miller, Dustin White, Erica Taylor and Kevin Bora.
Bill Flemer, a recently retired site manager at D&R Greenway’s St. Michaels Farm Preserve in Hopewell and a member of the Princeton Nurseries family, plowed the garden plot, turning it from grass to create a footprint of the first planting. Flemer’s cousin, Rebecca, who holds a master’s degree in historical preservation from the University of Pennsylvania, contributes her knowledge from her work with historic parks in Philadelphia and Europe to the Point Breeze project as a member of the advisory committee.
Professor of Anthropology, Dr. Doug Kiofsky of the Bordentown Historical Society contributed photos of the estate.
While much progress has been made, Mead said there is more to come.
“There is an opportunity for people to share their love of history and gardening by volunteering to help with the harvest. As we prepare to open the former gardener’s home to the community this fall, we’re inviting people to sign up to become curators and help tell the stories of this land.”
“If people feel a connection to the land, they care about the land,” said Beryard. “It is my hope, that by communicating with the history of this place, from the Lenni-Lenape people who were here first, to the time of Bonaparte, and to the present, people will feel a connection with this region and the ecosystem and be inspired to become, or continue to be active in support of conservation and restoration efforts.
To learn more about Point Breeze Historic Garden and volunteer methods, contact Lara Periard at [email protected]
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