University of Maryland Extension

London Town Plant Identification

Identifying the Suspects
The members of the London Town Plant Identification project are the Garden Sleuths of the Master Gardener organization. A spin-off of the London Town Plant Propagation Project, Master Gardeners began in 2004 to identify and document the cultivars of the collection of trees, shrubs and perennials in the 40-year-old gardens at London Town Public House.

This garden was designed by a University of Maryland student, Tony Dove, as a botanical/pleasure garden to demonstrate woodland cultivars that thrive in the mid-Atlantic region. Using existing records, photographs and extensive research, the London Town Plant ID has sought to locate, reconfirm and re-identify the plants mentioned in the records, including:

  • 80 magnolia trees, most of them mature trees in the 8-acre garden
  • more than 500 azaleas and rhododendrons, most planted in the late 1970s and 80s
  • about 200 camellias, most of them planted as test seedlings by Dr. William Ackerman, of the US National Arboretum

Approximately 13 volunteers, who receive on the job training, work with Project Chair Pat Horm under the guidance of Meenal Harankhedkar, London Town Horticulturist. Their work enables visitors to have a better understanding of plants that existed on this historical property and plants in the mid-Atlantic region. While the public gardens are easily accessible, the Woodland Garden, which is 40 years old, is not paved and contains some poison ivy and the usual insects one would expect in this type of area.

Medical Sleuthing
In the future this group may assist with the renovation of the Richard Hill Garden, a colonial medicinal garden named for Dr. Richard Hill, a Quaker physician who resided at London Town for 18 years - 1720-1740. Dr. Hill probably received his medical training in Philadelphia under an apprenticeship, since there were no formal medical schools at that time in America. He is known to have sent American plants with medicinal properties to England for further study and propagation in Europe. Although records are limited, London Town would like the medicinal garden expanded to include probable uses of Native American and/or European plants in colonial medicine.

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