The Weald & Downland Living Museum unveils ‘The Power of Plants’ exhibition

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The Weald & Downland Living Museum is thrilled to announce a new exhibition – The Power of Plants - that will explore the rich history and development of the Museum's Historic Gardens.

Each of the seven gardens at the Museum represent the period and social status of the historic house to which it is attached, showcasing their evolution from the early 16th century through to the late 19th century. The historic gardens at the Museum date back to 1983, when the first small garden was created for the Toll House and the herb garden was established at Bayleaf. By 1986, along with the Museum’s plans for the ambitious interpretation programme for Bayleaf Farmstead, historian Dr Sylvia Landsberg was drawing up plans for appropriate historic gardens. It was during this time that local resident Bob Holman, who had a background in agriculture, was invited to be the Museum’s Head Gardener. Bob became a much-valued member of the team, creating the seven period gardens for the houses. He worked at the Museum until 2007 when he retired and was succeeded by Carlotta Holt, who is still the Museum’s Head Gardener to date. Sadly, Bob passed away in 2023, but his legacy continues to flourish through the gardens he cultivated, and the Museum celebrates his work in this exhibition. It will showcase the gardens that he created, along with information on the uses of the plants and herbs that are grown within them, covering aspects such as natural dyes, textiles, plant lore, midsummer celebrations, and ongoing biodiversity efforts. "It was both a pleasure and privilege to work with Bob,” says Carlotta Holt. “He generously shared his knowledge in a very supportive and encouraging way, and I learned a great deal from him. I like to remember him through the flowers he planted - Angelica for inspiration, Mint & Sage for wisdom, Rosemary for happy memories, and Sweet Williams for gratitude and admiration." As well as celebrating the Museum gardens and taking visitors on a fascinating exploration of the various uses of plants, the exhibition will also feature a copy of Gerard’s 17th-century herbal book. This valuable addition to the Museum's library collection includes woodcut illustrations and herbarium samples and was generously donated by long-time volunteer Pearl O’Leary. Carlotta comments: “It has been wonderful having the opportunity to create our Historic Gardens Exhibition to show how the gardens were originally created, their development over the years, the work the gardens team do and showing the importance and use of plants through the centuries. This has very much been a collaboration and we are thankful to those who contributed to the content.” All who appreciate the intertwining of nature and history are invited to experience The Power of Plants exhibition, which runs until 18th August in the Museum’s Longport Gallery. Find out more and book tickets here -