Around 1845 early Marietta settlers William and Hannah Root built a Greek Revival home at the corner of Church and Lemon Streets. Today, moved two blocks from its original location and furnished with authentic period pieces, the Root House accurately depicts 1850s middle−class life in North Georgia.
Its garden, a Master Gardener Volunteers of Cobb County project, also reflects the practices of the mid-19th century, featuring only plants grown in the South between 1840 and 1860, including vegetables, culinary herbs, medicinal herbs, decorative plants and a wide selection of heirloom shrubs. Careful MGVOCC research verifies each plant’s appropriateness before it is added to the garden.
Since Mr. Root, a druggist, opened the first pharmacy in Marietta a decade or so before the Civil War, a large bed in the side yard is dedicated to healing plants grown during that period. For example, a vigorous hops plant grows up the porch since pillows stuffed with dried hops blossoms were used as a sleep aid at that time.
A large apple tree in the corner of the yard produces early -season fruit, too lemony and mushy to be eaten out of hand but excellent in fried pies and cakes when dried, as was done in the 1800s. At that time, apple slices were threaded on strings in order to dry before the weather became too humid. Green beans from the garden also were dried on strings. Therefore, the family had a source of both fruit and green vegetables in the winter.
Raised beds of vegetables and a trellis of climbing vegetables, all grown organically, are located at the edge of the authentic swept yard, used as a gathering place for tour groups. A harvest display on the porch of the kitchen out-building shows visitors what a family of the period would have grown and eaten.
MG volunteers also maintain the perennial flower beds, making the landscape more appealing to visitors, especially the thousands of school children who enjoy docent-led tours in spring and fall. The MGVOCCs supply the docents with valuable garden information, as well.
During the winter, garden seeds are distributed to the volunteers, who learn even more about the plants by growing them from seed. The following season, these seedlings are transplanted into the Root House gardens.
The MGVOCC volunteers work hard to plant and maintain the grounds of this historic site. As project chair Sue Burgess says, “It’s unique in that it combines both history and horticulture. Plus, it’s interesting to see how many of the vintage plants are still grown today.
Sue Burgess Honored by Cobb Landmarks and Historical Society
Sue Burgess, longtime Curator of the Root House Garden was honored recently with a Lifetime Achievement Award in Preservation for her leadership and dedication in maintaining and preserving the authenticity of the finest recreated 18th century garden in Marietta. Trevor Beemon, Executive Director of the Society presented The Jim and Florrie Corley Award to her on January 26, 2017 during group’s Annual Meeting.
The surrounding garden of the Root House was developed in the 1990’s after the structure was moved from a nearby site. Since 2001, Sue Burgess has dedicated her time in leading the Master Gardener Volunteers of Cobb County in maintenance of the garden.
Sue Burgess originally began her gardening hobby with an interest primarily in bulbs. Her gardening interest quickly expanded to a focus on native and heirloom plants suitable for the Marietta area. This led Sue to becoming a Master Gardener broadening her knowledge through research and educating the garden volunteers and docents of the Root House garden. Encouraging the workers to propagate plants from rare seeds has helped fill the beds in the garden.
Accomplishments include organizing an annual Root House Spring plant sale benefiting Cobb Landmarks. This event becoming a favorite destination for local gardeners seeking heirloom and hard to find plants. Ongoing Spring and Fall tours have brought school children to the garden seeing and smelling the wide variety of antique plants, shrubs and vegetables. Sue has been a favorite garden club and community speaker in Cobb County sharing the Root House history and speaking of the garden and flora. An Honorarium by the Southern Garden Historical Society in Winston Salem, North Carolina was given for her efforts in research and perpetuation of heirlooms. Other noted presentations have been given at the Southern Garden Heritage Conference in Athens, The Mayflower Society and the United Daughters of the Confederacy in the Atlanta area. Sue and husband Edward are both Cobb Lifetime Master Gardeners.
Sue is extremely admired by her fellow Master Gardeners for helping them grow in appreciation and knowledge of heirloom gardening and practices. Congratulations!