Thursday, May 23

Grumblethorpe Mysteries: Historic Home and Garden in Germantown


Historic Grumblethorpe on Germantown Ave. built in 1744 (photo source:

Herb Garden (in April) off of the kitchen with sundial 

I began my internship with Grumblethorpe in April with the task of bringing some order to the herb garden, designing a pollinator garden for the students who come to learn about caterpillars and butterflies, 
and to add signs and design a brochure for visitors.  

It has evolved into a mystery solving expedition for me: 

What plants were grown here by the Wister family historically? 
and how to exemplify the fantastic exploration and scientific  
curiosity with weather, rare plants, minerals, bees, forests, and astronomy 
that was a part of the Wister homestead?

 A vegetable and formal bed beyond, with the ancient Ginko tree on the left

 Formal bed with boxwood-border bed and pergola gates

 The observatory Charles Wister built

After reading Suzanne Wister Eastwick's compilation of the family garden records, 
the mystery only deepened with descriptions of family ties to Academy of 
Natural Sciences collections, the first person recollections of the wild garden filled 
with collected orchid and fern species from the Wissahickon, 
the "Beemaster" with 25 hives who brought a swarm 9 miles to the house in a wheelbarrow, 
the amateur astronomer who built an observatory to watch eclipses and the transit of Mercury, 
as well as the interest in meteorology, designing of iron rain gauges and clock-making.

Chickens looking for a bite to eat

 Side path around original stone wall