Heirloom Garden: What's Blooming in Spring?

The Heirloom Garden, surrounding the National Museum of American History, Behring Center, has a variety of plants that highlight the types that have been passed down from generation to generation.

Here are a few that are in bloom during the spring months.


ChivesAllium schoenoprasm

Chives have graced American kitchen gardens, including Monticello’s, since colonization. The leaves were most often used to flavor soups and cheeses and are still a culinary favorite. The flowers are pretty as well as edible.


ColumbineAquilegia ‘McKana Giant Hybrids’

These old-fashioned, long-spurred flowers are a must have in any cottage or cutting garden. McKana Giant hybrids were a 1955 All-America Selections Winner.


BorageBorogo officinalis

In ancient times, Borage was used as an antidepressant. Roman’s used Borage because it was believed that the herb made a man merry, and Celtic warriors drank borage flavored wine before battle. The unusual blue star-shaped blooms and leaves were also eaten in salads. Today, borage oil can be found in skin products.

Jupiter’s beard

Jupiter’s beardCentranthus ruber

This drought-tolerant Mediterranean native blooms continuously all summer. In the Heirloom Garden, flowers grace us even earlier due to the warmth from the terrace stone. The herbalist Culpeper recommended Jupiter’s beard to stir up lust and to comfort one’s heart.

Sweet WilliamDianthus barbatus ‘Newport Pink’

Long ago, the clove scented flowers were used to hide odors before cleanliness was a virtue. These old-fashioned cottage garden plants were also used in the front of the border and in masses where they still have a place today. Newport Pink was a cultivar that was introduced in 1926 by the Porter-Walton Co., Salt Lake City, UT. The color appears more salmon than pink.

Bleeding heart

Bleeding heartDicentra spectabilis

Bleeding heart is a Chinese native that has been grown in Asian gardens for centuries. The heart-shaped flowers were available in America by the late 1800’s and have remained a spring time favorite ever since. Grow in full to part shade.

Common sage

Common sageSalvia officinalis

Full sun, Zone 4-8, 2’ - 2.5’ tall

Salvia officinalis is a perennial, evergreen herb, with woody stems, grayish leaves, and blue to purplish flowers. It was frequently used by immigrants in the late 1800s as an herbal remedy for fevers, headaches, and other pains. Although professional medicine has eclipsed herbal treatments, sage is still used for cosmetic and culinary purposes. Turkey anyone?
* More information available on web-based audio tour.


Heartsease or Johnny-jump-upViola tricolor

Zeus was in love with Viola. Napoleon died with a viola and a lock of Josephine’s hair in his possession. Flowers were put into love potions to ease the heart. These tri-colored flowers were later hybridized, about 150 years ago, to create the pansies we know today.