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Charline Bridgeman

Bronze Master Gardener

Charline Bridgeman, Bronze Master Gardener, stands in front of a trellis she fashioned out of rope. Charline is recreating a circa 1850s medicinal garden.

Charline Bridgeman has a passion for many things: Writing; photography; history; research and gardening.

Luckily for SWIMGA, she’s taken all those passions and put them to use in developing the cabin garden which can be found in the Display Garden on Evansville’s Eastside.

Her goal is to create a garden that is filled with plants that a pioneer woman might have planted because of their medicinal value.  Her time frame?  Around 1850.  That was a time when doctors weren’t plentiful here in southern Indiana, and money was probably scarce for a settler.

It was probably also a time when smart pioneer women would have special gardens filled with plants that could help their families in times of illness. Plants like St. John’s Wort, which was used for nervous disorders; Soapwort, which was used for poison ivy rashes, and Yarrow, which was used for digestion.

Even before Charline picked up a shovel, she did her research.  As she planted seeds this spring, she remembered her history lessons, and what was going on during the 1850s:  Slavery; the rise to prominence of Abraham Lincoln and the completion of the Wabash and Erie Canal.

Charline also studied about the lives of the pioneers. She learned that sometimes they had lawns which were “immaculately kept and managed.” These lawns were used to separate the various gardens from one another, and — in pre-lawn mower times — they were kept neat and trim by the family goats.

She decided to plant heirloom seeds, and purchased seeds from Sow True Seed, Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds, Plant-World Seeds, American Meadows, Eden Brothers, Seed Savers Exchangeand Jefferson Heirloom Seeds.

She dug right in this spring with high hopes for a luscious garden, but unfortunately — just like the pioneer women who came before her — she ran into a few problems. “The gutters on the west side of the cabin are not working property and flooded my seeds. But it was not only that. I, as well as farmers, was plagued with unseasonably cold weather and wet conditions. The seeds rotted.”

Fortunately, unlike a pioneer woman who probably was strapped for cash, Charline was able to re-order seeds, and do a second planting.

Charline is a relatively new SWIMGA member, but thanks to all her volunteer hours at the Display Garden, she’s already earned her bronze level badge. She’s a faithful worker, and spends lots of her time in the garden.

Stop by, say hi, and ask her to tell you more about her plans.

Submitted by Mary Ann Hughes, SWIMGA member

For a listing of medicinal herbs, click here and ‘Open’ the file: Medicinal Herbs