Heirloom Country Gardens: Timeless Treasures for Today’s Gardeners – A Gardening Book Review

A horticultural researcher at the Rodale Institute Experimental Farm for many years, Sarah Wolfgang Heffner presents a delightful and charming book introducing gardeners to heirloom and country gardening.


Heirloom Country Gardens manages to pack a lot of useful information into one, easy-to-read book organized into three separate sections.

Basic Heirloom Garden Types and Designs

Heirloom Country Gardens presents samples of old-fashioned gardens from historic time periods and regional cultures, including characteristics of a New England region garden, Pennsylvania German gardens, Southern Spanish influenced gardens, and more. The following chapter will be a favorite of gardeners who love landscape designs as Heffner presents several sample heirloom garden designs complete with plant lists, photos, color drawings and layout design considerations. Sample heirloom gardens include medieval herb gardens, kitchen gardens, country cottage gardens, Victorian inspired parlor-gardens and more.

Favorite Old-Fashioned Plants and How to Grow Heirlooms

In the second part of Heirloom Country Gardens the gardener is introduced to favorite heirloom plants that have been popular in gardens for centuries. Most of the old-fashioned plants included in this book are easy-to-grow and fairly easy to locate making them perfect heirloom plants for a gardener just beginning to explore older plant varieties. Gardeners will learn about heirloom vegetables, antique annual flowers, bulbs, perennials and biennials, roses, vines, herbs and fruiting plants.

Now that Heffner has gardeners drooling over beautiful garden designs and nostalgic heirloom plants she covers some basic, old-fashioned gardening techniques. Gardeners will be introduced to kitchen gardening, crop rotation, starting seeds, soil amendments, mulching and weed control, common garden pests, pruning and saving seeds. This introduction will not provide all the information gardeners will need for every situation in the garden but will allow them to decide what techniques to research further.

Cooking and Crafting with Heirloom Plants

Once gardeners have designed their country garden and grown their heirloom plants what do they do with them? Heirloom Country Gardens does not leave that question unanswered as the third section shares many ideas for using country garden bounties. From rustic and old-fashioned projects like wattle fencing, pressed flowers and flower crafts to home-made potpourri and candied flowers, gardeners will have more to do than time to do it! Several historic recipes finish the main portion of the book and will provide gardeners with many delicious ways to utilize their garden produce at the dinner table.

Heirloom Garden Resources

Resources for heirloom country gardeners and an alphabetical index make it easy for gardeners to find the information they need to get started creating their own Heirloom Country Gardens. This book is one a gardener will use for everything from designing the garden, selecting and cultivating the heirloom plants, to cooking or arranging them. If a gardener wants to turn their yard into an heirloom country garden, Heffner’s book is a great resource for getting started.

Charming, beautiful and informational: This book gets two, green-thumbs up from the Plants and Bulbs department.