Reintroducing the Pry House Medicinal Garden
Museum volunteer and retired pharmacist Greg Susla spent a lot of time restoring and revitalizing the medicinal garden at the Pry House Field Hospital Museum over the last two years. Greg will detail his past and planned steps in a series of blog posts for the website, so watch for more to come.
Welcome to the first post exploring the revitalized Pry House Medicinal Garden. The purpose of these posts is 3-fold.
- Chronicle the restoration of the Pry House Medicinal Garden.
- Highlight each of the plants in the garden and describe how they might have been used to treat illnesses during the Civil War.
- The blog will briefly review the science supporting the modern-day use of these plants.
The first phase of the restoration began in the spring of 2016 by removing the plant and weed remains of the previous garden and uncovering the stone walkways.
Next, western red cedar was selected to build five 4’ x 6’ raised bed flower boxes. Western red cedar was chosen because of its excellent durability and its decay-resistance properties. Although raised beds were not commonly used during the Civil War, they are great for growing small gardens, prevent soil compaction and provide good drainage for the beds.
The initial plants were selected to represent the species that might have been grown in the Mid-Atlantic area during the 1860s. The plants were bought from Strictly Medicinal, LLC in Williams, Oregon. Strictly Medicinal had the greatest selection of medicinal plants found on the web. I consulted with Richo Cech, the owner of the company and he recommended the initial plant selection to be period and geographically accurate.
The initial plants planted in the garden in the spring of 2016 were English Thyme, Echinacea, Cramp Bark, Evening Primrose, English Hawthorne, Pulsatilla, Calamus, Gravel Root, Bears Foot, Bugleweed, and Tobacco. Ephedra replaced Evening Primrose and Arnica replaced Tobacco in the spring of 2017. St. John’s Wort, Belladonna and Foxglove were added as new plants in 2017. Ongoing plant selection is based on plants that typically would have been grown in this region. A good reference for identifying potential plants is the Resources of the Southern Fields and Forests, Medical, Economical and Agriculture written by Francis Peyre Porcher, MD a southern physician and Confederate surgeon during the Civil War. Dr. Porcher wrote the book at the request of Dr. Samuel Preston Moore, the Surgeon General of the Confederate Army, to prepare text to compile the commonly available plants that may be used as alternatives for the effect of the Union blockade on Confederate drug supplies.
The second phase of the restoration will begin in the fall/winter of 2017 and will include removing the remaining weeds and plants and adding five additional raised bed garden boxes. Plants are currently being reviewed for planting the in the spring of 2018.
The Garden restoration has been an enjoyable undertaking. As a pharmacist, it takes me back to my roots….so to speak. It gives me an appreciation of the value that plants have in treating of common illnesses and a respect their potential side effects. My hope is that these blog posts will be a resource for people interested in Civil War medicine and those interested in planting their own medicinal gardens.
About the Author
Greg Susla has been a volunteer at the National Museum of Civil War Medicine since January 2011. Greg’s interest in the Civil War stems from his home town, Torrington, CT, the birth place of the abolitionist John Brown. Greg received his pharmacy degrees from the Universities of Connecticut and Florida and completed a critical care pharmacy residency at the Ohio State University Hospitals. Greg spent the majority of his career as the ICU pharmacist at National Institutes of Health in Bethesda, MD and volunteered his time in the ICU at the National Naval Medical Center in Bethesda, MD. Greg has been active in the Society of Critical Care Medicine for over 25 years serving on a number of the Society’s committees, and is a Fellow in the American College of Critical Care Medicine. Greg recently retired as the Associate Director of Medical Information at MedImmune in Gaithersburg, MD. Greg is leading the restoration of the garden and is being assisted by his wife Lisa and other staff members and volunteers at the Museum and Pry House. Greg and his wife Lisa live in Frederick, MD.Tags: Civil War Medicine, Greg Susla, herbal medicine, medicinal garden, pry garden, Pry House Field Hospital Museum Posted in: Uncategorized