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Windham Garden Club Learns about Heirloom Gardening

“When the world wearies and ceases to satisfy, there is always the garden.” – Francis Bacon. 

Humans have been gardening for thousands of years – for culinary, medicinal, and aesthetic purposes.  Although society has developed significantly, we can learn much from the past as we work toward a sustainable future. 

On Thursday, January 20th, garden historian and ethnobotanist John Forti spoke with the Windham Garden Club (the “WGC”) about how we can further cultivate our connection with the land.  Ethnobotany explores how people have used plants for food, textiles, medicine, and other purposes through the ages in different cultures. 

Mr. Forti’s presentation included a discussion of:

  • Plants you can grow in your garden for culinary purposes;
  • Native plants, such as Joe Pye-weed and ostrich ferns;
  • Traditional methods of growing certain vegetables;
  • The importance of growing food that is native to the region;
  • Preservation of heirloom seeds – with a note that over the last 100 years humans have narrowed the genetic diversity of plants that feed us by over 90%;
  • The importance of farmers’ markets (with the location of particularly good farmers’ markets in our area!); and
  • Information on the history of certain herbs, such as sage and wasabi. For example, we learned that sage has antibacterial properties, which is why it was traditionally used to season meat.  Similarly, the wasabi plant also has antibacterial properties, which explains its historical pairing with sushi.    

Our speaker, John Forti:    

  • Authored the book The Heirloom Gardener: Traditional Plants and Skills for the Modern World;
  • Serves as the Executive Director of Bedrock Gardens in Lee, NH (;
  • Is the former Director of Horticulture for the Massachusetts Horticultural Society, the oldest horticultural society in the country; and
  • Has thousands of followers on his Facebook page, where he blogs as “The Heirloom Gardener – John Forti”.

  Read more about John Forti at

The Windham Garden Club’s mission is bringing together people who are interested in all aspects of gardening, horticulture, and conservation.  Membership meetings run September through June on the third Thursday of the month in the evening and are open to the public.

Be sure to join the WGC at one of its upcoming meetings:

  • February 17 – “State of the Loon – The Natural History, Challenges, and Successes of Loons in New Hampshire” by biologist Harry Vogel. Windham Town Hall
  • March 17 – “Exploring Nature’s Ability to Teach and Heal!” by Lisa Burris, Executive Director of Turn Back Time, a nature education program.
  • April 21 – “Attracting Birds, Bees and Butterflies to Your Yard” by Betty Sanders, a lifetime Master Gardener.

Membership in the Windham Garden Club is open to gardeners of all levels and is only $20.  If you are interested in joining, visit or email