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Finding a hidden Africa in 1780s Maryland orangery

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Author Topic: Finding a hidden Africa in 1780s Maryland orangery  (Read 92 times)
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« on: February 19, 2011, 02:53:32 am »

The Wye Orangery as it appeared 1785-1820. Credit: Brian Payne/UMD

Harrison Roberts, born a slave at Wye House, continued the gardening tradition there and died in the 20th century. He mastered the skills while a slave and continued to use them after freedom. “The knowledge didn’t just go away – it endured longer than the plantation system,” Leone concludes, based on an oral history from the 1960s.

    * Evolution from greenhouse to orangery – pollen analysis and Frederick Douglass tell the story. In the late 18th century, the greenhouse had a range of flowering plants, shrubs, and medicinal herbs. Over time, the plant arrays expanded, and by the 1820s citrus and more exotic species were cultivated. Lemons and oranges grew there, as did members of the rose family, lily, saxifrage, phlox, iris and members of the nightshade family. Evidence for this comes from pollen excavated from the greenhouse by the team and analysed by specialists. Historic records and descriptions also supplement the picture, especially the autobiographical writings of Frederick Douglass.
    * Look of the greenhouse: Anything in the greenhouse would have been potted or in a trough of some sort, and these would have been in tiers or placed on risers, Leone explains. The plants would probably have been kept in groups, which was the preferred technique shown in gardening manuals at the time.
    * The 1785 greenhouse was built on top of an earlier one. Around 1770, Edward Lloyd IV built his first greenhouse. In 1784 or 1785 he started again – the building that stands today, equipped with a hypocaust. At Leone’s request, Bryan Haley, of the Center for Archaeological Research at the University of Mississippi (now of the Tulane Department of Anthropology), used extensive soundings from a magnetometer and ground penetrating radar to discover evidence of the larger, earlier structure. Haley’s analysis showed what may be the underground remains of structures attached to the original greenhouse, which did not have a heating system within it. This would have been a garden pavilion that used either the heat of the sun or the heat from piles of dung kept inside.

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