Over the week-end, I was reading about Michael Twitty and his involvement with African-American heritage gardens. I love the idea of growing plants with special meanings and sharing those meanings with others. Growing up Catholic, I've heard of Mary gardens planted in flowers (often blue and white) with symbolic ties to the Blessed Mother. So, I started thinking, what would a science garden look like?
A science garden would have to include peas. Gregor Mendel, the famous geneticist, cross-bred over 300 strains of peas. His discoveries of dominant and recessive traits are the foundation of modern-day genetics.
Apple trees would be another good choice. Isaac Newton is widely reported to have watched an apple fall while developing his theory of gravity.
Peanuts should also be included. George Washington Carver developed over 225 peanut products in his lifetime, including gasoline, shampoo, dry coffee, and, of course, peanut butter. (If you're allergic to peanuts, consider planting sweet potatoes. He found over 100 uses for them, too.)
Charles Darwin, famous for his theories of evolution and natural selection, is said to have favored orchids. Benjamin Franklin set up a plant exchange between French and American gardeners, bringing rhubarb, yellow willow, and the cabbage turnip to colonial America.
A science garden would probably have most plants grown in neat and orderly rows, perhaps with varying watering schedules and fertilization rates to see the effectiveness of different cropping techniques, à la Rothamsted (reportedly "the oldest agricultural research station in the world"). But any science garden should have at least one corner where all of the leftover seeds are thrown together for fun, just to see what happens.
Photo credit: Scott Bauer, ARS, USDA