Monday mornings in the gardens...
We hope to see you there!

Springtime is here and our gardens are starting to bloom - The language of flowers

Source – Farmers Almanac

Floriography, or “the language of flowers,” was a popular Victorian fad during the 1800s in which specific meanings were attributed to different plants and flowers. Most flowers conveyed positive sentiments: friendship, fidelity, devotion, love. Others were assigned more negative meanings, such as anger, contempt or indifference. All Victorian homes had guidebooks which contained listings for hundreds of trees, shrubs, herbs, and flowers, accompanied by dainty illustrations. I’m sure many of you have plenty of garden books, new and old that teach how to care for our favorite plants.  It is possible that these popular flower vocabularies were mainly a kind of 19th- century “coffee table book.”

Following the protocol of Victorian-era etiquette, flowers were primarily used to deliver messages that couldn’t be spoken aloud. In a sort of silent dialogue, flowers could be used to answer “yes” or “no” questions. Some stories told of these days and ways – A “yes” answer came in the form of flowers handed over with the right hand; if the left hand was used, the answer was “no.”

How flowers were presented and in what condition also were important. If the flowers were given upside down, then the idea being conveyed was the opposite of what was traditionally meant. How the ribbon was tied said something, too: Tied to the left, the flowers’ symbolism applied to the giver, whereas tied to the right, the sentiment was in reference to the recipient. And, of course, a wilted bouquet delivered an obvious message!  

We have updated the photos logs of our gardens on our facebook page as well as our Gardens page. We hope to see you there this season enjoying the views on one of the outdoor benches.

Volunteer Impact Days
Our work would not be possible without the help of our amazing volunteers! We will be hosting weekly Volunteer Impact Days, which are open to everyone, on Mondays from 9:30am-11am during Spring growing season, May-June, at our main site @ 3087 Main Street, Barnstable, MA. For our typical volunteer workdays, we have volunteers help us with tasks such as seeding, weeding, planting, pruning, mowing, etc. If you are interested, please feel free to join us on any Monday morning during those times.

Other ways to grow our gardens…
If you are not able to volunteer your time; but interested in supporting our growing gardens in other ways, consider a financial donation. All Lisa Blair Memorial Garden Donations are used directly to support the care and maintenance of our gardens. 



If you have questions about our gardens – give us a call or stop by…  or if you have extra plants with no where to plant them – Connect with us by email or phone call to make arrangements for drop off.

Victorian America Celebrates Easter

(Source: This Fabulous Century: 1870-1890)

Early Christians aligned their celebration of Christ’s resurrection with the Anglo-Saxon’s Spring Equinox, falling on the first full moon after the vernal equinox. It is believed that the term “Easter” originated from the Pagan fertility goddess “Eostre,” who’s fertility was celebrated at the time of the Spring Equinox. They viewed the time as the rebirth of fertility and life, which is why eggs and rabbits were the symbols chosen to represent Easter. 

In the postwar years after the Civil War, Easter emerged as a favored holiday. Youngsters took up those ancient Easter symbols, the egg and the rabbit. Gentlemen sent cards to ladies. And both sexes turned the holiday into a fashion show, as people of all shapes and tastes paraded their brightest spring outfits up and down the main streets of their towns.

Traditions outside of religious observation and worship have cropped up and have become favored. Easter eggs (both dyed chicken eggs and decorative gifts of milk glass Easter Eggs), Easter bonnets, new dresses, new neckties, fancy sit-down meals, greeting cards sent by mail or delivered in person all became part of the Easter season.


Easter Greeting Cards and Postcards

Easter greeting cards were exchanged, many with spiritual images on them like lambs and crosses. Brightly colored paper was used in the creation of these cards, and some contained images of bunnies and eggs.  Check our facebook page for a greater collection of postcards and share yours or let us know which one is your favorite.

Like your favorite!

Easter Eggs

One of the oldest American Easter customs is the Easter egg hunt or egg rolling. Dolley Madison introduced the Washington egg rolling, and when Congress forbade the use of the capitol grounds for it in the 1870s, President and Mrs. Rutherford B. Hayes moved it to the White House lawn in 1878. The Easter egg is one of those ancient pagan symbols of new life that was early taken over by the Christian church. The Easter bunny–the notorious fecundity of rabbits and hares makes them obvious symbols of life–is probably of German origin, and was quickly adopted in America.

Like today, children in the Victorian era loved Easter. Children would dye eggs using cranberries, beets, oranges, and lemon peels. During the 1800s children would participate in both egg rolling and egg hunts, and the winner would receive a special prize. Some Victorian egg hunts included cardboard eggs lined with fabric and contained little candies. Lemonade and cookies were served at these special events.

Samplers / Victorian Embroidery and Needlework / Tatting Lace

Our most recent donation is a beautiful little girls sampler from 1809

Ruth Done Knowles, Born 1798

Sampler Date 1809 in Eastham, MA


Samplers were typically learning exercises during the 18th and 19th centuries; samplers were stitched more to demonstrate knowledge than to preserve skill. The stitching of samplers was believed to be a sign of virtue, achievement and industry, and girls were taught the art from a young age. Many samplers would contain Family trees, while others commemorate events, such as weddings or births. Alphabet samplers were used to demonstrate a record of stitch capability and talent and often would capture a record of a life event, right of passage, or special life history of the needle artist.

Needlework was important for young girls learning home economic skills to manage a household, and the personal adornment of herself and her family. Alphabets allowed girls to practice the marking of linen (sheets, undergarments and other personal items were named so they came back to their right owners after wash day), while spot motifs and border patterns could be used to decorate both clothes and domestic furnishings.

Historically, needlework tended to flourish in female and feminine spaces — namely, the home and clothing. It gave women a voice when they had none. It is said that women would stitch their thoughts in the hems of their skirts as a way to express their silent opinions on trending topics in the world.

Today, it is enjoying a revival with Google reporting a 100% increase in searches for embroidery kits since the pandemic hit in 2020. Ever since the first textile was created, there have been stories woven into fabric. Whether it be literally or figuratively, textile design does not exist without a narrative. 

Special thanks to Marcia Brown-Smith for her time and help with researching the delicate and beautiful history of our recent sampler donation and sharing her history of the Needle Arts. 

Marcia Brown-Smith has been serving the needle art industry since 1979 providing finishing services for retailers throughout the United States and other countries as well as for private clients, students and designers. With an average of between 500-700 pieces completed each year, the opportunity to work on a wide variety of needle art, both canvas and linen, has generated the development of finishing techniques that easily offer professional results. Marcia has been special editor for a major needlework publication, has been a teacher on the national level for a variety of mainstream needlework venues since 1991, has lectured and exhibited for many needlework seminars, museums and guilds nationwide and ran a successful finishing business for 35 years. She is now creating her own needle art designs and teaching them nationally while continuing to provide finishing services to private clients and students. 

Buy this book on Amazon: Distinctive     Presentations in Needle Art


Nabby Easterbrooks, Born 1794

Sampler Date 1805 in Sandwich, MA





May spotless innocence and truth my every action guide and guard my inexperienced youth from vanity and pride.





Victorian Embroidery

Source: RiverCity Screenprinting & Embroidery


Traditional Victorian ladies were raised to sew not just standard, function-meeting items like blouses, skirts, and trousers; they could also create a variety of petticoats, corsets, garters, even reticules and other types of handbags and luggage items. Hand-sewn and embroidered baby clothing was also quite popular; in fact, it is from the Victorian era that layettes became so popular. Household items such as doilies, pillows, curtains, other linens, and even pet accessories were also popular hand-sewn items. 


It was a skilled Victorian lady who could provide all of her home’s clothing and linen needs herself, though plenty paid friends to add Victorian embroidery and specialty crocheted and knitted embellishments. Some women made quite the profit from marketing their sewing and embroidering skills – the same 1873 Harper’s Bazaar article wrote at length about a widow who owned her city house outright and was able to independently support herself and her children, all on the income earned by plying a needle. (You Go Girl!)



While Victorian women taught their daughters, sisters, and other female relatives basic sewing skills to ensure they could practically supplement their household with in-house repairs, middle and upper class women in the market for marriage would set out to specifically learn the tricky talents of Victorian embroidery – the so-called “fancy work” that added beautiful decorations to clothing and linens. 


Fancy work was taught at home and even at school, and towards the end of the 1800s women’s colleges were even offering Victorian sewing and Victorian embroidery classes. Once married, these middle and upper class women would delegate the function-only work of basic sewing and repairs to maids, and utilize their own hands for fancier work. Lower class women too learned the skill of Victorian sewing and embroidery; however they learned it at the expense of shorting themselves on opportunities for learning reading, writing, and arithmetic. Furthermore, many lower class female students were required to learn and deploy Victorian sewing and embroidery skills as a way of paying for their room and board at school.

Miscellaneous sewing artifacts and sewing table

Tatting Lace

About 2000 years ago, fishermen used a large shuttle to weave heavy cord into fishing nets.  About 1000 years ago sailors knew many different kinds of knots to use on the sailing ships.  The Bolin Knot was used for the anchor; it was a slip stitch. Tatting may have developed from netting and decorative ropework as sailors and fishermen would put together motifs for girlfriends and wives at home. Decorative ropework employed on ships includes techniques (esp. coxcombing) that show striking similarity with tatting. A good description of this can be found in Knots, Splices and Fancywork.

All these cords were handed down to weavers who used a finer thread to make lace.  The shuttle was smaller to accommodate this finer thread and the lace they made was sewn onto satin and velvet.  Ladies wore beautiful garments with lace, lace making was a thriving business in Europe.

Tatting was one of these laces.  Children and handmaidens were taught to tat edgings that were quickly bought up by the weavers who would add the tatting edgings onto the garments and charge a large sum of money for the garment.

In England, this lace was called knotting. In France it was called frivolet.  In America it was called tatting.  In 1845 in Cork, Ireland the nuns had developed the art of lace making with crochet, knitting, and tatting. They saw the poor people eating grass so they brought out their beautiful laces, sold them, and gave the money to the poor. Irish immigrants came to America wearing tatting, and then they sold the tatting to make pin money.

One of the reasons people keep treasured artifacts from the past is because they hold a deeper meaning of something that matters. Ordinary everyday objects of life are just that — ordinary, without context beyond their purpose. The historic items that have the greatest attachment are usually the little things. Small handheld tools and instruments that people have used to construct or create something lasting. Tools like this Historical Treasure, a tatting shuttle, are reminiscent of more than what they were used to create. They are often symbolic of the people who used them.

Tatting Edgings

Tatting Shuttles

Tatting shuttles come in all sorts of different styles and material. Some are made of tortoise shell, pearl, ivory or wood. Elaborately designed shuttles could be quite expensive and sometimes were accompanied by exquisite carrying cases.

In later years, needlework skills were of utmost importance during the Victorian era. Leisure time recreation was a bold statement of economic status at that time, and the level of status was often determined by the skill set of one’s handiwork. If a woman had time to devote to making fancy lace pillows, table coverings and edgework, it meant she wasn’t bothered with the labors of housework, survival. By the 1930s through the 1950s it evolved into a common pastime or hobby. Tatting patterns were featured in the latest edition of leading women’s magazines.

Today many hand-crafted arts are in danger of becoming lost to obscurity. This does not seem to be the case with needlework such as crochet, knitting and tatting. Although the ancient technique is not practiced as often as the others, tatting and its various shuttles continue to be passed on to future generations.