Heritage Gardens Program

Heritage Gardens Program

Heritage Garden"One of the chief charms of Rockford is to be found in its pleasant gardens, fruitful orchards and the wealth of shrubbery which adorns the gardens of its residents. Scarcely a home can be found, however limited the extent of ground belonging to it, that cannot exhibit its thrifty fruit trees, luxuriant strawberry patches, gay flower beds and tasty groups of shrubbery: until it has been suggested that Rockford may with propriety be christened and known hereafter as the “Floral City." – Rockford City Directory and County Gazetteer 1869

Our 19th Century Historic Gardens

Northern Illinois has a long tradition of attractive landscapes and lush gardens. In an effort to preserve this heritage, Midway Village Museum has recreated historic gardens in the village using 19th century garden designs, structures, ornamentation and heirloom plants. Eight heirloom gardens along with ten acres of restored natural areas reflect various aspects of turn- of- the -century living and provide the visitor with a unique glimpse of plant varieties seldom seen today. Interpreters in authentic period clothing also use these plants for historic cooking demonstrations, craft projects and decorating. It is our hope that, in addition to the buildings and artifacts of the village, the gardens will help transport you to a time when flowers had a language of their own and neighbors lingered on front porches enjoying the fragrance of sweet peas and honeysuckle.

In addition to the cultivated garden areas, Midway Village Museum is actively engaged in prairie restoration. When the first settlers arrived in Northern Illinois, 22 million acres of prairie dominated the landscape and gave Illinois its nickname, the Prairie State. Today only a fraction of the original prairie survives. An ongoing program aimed at restoring this unique biological community began in 2005. The creation of a native wetland on our museum campus earned the Superior Achievement Award from the Illinois Association of Museums in 2006.

Mission of the Heritage Garden Program
The mission of the Heritage Garden Program at Midway Village Museum is to be committed to the continuing research and development of gardens that will more accurately reflect the cultural landscape of the period 1890-1910, allow for interactive opportunities for the visitor and enhance the grounds of the museum.

A dedicated volunteer at Heritage Gardens

The Heritage Gardens would not exist without the help of dedicated volunteers. For those interested in helping with the gardens, please see our Volunteer area.

Special Events

Our special events include:

Irises in Bloom

Iris Sale at Midway Village

Join us in the Victorian Village for our annual Iris Sale! Thursday, Sept. 8 and Friday, Sept. 9. from 4:30 - 6:30pm. We are selling Heirloom Iris plants in a 6-8in pot for $15, and unidentified Heritage Iris plants in a 6-8in pot for $8. Enter at Gate C. Light refreshments will be served. Our Heritage Gardens Manager Katie Townsend will be on hand to describe the varieties and answer questions.

Featured varieties:

Quaker Lady
Lavender Fall with Bronze Standards. 2 ½ ft stems.

Info: The colors of the flower are reminiscent of a Quaker woman's dress. Late bloomer. Vigorous growth with numerous blooms, multiplies quickly. Created by Bertrand Farr, a Pennsylvania nurseryman who strived to make iris one of the signature plants in early 20th century American gardens. One of the best loved American iris of all time.

Yellow with red/maroon falls. Mid season blooms. 18" stem.

Info: Gracchus was developed in the late nineteenth century during early attempts by Thomas Ware to cross breed in order to develop improved iris varieties. At the time, it was seen as quite a sensation and was honored by the Royal Horticultural Society in 1885. Interestingly, at one time it was on several "Black Lists" of iris that were considered unworthy of further propagation, but that is no longer the case!

Mme Henri Cayeux

Info: Red maroon color with tall 3-1/2 ft stems.

Received an award of merit from the French National Historical Society. Regarded by its developer, the renowned French horticulturalist and breeder Ferdinand Cayeux, to be one of the top two varieties he produced. The variety was named for Cayeux's brother's wife. A cross between Black Prince and Alcazar. 3-1/2' stems. Mid to late bloomer.

I Pallida Fragrant
Pre 1600
Lavender blooms.

Info: Known for its distinctive scent, that ranges from grape soda to orange blossom to vanilla. In Italy, I Pallida is grown for use in the perfume industry- the fragrance (orris root) actually comes from the rhizomes which are peeled by hand and dried for 5-6 years, not from the blooms. The iris is resistant to borers, has strong 3' stems and excellent foliage.

Walkabout Wednesdays

Wednesday Walkabouts - 9:30 am on Wednesdays, June through September
One look at a Victorian Garden is never enough. Different perennials are blooming week by week. New heights, shapes, and colors invite an array of birds, bees, and butterflies. Ripening vegetables, fall shades of prairie grasses and sweet autumn clematis keep the show going beyond the summer months. Join us on Wednesday mornings for historic garden tours that highlight all the beautiful changes. Tours begin at the Heritage Park Gazebo off the Guilford County Forest Preserve recreational path at 9:30am, and proceed at a leisurely pace around the village wrapping up around an hour later. This event is free, with a suggested donation of $5. Note that if rain occurs, the tour will not proceed that day.

Learn More

Katie Townsend

Katie Townsend (pictured), our Heritage Gardens Manager, brings over 35 years of expertise as a naturalist, and leads a team of 25 dedicated garden volunteers.

If you would like to donate to our Heritage Gardens program, you can do so here by selecting Heritage Gardens from the drop down menu.