Museum Pieces: What’s in your garden?

Take the time and patience needed to learn and grow.


“To have a devoted neighbor rob her own garden to give you plants that shriek at your own plants and devastate your scheme of decoration, is about as unhappy a garden situation as can be found.” —Emily Post

Emily Post was an Edgartown summer resident and was passionate about her garden. This quote of her’s is a fitting metaphor for a lot in life. While we can all benefit from advice and assistance, we still have to manage what we follow and accept. We bloom from the choices we make. The M.V. Museum has accepted the responsibility that comes with keeping the ledger of life on the Island — from the People of the First Light to the present day. There are stories being unearthed all the time and MVM, your museum, will continue to add to a more thorough documentation of undertold and underrepresented stories. Gardening teaches us patience. Each plant has its own needs in order to thrive and harmonize with the other plants. What will you choose for your garden? What colors, textures, heights, combinations, sizes, scents, and so on? Will it be for beauty? For medicine? Food perhaps? What would you choose to accept from a neighbor’s garden? What would you share from yours? The museum wants to build a giant community garden containing everything we can grow from heirloom seeds that you share with us.

Martha’s Vineyard is known for its gardens — each town has a signature style and its own set of rules, tricks, and frustrations. There are garden tours that demonstrate this during the summer. The museum will host a panel on Tuesday, April 16, with six women who have helped shape Island gardenscapes over the last 50 years. Peggy Schwier, Phyllis McMorrow, Lynne Irons, Abigail Higgins, Carly Look, and Mary Wirtz represent the storied women who have planned, dug, planted, and tended some of the most beautiful gardens on the Island. The stories, laughs, and wisdom they will divulge is going to interest, entertain, and encourage us all to create our garden stories. You will also take home some seeds of your own to plant. It’s spring after all, and time to come alive together!

There is a long history of interacting with the earth on this Island, beginning with the Indigenous Wampanoag, who have the mindset and skills to balance the give and take. The museum is in the process of developing a program with the proper guidance to impart some of this wisdom and expertise so we can help to heal the earth, as it has healed us for millennia. MVM maintains the Cooke House in Edgartown, as well as the Legacy Gardens built more recently, as a journey through many types of gardening from when the house was built in 1766. The Legacy Gardens features a walking loop, a contemplative fountain, and glimpses of Edgartown’s storied past. There will be talks about Edgartown history in this garden beginning Monday, July 8, and each Monday after through August 12 at 4 pm; we hope you can join us.

But we are only in April, so let’s not get ahead of ourselves. We have so many engaging exhibits, activities, and programs this month, including Friday Reset Live Music; a Bow Van Riper “Ferries and Steamers: From Sailboats to Sidewheelers” talk series; Tick Talk with Patrick Roden-Reynolds; a Transforming Beach Treasure workshop with Laurisa Rich; storytimes for kids; April break week fun for the kids; an afternoon tea talk with Master Herbalists Holly Bellebuono and Missy Harding, and more! Have you seen the “Clearly Misunderstood: C.F. Giordano” exhibit open through May 5? Or taken your kids (or yourself) to see the Clifford Exhibit open through July 14? Tomorrow night it’s Open Mic Night during the Friday Reset from 5 to 8 pm. There are 10 spots, so get there early!

We want you to think of the museum as a place to come to uplift your mind, body, and spirit, and building anything takes vision, planning, labor, and patience. MVM is grateful to have you helping us create a beautiful, bountiful garden we can all glean from.

Visit for more information about upcoming exhibitions and events. The Martha’s Vineyard Museum inspires all people to discover, explore, and strengthen their connections to this Island and its diverse heritage. The museum is open Tuesday through Sunday, year-round. Regular hours are 10 am to 4 pm and summer hours are 10 am to 5 pm. Admission is free to members; admission for nonmembers is $18 for adults, $15 for seniors, $5 for children 7 to 17, and free for children 6 and under. Islander rates are available. 

Laurel Redington is the director of programming and audience experience at the M.V. Museum.