Landscape Curation

The Tidewater Landscape


One of the great strengths of Historic St. Mary’s City is its setting, located on the site of the original 17th-century capital of Maryland, HSMC occupies a tidewater landscape dominated by the St. Mary’s River and surrounded by forest and field.

The beauty of the river and the rural landscape add greatly to the appeal of the museum. Since our grounds are the original site of the city and the visitor spends quite a bit of time walking between formal exhibit areas, the landscape itself is a critical part of the experience.

Interpreting and maintaining the entire landscape of 832 acres, including the relatively small percentage (4 acres) that makes up the gardens and orchards, is analogous to caring for an indoor collection. Certain guiding principles apply. They include a protocol for planting that includes a check with the Research Department before any digging is done. This is designed to protect the archaeological resources.


Research into the gardens is ongoing. Primary documents relating to the landscape at St. Mary’s City are limited. English books and garden plans of the period are consulted for verification of commonly used species. Comparisons with other 17th-century sites are also helpful.


HSMC is a charter member of a Historic Landscapes Group, which consists of horticultural staff of regional outdoor museums. Membership is also maintained in the Alliance for Historic Landscapes, the Maryland Native Plant Society and the Maryland Public Garden Consortium, one of only two statewide public gardens organizations in the United States.


Volunteer opportunities include working in Farthing’s, the two Bayscapes gardens, parking lot islands, the rose arbor, the orchard and all along the river bank where there is an ongoing effort to control invasive exotic species. Christmas means the collecting of greens and pruning of the numerous boxwoods! There is also a major volunteer effort associated with the annual Plant Sale, both in preparation and on the day of sale! Trail maintenance is ongoing.

DigDeeperDig deeper into the landscape of Historic St Mary’s City.