Spring into history

Legacy Gardens take visitors for a stroll into the Island’s botanical past.

Things are popping up at the Cooke House and Legacy Gardens in Edgartown, as the warm days of spring and summer finally greet us.

Starting April 2 through the end of October, weather permitting, the Martha’s Vineyard Museum properties will be starting their outdoor activities from 12 to 4 pm every Saturday. While the inside of the Cooke House is still closed as it undergoes stabilization and then preservation work, the great outdoor Legacy Gardens will be where the action is. The title “Legacy Gardens” is a nod to the fact that the museum began in Edgartown as the Dukes County Historical Society. Even though it has moved principal operations to its main campus in Vineyard Haven, there is still a lot going on at the old Edgartown location, since it is where they began.

Manager of education and public programs for the museum Norah Kyle Messier said the gardens are the original portion of the campus, which have now been preserved in perpetuity as a beautiful living exhibit that is entirely donor-funded. “It is a beautiful outdoor learning space associated with our historic museum,” she said. You’ll be able to stroll through the Learning Loop, a walk through the Vineyard’s botanical history, beginning when the glacier receded 10,000 years ago, and ending at the present moment.

The gardens will be staffed with museum educators who, as Messier explains, are there to answer any and all questions about the Cooke House, along with Vineyard and Edgartown history. They will also be leading all sorts of activities — there’s plenty for kids, but all ages will find the activities engaging. In “Garden Gabs,” you get to talk with a horticultural historian about the plants growing in the Legacy Garden regarding their historic and contemporary uses, and get tips for incorporating indigenous and introduced species into your own garden at home. There will be a pop-up exhibit that connects the past with the present as you stroll through the Colonial Kitchen Garden. Enjoy old-fashioned toys and games of skill and luck that have been popular pastimes on the Vineyard historically, and are fun for all ages.

You can also get involved with make-and-take garden crafts, which will include recycled paper seedling pots, botanical sketching, simple pressed flowers, leaf rubbing, dried lavender sachets, and mini flower arrangements. There will also be “DO Try This at Home” activity guides and museum coloring sheets. And for those who are interested, a self-guided tour brochure is available that traces 10,000 years of botanical history through the Learning Loop gardens.

Offerings in the works for adults include historical horticulture workshops, and a costumed “Secrets & Scandals! Olde Edgartown Walking Tour,” that will start at the Edgartown Lighthouse and end at the Cooke House and Legacy Gardens, so it links two of the museum’s properties.

There will also be natural dyeing workshops, herbal cocktail and tea workshops, and museum nightlife programs.

“I’m really looking forward to a very busy and experimental year. I’m hoping that we serve all the audiences we want to serve by bringing the really unique and diverse history of the Island to life in a variety of different ways,” Messier said. “Everything from living history programming, costume tours, hands-on experiences for all ages, and, of course, the traditional selection of lectures, panel discussions, and college-level courses and seminars. There’s a little bit of everything, with the hopes of reaching everybody.”

Weekly Saturday drop-in offerings run from 12 to 4 pm, starting April 2. The museum suggests a $5 donation. All ages are welcome. Head to bit.ly/Cooke_House_Legacy_Gardens for more information.