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Sotterley Plantation in Winter
A December Walk Through Southern Maryland's Sotterley Plantation
Visitors may self tour Historic Sotterley Plantation's gardens and grounds year round. Admission is $3 per person.
An outdoor tour may not seem like a good winter pastime at first glance, but the garden and grounds of Historic Sotterley Plantation have enough visual and historical interest to occupy even a chilly December afternoon.
The plantation, which overlooks the Patuxent River, is 300 years old. That's older than both Mount Vernon and Monticello!
Today, Sotterley consists of 95 acres of lovely rolling grounds with numerous interesting outbuildings, including a slave cabin. The plantation is also notable for its 18th-century plantation house and adjacent gardens.
The original house, built in 1703 by James Bowles, was comprised of only two rooms. The mansion today, which has 15 rooms, reached its current state during the 1800s and features a Chinese Chippendale staircase as well as alcoves shaped like shells in the drawing room.
It was also during the 19th century that the plantation became home to one of the largest communities of slaves in Southern Maryland.
Guided tours of the house are available from the first of May through the end of October, but the garden and grounds are open to visitors year round.
Sotterley Plantation was first designated as a National Historic Landmark in 2000.
The Plantation in Winter
Even in winter, Sotterley's grounds are lovely and easily visible, almost in their entirety, from the manor house's vantage point.
The plantation home's long, narrow front porch overlooks sloping fields, verdant even in winter, that roll down to the Patuxent River.
Sotterley Gardens are at the back of the plantation house, and it is the house's rear and the garden gate that visitors first see when walking up the long gravel path from the public parking area.
Like a beautiful face, a beautiful garden retains its grace and charm throughout the seasons.
The gardens at Sotterley Plantation are beautiful even in winter, thanks in large part to the Sotterley Garden Guild.
A group of 40 volunteers, the guild meets at Sotterley nearly year round, every Wednesday and Saturday. It's goal? To maintain and improve the plantation's Colonial Revival gardens.
As any visitor can attest, the guild's efforts have been a resounding success. Sotterley's gardens feature many elements of interest even in December, including garden sculptures, a sundial, a birdhouse fashioned after the manor house and an English oak descended from those grown at the original Sotterley in England.
The Sotterley Garden Guild
To generate money for the garden's maintenance, the Sotterley Garden Guild raises thousands of dollars annually through fundraising.
One of the guild's biggest money makers is its yearly Plant Sale and Free Plant Exchange. A real boon for plant lovers, the sale allows visitors to purchase plants that have been propagated from those grown at Sotterley. They can also bring plants from their own gardens and exchange them for plants that other gardeners have brought to the exchange.
To raise money for the gardens, the guild additionally sells handmade holiday greenery, examples of which may be seen adorning the Sotterley mansion as well as the plantation's outbuildings during the winter months.
About the Author
The Dirt Farmer has been an active gardener for over 30 years.
She first began gardening as a child alongside her grandfather on her parents' farm.
Today, The Dirt Farmer gardens at home, volunteers at community gardens and continues to learn about gardening through the MD Master Gardener program.
© 2012 Jill Spencer