Early settlers planted for necessity such as cooking, health and even keeping linens smelling fresh and retarding moths.
Gardens from their colonial beginnings were blessings as well as necessities. Their family recipes for cooking meat, fish and pies led them to grow the spices needed. Linens were scented and blankets kept from moths by pungent leaves and flowers harvested from the garden. First and foremost, American gardens had plants for reducing fevers, numbing pain, aiding in childbirth, soothing sore throats, expelling worms, making physics and tonics, and laying out the dead. Because syrups could cloak pure spirits and sweeten bitter doses, fragrant flowers like pinks and violets were included in the first raised beds in what were primary gardens for health. The old standbys of the early housewife's gardens were incorporated into the borders of vegetable gardens.
The cultivation of special plants for flavoring, coloring, scenting, and dosing is as old as time. M'Mahon's "List of Aromatic, Pot and Sweet Herbs" printed these herbs in his Catalogue in The American Gardener's Calendar, 1806 and could be incorporated into your spring garden. Anise, Basil, Caraway, Coriander, Chamomile, Dill, Fennel, Lavender, Marigold, Marjoram, Mint, Rosemary, Sage, Tarragon and Thyme.
M'Mahon's "Plants Cultivated for Medicinal Purposes": Ague-weed (ague-a fever with periods of chill and sweating) with pale blue violet or white flower clusters. Flax has blue flowers and seeds that yield linseed oil. Feverfew is an aromatic plant with buttonlike, white-rayed flower clusters. Foxglove has a long cluster of large tublar, pinkish-purple flowers and leaves that are the source of the drug digitalis. Horehound is a plant yielding a bitter extract used as flavoring and a cough remedy. Liquorice (licorice) is a plant with blue flowers and a sweet, distinctively flavored root. The root was used as a flavoring for candy, liquors, tobacco and medicines. Pimpernel has red, white or purple flowers that close in bad weather. Garden Rue has evergreen leaves that yield a volatile oil once used medicinally. Beebalm(Oswego Tea) the leaves of the plant have been used traditionally to make a strongly mint flavor tea that is said to be good for fever, stomach problems and restful sleep. Rhubarb has long green or reddish acid leaf stalks that are edible when cooked and sweetened. Scurvy grass has bitter foliage that was formerly thought to cure scurvy which is a disease resulting from a deficiency of vitamin C and marked by spongy and bleeding gums, bleeding under the skin and extreme weakness. Snake-root is a plant whose roots were reputed to cure snakebite. Worm-seed yields oil used to expel or destroy intestinal worms. Yarrow has finely dissected foliage and flat, usually white flower clusters.