Grassmere Historic Farm at the Nashville Zoo

Grassmere Historic Gardens,
Winner of the
Search for Excellence Award!

Grassmere Historical Gardens

Approximately 20 acres are dedicated to the Grassmere Historic Farm Exhibit, complete with barn and farm animals. Five generations of the same family lived and tilled the soil on the 200 acres in south Nashville

Behind the 1800 brick mansion, Davidson County Master Gardeners (MGs) are in their 16th year of restoration of the gardens, that are now on the three terraces of heirloom flowers, vegetables, antique fruit trees and grapes.  This is in addition to a large iris bed, and gardens in the front and around the mansion, a rose garden, a kitchen herb garden to the rear of the summer kitchen and a medicinal herb bed to the side of the vegetables.  This premier project has been recognized as the Number One 2010 State of Tennessee and 2011 International Demonstration Garden.

This project uses companion planting methods of planting and composting with no chemicals. A complete listing of heirloom plants grown on this project may be viewed at  During the past year alone, over 3,500 volunteer hours were contributed to this endeavor with added assistance from MGs from surrounding counties.  Boys Scouts seeking Eagle and merit badges, and Girl Scouts working toward Silver and Golden Girl awards have been active participants throughout the years.

It is important for visitors to recognize that the site interpretation [1850-1880], show the design of the gardens as used by the former residents to provide the main source of food and medicine for the families residing at Grassmere.  This design copies the Shoppell’s Modern Home, 1887, landscaping for the do it yourselfer’s.

The gardens provide the MGs an opportunity to share even more knowledge of gardening.  Throughout the years more and more repeat visitors watch and question the “why’s, why not’s and what for’s” as crops are planted and picked throughout the seasons.

Classes in the Gardens

Starting on the first Saturday morning in March from 10 a.m. until 11 a.m. leaders of this project will meet with Zoo visitors in the gardens and discuss the topics needed to consider in starting and growing a garden.  The sessions will be about twenty minutes followed with questions and answers along with interpretation of activities going on in the Gardens.  Hand-outs, soil sample kits, etc. will be provided.  All Zoo visitors and guests are welcome.  There is no charge for these talks.  It is just another way Master Gardeners share their love of gardening with others.

Grassmere Photos

Three days each week from 8 a.m. until noon MGs and Interns work in the Gardens.  During the late fall and winter months, they build trellis, fences, etc.  MGs interpret this project with the daily visitors and special tours scheduled by the Zoo. To date, over 25,000 volunteer hours have been spent in the research and restoration of the gardens to the 1850 - 1880s.

This is one of the most labor-intensive projects of Davidson County Master Gardeners and one of the most rewarding.  The Zoo’s animal commissary reaps the benefit of the produce and extras are welcomed by the volunteers. 

Harvest Days is an annual celebration held the last weekend in September. This will be the 15th year of the festival.  Master Gardeners in costume interpret gardening and harvest times to thousands of family visitors who get to observe many of the traditional gardening tasks performed on a working farm of the 1800s.

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