Karen Wood

February, 2015

Karen Wood was born in Virginia, where she later returned to attend the University Of Virginia School Of Nursing after her graduation from John Dickinson High School in Delaware. Karen’s professional career included working as an OR nurse, Public Health Nurse, and finally as a School Nurse for the Appoquinimink School District. She is married to Ron Wood and they have two sons and three grandchildren.

Karen has had a long association with the historic houses of Odessa beginning in the 1980’s when she first began participating as a craftsperson at the old Odessa Spring Festival. Karen is an avid and knowledgeable gardener who for many years owned and operated Rabbit Run Herb Farm where she cultivated a vast array of herbs for culinary, medicinal, and ornamental use. Working closely with her friend and mentor, the well known Delaware herbalist Phyllis Dunham, the two offered educational programs about growing and drying herbs, classes focused on cooking with herbs, and the historic use of herbs in the home. Many of these programs were conducted on behalf of the museum. They also provided a source for the purchase of a variety of plants that at the time could be difficult to find locally. In addition, the two became the florists of choice for many young brides planning their weddings in the MOT. Karen and Phyllis made herbal bouquet’s, boutonniere’s, and table arrangements that were unusual, beautiful, and fragrant… all while conveying messages of love, loyalty, and companionship through the 19th-century language of flowers!

Between 1938 and 1958 Delaware preservationist H. Rodney Sharp, with the help of the renowned landscape architect Marian Cruger Coffin, created and nurtured a lovely Colonial Revival Garden on the grounds of the Corbit-Sharp House. In 1959 the property was opened for tour as part of a museum complex known as the Historic Houses of Odessa and by the late 1980’s was suffering the same neglect found at struggling historic sites all across the country. Various solutions were under consideration by museum management including the elimination of the garden. Fortunately for the Historic Odessa Foundation Dr. Charles Dunham, retired Professor Emeritus from the University of Delaware resided in town with his lovely wife…none other than Karen’s treasured business partner Phyllis! The three stepped to the rescue of the garden…Dr. Dunham designing a garden renovation requiring less maintenance while Phyllis and Karen enlisted the assistance of the Middletown-Odessa Garden Club to take on the grooming of the garden as a volunteer project. Karen continued to work on the garden as a volunteer at the same time as working full time as a school nurse and while serving as president of the Appoquinimink Education Association. When the Historic Odessa Foundation took over the properties in 2005 Karen was one of the first to volunteer for docent training and to pick-up the work in the garden which had lain fallow for three years. For nearly thirty years Karen has given tirelessly of her time to the tender loving care of the grounds surrounding some of the most important Colonial architecture in the state.

Sadly, Phyllis died in 2006 but Dr. Dunham, now in his nineties, continues to offer advice and suggestions when called upon. Karen claims, “it is for them that I continue to work in the garden, they were like second parents to me… I can remember my sons Brian and Jason, now in there forties, running through the bushes while we weeded beds“. 

Today Karen guides the careful restoration of the garden along with garden club members who still faithfully work on the third Monday of each month and she designs and creates the many holiday decorations that adorn our buildings during each Christmas season.  Karen epitomizes the word volunteer. Her dedication to the Historic Odessa Foundation is without rival. For Karen it has never been a question of having time but more about her commitment to make the time. Won’t you consider joining Karen’s team? You will have fun while learning a lot from her…Karen makes things happen!