As We Sow: Medieval Gardens

Dame Aoife has been a busy lady with holidays and her modern-world job, but this week she's back with a pre-springtime Links edition devoted to medieval gardens.

Greetings, my Faithful Readers!

I bet you've been wondering where I am! It's been a while since I was able to produce a Links List, and I apologize to those who like their columns promptly. Apparently the publishing house I work for likes me---they've been piling on the work. Henceforth I'll continue to do my lists, but they may be a bit irregular due to my heavy work load. I appreciate your understanding! Sometimes when you work furiously at a computer all day, the last thing you want to do is come home and work furiously at the computer---but I'll do my best to continue to produce these lists as I am able.

Following is a Links List concerning Medieval Gardening---it's that time of the winter when we green thumbs like to start dreaming about what we can coax into sprouting in our gardens. So why not a Medieval Garden? Recently archaeologist have discovered that some medieval gardens came equipped with their own viewing mounds! It struck me that this was a terrific way to get maximum pleasure out of all that hard work. Imagine lolling on a grassy hillock, glass of wine in hand, taking in the sight of your herbs and flowers as they dance in the breeze around you, all neatly contained in your carefully cultivated beds. It sounds like heaven on earth to me! Read on to find more on the subject.



Dame Aoife Finn of Ynos Mon
m/k/a Lisbeth Herr-Gelatt
Riverouge, Endless Hills, Aethelmearc

Medieval and Renaissance Gardens
(Site Excerpt) While there isn't a clear delineation between gardens for pleasure and utilitarian gardens, orchards, etc. it's clear that some parts of some gardens were intended primarily to be a delight to the senses, and others for their end products. 16th and 17th century writers, such as Hill, Lawson, Markham and Parkinson, made very clear distinctions between them in their writing.

The Medieval Garden at Penn State
(Site Excerpt) The garden consists of three major plots. The first is the kitchen garden, which groups by usage, plants needed by medieval households. The medicinal section includes everything from poisonous plants to rose bushes (such as the Rosa canina and the Rosa mundi), a dyeing section, and a fragrance bed. (Note: See an excellent Image of Master Brendan Brisbane on this site).

Medieval Gardens
(Site Excerpt) Two of the most common types of gardens in late medieval times were the "herber" or small, enclosed garden, and the "flowery mead"- a grassy area spotted with natural plantings of meadow flowers. Both can be replicated by modern gardeners.

Medieval Gardens
This site has an alphabetical listing of medieval garden plants and their uses.

Gode Cookery: Tales of the Middle Ages -- Gardens
(Site Excerpt) An observer of English society today would likely notice the cultivation of gardens, an activity for which the Medieval tradition is also evident. With gardening, it is not always easy to distinguish between pleasure and utility. Any space in which people were deliberately cultivating plants we can call a garden, and we might go on to categorize the kitchen garden, where some vegetables and herbs might be grown for their edible produce as well as for building and fuel or as habitat for animals which could be hunted; the physic garden, wherein would be planted various medicinal herbs.

Lost Gardens
(Site Excerpt) Both gardens usually had flowery meads, sometimes also called 'strews'. The grass was often raised to form turf seating. Trellises with grape vines and climbing roses were popular. Many pleasure gardens had decorative fountains and pools at their centre, for fish or bathing.

Medieval Gardens
(Site Excerpt) No one really knows what early monastic gardens looked like, the earliest information about the appearance of monastic gardens comes from the plan of the monastery of Saint Gall, in Switzerland, this dates from the 9th Century. This plan shows rectangular beds separated by narrow paths, this is the characteristic Western European garden which was dominant until the English landscape gardens of the 18th centuries.

Medieval Garden Intrigues British Archaeologists
(Site Excerpt) The Whittington Castle mount, a 16-foot (5-meter) man-made mound, puzzled archaeologists for years. It was originally thought to be part of the castle's defenses or a viewing mount built later in the 16th or 17th century. The discovery by historical researcher Peter King of a reference in records dating to 1413 to "a garden with a ditch of water around it," led archaeologists to conduct a geophysical survey of the area. Employing techniques such as magnetometry, ground penetrating radar, and soil resistivity surveying to look below the site's surface, the archaeologists traced the buried outlines of the paths and rectangular plots of the garden. The findings suggest the mount and garden were built sometime between 1300 and 1349.

A Bibliography of material available on agricultural practices in the Middle Ages

The Bonnefont Cloister Herb Garden
(Site Excerpt) This cloister dates from the late thirteenth or early fourteenth century, containing capitals and some columns from the Cistercian abbey at Bonnefont-en-Comminges and other local religious foundations in the south of France. The simplicity of these capitals reflects the strict asceticism embodied by the Cistercian monastic order, shunning any decoration which might distract monks from the contemplation of God.

The Medieval garden?
The following is an extract from a discussion paper written by Peter Brown of Peter Brown Associates, freelance archaeologist. ...(Site Excerpt) It is highly unlikely that the garden would be created while Whittington was still a front-line border fortress during the Welsh Wars. These did not formally cease until the 1280s and so we need to consider possible builders of the garden after that date. Details of the lives of the main contenders are provided in the appendix below.

Medieval Gardens
A previous Links List on the subject