Date: Wed, 10 Mar 2004 15:47:04 -0500
Subject: [SCA-AS] Links: Historical Gardens, esp. Herb and Knot

Greetings all!

In a bonus Links List, I'm presenting a list on Medieval Gardening practices, esp. Knot and Herb gardens. There are especially a few pages to take note of for the gardener/illuminator out there. Other garden enthusiasts will find not only resources and a bibliography, but also a practical how-to page for knot gardens, with designs.

Yours, in hopes that Spring will soon be upon us here in the beleaguered Northern US:


Dame Aoife Finn of Ynos Mon (a/k/ Lisbeth Herr-Gelatt)
Riverouge (NE PA)

A Bibliography of material available on agricultural practices in the Middleages.Source: Medieval Herbals and plant books

Museum of Garden History (In the Lambeth Bishop's Palace, London)
An Alphabetical list of historic plants and when they first were used in England. Overall the site itself is excellent and should not be missed!

UK Database of Historic Parks and Gardens

National Geographic News: Medieval Garden Intrigues British Archaeologists
Hillary Mayell for National Geographic News February 10, 2003
(Site Excerpt) 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.

Medieval and Renaissance Gardens
Notes from a class presented at East Kingdom University and other events in the SCA (Society for Creative Anachronism), by Jadwiga Zajaczkowa (Jennifer Heise)
(Site Excerpt)Raised Beds & Sunken Beds "For instance beds could be raised and edged with boards or woven panels of willow to improve drainage, just as Columella recommended" (Hobhouse). Parkinson suggests edging your beds with either live plants or dead stuff such as tiles, lead, sheep shank bones, or boards. Sunken beds appear to be used primarily in Islamic gardens, where the idea would be to facilitate irrigation and keep the earth from drying out. Good examples appear in the Alhambra in Spain. (Islamic gardens tended to strongly follow the Roman pattern of square layouts and canals or streams running through the garden.)

Stefan's Florilegium: Plants, Herbs, and Spices
(Site Excerpt of one message from Herbs-Sm-Grdn-art)
Medieval Herbs for the Very Small Garden by Jadwiga Zajaczkowa
So, you've found yourself with a small scrap of garden, or a patio or sunny window to put flowerboxes in, and think, "Herbs?" You trot off to the library and start pulling out books, and are immediately discouraged by all the lovely garden plans that start with a 10 foot by 10 foot plot, or even bigger. The truth is, ancient, medieval and modern people have been tucking herbs into tiny gardens from time immemorial, and so can you.
Planning the Garden I would, honestly, start with only a very small plot (2' x 4' or 3' x 3') your first year, even if you do have space. This will keep you from buying everything in the garden center marked 'herb' and sticking it all in (unlike me, these days) and will give you time to study and appreciate your plants. Most herbs adore full sun and not-so-good soil that dries out relatively quickly, but they are amazingly tolerant of abuse and mistakes in planting. They will tolerate being grown in relatively shady spots but they should get 4-6 hours of direct or indirect sun a day.

Knot Gardens and Parterres: A History of the Knot Garden and How to Make One Today
by The Marchioness of Salisbury, Robin Whalley, Anne Jennings
A Book advertised for sale

Penn State College of Agricultural Science March 31, 1999 NEWS:
(Site Excerpt) UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. -- Philosopher Thomas Hobbes wrote that medieval life was "nasty, brutish and short," but a landscape design expert in Penn State's College of Agricultural Sciences points out that gardens created between 500 and 1500 A.D. offered a respite for the soul, as well as a source for food, household items and medicine. "In medieval times, the garden functioned as a place to view beauty, but it also functioned as the drugstore, supermarket and hardware store," says Martin McGann, assistant professor of landscape contracting. McGann will design and help install a full 12-foot by 30-foot medieval garden that will be on display April 10 and 11 in the White Building on the University Park campus as part of "Scenes and Seasons: The Medieval Landscape," a conference and fair to be held April 9-11 at various locations around University Park.
See also: Medieval Gardens in the works for University Park:

Botanists probe medieval medicine13th-century folklore inspires 21st-century research scheme.
(Site Excerpt) Researchers in Wales are following the lead of medieval medics in the hope of finding new drugs. A project will begin later this year at the country's National Botanic Garden to explore the work of a medical dynasty, the Physicians of Myddfai."[The Myddfai's work] may make a significant contribution to modern medicine," says Terry Turner, a pharmacist at the University of Wales in Cardiff who is involved in the project. "These old boys knew what they were doing - they were experimental and knowledgeable people."Myddfai is a village in South Wales. Here, in the early thirteenth century, a physician named Rhiwallon founded a line of doctors that spread across Wales and persisted for hundreds of years - some Welshmen still claim descent from the physicians.

Byzantine Garden Culture (Acrobat Reader Required)
copyright 2002 Bumbarton Oaks/Harvard University
An extract of the book is available online.

Gode Cookery Presents
True stories, fables and anecdotes from the Middle Ages: Gardens

Medieval New York: The Bonnefont Cloister
Herb Garden by Sarah McGowan
(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 naturalistic floral patterns decorating the double capitals in this cloister are a reaction in form to the robust, grotesque figures of Romanesque cloister carvings. The individual raised planting beds, wattle fences, and central wellhead of the garden are all characteristics typically found in medieval monastic gardens.

The Illuminator's Garden: Floral Substitutes for Gold
By Diedre Larkin (Horticulturist at the Cloisters Museum, branch of the
Metropolitan Museum of Art, NYC)
(Site Excerpt) A great many plants were used as sources for coloring matter in the Middle Ages, whether to furnish dyes or pigments. Medieval plants such as madder, weld, woad, lady's bed straw. Dyer's broom, iris, calendula, celandine and saffron are being grown today in Manhattan and are part of the gardens of the Cloisters Museum. The Bonefort Herb Garden at the Cloisters provides a rare opportunity to see more than 250 species of plants known and used in medieval Europe. Two of these plant beds are devoted exclusively to dye plants and plants used in artist materials. Depending on the garden of the medieval illuminator, a wide selection of coloring sources was available, especially when yellow was sought. Yellow is the most common color yielded from plants. According to Daniel Thompson, "Incomparably the most important yellow in medieval painting is the metal gold. Yellow pigments, however, played a significant part in the pageant of medieval technique. One of the
most important services required of [the illuminator] was to imitate the appearance of gold."

Spanish Garden Traditions: Designs for a Mediterranean Climate
by Katherine Greenberg
(Site Excerpt) After the decline of the Roman Empire, Islamic Spain became the center of European civilization. Conquering the peninsula in 711, the Moors brought significant advances in agriculture and horticulture as well as in the arts and sciences. They built elaborate mosques and palaces with courtyards and terraces that incorporated the essential elements of shade, water, and plants. Elaborate irrigation systems were developed to supply water to fields and gardens. The forecourt of the magnificent Mosque of Cordoba, planted with rows or orange trees that correspond to irrigation channels, is considered to be the oldest continuously maintained garden in the world. It represents an early concept of garden that was productive as well as decorative.

History of Horticulture

Bede's World, The Herb Garden
(Site Excerpt) The first part of the garden as you enter it draws on the structure of a typical medieval physick garden, with trellis work and a central arch marking the entrance, leading to four oblong beds, two on either side of a central aisle. The first two of the four beds contain herbs from the Anglo-Saxon age; behind them lie a bed of Culinary Herbs and one of Medicinal Herbs.The second part of the garden is based on the 9th century plan for the monastery at St Gall (in modern day Switzerland). This unique document preserves the layout drawn for the monastery at St Gall, showing ecclesiastical and domestic buildings.

History of Knot Gardens
(Site Excerpt) Most Renaissance gardens were composed of square compartments. A small garden might consist of one compartment, while large gardens usually contained at least six or eight compartments. The individual compartments were usually separated from each other by the garden's main paths. During the early sixteenth century, it was normal for each compartment to be enclosed by a waist-high hedge or lattice fence. This practice was typical of Medieval gardens, but it was also common in the gardens of Imperial Rome. By the end of the century, each compartment was still being treated as an individual garden, but was becoming unfashionable to enclose them, especially in Italy. Throughout the sixteenth century, it was normal for each compartment for each compartment to be given its own pattern. Compartments which were on opposite sides of a main path were sometimes given matching designs, but it was rare for all of the compartments in a garden to have identical patterns.


Designing and planting a Knot Garden or Border
While this site is copy-protected (unable to quote it here), it is fairly comprehensive with several examples and possible design layouts. Strictly a hands-on resource, not a referenced one.

Town gardens in the Middle
(Site Excerpt) In medieval towns it was not only the great nobles who set store by beautiful gardens The burghers began more and more to care about gardens. Every now and again there is heard some very early rumour bearing on this subject, as for example about the praise given to gardens in the city of Paris by the Emperor Julian when he was on his journey to the North.
The particular commendation is due to the fact that Parisians used to keep vines and figs round their houses, and protected them through the winter with coverings of straw. But this is an exception, for it is not till quite late that we hear of any horticulture in the Northern towns.

Catles of France: Gardens

The History of the Medieval Vegetable Garden of the Common Man (Acrobat reader required)