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History of Gardening – Medieval Gardens

July 2nd, 2009

Coulommiers Medieval Garden

The Medieval period or the Middle Ages came after the fall of the Roman Empire around the 500 AD and lasted till 1500 AD, at the beginning of the Renaissance period.

England saw the invasions of the Anglo-Saxons from Germany at 449 AD, Vikings from Denmark at 787 AD and the Normans from France at 1066 AD. The invaders brought with them their crops, fruits and horticultural practices.

Romance of The Rose

Monasteries were the centre of cultural life and learning during the Middle Ages. This included the improvement of horticulture and agriculture. Within the monasteries there were different types of gardens; the kitchen garden, infirmary garden, cemetery orchards, cloister garths and vineyards.

The monks grew, fennel, cabbage, onion, garlic, leeks, radishes, parnips, peas, lentils and beans in the kitchen gardens. The beds were arranged in grids to ease cultivation; surrounded by wattle fencing to keep out animals and pests. In the infirmary gardens, they grew savory, costmary, fenugreek, rosemary, peppermint, rue, iris, sage, bergamot, mint, lovage, fennel and cumin.

ortus conclusus

Hortus conclusus, the enclosed garden was style at this time. Mentioned in the Bible, Song of Solomon, chapter 4 verse 12 is an allegory representing the Virgin Mary and her virginity. It is a place protected by a wall free from worldly sins.

Religious symbolisms were dotted throughout the enclosed garden. Like the fountain symbolised many things: Christ, The Church, Salvation through baptism, the Virgin, the Scriptures and the river of or fountain of eternal life that flowed out of Eden. The Rose associated especially with the Virgin but red roses with the blood of Christ or the blood of the martyrs. There were others; pomegranate, lily, carnation, aquilegia, lily-of-the-valley, snowdrops, iris, violets, the list went on …

Other significant events that helped to shape the Medieval Gardens are the compilation of the Domesday Book, c.1087, which showed ownership of land. This encourage the set-up of farms and private gardens. The Crusade, c.1095, lasted two hundred years, brought back new flora and fauna from middle eastern countries.