Eleanor's garden in Winchester Castle. A reconstruction by Sylvia Landsberg. Source: Wikipedia

Heavenly Delights in Medieval Gardens

Medieval garden books offer a wide variety of inspiration for the avid gardener

Medieval gardens were enclosed and set apart. Here are a number of books to get inspiration from while couching on the not-so-medieval deck chair under lush greenery…

medieval-garden-landsbergThe Medieval Garden 
Sylvia Landsberg
University of Toronto Press, Scholarly Publishing Division; 2nd Revised edition 2003
ISBN-13: 978-0802086600

As well as food and medicine, the medieval garden provided pleasure, repose and refreshment to the senses. From detailed manuscript descriptions and illustrations, Sylvia Landsberg builds up a picture of the various styles of garden from the small enclosed herber with plant borders, turf benches, and rose-covered trellises, to the vast cultivated parks of royalty and nobility. Amongst the species she finds in a fifteenth-century plant inventory are the familiar violet, lily and columbine, sage, basil and sorrel, pear, apple and vine, all still available to the modern gardener. Combining her historical knowledge with practical experience of recreating medieval gardens in various sites in England, Landsberg explains how she designed Queen Eleanor’s garden at Winchester and Brother Cadfael’s physic garden at Shrewsbury. She gives detailed descriptions of layouts, the measurements of beds, and the types of tools required. Landsberg also presents the marvelous medieval gardeners calendar, illustrated in the twelve ‘Occupations of the Months.’ Uniquely, the book offers practical advice on how to create typical medieval features, making it an interesting and unusual gift for any keen gardener.

medieval gardens jenningsMedieval Gardens (Historic Gardens) 
Anne Jennings
English Heritage 2005
ISBN-13: 978-1850749035

Medieval Gardens charts the evolution of England’s earliest gardens, from the rows of culinary and medicinal herbs tended by monks, to the earliest secular pleasure gardens, enclosed within castle walls. These were spaces for private conversations and outdoor games, often with raised beds and turf seats and perhaps a mound for surveying the countryside beyond. Still enclosed within wall were the ‘pleasure parks’ that covered many acres of land.


medieval flowersMedieval Flowers
Miranda Innes
Kyle Cathie Ltd (2008)
ISBN-13: 978-1856268134

It was in medieval gardens that the healing arts, poetry, spirituality, a sense of order in the cosmos, and an appreciation of beauty took root and were cultivated. Flowers had significance almost incomprehensible to the modern-day gardener. Precious as jewels, painted and praised, they played a part in every courtly ritual and village romance. From peony to poppy, columbine to lily and iris, Medieval Flowers celebrates the species that grew then and still grow today. Master photographer Clay Perry reveals their stunning beauty in 140 color images, as Miranda Innes explores the rituals and festivals in which flowers played a major role. She also details the medicinal, cosmetic, and herbal uses of each plant, surveys the designs of physic, kitchen, and pleasure gardens, and introduces us to medieval gardens that can still be visited today. Complete with an illustrated directory that provides cultivation details for each flower, this is a book that will be coveted by all gardeners.

the medieval design garden bookThe Medieval Garden Design Book (The International Design Library) 
Ramona Jablonski
Stemmer House Publishers; 1st edition 1982
ISBN-13: 978-0880450119

Medieval artists’ illustrations of gardens, garden structures and bedding patterns with birds, animals, plants and people. These authentic designs feature every imaginable detail from medieval gardens. There are complete gardens along with garden furnishings, garden structures, and all types of garden features. The subjects include parterres, container gardens, water gardens, numerous knot gardens, and enclosed gardens. The design shows how the gardens were used, particularly for pastimes, entertainment, and contemplation. In the introduction, the author provides a concise history of medieval gardens. This title features designs that can be used not only for designing gardens but for all sorts of crafts. Ideas include stenciling, decorative painting, needlework, quilting, woodblocks, rugs, and paper projects.

health and healing medieval gardenHealth and Healing from the Medieval Garden
Peter Dendle and Alain Touwaide (Editors)
Boydell Press 2008
ISBN-13: 978-1843833635

The important and ever-shifting role of medicinal plants in medieval science, art, culture, and thought, both in the Latin Western medical tradition and in Byzantine and medieval Arabic medicine, is the focus of this new collection. Following a general introduction and a background chapter on Late Antique and medieval theories of wellness and therapy, in-depth essays treat such wide-ranging topics as medicine and astrology, charms and magical remedies, herbal glossaries, illuminated medical manuscripts, women’s reproductive medicine, dietary cooking, gardens in social and political context, and recreated medieval gardens. They make a significant contribution to our understanding of the place of medicinal plants in medieval thought and practice, and thus lead to a greater appreciation of how medieval theories and therapies from diverse places developed in continuously evolving and cross-pollinating strands, and, in turn, how they contributed to broader ideas concerning the body, religion, identity, and the human relationship with the natural world.


designs upon the landDesigns upon the Land: Elite Landscapes of the Middle Ages (Garden and Landscape History) 
Oliver H. Creighton
Publisher: Boydell Press; Reprint edition 2013
ISBN-13: 978-1843838258

The phrase “designed landscape” is generally associated with the great parks and gardens of the post-medieval period, with grand country houses surrounded by parkland, such as Chatsworth and Longleat. However, recent research has made it clear that its origins lie much further back than that, in the middle ages, and numerous examples have been identified. This book offers the first full-length survey of designed medieval landscapes, not just the settings for castles, but for palaces, manor houses and monastic institutions. Gardens and pleasure grounds gave their owners sensory enjoyment; lakes, ponds and walkways created routes of approach that displayed residences to best effect; deer parks were stunning backdrops and venues for aristocratic enjoyment; and peacocks, swans, rabbits and doves were some of the many species which lent these landscapes their elite appearance. Richly illustrated with plans, maps, and photographs of key sites showing what can still be seen today. Oliver H. Creighton is Associate Professor in Archaeology, University of Exeter .
Medieval Herbals: The Illustrative Traditions (British Library Studies in Medieval Culture)
by Minta Collins
ISBN-10: 0802083137
ISBN-13: 978-0802083135

Medieval Herbals: The Illustrative Traditions is a new, wide-ranging and generously illustrated study of manuscript herbals produced between 600 – 1450. The book examines the two principal herbal traditions of Classical descent: the Dioscorides manuscripts in Greek, Arabic, and Latin and the Latin Herbarius of Apulcius Platonicus. It shows how, from 1300, the illustrations of the de herbis Traetatus treatises, the first of which was British Library, MS. Egerton 747, showed a new observation of nature, paving the way in the fifteenth century for French Livres des Simples and the magnificent plant paintings of later Italian Herbals. Medieval Herbals provides one of the few syntheses in English of existing research on the subject and also addresses issues of dating, location, production and ownership of the individual codices. Minta Collins demonstrates how many herbals were not only codices for medical scholars but expensively illustrated books for bibliophiles, of equal interest to students of manuscripts, to historians of medicine and botany, and to art historians.
Sweet Herbs and Sundry Flowers: Medieval Gardens and the Gardens of the Cloisters
by Tania Bayard
D.R. Godine / Metropolitan Museum of Art 1985
ISBN-10: 0870994220
ISBN-13: 978-0870994227






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