For gardeners with a sense of history

OE wyrtig, adj: Garden-like, full of plants;
On anum wyrtige hamme, Homl. Skt. ii. 30:312




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Early Gardens in Britain


Xenophon, a Greek who wrote in the period between 430 and 354 BCE, was the first to describe pleasure gardens, paradeisos, giving us the familiar word "paradise":

The king... finds gardens wherever he goes. They are called paradeisos, and are filled with all the earth brings forth that is good and lovely.

Xenophon, describing the gardens of Cyrus the Great

It is no surprise to a gardener that all of the world’s great religions locate heaven in a garden; nor that the word paradise has come to refer to a garden, to the Garden of Eden, to heaven, and to an ultimate state of bliss.

The Old Persian pairidaeza, an enclosed place, was envisioned as having cool shade and flowing water, pavilions and fruits. It was a chahar bagh, a four-quartered (chahar) garden (bagh). This geometrically symmetrical garden soon found its way to Greece, and then to Rome. With the Roman settlement of Britain, it came to the British Isles as well.

But long before the Romans arrived in the British Isles, as traders or as conquerors, the Iron Age Britons were gardening, and though the tradition continued right to the present day, this web site will content itself with gardens before c.1300 CE.


Early Gardens in Britain


Vernancular gardens


Iron Age gardens

What phytoliths can tell us abut early gardens

Romano-British Gardens

Auctoritas in the Garden: What Plants did the Romans Really Introduce to Britain?


Gardens of post-Roman Britain, 450-1400 CE



Church and monastery gardens

Canterbury Cathedral, 1165 CE


Mount Grace Priory - A restored late medieval herb garden

The gardeners of Mt. Grace

Ground plan of Mt. Grace

A Carthusian elixir

Castle and manor gardens

The Garden of Henricus Anglicus

Plants in Henry's garden

The garden beds: North, south, east, and west

Gardens of toft and croft

Charter landscapes: Fields, gardens, and plants in Anglo-Saxon England

Complete boundary description from S644

Gardens in the Domesday Book

Labors of the Months and what they can tell us about medieval gardens and gardeners

Sample calendars showing the "Labors"

Fulda Sacramentary



Medieval seasons

Roman and Carolingian month names

Anglo-Saxon month names

Medieval farming practice and three-field farming


Place Names, Landscapes, and Settlement Features

Examples of Place Names with Plant Elements

Resources on Plant Names

Sources: Early gardens

A timeline of early sources of information about gardens and plants




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Botanists are among those who know that, in spite of the rude shocks of life,
it is well to have lived, and to have seen the everlasting beauty of the world.
F.D. Drewitt


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