The Garden of Henry of Huntingdon
Square Garden of Henry the Poet" (Garden History, Spring
1987, 1-11), historian John Harvey analyzes a garden
described in a 13th century manuscript (BL Sloane MS 3468, ff.
32-34) , and in doing so provides
a fascinating glimpse of a medieval herber.
Since Harvey's original article,
it has been determined that this description was written by Henry of
Huntingdon (c.1088 - c.1157 CE) who also authored an 8-volume work
on English gardens called Anglicanus ortus, (Sloane MS 3468, ff 31-105),
undiscovered until very recently, and published in 2012.
Henry's garden, this appears to have been primarily a physic or
whose primary purpose was the
production of medicinal plants.
Some culinary plants are named (carrots, parsnips, etc.),
but this garden
other medieval dietary staples
like cabbage, peas,
The description of the garden begins with a list of plants found on
its north side, and then proceeds to provide plant lists for a second, third, and fourth bed. If, as is
likely, the gardener was circling the garden deiseal or
sunwise, the beds are likely to be:
Second bed: East
Third bed: South
Fourth bed: West
Many of the plants named are familiar, but identifying others
is difficult, perhaps impossible. Where there is a
question about a plant's identity, Dr. Harvey has offered suggestions,
and indicated his uncertainty with a question mark (?). In some cases, my suggestions differ from his; these alternative suggestions
are enclosed in square brackets ( [ ] ).
For each of
the four lists of plants, Dr. Harvey grouped the plants by height, and I
have continued this system, thinking it might be useful to someone
trying to recreate this garden. I have relocated a few of the
plants, however, based on my own experience with growing them here in my upper Midwest, Zone 5 garden.
Harvey, John (1987). "The Square Garden of Henry the Poet," Garden
History XV. I (read online).
Black, Winston (2012) ed. and trans.
Henry of Huntingdon - Anglicanus ortus: a Verse Herbal of the Twelfth
Century (Toronto, Pontifical Institute of Mediaeval Studies).