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




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Plants in the Restored Garden
at Mount Grace Priory

The herb garden behind the restored cell at Mt. Grace

The modern gardeners at Mount Grace plan to vary the plantings in the herb garden from year to year. Plants are selected from those used in the daily round of religious life in medieval times.

In most medieval kitchens, the only sweetener at hand was honey. For this reason, care was given to planting herbs that would provide delicate scents and flavors. Such plants have been represented in the herb garden at Mount Grace by clove pinks (Dianthus caryophyllus); lavender (Lavandula spica); lemon balm (Melissa officinalis); frothy plumes of meadowsweet (Filipendula ulmaria); winter savory (Satureia montana) with its tiny, shell-pink blossoms; and thyme (Thymus vulgaris).

The garden may also contain medieval strewing herbs  -- plants that were scattered, fresh or dried, among the rushes on the floor to provide a pleasant scent to mask other more noxious odors. Hyssop (Hyssopus officinalis), commonly known as Holy Herb, was often used as a strewing herb in churches. Marjoram (Origanum vulgare) was grown for use in cooking, to flavor honey, and as a strewing herb. Sweet woodruff (Asperula odorata), with its scent of new-mown hay as it dries, offered its own benison when scattered among the rushes on the floor or hung in bunches along the walls and rafters.

Fennel (Foeniculum vulgare) was grown to provide seed that could be chewed to relieve hunger during fasts, especially during the long Lenten season. Blue-green rue (Ruta graveolens), the Herb of Grace, was used to sprinkle holy water on worshippers during Mass to preserve them from plague and other disease. The tall, dried flower spikes of mullein (Verbascum thaspa), whose velvet rosettes now grow wild among the ruins, were soaked with tallow and used as candles.

Early Gardens

Gardens in Iron Age Britain

Gardens of Roman Britain

Gardens of Post-Roman Britain

Continental sources on gardens

Church and monastery gardens

Castle and manor gardens

Charter landscapes Early Medieval England

Gardens in the Domesday Book

Gardens of toft and croft


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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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