Plants in the Restored Garden
at Mount Grace Priory
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.