Tall stoneware pot with pink foxglove

Wyrtig

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

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Medieval Gardens on the Continent

In the early 800s CE, Charlemagne commanded his stewards to inventory a royal estate called Asnapio, in northeastern France. The information they gathered profiled an enterprise that became the model for Charlemagne's Capitulare de Villis, guidelines for what a royal estate should provide.

Plant list from the Capitulare
Capitulare de villis, Charlemagne
(View a list of the plants
of the Capitulare)

Capitulare de Villis Imperialibis
As we try to understand Britain in the years after the Romans and before the Normans, Britain's continental neighbors provide some insight. In about 800 CE, Charlemagne issued the Capitulare de Villis Imperialibis, a plan delineating the plants that would ideally be included in estate and monastery gardens throughout his empire. The Capitulare contains the names of some 89 plants, of which we know that at least 73 were used medicinally.

The list may have been compiled by Abbot Benedict of Aniane in Languedoc, near Herault, France, and there is a remarkable British connection here, as Abbot Benedict is known to have exchanged plants with Alcuin of York, one of Charlemagne’s most trusted advisors. At the time, Alcuin was Abbot of Tours (796-804 CE), where he was famous for his roses and lilies.

Charlemagne also had his agents inventory his royal estates, among them Asnapio.

 

 

Plan of St Gall, on vellum

The Plan of St. Gall

Plan of St. Gall
A work that is contemporary in both time and locale to the Capitulare was a plan, probably created by Abbot Haito of Reichenau, for an ideal monastery at St. Gall, in Switzerland. Highly detailed, this ground plan includes a physic garden, a kitchen garden, and an orchard containing both fruit and nut trees.

In her marvelous book, A History of Kitchen Gardens, Susan Campbell writes that at St. Gall,

…an orchard-cum-cemetery …contains thirteen well-spaced fruit trees, each bearing a different fruit or nut. …Next in size is the kitchen garden or hortus. This is about one-tenth of an acre …and contains eighteen long, narrow rectangular beds, each twenty feet long and five feet wide… The third garden, the infirmary garden… contains sixteen beds, half as long and half as wide as those in the hortus... (p. 84).


 

The Plants and Trees shown in
the gardens of St. Gall


HORTUS - Hic plantata holerum pulchre nascentia uernant

GARDEN - Here planted vegetables flourish in beauty

Scientific name
Common name
Name given in the
Plan of St. Gall

Allium sativum

Garlic

Aleas

Anethum graveolens

Dill

Anetum

Allium ascalonicum
Shallot

Ascalonicas

Allium cepa

Onion

Cepas

Allium porrum

Leek

P[o]rros

Allium sativum
Garlic

Aleas

Anthriscus cerefolium

Chervil

Cerefolium

Apium graveolens

Celery

Apium

Beta vulgaris cicla

Chard

Betas

Brassica

Cabbage

Caulas

Coriandrum sativum

Coriander

Coliandrum

Lactuca spp.

Lettuce

Lactuca

Nigella sativa
Black cumin, Love-in-a-mist

Git

Papaver somniferum

Poppy

Papaver

Papaver sp.

Poppies

Magones

Pastinaca sativa

Parsnip

Pestinachas

Petroselinum crispum

Parsley

Petrosilium

Raphanus sativus

Radish

Radiches

Satureia hortensis

Summer savory

Sataregia

 

 

Herbularis - A garden of medicinal herbs, located next to
the monks' infirmary

Scientific name
Common name
Name given in the
Plan of St. Gall

Balsamita vulgarita
Costmary

Costo

Cuminum cyminum
Cumin

Cumino

Trigonella foenum-graecum
Greek hay

Fenegreca

Foeniculum vulgare
Fennel

Fenuclum

Iris germanica
Iris Purple flag

Gladiola

Lilium spp.
Lily

Lilium

Levisticum officinale
Lovage

Lubestico

Mentha spp.
Mint

Menta

Mentha pullegium
Pennyroyal

Pulegium

Nasturtium officinale
Watercress

Sisimbria

Rosa spp.

Rosas

Rosmarinum officinalis
Rosemary

Rosmarino

Ruta graveolens
Rue

Ruta

Salvia officinalis
Sage

Saluia

Satureia hortensis
Summer savory

Sata regia

Vigna unguiculata
Black eyed pea

Fasiolo

Orchard- The monks' orchard was also their cemetery, with burial plots, each designed to hold seven interments, interspersed among the trees.
 

Scientific name
Common name
Name given in the
Plan of St. Gall

Castanea sativa
Chestnut

Castenarius

Corylus avellana
Hazel

Auellanarius

Cydonia oblonga
Quince

Guduniarius

Ficus carica
Fig

Ficus

Malus spp.
Apple

M[alus]

Mespilus germanica

Medlar

Mispolarius

Morus nigra
Black mulberry

Murarius

Pyrus spp.
Pear

Perarius

Prunus domestica
Plum

Prunarius

Prunus dulcis
Almond

Amendalarius

Prunus persica
Peach

Persicus

Sorbus domestica
Service tree

Sorbarius

At about the same time, two other continental gardeners -- Walahfrid Strabo, later himself the Abbot of Reichenau, and Wandelbert, a Westphalian monk, wrote about gardening. From these four sources -- Charlemagne’s Capitulare de Villis, the plan of St. Gall, Walahfrid’s Hortulus ("little garden"), and Wandlebert’s verse calendar of gardening -- come the names of nearly one hundred herbs that were then in cultivation, and some idea of the gardens in which they were grown.

Sources

 

 
 

Gardens of Iron Age Britain

Gardens of Roman Britain

Continental sources on gardens

Church and monastery gardens

Castle and manor gardens

Charter landscapes: Anglo-Saxon England

Gardens in the Domesday Book

Gardens of toft and croft

Sources

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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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