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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The plants of Walafrid's garden

Walafrid Stabo's Hortulus
Imagining Walafrid's Hortulus
Medicinal uses of plants in the Hortulus

The Hortulus provides the names of some 23 or 24 different plants. The first is sage, which Walafrid tells us grows in the front of his garden -- probably near the doorway to his home. Next he mentions rue, and says that both sunlight and breezes reach even the stems of this plant, which suggests it isn’t planted in the shade of the high wall he worries will make part of the garden too shady. Then comes southernwood, Artemesia abrotanum. Like rue, it is a gray-green plant that prefers full sun.

Plants named
in the Hortulus

 

Modern name In Hortulus

Agrimony
Catmint
Celery
Mugwort
Betony
Chervil
Clary sage
Costmary
Fennel
Gourds Horehound
Iris
Lilies
Lovage
Melons

Poppies
Mints
Pennyroyal
Radish
Rose
Rue
Sage
Southernwood

Wormwood

Agrimonia
Nepeta
Apium
Ambrosia
Betonica

Cerefolium
Sclarega
Costo

Feniculum
Lagenaria

Marrubium
Gladiola
Lilium
Lybisticum
Pepones

Papauer
Menta
Puleium

Rafanum
Rosa
Ruta
Salvia
Abrotanum

Absinthium

 

Gardener planting seeds

Following that, two of the longest passages in the Hortulus describe what must have been favorites of his, the cucurbitas, bottle gourds that harvested when small were edible; and white-fleshed pepones or melons. The cucurbitas climb a trellis and clamber enthusiastically over the roof of a porticum or covered walkway; the pepones trail across the ground.

Flowering plants may have been placed along a path from the door to the garden's gate, among them iris, which follows fennel in the text. Fennel was (and still is) thought to hinder the growth of neighboring plants, so it would probably have been planted at the end of a row, rather than in the middle.

Lovage had traits opposite to those of fennel, for it was believed to be a good companion plant for just about everything. Walafrid tells us that in his garden, lovage grew among other fragrant shrubs. Then comes chervil, followed by glowing lilies, which we are later told grow opposite the roses. All of these are sun-loving plants.

Poppies are described next. Then clary sage and, hidden by it, costmary. Then we have the mints (and he infers there are several varieties), and pennyroyal, also a species of mentha. Walafrid tells us with a smile that a person able to name all the different kinds and properties of mints could also probably tell you how many kinds of fish you'll find in the Indian Ocean, or how many sparks fly up from volcanic Mt. Aetna.

Celery follows, a good companion plant for roses, and then agrimony in orderly rows, perhaps along that high brick wall he worries creates to much shade.

The Ambrosia in this garden is not, Walafrid points out, the same as the ambrosia mentioned in the “ancient books," and may well be mugwort (Artemesia vulgaris). Then comes catnip and, in the last bed, radishes.

Sun loving plants are grouped together in the list. Plants known to help protect vine crops are grown beside them: Strongly fragrant artemesias like wormwood and southernwood, along with rue and horehound. All of these also have silvery foliage, which would have been striking against the deep green of the vines  covering the ground and climbing the portico.

Shade-tolerant plants are also grouped in the list, and may perhaps have grown beside the high brick wall whose shade worried Walafrid. Mints, pennyroyal, agrimony, and that medieval panacea, betony, fall into this group.

The last plant in his list is the rose, and here he indulges in religious metaphor. Walafrid tells us that his country has no source of "Tyrian purple," a dark red dye obtained from shellfish, but makes up for this with its beautiful red roses.

For all of the plants except roses, Walafrid provides a bit of commentary, most often medicinal, but occasionally horticultural. For example, we hear the voice of experience when he tells us that sage wars upon itself, for if not cut back sharply each autumn, the old growth interferes with the new, the plant becomes too woody, and it dies. For the rest of the plants, Walafrid's  offers brief comments on their use as medicinals.

Walafrid Stabo's Hortulus
Imagining Walafrid's Hortulus
Medicinal uses of plants in the Hortulus

 

 

Continental
Gardens

Walafrid Strabo's Hortulus

The Capitulare de Villis

The Plants of the Capitulare

The Plan of St. Gall

The garden at Asnapio
 

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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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