Wyrtig

For gardeners with a sense of history
 

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

  

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Early Garden Re-creations

in Britain, France, and the USA

 

Roman villa garden recreations

Medieval garden recreations:

Britain

France

USA

 

It was author Sylvia Landsberg who clarified why we talk about "re-creating" rather than "restoring" pre-Renaissance gardens, pointing out in The Medieval Garden that our knowledge of early gardens will never be more than fragmentary, though we can use art, literature, and archeology to make an informed guess.

 

Below is a short list of re-created early gardens -- Roman, Romano-British, and medieval -- in Britain, France, and the US. A number of these are gardens we have visited and enjoyed. If you have a favorite garden of this sort, please send us the URL and it will be added.


Special thanks to gardener and horticulturalist Mike Brown, who provided the URLs for several
of these gardens, thus serving as the catalyst for this list
.

 

Roman villa garden re-creations
Corinium Roman garden, photo by B.R. Marshall, Wiki Commons Corinium Museum Roman Garden
Cirencester, Gloucestershire, UK

This gem of a museum takes its name from the Roman designation for Cirencester, Corinium Dobunnorum, then the second largest city in Roman Britain. The museum's Roman townhouse garden provides a glimpse of what such a garden might have been, c. 100 CE..

Fishbourne Roman Palace gardens, photo by Charles Drakew, Wiki Commons

Fishbourne Roman Palace
Fishbourne, Sussex, UK


Photo gallery


The painstaking fieldwork carried out here by archeologist Barry Cunliffe set a precedent for garden archeology from that point forward. At least three gardens have been identified at Fishbourne: A magnificent formal garden in the villa's central court; a kitchen garden at the northwest corner; and an as yet unexcavated, terraced garden sloping southward from the villa to the sea.

Getty villa garden, photo by Bobak Ha'Eri, Wiki Commons Getty Museum
Los Angeles, USA

The Getty Museum, one of the world's loveliest museums, is modeled after Herculaneum's Villa de Papiri. Like Pompeii, Herculaneum was buried -- and thus remarkably preserved -- by the eruption of Mt. Vesuvius in 79 CE. The museum grounds include a beautifully re-created Roman courtyard garden.

Roman Roman Legionary Museum
Caerleon, Wales

The name Caerleon is Welsh for "fortress of the legion," reflecting its importance as the home of Rome's powerful Second Augustan Legion. A re-created Roman townhouse garden enriches our understanding of the lives of these Romano-British citizens.

Britain: Medieval garden re-creations
Bishop's Palace garden, photo by Shazz, Wiki Commons Bishop's Palace Gardens
Chichester, West Sussex, UK

The Bishop's Palace at Chichester Cathedral dates to c.1180, and has probably had gardens since it was first occupied. Here you will also find an evocative walled garden adjoining  the 13th century St. Mary's Hospital, which is still in use as an almshouse.
 

Bolton Castle, photo by I. Giel, Wiki Commons Bolton Castle
Leyburn, North Yorkshire

Bolton castle was completed in 1399, and much of it remains intact. It has several re-created gardens, including a maze, vineyard, herb garden, and medieval garden.

Cosmeston Medieval Village

In 1978, during the development of a country park at Cosmeston, in Glamorgan, archaeologists uncovered the remains of several stone structures. This discovery was the first step in a process that ultimately led to the recreation of an authentic medieval village of the mid-1300s.

A monk's garden at Mt Grace Priory, photo by S. Eberly

Mount Grace Priory
Northallerton, North Yorkshire, UK
                More on Mount Grace Priory

Mount Grace Priory, a Carthusian monastery, was founded in the late 1300s, and dissolved three centuries later by Henry VIII. Its beautifully restored monk's cell and re-created garden are well worth a visit.

Norton Priory, photo by Tom Pennington, Wiki Commons Norton Priory
Runcorn, Cheshire, UK

Norton Priory began as an Augustinian monastery in the 1100s, became an abbey in 1391, and was dissolved in 1536. Site of the largest archeological excavation of a European monastery to be carried out in modern times, today it offers, in addition to its gardens, a museum and signposted ruins.

Pengersick Castle, photo by Rod Allday, Wiki Commons

Pengersick Castle
Penzance, Cornwall, UK

The ground plan of this garden is based on one of the gardens shown in the Plan of St. Gall, and the plants of Pengersick are those written about by Bishop Aelfric in about 995 AD.

Prebendal Manor, photo by Graham Taylor, Wiki Commons

Prebendal Manor
Nassington, Northamptonshire, UK

Prebendal Manor House is the earliest surviving dwelling in Northants; the plants found in its re-created medieval garden are those described as growing in the square garden of Henry the Poet.

Queen Eleanor's garden, photo by Graham Horn, Wiki Commons Queen Eleanor's Garden
Winchester Great Hall, Winchester, Hampshire

This walled garden includes a tunnel arbor, a fountain and pool, and a secluded herber; its plants are known to have been found in medieval gardens. The garden's name honors two early queens who called Winchester Castle home: Eleanor of Provence (1233-1291), wife of Henry III; and her daughter-in-law, Eleanor of Castile, 1241-1290, wife of Edward I.

 St Mary de Haura, photo by Shaun Dunphy, Wiki Commons Saint Mary de Haura
Shoreham-by-Sea, Sussex, UK

The Norman church of St. Mary de Haura dates to the early 1100s. Its "Mary garden," created in 2003 to mark its 900th anniversary, uses plants with specific "Marian" connotations. A second garden, the Hospitaller's Garden, contains medicinal plants that would have been familiar to the medieval Knights Hospitallers, a religious order devoted to healing, and known to have been part of the medieval community at Shoreham.

Tretower Court, photo by Andy Dolman, Wiki Commons Tretower Court
Near Crickhowell, Powys, Wales
     History, with photos, of Tretower

Tretower Court, an early 14th century defended house, replaced a much earlier stone castle, its evolution from castle to home being clearly visible in the remains of the castle. Its recreated gardens feature a flowery mead, an orchard, and an herber.

Weald and Downlands Museum, photo by Chris Gunn, Wiki Commons Weald and Downland Museum
Near Chichester, West Sussex, UK

 

The Weald and Downland Museum has six period gardens, among them Bayleaf Garden, which recreates a late medieval garden of plants named in the 14th century The Feate of Gardening or the 16th century Fromond list.

Whittington Castle, photo by Peter Craine, Wiki Commons Whittington Castle, Shropshire
Oswestry, Shropshire

The first mention of a garden at Whittington Castle dates to 1413: "a garden ditched around with water on the north side of the castle." Work by archeologist Peter Brown confirms the presence of a medieval garden, and suggests its design and function. This garden has not, as yet, been developed as a re-creation, but the site is nonetheless interesting to explore.

France: Medieval garden re-creations
Daoulas Abbey
Brittany, France

More photos and commentary

Begun by Augustine canons in 1167, this beautiful Romanesque abbey has a wonderful herb garden with more than 200 medicinal, culinary, aromatic, and magical plants, surrounded by an evocative cloister walk.

Fontevraud Abbey
Near Saumur, Maine-et-Loire, France

Founded in 1100, Fontevraud Abbey was a dual house,  both monastery and a nunnery, but its  head and its senior officers had always to be women. It was beloved by the Plantagenet family, and is the final resting place of Eleanor of Aquitaine, her spouse Henry II, and their son Richard the Lionhearted. The recently restored abbey is home to beautifully re-created medieval monastic vegetable and herb gardens.

Abbaye Royaumont, photo by Clicsouris, Wiki Commons
Royaumont Abbey
Asnières-sur-Oise

Royaumont Abbey was built in the 1200s, its cloister garden restored in 1912, and its other gardens re-created a century later to reflect the writings of Germanic author, mystic, visionary, and abbess Hildegarde von Bingen (d.1179).

Notre-Dame-d'Orsan
Maisonnais

This priory was founded in 1107 by Robert d'Arbrissel, who was also a patron of Fontrevauld. The re-created priory gardens include an orchard labyrinth, a pergola, and a cloister garden reminiscent of the early "paradise" gardens.

USA: Early medieval garden re-creations  

The Cloisters, Wiki Commons

The Cloisters Museum

The Metropolitan Museum of Art created the Cloisters by assembling medieval European artifacts and architectural elements dating from 1100 to 1500. The gardens are an integral part of this remarkable museum.

Medieval Garden of Santa Clara University
Santa Clara, California

A recreation of a medieval herber, including a tunnel arbor, a hortus conclusis, and geometrical beds where edible and decorative plants mixed together.

More information on recreated medieval gardens, most from the later Middle Ages, visit Gardendesigns.com and page down to "Chapter  3 -  Medieval gardens in the British Isles." 

 

 

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