Growing heirloom plants
Resources for gardeners
in Britain, France, and the 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
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
URLs for several
of these gardens, thus serving as the catalyst
for this list.
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
Fishbourne, Sussex, UK
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.
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.
The name Caerleon is
Welsh for "fortress
of the legion,"
importance as the home
of Rome's powerful Second
understanding of the
lives of these
Medieval garden re-creations
Bishop's Palace Gardens
West Sussex, UK
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.
castle was completed in
much of it remains
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
Mount Grace Priory
Northallerton, North Yorkshire,
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.
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.
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
Aelfric in about 995 AD.
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
Winchester Great Hall, Winchester,
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
Eleanor of Castile, 1241-1290, wife of Edward I.
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.
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 Downland
Near Chichester, West Sussex, UK
The Weald and Downland Museum has
six period gardens, among
Bayleaf Garden, which recreates a late medieval garden of plants named in the 14th
century The Feate of
Gardening or the 16th century
Whittington Castle, 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
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
More photos and commentary
Begun by Augustine canons in 1167,
this beautiful Romanesque abbey has a wonderful
with more than 200 medicinal, culinary, aromatic, and magical
plants, surrounded by an evocative cloister walk.
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.
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).
This priory was founded in 1107
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.
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.
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.
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."