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



Early gardens

Early plants

Growing heirloom plants

Garden folklore

Resources for gardeners

Site map

Contact us

Some Favorite Print Resources

The selection of books below is not intended to be a scholarly bibliography; it is, in fact, a rather ragtag collection of personal favorites. Some are readily available, and clicking on the title links will take you directly to Amazon. Others are out of print and only intermittently available -- sometimes at mind-boggling prices. When this is the case, don't forget your local library and, through them, your access to the Interlibrary Loan program. And, of course, many of the older titles are now available online, and can be located by searching using the title.


Early Gardens

Book, Ancient Roman Gardens

Ancient Roman Gardens
Linda Farrar

Linda Farrar (2000)

An enjoyable introduction to the ancient and archetypal gardens of Rome, Pompeii, and Herculaneum, with side trips to gardens throughout the Roman Empire.

Book, English Herb Gardens

English Herb Gardens
Guy Couper and Gordon Taylor (2000)

A pragmatic and wide-ranging discussion of English herb gardens created or restored with an eye to historical accuracy. More than 60 gardens are touched upon, some of which are restorations of known manor, monastery, and cottage gardens. Traditional herbs are described, with information about their cultivation. All in all, a very enjoyable book.

Gook, In a Gloucestershire Garden

In a Gloucestershire Garden
Canon Nicholson Ellacombe

Canon Ellacombe, a thoughtful, philosophical gardener, writes about the garden he loves; the style is such that you wouldn't be surprised to learn he often had afternoon tea with Miss Marple.

Walafrid Strabo; translated from the Latin by Raef Payne, with commentary by Wilfred Blunt

Valuable for scholars and evocative for everyone  because it includes a facsimile of the earliest Hortulus manuscript.

[Hortulus] On the Cultivation of Gardens
Walafrid Strabo
- translated by James Mitchell, with a foreword by Richard Schwarzenberger (2009)

An introduction that firmly grounds the reader as to time, place, and author, and an excellent translation, this little volume makes a nice companion to the more scholarly translation of Walafrid's Hortulus by Payne, above.

Online here.

Medieval Herbal Remedies: The Old English Herbarium and Anglo-Saxon Medicine
Anne Van Arsdall

Medieval Gardens (Dumbarton Oaks Colloquium on the History of Landscape Architecture, V.IX)
Ed. E.B. MacDougall

Most books on medieval gardening focus on the late Middle Ages, and even the early Renaissance. This volume is published by the Dumbarton Oaks Research Library and Collection in Washington, DC, a research institute of Harvard University that supports scholarship into (among other topics) garden and landscape history. While it also tends to focus on later gardens, it does discuss medicinal plants, garden art, and garden as metaphor, including the hortus conclusis.

The Plant-Lore & Garden-Craft of Shakespeare
Canon Henry Nicholson Ellecombe

Online at http://www.gutenberg.org/files/28407/28407-h/28407-h.htm


Roman Britain: A New History
Guy de la Bédoyère
Book, Roman Villas and the Countryside

Roman Villas and the Countryside
Guy de la Bedoyere (1994)

An interesting introduction to rural Romano-British archeology.

Plan of St Gall, on vellum

St. Gall - Study of the Architecture and Economy of, and Life in, a Paradigmatic Carolingian Monastery
(Volumes I, II, and III)

Walter Horn and Ernest Born (1980)

The Plan of Saint Gall in Brief:
An Overview Based on the Three-Volume Work by Walter Horn and Ernest Born

Lorna Price (1982)

While the three-volume study is too expensive for most home libraries (it runs about $750 used), the briefer summary can be had for about $20, and includes a good overview and nearly 100 color and B&W photos

A wonderful, interactive, digitized edition of the plan is online at http://www.stgallplan.org/en/index_plan.html .

Early Plants

Book, Anglo-Saxon Medicine Anglo-Saxon England: Anglo-Saxon Medicine
M. L. Cameron (2006)

A comprehensive and scholarly study of Anglo-Saxon medical texts, including herbals, that is erudite, entertaining, and insightful.
Brother Cadfael's Herb Garden: An Illustrated Companion to Medieval Plants and Their Uses
Robin Whiteman and Rob Talbot (1997))


The Bury St. Edmonds Herbal (MS. Bodl. 130), online at http://www.bodley.ox.ac.uk/dept/scwmss/wmss/medieval/mss/bodl/130.htm


Book, Culpeper's Complete Herbal Culpeppers Complete Herbal

Online at https://archive.org/details/culpeperscomplet00culpuoft


From Earth to Art: The Many Aspects of the Plant-World in Anglo-Saxon England
Proceedings of the First ASPNS Symposium, University of Glasgow, 2000


Book, Hildegard of Bingen's Healing Plants Hildegard's Healing Plants: From Her Medieval Classic, Physica
Hildegard of Bingen


Book, Rackham's History of the Countryside

The History of the Countryside: The Classic History of Britain's Landscape, Flora and Fauna
Oliver Rackham

Using the evidence on the ground as well as that of early charters and other documentation, Rackham presents a detailed and fascinating account of the evolution of Britain's landscape. After reading this, you'll never look at the natural world in quite the same way, or with quite the same anthropocentric outlook.

Leechdoms, Wortcunning, and Starcraft of Early England
Thomas Oswald Cockayne (2001)

This 3-volume edition has facing-page Old English and Cockayne's translations into modern English, as well as invaluable glossaries, indices, and other resources.

Online at:|
Volume I - https://archive.org/details/leechdomswortcu02pedagoog
Volume II - https://archive.org/details/leechdomswortcu00offigoog
Volume III - https://archive.org/details/leechdomswortcu01pedagoog

Book, Medieval Herbals, The Illustrative Traditions

Medieval Herbals: The Illustrative Traditions
Minta Collins (British Library Studies in Medieval Culture, 2001)

The early herbals were also field guides to plants, so that their illustrations were an important in very pragmatic ways.

Book, Maude Grieve's A Modern Herbal

A Modern Herbal, Vols. I and II II: The Medicinal, Culinary, Cosmetic and Economic Properties, Cultivation and Folk-Lore of Herbs
Maude Grieve

Grieve, wrote during World War II in Britain, a time when homegrown medicinals, dyestuffs, and foods were a necessity. The resulting work remains a classic in the field.

Online at http://www.botanical.com/botanical/mgmh/mgmh.html

Book, The Old English Herbals

The Old English Herbals
Eleanour Sinclair Rohde (reprinted 2010)

Rohde's first chapter, an overview of the herbals of the early Middle Ages, is both comprehensive and fascinating.

Online at http://www.gutenberg.org/files/33654/33654-0.txt

Old Names - New Growth: Proceedings of the 2nd ASPNS Conference, University of Graz, 2007
Physicians of Myddvai The Physicians of Myddfai: Or, the Medical Practice of the Celebrated Rhiwallon and His Sons, of Myddfai, in Carmarthenshire [facsimile].
John Ab Ithel Williams (ed) and John Pughe (ed, trans).

Online at https://archive.org/details/physiciansmyddv00willgoog

Plant Names of Medieval England
Tony Hunt

Comprehensive and well researched, this goes a fair ways towards defining what we can, and can't, know when it comes to identifying medieval plants.

Popular Religion in Late Saxon England: Elf Charms in Context
K. L. Jolly (1996)

Religion, health care, apothecary gardens, and their plants are inextricably linked in early medieval times, so that learning more about one facet of medieval life inevitably takes us down other, sometimes surprising paths. Hints of this are seen in such terms as chickenpox, for pox is derived from pucca, elf, and the disease was once thought to be caused by elfshot -- tiny darts or arrows fired by supernatural beings. Plant names also hint at earlier beliefs, as do many of the healing charms (pre-Christian) and prayers (Christian charms) in the early herbals.

Book,The Trotula, a medieval compendium of women's medicine

The Trotula: An English Translation of the Medieval Compendium of Women's Medicine
Trans. Monica Green

Because most early herbals were the product of predominantly male  religious houses, few deal in any comprehensive sense with women's health issues. The Trotula, a composite of Italian and Arabic works from the 1200s, was the most important work on women's health care in the high and late Middle Ages.

Gardening today

Book, Making More Plants

Making More Plants: The Science, Art, and Joy of Propagation
Ken Druse

A great guide to propagating plants using seeds, root cuttings, stem cuttings, etc. etc.

Encyclopedia of Fairies

Encyclopedia of Fairies: Hobgoblins, Brownies, Bogies, & Other Supernatural Creatures
Katherine Briggs

An entertaining and erudite introduction to the folklore of the British Isles, including plant and garden lore.

Other good books
An Anglo-Saxon Abbot, Ælfric of Eynsham
Samuel Harvey

Aelfric's glossary, colloquay, and grammar tell us much about the plants grown in the early medieval period.

A History of Illuminated Manuscripts
Christopher De Hamel

Herbals are an important genre of illuminated MSS, and this fascinating work has much to teach us about their context.


Homee | Early gardens | Early plants | Growing heirloom plants | Garden folklore | Resources | Site map


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


Copyright ©2011-15 S.E.S. Eberly
All Rights Reserved

Contact us