My Medieval Herbgarden


I have a medieval Herb Garden. Its model is from early Middle Ages; in the center there is a small round flower patch. Around it are both square and triangle - shaped patches. A garden like this I have found from Albertus Magnus's writings from 10th century. In the picture there is plum tree and irises in the front.

In the center of every patch there is a rose. Patches are lined with small herbs. Between roses and small herbs taller herbs are grown. Here are hyssop (hyssopus officinalis) and rosa gallica - species. This kind of form was the herb garden, which was located in the front of the Medieval Museum of Stockholm in 20th century. There is a park now.

Old garden rose (rosa gallica versicolor, in this picture) and apothecary's rose (rosa gallica officinalis) were the oldest roses in medieval gardens. Mine stay well over winter and spread eagerly around, but are less than one meter high. Apothecary's rose was used in food, cosmetics and medicine in the Middle Ages.

I have lined the patches with small wall made of nature stones: there are lot of stones in the ground in my garden, so it was necessary to use them somewhere. An example of stone walls lining a garden (or so-) patch is from excavations of medieval town of Oslo. Here grows a young Great or Common Mullein (Verbascum thapsus).

My garden is lined with a fence made from sterns of young birches and rowans. Law books from the Middle Ages (for example king Christopher, king of Sweden in the 15th century, made one) mention that a person was not allowed to steel or take twigs from someone's garden. A garden was specified at those times to be an area surrounded with a fence. Fences in medieval Europe were often made of nut or willow, but I had an oversupply with young birches. Reconstructed medieval gardens also have often different grill fences; so I made one, too.

An example is in Sylvia Landberg's book Medieval Gardens. Grill fences were used by less wealthy people, especially when they wanted to prevent hen and chicken to eat the vegetables and medicine plants. The book shows an example of a fence made of boards, that I used as an example when buiding this one. In these above pictures there are Austrian Copper Rose (rosa foetida) and Marsh mallow (Althaea officinalis).



When I built my garden I mainly studied John Harvey and especially his wonderful book Medieaval Gardens (London, 1981). I think that it is the best possible book for a modern medieval gardener. His other books are also very useful.

There are plenty of period books from Europe, too. If You use them, You have to remember, though, that between medieval and modern language there is a long journey of time, and many translations or changes might have happened. Here in the picture is myrtle (myrtus communis, more likely wild myrtle Myrica gale) Who knows if the name of the plants even remain the same...

Picture of the layout Hannele Maahinen, other pictures Satu Hovi unless otherwise mentioned
Texts are written by Satu Hovi
Copying any material is strictly forbidden without permission from the author.