Garden Patterns

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Technical Terms dealing with Medieval period gardens
by Lauren Stier · All Zones · Terminology · 0 Comments · April 21, 2012 · 18,697 views

Mazes & Labyrinths

Labyrinths, in which one cannot get lost, seem to have been more popular in period than Mazes. Copying the fashion in Roman tiles (and perhaps a Roman boys' exercise), big festival or game labyrinths were made of cut turf in some places; by the sixteenth century, the inclusion of a labyrinth laid out with herbs and small shrubs seems to have been one way to use up space in a big garden.

"Hyssop, thyme, and cotton lavender, which were used in the early mazes, are small-- the grow, at the most were knee high. Mazes made with these are therefore to be surveyed as well as walked in. Their color should be remembered, with box and yew also recommended: these were invaluable as evergreens... Charles Estienne in his Agriculture et Maison Rustique recommends... 'and one bed of camomile to make seats and labyrinths, which they call Daedalus.' In the first English version of this work, translated by Richard Surflet in 1600... 'these sweet herbes...some of them upon seats, and others in mazes made for the pleasing and recreating of the sight." Thacker, The History of Gardens

Knotwork and Parterres (Embroidery-work)

This apparently began to be a fashion in the early 1500's, though its heyday was in the 1600's. Knots or pattern-work laid out in plants and/or colored stones, usually in blocks of four -- at first generally mirrored both horizontally and vertically, then, later, mirrored only along one axis and even only broken into 2. Markham gives instructions for laying out your knots. (Some knots included spots for the inclusion of the owner's heraldry, ect.)

In 1599, a observer's account of some partierres at Hampton Court (quoted by R. Strong, p. 33): "By the entrance I noticed numerous patches where squared cavities had been scooped out, paving stones; some of these were filled with red brick-dust, some with white sand, and some with green lawn, very much resembling a chessboard."

Elaborate, embroidery work 'partierres" were a feature of gardens in the late 1600s and early 1700s.

"Quarters for knots or armes" from Markham's English Husbandman

Garden placement

Two opposite schools of thought:

  • near the house so the scents could waft in
  • away from the castle to provide provide privacy

Away from refuse dumps, standing water, etc. (See Markham's remakes on garden sites)

Major manor gardens of the latter part of the 16th century often sited the gardens so that they could be seen from the ownner's principal quarters, royalty might have two gardens, one for the king and one for the queen.

Heating arrangements

Hugh Platt, in Floraes Paradise (1608) advocated what Campbell (Charleston Kedding) calls "Sunentrapping fruit walls, concave, niched, or alcoved...He suggested kining concave walls with lead or tin plates, or pieces of glas, which would reflect the sun's heat back onto the fruit trees. He also considered warming the walls with the backs of kitcchen chimneys."

Campbell also gives a good description of period references to hotbeds in moorish agricultural manuals, in De Crescenzi, and in Thomas Hill. These hot beds were constructed by putting fresh dung in a pit and either putting soil over it and planting in the soil, covering over the plants with shelter in inclement weather.

Lauren Stier

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Lauren Stier - I have a medieval garden which has been an ongoing project


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