Incorporating Period Garden ideas in your garden or encampment
From Gervase Markham, The English
"How for the entertainment of any great Person, in any
Parke, or other
place of pleasure, where Sommer-bowers are made, to make a compleat
Garden in two or three dayes.
If the honest English husbandman, or any other, of what quality soever,
shall entertaine any Noble personage, to whom he woul give the delight
of all strange contentment, either in his Parke, or other remote place
of pleasure, neere unto Ponds, River or other waters of cleerenesse,
after hee hath made his arbors and Summer-bowers to feast in, the
fashion whereof is so common that every labourer can make them, hee
shall then marke out his garden-plot, bestowing such sleight fence
thereon as hee shall think fit: then hee shall cast forth his alleys,
and devide them from his quarters, by paring away the greene-swarth
a paring spade, finely, and even, by a direct line (for line must ever
be used in this worke) then having store of labourers (after the
upper-most swarth is taken away) you shall cast up the quarters, and
then breaking the mould and levelling it, you shall make flat(?) the
earth againe, then upon your quarters you shall draw forth either
Armes, or any other device, as Birds, Beasts, and such like: and in
your knots where you should plant hearbes, you shall take greene-sods
of the richest grasse, and cutting it proportionably to the knot,
a fine trench, you shall lay in your sod, and so joyning sod to sod
close and arteficially, you shall set forth your whole knot, or the
portrayture of your armes, or other device, and then taking a cleane
broome that hath not formerly been swept withall, you shall brush all
uncleanenesse from the grasse, and then you shall behold your knot as
compleat, and as comely as if it had beene set with hearbes many yeeres
before. Now for the portrayture of any living thing, you shall cut it
forth, joyning sod unto sod, and then afterward place it into the
Now if within this plot of ground which you make your garden piece
there be either naturall or arteficiall mounts or bankes upon them, you
may in this selfe-same manner with greene sods set forth a flight,
either at field or river, or the manner of hunting of any chase, or any
story, or other device that you please, to the infinit admiration of
all them which shall behold it: onely in working against mounts or
bankes you must observe to have many small pinnes, to stay your worke
and keepe your sods from flipping one from another, till such time as
you have made every thing fast with earth, which you must rame very
close and hard: as for Flowers, or such like adornments, you may the
morning before, remove them with their earth from some other garden,
and plant them at your best pleasure. And thus much for a gardne to be
made in the time of hasty necessity."
A number of different garden arrangements are documented. Some
- A lawn/meadow with wildflowers, perhaps with turf benches in an
open U or L in the center.
- A walled garden with seats around the outside, and lawn and/or
water feature in the center.
- A fenced-in lawn/garden with paths for walking, and images of
heraldic beasts on poles here and there (Hampton Court Palace, Reign of
- Quarters of parterres/knotwork placed where they can be seen from
the windows of the house. Gravel, brick, stone etc. can be used instead
of or in addition to plants. (See above)
Raised or non-raised square or rectangular garden plots, laid out
in a gingham check pattern, or (more rarely) in a checkerboard. These
can be small or large-- some seem to be only 4 feet or so in width.
- Pergolas and/or arbors along a wall, with lawn in front.
Kitchen gardens of plants in rows (Walafrid Strabo), or
- terraced gardens with parterres or a grotto set into the hillside
Including fencing or a wall around your garden gives it the period
touch. Examples of the easier types of fence to build are:
- Trellis attached to posts sections topped with a 1x4 rail.
- Post-and-rail made with milled lumber
- Cement blocks colored or stuccoed to look like stone.
- Diagonal patterned fencing, available in stores
- sections of wood palisade fencing, also available in stores.
- Lashed pole fencing with prickly climbers (such as roses) trained
Solar powered fountains or ponds with solar powered fountains can be
constructed using special solar fountain pumps.
The DIY network show includes instructions for construction of such a
A pedestal urn-in-urn or pillar-in-urn fountain is typical of 14th
& 15th century
Classical-style statuary, such as a child pouring water from a vase, is
more typical of the 16th and 17th centuries.
Modern pond liners can be used to make fish holding ponds, wellheads,
or other water features. However, period
style water features appear to have been regular (square,
circular, rectangular, oval) in shape rather than freeform, so rigid
pond liners may be your best bet. Container ponds of moderate size are
another suitable choice, if the outer surface is appropriate.
- A round terracotta drainage pipe with a wide opening (2-4 feet)
can be lined with a round pond liner for a wellhead.
- A rectangular koi pond surrounded with a rectangular edging of
flat rectangular stones will resemble a fish storage facility.
- A rigid rectangular, square or round pond liner or ceramic container around with a flexible or rigid liner, whether partially or
fully buried, can be used to
provide the look of a wellhead, pool, or bottom fountain basin.
Benches and Arbors
A turf bench, perhaps with a section of trellis fastened to the
back, can be made with either wooden or brick sides. Some examples seem
to be stucco'd over, others made with stone slabs. Landsberg's Medieval Gardens gives plants for
concrete block or brick 'excedra' as she calls them. If you make a
U-shaped one large enough to fit a table in, it can be used for
Stone and wooden benches are sometimes seen in the pictures-- stone
benches would have been stored inside and brought out for use.
Benches against a wall or trellis would have a climbing plant such as
rosemary planted next to the back and trained up the wall or trellis.
Your library's self-improvement section will include books with
directions for contructing arbors or pergolas. Hop vine, ivy, grape
vine, or white-flowered gourd (lagenaria) vines can be trained over
these to make the period look.
Plants in Pots:
Plants in urns, large flowerpots, and similar containers can be
arranged on turf-benches, or around the house and garden.
Carnations, cottage pinks, and cornflowers are very suitable for pots,
enclosed in a peony-frame:
Rosemary, bush basil, rue, germander, and other herbs and tender perennials of upright
habit would also work, as would lilies in pots.
Sculpted shrubs in pots, or ivy and other climbers trained over a
framework to make topiary.
Small orange, lemon, bay, and fig trees in pots to can be brought out in
summer and brought in in winter.
Plants for a lawn:Daisies, field poppies, rocket, plaintain,
pot marigolds, violets,
viola (johnny-jump-ups), periwinkle, primroses, gladioli, wild
marjoram/oregano, mint, ladies' bedstraw, speedwell, self-heal,
strawberry, pinks, ladies' mantle, borae, clary, costmary, lavender,
gromwell, woodruff, centaury,
Thyme, camomile, and other creeping herbs can be used in areas where
traffic is low, along with taller plants such as rue, feverfew, yarrow,
iris, lilies, lily-of-the-valley, wallflower and columbine.
Naturalized food plants such as chickweed, purslaine, and dandelion would also be welcome.
A flowering mede/lawn should be cut short periodically but allowed to
grow higher in the interim-- once a month mowing is probably in order.
See Medieval and Renaissance Gardens http://www.lehigh.edu/~jahb/herbs/medievalgardens.htm for more information.
Copyright Jennifer A. Heise. Contact me via email for permission to reprint: email@example.com
Permission is explicitly granted for limited reproduction as a printed handout for classes in schools, herb society meetings, or classes or guild meetings in the Society for Creative Anachronism (except to corporate officers and board members of the SCA, Inc.), as long as I am notified and credited and the entire handout is used.
Jadwiga's herbs homepage: http://www.gallowglass.org/jadwiga/herbs/herbs.html