beds were generally very carefully laid out in both the
physic garden and the kitchen garden. A typical garden
would have at least six beds, perhaps protected by low
hazel fences or hurdles, aligned along a central pathway.
The physic garden could have twenty beds or more, one
bed for each herb. The monks grew cumin, fennel, comfrey,
feverfew, yarrow, pimpernel, rosemary, sage, rue, lavender,
rose, iris, mint, lovage and pennyroyal among others.
What was not grown in the physic garden could be gathered
from the wild - along the river meadows and under the
the kitchen garden the monks would have grown turnips,
parsnips, a variety of legumes, onions, leeks, mint, borage,
nettle, violets, rocket, endive, wormwood, basil, carnations,
melons and mugwort to name only a few.
lily of the valley, pictured to the right, was often grown
for its sheer beauty rather than for any medicinal purpose.
orchard would have been stocked with varieties of plum,
apple, almond, grape vines (before the fourteenth century
western Europe's climate was much warmer than it is now
and wine could be grown successfully in England), cheery,
chestnut, fig,hazel, pear, medlar, walnut and mulberry,
gooseberries and strawberries.
ponds also formed an important part of the monastic garden.
The monks farmed a number of fish, eels and carp primary
among them, in ponds, streams and moats. Fish formed a
major part of their diet on Fridays and during the Lenten
fasts, and without a steady availability of fish their
diet would have suffered terribly.
forming an important, if less decorative part, of the
monastic garden was the cloister garden (or cloister-garth).
While some cloister gardens had shrubs and flowers, most
had only a level field of lawn. The simplicity, as well
the emerald colour, aided the monks or nuns in their daily
spiritual contemplations - the plain green lawn symbolized
renewal and everlasting life.
monastic official who oversaw the gardens was known as
the ortolanus. He not only oversaw production
in the gardens, but also administered the hiring of staff
(if the monastery needed to hire in lay gardeners). One
of the perks for the lay gardeners was that, as well as
monetary wages, they also often obtained medicinal care,
food, gloves and boots for their labour.
the smaller religious houses, those with only a handful
of monks or lay brothers, there were no lay gardeners
at all. The monks did all the work, whether in freezing
hail or summer sunshine, living and dying by the fruits
of their endeavours.
also an article on medieval herbals.