the difficulties of life, or perhaps even because of them, medieval
people loved their pleasure gardens. Homes, whether peasant
hovel or nobleman's castle, were usually dim, draughty, smoky,
cold, and usually with a complete lack of privacy, so it is
hardly surprising that people took whatever chance they could
to spend time outdoors.
and manor houses always had pleasure
gardens (as well as their herb and vegetable gardens), and
these pleasure gardens were often frequented by every member
of the household. Sometimes, however, the lord kept them for
the exclusive use of himself and his family - Chaucer's noble
knight of January kept his stone-walled flower garden under
lock and key, which he guarded jealously.
gardens were an opportunity for outdoor living, much as they
are for us now. People ate, drank and played games within them,
particularly chess and other board games. Music and dancing
were also favourite occupations, as was illicit sex within shadowed
corners - church court documents regarding annulments show many
people became a little carried away with the wine, the scent
of the roses, the freedom from spying eyes and indulged in romantic
escapades they regretted later.
nobles and kings also held court within their extensive pleasure
gardens on warm days: it was, again, an excuse to get out of
draughty, cold and smoky halls into the sunshine and promenade
about the garden.
loved to pick flowers and weave
garlands, which they often then wore about their heads.
The love of wearing flower garlands was not confined to women
- many medieval romances mention knights wearing them as well.
short, there was very likely not much difference to the way
medieval people used their gardens to the way we use them now.
Gardens were for flowers and fruit, and they were for extending
domestic life beyond the house, and into a 'tamed' natural world.