1450-67 Master ES Two Lovers in a Garden sitting on a raised bed
This is one of my favorite depictions of a medieval garden. Actually, what I really adore about this garden is the gentleman's extremely pointed shoes, his awkwardly placed sword, & that he is trying so hard.
This couple sits on a crude, wooden turf seat, whic were usually built against a wall, with flowers planted in the grass. Beneath their feet is a Flowery Mead, a medieval grass lawn planted with low-growing wild flowers. The flowery mead is one of the essential components of a medieval garden. Poet Giovanni Boccaccio (1313-1375) in his Decameron of 1348 wrote "in the midst of the garden a lawn of very fine grass, so green it seemed nearly black, colored with perhaps a thousand kind of flowers……shut in with very green citrus & orange trees bearing, at the same time, both ripe fruit & young fruit & flowers so that they pleased the sense of smell as well as charmed the eyes with shade."
A Mead is a medieval garden designed to imitate a small meadow or sometimes a larger, natural meadow. A Flowery Mead is a medieval term for a lawn rich in wild flowers. A flowery mead is often one of the essential components of a medieval garden. The flowery mead depicted is seldom within a distinct, geometric, larger garden. Albertus Magnus (c 1200-1280), a German Dominican friar & a Catholic bishop, was a great admirer of lawns & flowery meads "For the sight is in now way so pleasantly refreshed as by fine and close grass kept short." Most writers recommend digging out the original 'waste' plants, killing the seeds in the soil by flooding with boiling water, then laying out the lawn with curves laid in and pounded well. Another writer recommended mowing them twice a year; lawn mowing would have been done with scythes or primitive shears.
Raised beds often appear in Medieval vegetable & medicinal gardens. Raised beds helped prevent plants becoming waterlogged. Such beds were almost universally rectangular, and arranged in a regular pattern, either windowpane check or checkerboard. Roman author Columella (4-70 ce) wrote in On Agriculture "The ground is divided into beds, which, however, should be so contrived that the hands of those who weed them can easily reach the middle of their breadth, so that those who are going after weeds may not be forced to tread on the seedlings, but rather may make their way along paths and weed first one and then the other half of the bed."
In The Gardener's Labyrinth of 1577, the 1st English gardening book, Thomas Hill (b 1528) suggested beds of "one foot of breadth, and into what length the owner or gardener will. . . let the pathes between the beds be of such areasonable breadth (as a mans foot) that they passing along by, may freely weed the one half first, and next the other half left to weed."
John Parkinson (1657-1650)proposed in his 1629 Paradisi in Sole, Paradisus Terrestris, that beds be edged with lead "cut to the breadth of foure fingers, bowing the lower edge a little outward," oaken inch boards four or five inches broad," or shank bones of sheep, or tiles, or "round whitish or blewish pebble stones of some reasonable proportion and bignesse."
Raised beds could be built up & edged with boards or woven panels of willow to improve drainage, as Roman author Columella (4-70 ce) recommended. Parkinson also suggested edging raised beds with either live plants or dead materials such as tiles, lead, sheep shank bones, or boards.
Potted plants & trees often were depicted placed on top of raised, grassy beds in gardens usually containing young vegetables, perennials or fruit trees. Potting plants was used to extend the growing season. Thomas Hill, apparently enamoured with cucumbers, pointed out that the gardener could start cucumbers early by planting them in pots; leaving them out all day in warm weather; & moving them into a warm shed at night."The Gardiner which would possesse Cucumbers timely & very soone, yea & all the yeare through, ought...in the beginning of the the spring, to fill up old worne baskets & earthen pans without bottomes, with fine sifted earth tempered afore with fat dung, & to moisten somewhat the earth with water, after the seeds bestowed in theses, which done when warme & sunnie daies succeede, or a gentle raine falling, the baskets or pans with the plants, are then to be set abroad, to be strengthened & cherished by the sun & small showres; but the evening approching, these in all the cold season ought to be set under some warm cover or house in the ground, to be defended from the frosts & cold aire, which thus standing under a cover, or in the warme house, moisten gently with water sundry times, & these on such wise handle, untill all the Frosts, Tempests, & cold aire be past, as commonly the same ceaseth not with us, till abut the middest of May. After these, when opportunity or an apt day serveth the Gardener shall bestow the Baskets or Pannes unto the brimme, or deeper in the earth, well laboured or trimmed before, with the rest of the diligenceto be exercised, as before uttered; which done, the Gardener shall enjoy very forward & timelier Cowcumbers than any others. This matter may be compassed, both easier, in shorter time, & with lesser travell, if the owner, after the cutting of the waste branches, doth set them in well labored beds, for these in far shorter time & speedier, doe yeeld faire Cucumbers. The one thing I think necessary to be learned, for the avoiding of the daily labour & paines, in the setting abroad & carrying into the house, either halfe tubs, baskets, or earthen bannes, which on this wise by greater facility may be done, if so be the Gardener bestwo the vessells with the plants in Wheel-barrowes, or such like with Wheeles; for these, to mens reason, causeth marvellous easiness, doth in the bestowing abroad, & carrying againe into the warme house, as often as need shall require. The young plants may be defended from cold & boisterous windes, yea, frosts, the cold aire, & hot Sunne, if Glasses made for the onely purpose, be set over them, which on such wise bestowed on the beds, yeelded in a manner to Tiberius Caesar, Cucumbers all the year, in which he took great delight, as after the worthy Columella, the learned Plinie hath committed the same to memory, which every day obtained the like, as he writeth."