Romeo and Juliet, true love?
Are Romeo and Juliet really the most romantic of all lovers? Or is their love more folly, infatuation and teenage angst?
Hello my name is Carlotta, Head Gardener at the Weald and Downland Open Air Museum and your host for this week. I am responsible for the six delightful period gardens at the museum that have been recreated to show the transition of gardens from early 16th through to late 19th century. They show the herbs, vegetables and flowers that would have met the needs of rural households over the centuries. Each garden represents the period of the house as well as the social status of the householder. The earliest gardens are purely utilitarian; as we move through the centuries and social levels, some plants were beginning to be grown for their aesthetic qualities, the very first beginnings of decorative planting and display towards the public face of the garden.
Bayleaf Garden, one of the six period gardens, is a recreation of a late medieval garden for a yeoman farmer and his family, the housewife would have been the mistress of her own garden. The vegetables, herbs and flowers grown have been selected mainly from two medieval lists; a poem The Feate of Gardening, by Master Jon Gardener, written before 1400 and a list found in a cookery book the Fromond List, of about 1530. In the vegetable garden we allow self-seeded edible ‘weeds’ such as fat hen, chickweed, and sow thistle, to grow between the sown crops, together with self-seeded plants such as marigolds, borage, poppies, feverfew and campion. Such density of growth provides a living mulch which helps to keep the soil moist; thus reducing the need to water, yet prevents leaching of nutrients in heavy rain. This glorious floral carpet not only looks attractive, but provides nectar for the adult stages of many insects including bees, butterflies, nocturnal slug-eating beetles and the larval stages of useful insects such as ladybirds and hoverflies, which both devour aphids. Any plants left unused can be dug in as a green manure, so it is a wholly organic method of gardening.
In high status gardens a ‘Mary Garden’ would be planted in remembrance of the Virgin Mary. It was often a separate enclosed area from the main – an area of quiet contemplation. Mary Gardens are thought to date back to medieval times and the earliest record of a garden specifically dedicated to Mary is found in a 15th century monastic accounting record of the purchase of plants for a Mary Garden. Bayleaf garden, a recreation of a late medieval garden at the Weald and Downland, would not have been a high enough status to have a Mary Garden, however would have been aspiring. Therefore we have made a gesture to the idea by growing some of the plants devoted to Mary, i.e. Madonna Lilies (Lilium candidum), symbolise purity, Red Apothecary Roses (Rosa gallica) symbolise Mary’s sorrow and the Blood of Christ, Sweet Violets (Viola odorata); the blue flowers signify Mary’s robes.