While browsing the illuminated books of hours – these sumptuous testimonies dating from the Middle Ages – we begin to dream of perfumed benches, of a housekeeper to feed the family, of a place where “simple medicines” (a term used for medicinal plants in the Middle Ages, Editor’s note) would be enough to heal us. Even if your garden is small and has nothing historic, no need for a large space to create charming places, with the celestial garden and its plants symbolizing the Virgin, the garden of love, the courtyard and its pretty flowery meadow, or even a carpet of thousand flowers. Without forgetting a wild corner, to recall the empty pastures, where edicts and regional customs allowed the poorest to graze a donkey, a goat, a cow or a sheep on private land, after the harvest. This right was accompanied by the possibility of gleaning and harvesting edible herbs.
Let the wildlings come
If you leave a corner to wild herbs, as in empty pastures, all that will remain is to collect these leaves and flowers which have been part of the diet of our ancestors since the dawn of time. Gleaning in your garden is a source of infinite pleasure. It is an exciting, exhilarating, exciting leisure activity, a real treasure hunt where emotion, beauty, humility, satisfaction, lavishness, tasting and astonishment combine and mingle. At random, some names of these beautiful and good ones which sow and reseed, thanks to the wind and the birds: primrose, nettle, wild garlic, hogweed, mint, sorrel, plantain, burnet, dandelion, sweetness (wild lamb’s lettuce) , ground ivy, borage, yarrow, wormwood, bugle, chives, lemon balm, lungwort, meadowsweet, tansy…
We never repeat it enough, only collect what you recognize for sure.
The housekeeper is the vegetable garden!
The vegetable garden was often surrounded with fences made of natural materials. Dead wood, living wood… They were there to prevent cattle from ravaging the vegetable beds and to surround the wooded plots. Now, they mark our individuality and prevent our pets from wandering. To form an integral part of the garden, nothing is prettier and more rustic than chestnut or woven hazel fences. Sow and plant cabbage, beets, onions, carrots, some of the vegetables grown in the Middle Ages.
A scented bench
All nature lovers like to sit on the grass, but why not make a green bench, like in the Middle Ages, where people sat to chat or embroider? You need wooden planks, garden soil, compost, sand, and creeping, very grounding plants, such as woolly thyme (Thymus lanuginosus) for the sun, or pennyroyal (Mentha pulegium) for partial shade. Make a formwork at the desired height and as deep as a seat. Choose the appropriate location, so that it is practical and functional, and above all elegant. Place it, pushing it in slightly. Fill it with garden soil, enriched with compost, up to half a centimeter from the edge. Place a good layer of sand on the soil, 20 cm, to drain, especially for thyme. Scratch to mix sand and soil. Plant at the rate of one pot every 20 cm, in a staggered pattern. Wait a good year, so that the plants are well established, to use it as a bench.
To finish, a little overview…
The celestial garden made it possible to pick the flowers which decorated the church. For this flowerbed dedicated to the Virgin, adopt Madonna lilies and roses. It’s up to you to find what symbolizes the garden of love… each with its own imagination. To recreate a simple garden, nothing has changed, or almost nothing, since the Middle Ages, when plants essential to medieval medicine appeared.
Berce. Hogweed, or giant hogweed (not to be confused with giant hogweed, which causes burns) is one of the most common wild plants. / Noemie Vialard for La Croix L’Hebdo
Ground ivy. The flowers and leaves of this cute trailing perennial give off a pleasant balsamic scent when crushed and tasted. / Noemie Vialard for La Croix L’Hebdo
Pennyroyal. What a joy to tread or sit on this fragrant, evergreen ground cover mint, especially when it blooms with lilac flowers. / Noemie Vialard for La Croix L’Hebdo
Plantain. While there are several plantains, all edible, the most common and tender is the lanceolate plantain, easy to identify by the novice gleaner. / Noemie Vialard for La Croix L’Hebdo