Review copy was received from NetGalley. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.
A Guide to Medieval Gardens by Michael Brown
on March 30, 2022
Genres: Non Fiction
Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Apple
Medieval gardens usually rate very few pages in the garden history books. The general perception is still of small gardens in the corner of a castle. Recent research has shown that the gardens were larger than we previously believed. This book contains information and pictures that have not been generally available before, including the theory and practice of medieval horticulture. Many features of later gardens were already a part of medieval gardens. The number of plants was limited, but was still no less than many modern gardeners use in their own gardens today. Yet medieval gardens were imbued with meaning. Whether secular or religious, the additional dimension of symbolism, gave a greater depth to medieval gardens, which is lacking in most modern ones.
This book will be of interest to those who know little about medieval gardens and to those with more knowledge. It contains some of the vast amount of research that the author carried out to create the medieval gardens at the Prebendal Manor, Nassington, Northamptonshire. The author has tried to use previously unused sources and included his own practical experience of medieval gardening methods that he carried out to maintain the gardens. Some worked, others certainly didn’t.
As a lover of medieval history and gardens, I could not help snatching up a book that was devoted to both, by a person who brought to life a medieval garden. I was unsure of what to expect, but I anticipated whatever was to come.
A Guide to Medieval Gardens opens with an introduction to the author, his research, and an overview of the Medieval English world that explained the significance of what archeologists and researchers have discovered pertaining to gardens of that period. Gardens were for upper class pleasure and status symbols, but they were also as practical as could be providing for the household and those who lived in the castles, villages, and monasteries.
The book ‘visited’ several fine examples, mostly around England of what was left of medieval gardens, some archeological finds, and in archival pages the plottings of those gardens of the past and what could be found in them. It was fascinating to know what was grown in those gardens and ponds, but also how they were laid out and who used them. It is interesting to see the connection our modern gardens have to those in the past and what parts of our landscaping choices hail from that period.
There were some lovely graphics of pictures, drawings, and more liberally scattered through the book and a great deal of fascinating background not just on the gardens, but medieval life in general both secular and monastic. It was so vividly described I felt I was indeed on a guided tour as the title of the book suggests. I thought it was well researched and obvious the author knew of that which he was writing. I can definitely recommend this quick and easily read book to gardening and/or historical enthusiasts.
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