Herbs, vegetables and medical plants
Our European garden culture is based, through archaeological research, on the garden culture of early civilisations. The plants were brought to provinces north of the Alps by the Romans and, through trading with monasteries, became more wide spread.
Monastic herb (herbularis) and vegetable (hotus) gardens were considered to be the ‘model’ gardens for houses and farms. These were probably the gardens Roman country villa’s modelled their gardens on.
How can we imagine an early medieval garden?
Most of the time it was a small fenced square near the house which was originally designed to protect animals and cattle. The square was divided into compartments with raised-bed-gardens and low-bed-gardens, which were planted with medicinal plants and spices, herbs and vegetables.
Where do we get our knowledge about the early medieval age gardens?
On the one hand, the examination of fields and archaeo-botanical studies of plant remains allowed us to gain the knowledge of the plants, and the shape of, medieval gardens. Examples of plants grown that were used in everyday life are: coriander, celery, mustard, kale, carrots, parsley, dill, caraway, catnip and winter-savory.
On the other hand, written sources record what was planted in monasteries.
For example, the ‘Capitulare de villis vel curtis imperii’ (a popular secular scripture stating the agriculatural policy) written by Charlemagne (c.800 A.D.), the ecclesiastical scripture recording the monastic plans of St. Gallen (c.820 A.D.) can be used as well as a poem by Walahfrid Strabos, called ‘Liber de cultura hortorum’ (c. 830 A.D.).
Due to climatic changes, and restricted space available, not all plants, herbs and vegetables listed above can be planted here at the museum. However, to present as many as possible, some plants are only planted once.