G is for Gardens – an historical perspective #AtoZchallenge

The history of gardens and the impact of gardens on the lives of our predecessors, is something that I have become increasingly aware of. Initially this was through my work as Mistress Agnes and her sojourns in the herb gardens of the seventeenth century. Then when I wrote Coffers, Clysters, Comfrey and Coifs, I looked at gardens of the rich and poor in Stuart England. This expanded into a more general study of gardening history and I now give talks on seventeenth century gardens and the historical use of healing herbs. You will have to wait until tomorrow, when ‘H is for Herbs’, for more on that topic.The knot garden’s low hedges divided the garden into geometric patterns

For ordinary folk, gardens have only become places of leisure and pleasure comparatively recently. The gardens of our ancestors were to provide necessary produce for the family. The wealthy however have embraced the role of gardens for ornament and relaxation for more than 500 years. I recently completed a course on healing gardens. Healing not only in the provision of medicinal plants but also healing in the therapeutic sense. Gardens, whether we spend time in them or work in them, assail all our senses and can promote a sense of well being. Their plants, their wildlife and even just the fresh air can all help to heal a troubled soul.

My ladies who are contributing their memories of 1946-1969 are currently writing about homes and gardens. How well do you remember the gardens in your life? Sometimes garden memories are more powerful than those of interior spaces. Specific plants can also evoke memories of people and of past events. Have you recorded your recollections of the gardens of your past?

Regular, pre A to Z Challenge readers, of this blog will recall that I have had extensive building work done to my home recently. This has given me the opportunity to think carefully about how my tiny garden will look now it no longer needs to impersonate a World War 1 trench. Yes, I shall pay homage to the seventeenth century origins of my cottage but I will not be a slave to this. There are many helpful books for those wanting to recreate gardens that reflect a certain historical period. I have listed a few below. I shall also be incorporating some family history into my garden.

3 June 1958September 1963Alongside more conventional ways of recording our family history, gardens can be used to do this. Can you include plants to represent members of your immediate family? For ancestors who had a flower name the choice is easy; my grandmother was called Ivy, no problems there. Alternatively, select a plant that they were fond of, or that you associate with them. Add flowers that featured in wedding bouquets. If no particular plant springs to mind, then what about a garden ornament? An anchor could denote an ancestral fisherman, a milk churn a dairyman forebear, or a pitch fork for a farm labourer. Those of us who find the past a pleasant place to live, can use our gardens to surround ourselves with representations of the past, creating a place of peace and serenity in the present.

Jennings Anne Tudor and Stuart Gardens 2005 English Heritage
Peachey, Stuart Farmhouse and Cottage Gardens 1580-1660 1996 Historical Management Associates Ltd.

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3 comments on “G is for Gardens – an historical perspective #AtoZchallenge

  1. kristin says:

    Up until 5 years ago when we moved to this all to shady lot, I planted flowers for my grandparents – they were the ones they had in flower boxes and yard. I also had a big vegetable garden and it always reminded me of the gardens my mother and her father had. I miss gardening a lot.

  2. Birgit says:

    What a great way to pay homage to your ancestors. I always have pansies because my great grandmother loved this flower and I never thought of what I was doing until I read what you wrote

  3. Although gardens were not a big part of my life, I have fond memories of three trees/bushes in my childhood home where my mom still lives. There were three flourishing white dogwood trees. How they transformed the property when in bloom. There was also a tree that produced crabapples and had beautiful pink flowers and as a kid, our share of caterpillars. Lastly my mom had a Rose of Sharon and that many people have taken clippings including myself. It provides color to my property. Great post today.

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