Monastic gardens

During the medieval period, much of Europe's knowledge was guarded by monasteries and nunneries, which

In medieval monastery gardens, medicinal herbs and edibles were usually grown separately.

became medical centers not only for the religious but also for surrounding villages and travelers and pilgrims.

The gardens of the religious were usually constructed on a symbolic cross, created by intersecting paths. A number of specialized gardens were created within that layout, including cloister gardens; a physic garden full of healing herbs; productive gardens, each bed dedicated to a particular vegetable or herb; a picking garden to supply the church with flowers; and an orchard, where brothers and sisters were often laid to rest.

" (AJonveti* uoith child that eat c^ince^/ mM bear uoiMs children/. "

Rrmbert Dodorns. 1517-1585

A surviving 820 ce plan for the model monastery, intended for St. Gall in Switzerland, reveals just such gardens together with plantings according to the list that was decreed by the Carolingian king, Charlemagne the Great.

in Souih Africa. 7 out of 10 Mark South Africans consult traditional healers. More than 700 species of indigenous herbs are harvested from the wild each year, anil many are available in commercial preparations. T\vo popular examples are cancer bush (Sutherlandia frutescens). considered a good all-purpose tonic for HIV/AIDs sufferers who need to boost their appetite, and buchu (Agathosma hetulina). taken for the treatment of mild urinary tract infections. Steps are now being taken to prevent the

Dried buchu leaves [Agolhosma betulino)

commercial production of ihese herbs without any benefit accruing to the indigenous people (see feature box. Herbs in the future, page 18b").

The great herbals

The 10th-century Glastonbury Herbal revealed an extensive knowledge of herbs, while the Leechdom, produced in the same century, is an outstanding compilation of medical and veterinary herbal knowledge of the time. An extensive herbal was also produced by the preeminent medical school in Europe during this period, the Welsh Physicians of Myddfai.

The Norman invasion of England saw a refinement in the gardens of pleasure associated with castles and manor houses. Riled with fragrant herbs as well as flowers, they included plants such as the legendary Rosagallica 'Officinalis,' that found their way to Europe from the Crusader expeditions.

The greatest of the English herbals emerged from the 16th century onward. William Turner's New Herbal included no fewer than 238 British plants. But for charm as well as content two others remain unsurpassed - that of John Gerard, physician, apothecary and knowledgeable gardener, who first published his Herball in 1597, basing it on that of the Flemish physician Dodoens; and also that of John

Parkinson, an apothecary and botanist who is remembered for Paradisi in Sole Paradisus Terrestris and Theatrum Botanieum.

Continue reading here: Herbal medicine

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