November 30, 2017

Direction to the new site

Hi guys, this hasn't been updated in a while (like, years), but I'm finally going forward on an actual timeline. I have a new site that gathers all of my SCA activities in one place. I will be writing about my garden pursuits there from now on:
Smash the Shell

August 28, 2016

Starting the Garden

Back in February I talked about what kind of gardens I was considering and what I wanted to put in first. Well...

In May, we bought a house. We have been dealing with packing moving, unpacking, getting work done, perpetually mowing the lawn, and otherwise dealing with the basics of homeownership and the summer growing season. On the other hand, I now have definitive space I can make plans for and start bringing my garden into being!

The space that will become the herber garden.
It so happens we have a good, relatively square space in front of the house that will make a great garden quad. The house faces south, so it gets great light during the day. I've already put in fruit trees as a border on one side, and I've started a berry hedge that will eventually extend all the way up to the house on another side.

Half berry hedge on right, fruit trees along road.
Before I can really get down to ripping out the grass and planting things, we have to replace the front walkway. It was concrete with slate flagstones set in the top. This composition did not respond well to freeze-thaw cycles and had already started crumbling, so we spent this weekend demolishing it for removal.

Flag tape to tell people they should not attempt to walk here. Because liability.
Jackhammers are apparently pretty useful. But also heavy.
The good news is we can use all the pieces! The flagstones make a nice border for the hedges and, eventually, other plants. The small gravel-sized concrete bits will be part of the gravel layer under the new walk. And the large chunks of concrete can be used as filler in the turf seats we plant to put in the back yard.

Elderberries lookin' classy with their new border stones.
The blueberries concur.
The new walk will be brick, and it will extend straight from the house to the center of the garden square. There will be a small brick patio there with walks extending from each side, one of which will go to the driveway. Thus, we will have paths that divide up the garden into four sections, and they will also serve the function of a walkway to the front door. Yay!

Once the walkway is in place, major planting can begin. I haven't mapped out exactly where groups of plants are going to go yet; I have an idea of where I want the major players to go, but I will probably fill the rest in bit by bit as I do more research and acquire more specimens. I would dearly love to have a place to sit by a fountain under a couple of quince "trees" like the beautifully trained ones at the Cloisters, but I'll have to see what I can get. I plan to document as I go, and make little portable potted specimens for the plants that will tolerate it so I have a traveling A&S display. I hope to have lots to show people at Events!

February 16, 2016

Spoiled for Choice

Since I knew next-to-nothing about medieval gardening, I started with a broad overview of the early medieval period and the British Isles. There seem to be several good books on the subject, and I'm working my way through them. (I'll post more on those sources later.)

These sources have a heavy focus on monastic gardens, since those are some of the most well documented and preserved. There is also some discussion of lay gardens, most of which are utilitarian kitchen gardens and/or small crop fields.

My initial impression is that there are some different types of gardens I can create and look more into:

1. Orchard - an open stand of fruit trees

2. Herber - a small, enclosed garden with mixed elements for utility, beauty, shade, and recreation

3. Kitchen Garden - a utility garden planted with herbs and possibly fruits and vegetables for the kitchen

4. Physic Garden - a small garden with medicinal plants and sometimes space for patients to take walks

5. Vegetable Field - a garden or field of varying size where vegetables are planted and cultivated in traditional row or mound formation

6. Vineyard - a grape garden, either with vines cultivated onto supports or trailing along the ground

7. Leisure Garden - a garden where the focus is beauty and tranquility rather than utility, usually with flowers, sweet-smelling shade trees, open lawns with or without flowers, and seating areas for enjoying it in relative comfort

8. Pleasure Park - a managed and enclosed forest where game animals could be hunted for sport

These are all attractive options, but I think I'll probably get started on the orchard, herber, and vineyard first. The herber will let me play around with elements from most of the others to get started!

February 4, 2016

Medieval Plant Project: Formulating a Question

Knowing that I want to research agriculture and gardening around the historical time period and location of my SCA persona (9th century eastern Ireland), and that I want to translate that research into real, live gardens and landscaping, I have a big question to answer.  

Where do I start?

 Plant use is a tremendous field that spans the entire world for all of human history, and active cultivation is only slightly less broad. I know I want to get "into the weeds" eventually, but it's hard to produce something you can present as a discrete project without a mission statement.

I also happen to be house shopping, so anything that requires me having land available for longer than a season is out for the time being. That's probably a good thing, since I tend to dive in piece by piece without a coherent idea of the overall context unless I'm forced to plan ahead. So plan ahead I shall!

And thus, my question is born: What are the types of gardens and cultivation that were used in and around 9th century Ireland, and what are the individual features and plants in each type?

This will be my first incremental project on what I hope will be a fun and engaging research journey. I have a pretty good number of books and publications to peruse and collect information. My local library system has been great for getting references shipped in from elsewhere!

This blog is set up specifically to be my project journal for all of my work with medieval plant research, so feel free to follow along as I nerd out about the history of my favorite outdoor pastime!