One of the fascinating places I visited during my recent trip to New York was The Gardens of the Cloisters (a branch of the Metropolitan Museum of Art). The Cloisters is situated atop a hillside overlooking the Hudson River with some stunning views.
There are three gardens in the museum planted in reconstructed Romanesque and Gothic cloisters. Each garden is very unique and features plants that were grown in the Middle Ages. They are maintained by a horticultural staff who are actively researching and developing the living collections as historians, botanists and archaeologists provide new information on the plants and gardening practices of the Middle Ages.
Cuxa Cloister Garth Garden
This garden is designed in a cross path with a central fountain. This is primarily an ornamental garden which includes modern plants as well as medieval herbs.
View into the garden through cloister elements
Many of the plants found in this garden attract pollinators and there were plenty of bees buzzing around during my visit.
The plants being wispy and gentle flowing species really complimented the purpose of the garden which is to enjoy nature without leaving the confines of the monastery. It was extraordinarily serene.
The Bonnefont Cloister Herb Garden
This was by far my favorite of the three gardens. It holds one of the most specialized plant collections in the world. The plants are all grouped by their medieval uses (cooking, medicinal, art, industry, housekeeping or magic) and the garden plan with raised beds, wattle fences and central wellhead is typical of a medieval monastic garden. The garden contains some 250 species of plants cultivated in the Middle Ages. Amazing!
Fuller's Teasel (Dipsacus sativus)
Four large quince trees grow in the beds at the center of the herb garden. They are very dramatic and full of fruit!
They have educational tours through the herb garden which describe all the uses of these plants during the Medieval Times. One I found particularly interesting was this thornapple which was used in medieval magic. Highly toxic and sometimes deadly.
poisonous thornapple (Datura metel)
The Trie Cloister Garden
This garden is home to plants native to the meadows, woodlands and stream banks of Europe such as hellebores, narcissus, wild pansies, English daisies, columbine, bluebells, and foxgloves. These are all spring blooming plants and the garden is abound with blooms from very early spring to late May. I was here in late summer and it was mostly a green garden but still beautiful with all the textures in the foliage. The only blooms I saw of these plants were in the famous Unicorn Tapestries that are on display here.
There is a fountain in the center of the garden where I observed many birds drinking
Alone, the gardens are well worth a visit. But equally impressive is the museum with its remarkable collection, particularly if you have an interest in art from the Middle Ages. If you have an interest in the role of plants and gardens in medieval life their blog is worth a view Welcome to The Medieval Garden Enclosed