Herb Garden Designs – Brief History

People long ago do not care about their intent or design when it comes to gardening, especially about herb garden designs. What they care most is about the usefulness of that herb, whether as dye, tea, seasoning or medicine. They do not care about some classification of plants as long as it will grow and can be used then a garden will be called a useful garden.

Our habit now of classifying plants into ornamental or useful herbs is just new. During the medieval period in Europe, all plants including herbs of course were believed to be of medicinal value. During the Renaissance, medicine, gardening and botany began to depart but of course did not really one hundred percent differ for many centuries.

Herb garden designs before like the Renaissance and medieval period greatly influence our herb gardeners today. Even though we know some tips about herb garden designs from our dooryard gardeners today, there are some common things that we get before that are still useful now. Also, we have some idea and knowledge about some designs of garden that is being used of royal places and medieval monasteries before.

During the middle ages, there is a visual representation of a formal yet simple garden that can be found on the plan of St. Gall. It is considered a small healing garden that is located near the doctor’s house and infirmary. It consists of a rectangular and large kitchen garden with 18 herbs in pots and beds of vegetables and a square garden that is smaller with medicinal herbs of 16 beds. This one, of some planned herb garden designs, has never been built.

During the 15th-century, enclosed gardens are being practiced as one of herb garden designs. Most of these gardens are depicted in ornamentation in Piero de Crescenzi’s famous written study of agriculture and horticulture. The designs are mostly simple grid patterns, which are made of small squares and some are made up of rectangular beds. The formation of gaps between the bed helps in the easy access to plots. These designs are not only usual on medieval gardens but of monastic gardens as well. This practice is still widely used even today. With this type of pattern, it would be easy to cultivate and harvest our home herbs. This also helps in rotating short-lived crops of salad herbs. This pattern is very functional and gives the neat and pleasing herb garden look.

In addition, not all gardens during the medieval period are utilitarian. Albertus Magnus suggested some ways when laying out herbs in your garden during the 13th century. He suggested putting sweet-smelling herbs like sage and basil surrounding the garden’s center.

The medieval type pattern which is a narrow and rectangular bed were favored by the growing gardens of the Renaissance and is created as teaching gardens by faculties of medicine in universities. Another type of pattern which is based on scientific principles was raised in the Renaissance just like the middle Ages, the Renaissance side with all sorts of enclosures. This practice persisted in the 17th century and even to this day. You will notice that most kitchen gardens are most likely enclosed for practical reasons.

Mixing vegetables, herbs, fruits and flowers in a single garden were common practice by farmers and householders in the 18th and 19th centuries. These are of medieval character just like 16th and 17th centuries.

Later half of the 20th century, gardeners are now more interested in the ornamental quality of herb gardens. Varieties of plants sprang out due to this trend. This trend gives us the questions on what herb gardens should be. There would be a lot of mixtures, from perennials, ornamental annuals and mixed borders that would include a larger number of herbs. Even with this trend, the important thing is to keep growing our herbs and create our own mark in this long tradition.