The 16th Century Renaissance Kitchen Garden flourishes in second year! 64 plant species and new design features!

The Renaissance kitchen garden is well underway for its second growing season! Here is a look at my historic garden design and updated botanical list for this year. New design features include a “hops archway”, two decorative main entrance gates and three small gates to enter from throughout the garden. Also installed is a new pea trellis for the large English peas.

*See below for my letter and updates to garden visitors and interested parties for 2014.


2014 Botanical List by Jennie Bergeron-Historic Gardener/Garden Designer

16th Century Renaissance Kitchen Garden
~Botanical List and Map Key~
* 64 plant species
Perennial Plants (39)
1. Angelica archangelica/Angelica (P)
2. Artemesia vulgaris/Mugwort (P)
3. Ruta graveolens/Rue (P)
4. Artemesia absinthium/Wormwood (P)
5. Borago/Borage (P)
6. Viola tricolor/Heartsease (P)
7. Tanacetum parthenium/Feverfew (P/A)
8. Levisticum officinale/Lovage (P)
9. Carthamus tinctora/Safflower (P)
10. Hyssopus officinalis/Hyssop (P)
11. Oenothera biennis/Primrose (P)
12. Salvia officinalis/Green Sage (P)
13. Matricaria recutita/Chamomile (P)
14. Achiillea millefolium/Yarrow (P)
15. Alcea rosea/Nigra Hollyhock (P)
16. Marriubium vulgare/White Horehound (P)
17. Tanacetum vulgare/Tansy (P)
18. Thymus vulgaris/Thyme (P)
19. Fragaria spp. /Renaissance Variety Strawberry
20. Fragaria vesca/Alpine Strawberry (P)
21. Mignonette F. vesca/Strawberry (P)
22. Woodland F. vesca/Strawberry (P)
23. Ruegen F. vesca/Strawberry (P)
24. Pinapple F. vesca/Strawberry (P)
25. Moschata F. vesca/Strawberry (P)
26. Humulus lupulus/Fuggle Hops (P)
27. Humulus lupulus/ Kent Hops (P)
28. Valeriana officinalis/ Valerian (P)*
29. Mentha spp/ True Mint (P)*
30. Inula Helenium/ Elecampane (P)*
31. Lavendula officinalis/ Lavender (P)*
32. Pimpinellla anisum/ Anise (P)*
33. Foenum graecum/ Blue Fenugreek (P)*
34. Plantago major/Broadleaf Plantain (P)*
35. Urtica dioica/ Stinging Nettle (P)*
36. Glycyrrhiza glabra/ Licorice (P)*
37. Arnica Montana / Arnica (P)*
38. Calendula officinalis / Calendula (P)*
39. Echium vulgare/Bugloss (P)

Annual Plants (25)
40. Beta vulgaris/Early Blood Turnip (A)
41. Daucus carota/St. Valery Carrot (A)
42. Petoselinum hortensis/Triple Curled Parsley (A)
43. Cichorium endive/Marachere Tresfine Endive (A)
44. Coriander sativum/Long Standing Coriander
45. Satureja hortensis/Summer Savory (A)
46. Brassica oleracea/Kale (A)
47. Brassica oleracea / Cabbage (red &green) (A)
48. Foeniculum vulgare/Bronze Fennel (A)
49. Allium ampeloprosum/Giant Musselburgh Leek/Scotch Flag(A)
50. Anethum graveolens/Dill Bouquet (A)
51. Allium cepa/Alissa Craig Onion (A)
52. Phaseolus vulgaris/Mayflower Bean (A)*
53. Phaseolus vulgaris /Hutterite soup bean (A)*
54. Phaseolus vulgaris/Dry Bush Bean Mix (A)
55. Cicer arientinum/Tan Garbanzo Bean (A)
56. Cichorium endivia/Flat Leaf Endive/Escarole (A)
57. Brassica rapa/ Purple Top Turnip (A)
58. Vicia faba/Fava/Bell Bean (A)
59. Raphanus sativus/Helios Radish (A)
60. Pisum sativum/Champion of England Pea (A)
61. Ocimum basilicum/Lettuce Leaf Basil (A)
62. Latuca sativa/Ice Queen Lettuce (A)*
63. Lactuca sative / Butterhead Lettuce (A)*
64. Allium sativum / Garlic (A)*

*=New Plant
Sixteen plant species added to the 2014 design.

Dear Renaissance Kitchen Garden Visitors, summer, 2014
Welcome to the second growing season of the 16th Century Renaissance kitchen garden recreation at the UMass Renaissance Center. This spring has been a busy time for new plant and design additions in the kitchen garden. The garden is full of “firsts” as the now established perennials really hold their ground. Beginning in February, students in my course Ethnobotany of the Renaisscance, were busy setting seeds in a snow covered UMass greenhouse while studying plant-use in Northern Renaissance Europe. The plants grew well and provided first-hand examples as botany lessons for students. The plants eventually made their way to the UMass Renaissance center where they were planted and additional seeds were sown.
In addition to the 48 plants already present in the garden, sixteen more have been added for a total of 64 annual and perennial plant species. Many of the additions are perennial and include such wonderful herbs as licorice, elecampane, blue fenugreek, arnica, anise, valerian and more common plants such as nettle, true mint and broadleaf plantain. Angelica and valerian are planted together in the far hedge bed near the wormwood and mugwort. Last fall I added more allium family with two varieties of heirloom garlic that seem very happy in their beds. It is always my goal to source plants as accurate to the time period as possible. This year I was able to source older varieties of dry beans named Mayflower and Hutterite soup bean that are just now beginning to sprout.
When you look through the yard towards the kitchen garden you may notice something different. Is your eye drawn to anything tall? The wooden hops archway of my original design is now officially in place at the main entrance, as are the two main gates that artistically close the wattle fence. This large rustic gate and three smaller gates were designed and built by Aaron Evan-Browning, who also constructed the entire wattle fence last season. Enter at the main gate to walk through the first hop-flower catkins and climbing vines of the old kent and fuggle hop varieties. A trellis for the long reaching English peas has also been added in the far corner. This champion pea variety can grow well-over ten feet high with the right support.
Another new part to this year’s kitchen garden is the staff. Due to a physical injury, I will be taking a leave from the Renaissance kitchen garden this season. While I am away I have placed caretaking/maintenance of the garden in the good hands of a student of mine named Ruth diBuono and additional help from UMass farm student interns. Feel free to say hello if you see them working in the garden. It is hard for me to pause this season when the Renaissance garden is fully establishing. The plants I have grown and cared for, the garden I designed and built are now thriving and full of life that I want to share in. But injuries can be part of life too. I will return to check on the progress of this year’s growth at the end of August and thereafter.
Please visit the Renaissance kitchen garden at the UMass Renaissance Center whenever you wish during the Renaissance Center’s open hours. There is always something sprouting, blooming or buzzing in the kitchen garden. The captivating purple and pink flowers of the bugloss, seemingly always ripe alpine strawberries, new seedlings and aroma of herbs and fresh straw paths help to calm a hectic day, into a not so common historical moment.
Thank you for your interest in the 16th Century Renaissance kitchen garden at the UMass Renaissance Center and I look forward to seeing you again. Please see the Renaissance kitchen garden’s Botanical List inside the Gardens and Grounds folder for a complete list of plants found in this recreation and a corresponding guide map.

Kind Regards,
Jennie Bergeron
Historic Gardener/ Garden Designer/Certified Herbalist





New Main Entrance Gate and Hops Archway, pea trellis in background.


Wattle fence expert Aaron Evan-Browning poses with his creation. Aaron built the entire wattle fence himself!


Dry beans sprout in the garden.


Jennie Bergeron tries out the hops archway.


Beautiful Bugloss blossoms, my favorite this year!


Came to the garden, enjoy the plants and the new fence. I look forward to seeing you there!


Jennie Bergeron-Historic Gardener/Garden Designer/Certified Herbalist




Renaissance Garden comes back to life

After a long winter (and long spring too), the Massachusetts Renaissance Garden is “coming back to life.”  The perennial plants are doing well and the annuals (herbs and vegetables) will be planted during the next two weeks.  The wattle fence will be completed soon and a trellis is going up to support the hopps.  Today, the Stockbridge School of Agriculture student farmers showed up to pull some weeds and help get the garden ready for planting.

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Garden at Rest for the Season

It’s seems like just yesterday when I finished putting the Renaissance kitchen garden to bed for the season. In the cold of late November I was cutting down perennials and spreading ample amounts of hay and straw in the garden for winter protection. I left some root crops like carrots, beets and turnips to overwinter. We’ll see how they fare in the spring.

This winter I am busy preparing to teach a course I designed around the garden  as well as planning for a new seed order, etc. It has been my pleasure to bring you news and pictures of the UMass Renaissance center’s Kitchen Garden this season. Check back after winter for more information about next season’s garden, plants added and more!

“Keep your faith in beautiful things;
in the sun when it is hidden,
in the Spring when it is gone.”
–  Roy R. Gibson

Below are some winter photos of the garden captured by John Gerber.



New Stockbridge Class in the Spring – Ethnobotany of the Renaissance

The Stockbridge School of Agriculture is pleased to be able to offer a new class in the spring semester focused on the Renaissance Center Garden.  It is:

STOCKSCH 297 ER – Ethnobotany of the Renaissance

… will be taught by our head gardener and educator, Jennie Bergeron.  The syllabus for the class is presented below.  This is a two-credit class which will meet on Monday afternoons from 2:30pm – 4:25pm during the spring semester.

Course Description:  This course is a hands on learning experience rooted in the UMass Renaissance Center’s 16th century kitchen garden. Students explore historic gardens with a focus of Renaissance era plants and their cultural uses.

Student Learning Objectives:

  • Class discussions of culinary, medicinal and utilitarian use of plants in the Renaissance with a focus on the common population and comparing the same plants in modern times.
  • Students will grow Renaissance era plants in the greenhouse and participate in hands on outdoor learning at the UMass Renaissance Center’s 16th century kitchen garden and participate in ongoing plans for the garden project.
  • Students will complete a botanically focused project based on their own research. Course includes at least one field trip.

Text Books/ Library Readings: 

  • Hildegard’s Healing Plants: From Her Medieval Classic Physica by Hildegard Von Bingen, Bruce W. Hozeski
  • Rosemary Gladstar’s Medicinal Herbs: A Beginner’s Guide: 33 Healing Herbs to Know, Grow, and Use by Rosemary Gladstar
  • Suggested: The Herbal Medicine-Maker’s Handbook: A Home Manual by James Green

*Some reading TBA and may be provided to students from rare books.

Tentative Class Schedule

Week 1 – Introduction to Renaissance Gardens:

  • Historic gardens-the big picture
  • The UMass Renaissance Garden Project history/overview

Week 2 – Introduction to Renaissance Era Plants:

  • Exploring the Renaissance kitchen garden plants, choosing new plants for this season, herbal reading discussion
  • Renaissance plant use, the “supply closet” kitchen garden

Week 3 –  Medicine Making Practicum:

  • Overview of water and wine based infusions, herbal extracts and herbal infused oils, strewing herbs, herbal reading discussion
  • Herbal knowledge of yesterday and today

Week 4 – Greenhouse Practicum:

  • Heirloom plant propagation of Renaissance era plants
  • Seed planting

Week 5 – Historical Interpretation and Public Education

  • Our modern cultural lenses and  public teaching gardens
  • The importance of the past: historic garden interpretation and ethics

Week 6 – Greenhouse Practicum

  • Maintaining seedlings
  • Discussion of plant/garden research progress / reading discussion

 Week 7 – Cooking in the Renaissance

  • Pottage and other food staples of the Renaissance
  • Food diversity in the garden / reading discussion

Week 8 – Greenhouse Practicum:

  • Maintaining seedlings
  • Project Outlines Due / Discussion of plant/garden research progress / reading discussion

Week 9 – Garden Practicum

  • Hands on garden education and design maintenance / put reading into practice

Week 10- Garden Practicum

  • Preparing spring soil, garden education and design maintenance

 Week 11 – Field Trip –Garden Compare and Contrast (class time may change for field trip)

  • Old Deerfield Historic Garden or Other
  • Final Project discussion

Week 12 – Final Project Presentations and or Garden Practicum

  • Renaissance plant/garden projects
  • Hands on garden education

Week 13 – Final Project Presentations

  • Renaissance plant/garden projects continued
  • Hands on garden education

Garlic, Straw Beds, Harvesting and Strawberries in October!?

The Renaissance kitchen garden continues to wind down with the fall season. Annuals have been harvested and or taken their leave as the frost nips its way into increasingly cold nights. We are lucky to be in both a high and tree protected area at the Renaissance center, which has kept the frost at bay and extended the harvest season some. The fields just below the house are commonly strewn with frost, while the garden stays somewhat untouched.

Last week showed the first true signs of frost damage on the remaining dry beans and green foliage like the fennel, that are tender. But the mugwort and hyssop, feverfew, tansy and primrose just keep on blooming away, not yet plucked by frost.


-Primrose in October

The garden will soon be put to be completely for the winter. Over the past two weeks I have been mulching thickly with straw, replenishing the pathways, trimming back plants for the season, seed saving, harvesting and planting  two varieties of heirloom garlic!



-Mulched beds with straw

The most amazing sight as of late is the abundance of strawberries- in October! We are lucky to have a center circle of alpine strawberries on the more geometric side of the garden. Unlike local cultivated strawberries that fruit for a short season, alpine strawberries fruit for the entire growing season, gifting us with unusual strawberry cheer in the fall.


-Strawberries in October

Root vegetables and herbs were harvested this week for the harvest banquet put on by the Renaissance center. Huge purple top turnips, St. Valery carrot, beets, onions, giant leeks and a variety of herbs were harvested to contribute to the banquet menu. I plan to leave some roots in for the winter, as they will sweeten in the cold ground.


Purple Top Turnip


Some of the Root Harvest


Mama Beet


Huge Turnips


Scotch Flag Giant Leeks

Check in again here to find out more about the end of season at the UMass Renaissance Centers Kitchen garden.

Until then…

-Jennie Bergeron, Historical Gardener/Garden designer at the UMass Renaissance Center



Wattle Fence Almost Complete


Aaron Evan-Browning has been working hard through September and October to complete the wattle fence that he started in July. The fence itself and three of the four gates are complete and look great! The largest gate at the main entrance near the hops is left to complete, with some trimming and detail work to finish and sure things up for the season. We hope to remove the metal fence once the wattle fence gates are more pest-proof. The woven structure of the fence makes the garden look more authentic to the Renaissance and is visually pleasing. The wattle fence is an important step towards increased authenticity of the garden, which we strive for. Each time I’m in the garden people stop by and tell me how much they enjoy the new fence. It is a style not so common, or easy to find these days. The UMass Renaissance center certainly has a special historic gem to share with its wattle fence. Completing a wattle fence this size, by yourself and in just four months is certainly an accomplishment. Thank you for doing such a good job Aaron and we look forward to the final touches as you finish up this amazing fence.




Gate #1


Ariel view


UMass Stockbridge Garden Tour Day in September-Herbal Infusions Abound!


At the end of September UMass students and the public were invited by UMass Stockbridge School of agriculture to come and see all the many places on campus that food is being grown. Among this exciting list is our 16th century garden at the UMass Renaissance center. On Saturday September 28th, groups of students and locals stopped by from 3-5pm to tour the kitchen garden and sample herbal infusions I made for the event. This included brews of horehound, chamomile, hyssop and sage. Many people wanted to stick to the familiar chamomile infusion, which was sweet and pleasant in flavor. The hyssop had a slight minty flavor, but different from the sharpness of peppermint, smoother. The sage and horehound infusions were strong but enjoyed. The sage was earthy and smooth, while the horehound was strongly medicinal and needed a good dilution to be palatable.

It was interesting to taste the infusions with others while discussing how they might have been experienced and used by people in the Renaissance. Topics of plant-use from the Renaissance Kitchen garden are revisited again and again by visitors as well as myself. As I continue to give tours and talk with folks that show up to the garden during the week, questions of plant use seem to be the most compelling piece of Renaissance garden history, along with the plants that are not commonly grown today. It’s as if we recognize something in our human memory that grabs our attention. We want to know how people in the past used these plants, it compels us. There is a growing need and desire today to re-learn skills that have been lost and the simple fact that we are continuously fascinated with traditions of the past and how they relate to today. We want to know how we are the same and how we may be different after all these years. How did people of the Renaissance make life work with these plants from day to day?

The UMass garden tour day was a fun way to explore these questions with students and locals and I look forward to more.Image


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