The research done by our excellent team during the fall of 2012 resulted in some suggested plants to include in the garden design.  These are listed below along with some descriptive text.  Potential plants for the garden are indicated in bold print.  In addition, Jennie has created a Reniassance Garden Plant List for our consideration.  If you have other suggestions, please share them in the comments box below. 


Madeline suggests that we include three types of roses in the garden.  Here is the story from her blog page…..

The most significant use of English rose symbolism is the Wars of Roses*. The Wars of Roses (1455-1485) were a series of battles between the House of Lancaster–the red rose and the House of York–the white.

White Rose Badge of York
White Rose Badge of York
Red Rose Badge of Lancaster
Red Rose Badge of Lancaster

Both groups claimed their rights and lineage to the royal crown. The House of York wouldn’t have made their claim to the throne, but following the death Henry V (of Lancaster) in 1422 (and respective crowning of the psychotic Henry VI), England was in a state of chaos. This anarchist period was characterized by heavy taxes, lawlessness, and massive private armies dominating the countryside.

Tudor Rose

Tudor Rose

After Henry VI (of Lancaster) was eventually deemed insane, Edward IV of the House of York takes the crown in 1461. Edward IV eventually dies in 1483 leaving his 12 year old son Edward V in control. The regent (temporary ruler) for Edward V was Richard III of York who locked the young king in the Tower of London where he was never seen again.

Richard III became the last York king in 1483, but was defeated in 1985 by the Lancaster army and their leader–Henry Tudor of Wales. Henry Tudor claimed blood relation to John Gaunt, the First Duke of Lancaster. Henry Tudor was crowned King Henry VII and married Elizabeth of York, daughter of Edward IV.  This marriage united the feuding Lancasters and Yorks and brought peace to England.

*The term “Wars of Roses” wasn’t actually used during the war. The name first appeared in Shakespeare’s 1 Henry VI, over 100 years later. Although the Wars of Roses is a later term,  it is accurate in that members of each party wore a livery badge bearing a rose.

The roses Madeline suggests we plant are:

Rosa alba (to represent the House of Lancaster)


Rosa gallica (to represent the House of York)


Rosa mundi (to represent the House of Tudor)



Paula has shared some ideas for vegetables, herbs and flowers in her report.  She writes:

Vegetables: The four major vegetable staples were garlic, leeks, onions and turnips. Leeks were extremely common in the everyday diet to consume cooked or stewed into a potage soup and were a staple during the religious months of Lent3. Onions and garlic were also essential ingredients to add flavor to otherwise bland or spoiled food. Belonging to the family Rapus, turnips were even mentioned in a medical context in an early medieval period book called Tacuinum Sanitatis, by Ibn Butlân, which combines beautiful manuscript illustrations with medical herbal advice8. According to this book, turnips were supposedly best when long and dark in pigmentation and helped to prevent body swelling8. Other vegetables included greens such as borage, a spinach-like green often incorporated into stews3.

Herbs:  Herbs were typically hardy2 and likely tolerant of low soil nutrient and temperature extremes. Major herbs included parsley, mint, thyme, rosemary and comfrey. The great diversity of herbs cultivated can be attributed to the commoner’s reliance on them for not only culinary flavoring purposes, but also medicinal. Sage and hyssop were commonly used to flavor foods, but were also the supposed cure of leprosy. As another example, today, sweet majorum is not as well known as its similar smelling counterpart, oregano. In Tacuinum Sanitatis it is advised to harvest when small and aromatic for curing colds and blood purification8. Herbs were also used to scent the cottage and enjoyed for their other aesthetic assets when they flowered. It was not uncommon in commoner cottages and castles alike to find branches of herbs called strewing herbs scattered on the floor to improve and disguise ambient smells.

Flowers:  Although some flowers like roses were used for medicinal and culinary purposes, they mainly contributed a decorative aspect to the densely planted garden, although many flowers also doubled as herbs.  The most popular flower in all classes of the Middle Ages was the rose, which represented idealic beauty and perfection. Generally trellised in arbors or grown in bushes they were usually the wild country species transplanted from the meadows in cottage gardens, while the wealthiest castles and manors could obtain hybrids from abroad4. Along with appearance, aroma was another important factor in what influenced the presence of particular garden flowers as evidenced by the commonality of the aromatic lavender, hollyhock and angelica9.

Paula wrote in her blog that the “cooks” garden was utilitarian.  She writes:

cooksgardenAlso known as a representation of the “Cook’s Garden”  it is drastically different from our previous garden. This is largley utiliarian, set-up with space to cultivate and harvest the crops with a few flowering herbs in the back. The emphasis here is not aesthetics, although the apple espalier (woven apple growth) is nice but still, like most parts is useful. Instead of a pretty fence and flowering arbours, there is a large wooden fence, probably to keep out animals, and dirt and brick paths. The are fewer entrances as well, (one or two) to keep animals out. The vegetables include turnips, onions and cabbages along with many cooking herbs and greens. Pretty fancy as vegetable gardens go, still higher class gardening with a utilitarian design.


Eliza’s research unearthed some typical herbs.  She wrote:

Clary (Salvia verbenaca) is a type of wild sage that is native to England.

Rue (Ruta graveolens) was “used to make pickles that sharpened up broths and pottages” (McLean 178) and was widely used by the 15th century.

Chamomile (Matricaria recutita) was infrequently grown in cottage gardens, but was extremely useful.  It was often grown next to Rue.

Betony (Stachys officinalis) was considered a cure-all, and I imagine in the cottage gardener could cultivate only one medicinal herb it would be this.

Dill (Anethum graveolens) was used to flavor foods and its seeds were used to aid digestion.

Cumin (Cuminum cyminum) was widely grown and at times was collected as part of peasants rent.

Lavender (Lavandula angustifolia) was “grown in infirmary, herb and kitchen gardens all through the medieval period” (McLean 184).  This plant had many uses, and was much appreciated for its scent.

Winter Marjoram (Origanum vulgare) was grown in kitchen gardens for its use in pottage’s.  This plant also attracted bees.

Pennyroyal (Mentha pulogium) was the favorite mint in medieval times, because it is very strong.  Other mints were also grown, including spearmint, water mint and corn mint.

Black mustard (Brassica nigra) grown in both herb and mixed kitchen gardens.

Parsley (Petroselium crispum) was extremely popular, growing in “every single kitchen and infirmary garden too” (McLean 188).

Chervil (Anthriscus cerefolium) was a common cottage garden plant and was often found planted next to Fennel, Coriander and Angelica.

Fragrant tansy/tansy balm/Costmary (Tanacetum balsamita) was “a common plant in tavern, cottage and all kinds of kitchen gardens” (McLean 191)

Burnet (Poterium sanguisorba) this plant is semi wild, but found its way into herb gardens because it attracted bees and was sometimes used in salads


Abby focused on strawberries in her blog.  She wrote:

strawberryWild strawberries in Europe were very plentiful and grew like grass. They could be seen on lawns or in gardens between the flowers. As stated in the book, “Two species of European strawberries provided the beloved little fruits that could be gathered wild or cultivated in gardens” (pg. 151). During the 17th century, a new type of strawberry was introduced to Europe from the New World. Over time, these strawberries were hybridized and had larger fruits.  The flavor of the wild strawberries were much sweeter than the larger hybrid strawberries. The different symbolic meanings of strawberries discussed in this book were very interesting.  Strawberries symbolized lust and temptation. Also they represented a more religious meaning. “The white flowers and red fruit stood for purity and for Christ’s redeeming blood. The three parts of a strawberry leaf reflected the doctrine of the Trinity, that the Father, Son and Holy Spirit were distinct entities joined in one God” (pg. 149). The book also shows many Renaissance paintings where strawberries were used to symbolize different things. A great painting shown in this book is Allegory of Summer by Lucas van Valckenborch, c.1595 (shown below). Strawberries may not have been the main source of sustenance in the Renaissance but I believe they had some significance in the daily lives of the people.


Aaron learned a lot about hops.  Sonia found some information on medieval hop plants.  She wrote:

Hops – National Germplasm Repository in Corvallis has Hops in their catalog (see:  They don’t have a specific listing of old, heirloom or antique varieties as the do in some other listings.  However, if you look through the whole list, there are some old varieties there.  In particular 4 that reference dating back to ‘middle ages’, and another 8 that reference being from old English, French, German, or Polish landraces.  See the list below for specific names.  They come from the list at

Middle Ages
‘Backa’ – Czechoslovakia
‘Chum 800′ – Czechoslovakia
‘Saazar 36′ – Czechoslovakia
‘Saazar 38′ – Czechoslovakia

Old –
‘Early Prolific’ – English
‘Early Promise’ – English
‘Elsasser’ – French
‘Precoce de Bourgogre’ – French
‘Hallertauer’ – German
‘Landhopfen’- German
‘Tettnanger’- German
‘Nadwislanska’- Polish

Of all these, the only one that is said to ship as cuttings (2, unrooted) is ‘Early Prolific’.  The rest will ship as tissue culture plantlets.  This means identifying someone who can grow them out from this stage to rooted plants.  I’m not sure who at UMass is equipped to do that, but I can find out.

It will take a while to grow these plants.  Aaron proposed we create a trellis for the hops.



Jennie’s blog gave us a through explanation about the importance of potage.  She wrote:

Harvey mentions a primary source by Andrew Boorde, “Dyetary of 1542“, in which states that pottage, NOT porridge, was most defiantly a primary food staple of England. Pottage has been commonly confused with the word and food porridge, but it is quite different.

It is no doubt that pottage, bread and ale were the three essentials of diet for most English men and women of the whole Middle Ages (Harvey)”.   Pottage, also called Porray or Sewe, is the what we might think of as a watered down savory/herbal soup, consisting of different herbs/plants, grown specifically for pottage. When we see the term “pottage herbs”, “porrets”, “porray plants”, or garden plots that list as such, it does not mean that these herbs were in pots, it means they are plants used for this daily preparation, so much so that entire areas of garden were sectioned off for them. Harvey states, that pottage was cooked over a fire in a metal pot, water or stock from meat, fish or poultry was added and then the “good pottagers” … “leaves of colewort (brassica oleracea), leeks (Allium porrum), peas (Pisum sativum), and broad beans (Vicia faba). The principal flavoring used was parsley and many cole plants..(Harvey).” As for the allium family, common onions, green onion, scallions, shallots and Chibols are mentioned being present in the late 1300′s.

Another blog post  from Jennie lists other important plants.  She wrote:

Some major plants include: *Strawberry(leaves for medicine) Pear, fennel, cucumber, parsnip/skerrits, muske melon,* hazel nut, *wall nut, *chestnut, mulberry, manured vine grapes, cabbages, turnip, mushroom varieties, peach, elder, white onion, common asparagus,* cultivated flax, hedge garlic, hops, *chickpea/garbonzo, narrow leaved parsnip, licorice, common speedwell, rutabaga/red beet/rampion(wild),*dinkel wheat/spelt, mints, but not peppermint. *=sources of higher protein.

In 1543, Leonard Fushs listed common foods such as: lettuce, including curly leaf, head lettuce and cabbage, different from today’s cultivates. Other common foods of the time, some used medicinally include *quince- said to be nourishing to unborn children, *fava/broad bean, safflower, five species of  kale and cabbage, spinach, three kinds of carrots including yellow,cucumber, pumpkin, melon, squirting cucumber, *garden bean/french or kidney, garlic, celery, parsnip, common fig, rye, globe artichoke, spinach beet, field pansy, *lentil,common onion, broad leafed pepperwort, black cumin, mulberries,  new to the area was aubergine or eggplant(not yet medicinal), peach, wheat, radish/horseradish,strawberry…

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