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Gardens in Post Norman England

The end of internal warfare in Norman England permitted the precincts of the castle to become less restricted without loss of security. At the close of the thirteenth and the beginning of the fourteenth century the connection between France and England was very intimate. The French language was spoken by the upper classes in both countries; and as to manners and customs in general, and their gardens, fountains and statuary in particular, the same fashions prevailed, although the French were somewhat more advanced than the English, especially when it came to water fountains. Frequently at home there was leisure to give attention to domestic comfort and to engage in the peaceful contests of chivalry, and enhance the simple functionality of the outdoor fountains. Then the castle, becoming more than a bare fortress, was treated as a commodious residence for the lord and the little court of retainers living under his protection.

The description of a French garden in the twelfth century would answer for an English one during the two following centuries; the basics of a fountain, fragrant plants, and adorned with statuary. During this era, the pleasure garden (developing from the terrace walk containing little collections of herbs) began to enjoy a less precarious existence, and extravagance in fountains and décor was accepted. In France, earlier than in England, its form became more clearly defined, and, by covering more area, answered more varied requirements, and leading to ever larger fountains, statuary, and garden planters.

In the twelfth century the garden was habitually situated outside the main entrance, and was entered from the castle by a secret door in the fortifications. A wall, if the garden was in the courtyard, surrounded it. These low walls, often hosting water sall fountains, were built in three parts to form a grass-covered seat, an ideal setting for intimate conversations. In a corner, a fountain in the Gothic style often served to water the parterre and the greensward. Sometimes a round flowerbed might be found in the middle of the fountains. On the sides were cradle-shaped tunnels and trelliswork fastened to the walls. Sometimes a labyrinth, or house of Daedalus, twisted its tangled paths in conflicting directions.

Flowers. grown in garden planters on the wall, brightened the enclosures. Several trees, clipped into balls, gave shade and freshness to the air. The ingenuity of the gardener, like that of the topiarius of ancient Rome, was exercised in clipping the shrubs to give them geometric forms. Finally, if the space permitted, there was a small garden pond for fish and swans. Great luxuries were to have an aviary for game-birds close by, and a number of peacocks strutting about under the eyes of the guests.

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