Garden styles go in and out of vogue, but one style of garden that has remained popular for hundreds of years is the medieval style of gardening. Medieval gardens supplied the majority of food and medical needs for the average medieval family and provided a place to get out of the house. Because of this, the medieval garden is part park, grocery store, cottage garden and herbal pharmacy rolled into one.
The life of the average medieval person was one of symbolism. Everyday objects served to remind a person of greater ideals. Professors kept skulls on their desks as a reminder of their own mortality. Historical portraits often incorporated primary colors in the clothing of important figures. Kings wore purple. In great palaces and medieval monasteries, the order of a garden was another representation of man's order over nature and the Kingdom of Heaven's order over man. Gardens were typically laid out in straight, narrow, rectangular beds with narrow pathways in between. At the center of a four-square garden, a water feature with benches might be placed for travelers to enjoy. In your own garden, laying out each bed in a neat, narrow rectangle with a stone or brick pathway in between will help to mimic the style of the medieval garden.
The Dark Ages were named so because of the fall of enlightenment and the difficult political climate. But they could have been named so because of the lack of amenities. Medieval gardeners just didn't have a hardware store to supply their fencing needs. Most medieval gardeners made their own fences and borders for their flower beds using materials that they had on hand: sticks, rocks or bricks. You can create fenced borders between the pathways of your garden using natural materials such as willow sticks or rock. Wattle fencing made of heavy sticks pounded into the ground and woven between with springy willow makes an attractive hardscape for your medieval garden. Other forms of medieval enclosures that you can use include hedges or built-up walls of dirt. Dirt mounds planted with grass pulled double-duty in a medieval garden as a handy bench for resting.
Medieval gardens supplied the majority of a medieval gardener's food as well as herbs for food and medicine. Incorporating common medieval plants will help to give your garden a medieval feel. Plants that were commonly used in medieval times include chamomile, rosemary, lavender and sage. Fruit trees such as apple were grown in orchards that were planted in geometric shapes, or along walls in espalier forms. An older species of rose or clusters of grapes were grown on trellises or over walls.