We always can learn from history. Even in times that were grim and dangerous…
a very beautiful garden was something to be cherished in Medieval times. The people of that time took pleasure where they could find it, and the Middle East gave them many ideas and learned developments.
Gardens of Persia had a great impact on the European world of the times. Persian gardens had these fabulous pleasure gardens that conjured up images of the Garden of Eden. In the culture of the Middle East, the idea of a garden as paradise is deep in their religion. The idea of paradise came to Medieval Europe as an enclosed, sensual, billowing flower garden. And what flower is more sensual than a rose?
Gardens in the Middle Ages were symbolic acts and nowhere more than cloister meditative gardens. Each plant possessed a symbolic virtue or power, right along with all the practical uses. They revered the plants but also treasured them for the beauty they held. The pleasure gardens offered cutting flowers for the altar, but the garden was also solace for the soul.
Along with the herbs, roses had many meanings as well and were used in gardens for fragrance, sustenance, medical treatment and beauty. At the time, a rose was not just a rose. It was celebrated in prose, poetry and religious text too.
It was a time when the cathedrals sported those magnificent rose windows, a symbol for the Virgin Mary.
Contemporary gardens like these former pleasure gardens are designed differently now under many different names. Now we have secret gardens, parterre gardens or rose gardens. I enjoy well-designed rose gardens, especially those walled in and filled with companion plants. The cloisters of the time had roses planted with companion plants, not as specimen and isolated plants like many gardens today.
Often you see the modern floribundas, grandifloras and hybrid teas in gardens today. But long ago, the roses grew in romantic excess in mound-like fragrant bushes. Old roses have romantic or regal names and storied histories. They are much hardier and far better resistant to disease. You don’t need to prune or provide special maintenance. Many live in cold climates. I don’t have places around here that grows vintage roses, but Our Garden Journal has a post on them. To see various vintage roses and learn a bit about them, click Cathy’s link.
The only problem with them is many give only a one spring or summer show, but boy what a show. Above, you see wild roses growing in Niagara Falls State Parks. The problem with them is trying to get rid of them if necessary. So pretty, but they do grow into thickets making removal difficult. You can see they survive disease-free in conditions modern roses cannot. The specialized vintage roses are much prettier and no one wants to remove them.
With these long histories, the old roses were likely hybridized in the Middle Ages in the cloisters and castles, but not seriously or even correctly until many years later. Roses have long been a garden favorite with many ways in which to display them in the garden. I am not a particular fan of modern roses (yet do think them beautiful), but do love to see the old vintage roses in bloom. I just wish we had gardens that have large displays of them.
Here are some rose gardens, each looking much different from each other. Notice the gardens that have the shrub roses blooming right along with other spring perennials. Gardens with specimen roses are pictured. These are the type of rose gardens that were popular from Victorian times.
Niagara Falls Parks, Ontario
Above is Niagara Falls, Ontario and below, Biltmore Rose Gardens. Click through the galleries to see the differences from the more informal gardens of Morris Arboretum, PA, the less rigid Niagara Falls Rose Gardens, Canada and the highly formal Biltmore Estate Rose Gardens, NC. All three have beautifully tended roses and all three are of different climates.
Biltmore Estate Gardens