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Herbal Travels: The Cloisters

5/22/2009 4:22:01 PM

Tags: Travel, New York, NYC, The Cloisters, Gardens, Lemon Verbena Lady

N.Heraud

You can check out the Lemon Verbena Lady at her blog http://lemonverbenalady.blogspot.com.

The Herbal Husband, a friend from Peru and I took a train trip to New York City last week. I got to spend one of my days at the beautiful Cloisters in Fort Tryon Park. In response to Letitia Star's blog, "Herbal Travels: Chicago Botanic Garden" (which I loved when we went on a cold, rainy and windy day in October), I would have to say that The Cloisters is my favorite walled garden.  Really, I probably should have been a medieval scholar or a horticulture major in college. I turned out to be an art history major and that has been very helpful in understanding the relationship between gardens and art. They are intermingled here quite masterfully.

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The Trie Cloister Garden is home to a collection of plants native to the meadows, woodlands and stream banks of Europe. 

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The plants grown here are found in the tapestries and artwork found inside the museum. The café surrounds this garden which is a very colorful garden in spring and by the heat of summer becomes a green garden. It was a restful retreat even on a cool day. I enjoyed the small sparrows drinking from the fountain.

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In a monastery, a cloister is a square or rectangular courtyard surrounded by covered passageways. The yard enclosed within the arcades is known as a garth. The garth is situated to the south, providing the monks or nuns a place to enjoy nature without leaving the monastery or convent. The plan is typically medieval. A fountain is in the center of the crossed paths and divides the garden into quadrants. Each quadrant has a lawn and an apple tree. This garden is the ancestor of our ornamental gardens. In winter, the arcades of the cloister have glass to protect the tender plants from the winter cold and wind.

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I loved the standards of myrtle, bay and the pots of dittany of crete.

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I got to talk with the gardener who tends this garden. She was getting the garden ready to plant most of the herbs for the season. The plants are labeled in each bed according to their medieval uses such as cooking, medicine or magic, among others. Many plants had multiple uses and all were thought to have medicinal properties. The garden has raised beds, wattle fences and a wellhead. There are four quince trees at the center of the garden. Tender plants are grown in terracotta pots and moved inside in winter, a common practice in northern Europe throughout the late Middle Ages.

The Cloisters has family events going on during the summer. The other bonus of visiting The Cloisters is that you can visit the Metropolitan Museum of Art the same day for free. I took the bus and saw a slice of life in New York City. The Cloisters also has a blog called The Medieval Garden Enclosed, which gives an inside look at The Cloisters and its gardens. Hope you have a chance to take a road trip this summer and visit this herbal treasure!



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