An English Country Garden
Just say ‘ An English Country Garden.’ To most people, the words conjure thoughts of a colorful, scented, peaceful place, but in days of old nothing could have been further from the truth. In fact the English Country Garden was born, half from necessity and the other half by accident.
In feudal England a peasants life was harsh, they were almost slaves and the greater part of what they could grow went to their feudal lord and 10% of all they grew went as a ‘tithe’, for the upkeep of the church and the priesthood. The rest, such as it was, they could keep for themselves.
In 1348 – 1350 The Black Death ravaged England and the surviving peasants demanded higher wages, fewer working hours and even their freedom. As there was a serious shortage of workers the lords of the manor often gave in. Thirty years later a ‘poll’ or head tax was levied resulting in the Peasants Revolt. A slightly better lifestyle followed, and the lords of the manor often gave their serfs a two roomed ‘tied’ cottage with a patch of ground around it.
This small piece of land had to keep the family in as much food as possible, they would have a chicken coop for eggs and the occasional chicken, a goat for milk, and perhaps a pig to slaughter and salt as well as the ‘cess pit’ for waste.
The lady or ‘good wife’ as she was called would plant herbs for medicinal purposes such as chesty coughs, headaches, children’s complaints and of course to cook with. What was left of the ‘garden’ was taken up with vegetables such as onions, peas, beans, as well as greens and small fruit trees. There was no room for flowers. But hollyhocks, delphiniums, red-hot pokers, lupins, love- in- a- mist and many other self seeders all found a place for themselves, no planning or designing, just Mother Nature at her best.
Later, when the peasant farmers realized that adding flowers and herbs to their vegetable plot would help to attract bees to pollinate their crops, the traditional English Country Garden evolved with its deep borders and vibrant mix of scented flowers and herbs, meandering pathways and a rustic bench tucked away in a quiet corner. A bird bath to encourage songbirds, a sundial, even a small water feature would add to the gardens peaceful ambiance, but please, no ruined temples, or Chinese Pagodas, think dry stone walls, chaotic, colorful flowers and thatched roofs for the authentic English country look.
Some plants for the Perfect English Country Garden.
Old fashioned roses, Cornflowers, Hydrangeas, Forget-me-nots, Red Hot Pokers
Hollyhocks, Syringa, Tulips, Pansies, Geraniums
Lupins, Iris, Poppies, Lilacs, Lavender
Wisteria, Honeysuckle, Sweet Peas, Clematis, Ivy, Hops
Chives, Feverfew, Chamomile, Basil, Artemisia
Lemon Balm, Yarrow, Thyme, Rosemary,Lemon Grass
Dill, Mint, Sage, Garlic, Tarragon