This section is from the book "The Gardener's Monthly And Horticulturist V24", by Thomas Meehan. See also: Four-Season Harvest: Organic Vegetables from Your Home Garden All Year Long.
The Garden gives this interesting note on monastic gardening in England "Gardening in the middle ages was one of the favorite occupations of those men who, to escape the 'madding crowd's ignoble strife,' sought a home in the cloister. Scott has happily exemplified this in Father Boniface, who, when raised to the dignity of Abbot of Kennaquhair, casts a regretful glance back to his early days spent in the monastery of Dundrennan, where he says: 'I passed my life ere I was called to pomp and to trouble. I can almost fancy I see the cloister garden and the pear trees which I grafted with my own hands.' Father Boniface's lot was cast in stirring times ; while he was musing a great change was passing over Scotland. In common with other countries of Christendom, she accepted the reformed doctrines, and the Regent Murray, like our own bluff Harry, Broke into the spence And turned the monks adrift.
The poor abbot was glad to seek refuge in peaceful obscurity and employment in the pursuit of gardening. Thus contented, he viewed his country's troubles with a stoicism which amounted to indifference. 'What avail,' he says, 'earthly sorrows to a man of fourscore? It is a rare dropping morning for the Early Colewort.' Almost every one can remember quaint gardens which once formed part of the demesne of some religious house, now long since converted to secular uses.
" The broad terraced border at Newstead, full of old-fashioned flowers, which the brothers themselves may have planted, and which contrasts strangely with the rest of the pleasure ground laid out by Le Notre - this and many similar spots rise up before our mental vision at the mention of 'monastic gardens.' When our warlike ancestors were spending their time in fighting, and scarcely ever out of the battle and the fray, and while somewhat later on in England's history others were engaged in the peaceful pursuits of trade and commerce, the monks were not idle. Many of them who had neither the taste nor the learning necessary for tran scribing or illuminating manuscripts, nor the genius which created a painter like Fra Angelico, were nevertheless skillful gardeners. In the infancy of the science of medicine, the simple remedies concocted from the herbs which grew in the convent garden, or were gathered by the patient seeker in the woods or on the hillsides which surrounded it were much prized by the villagers ; neither did lords and ladies disdain to crave advice and healing from the wise leech who cultivated his medicinal plants with his own hands, and likewise distilled from them the balms and lotions, etc, which composed his pharmacopia.
Then, again, the importation of rare and new plants was frequently the work of the monks. 'An Italian traveling in England in the reign of Henry VII.,' says a recent writer, 'describes the fair gardens filled with the Laurel, the Myrtle, and all Italian fruit trees, except the Olive and the Orange. He speaks also of the numerous vineyards.'"