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History of Garden Design
The Persian Carpet Influence
The Greeks and Romans—Hanging Gardens of Babylon
Early Herb Gardens
Formal Gardens
Early Gardening in America
Cottage Gardens and Gertrude Jekyll

Your Herb Garden
Designing a Formal Garden
Knot Gardens
Making a Standard
Training into Shapes
Informal Gardens
Designing an Informal Garden

Sara's Garden


Early Herb Gardens
The first Christian monastery was founded by St. Anthony in El Faiyum, northern Egypt, in 350 AD. Right from the start, monasteries strove to be self-sufficient. St. Anthony made a small garden with a water supply, and cultivation became so firmly established that when St. Benedict founded the Benedictine order, gardening was second only to prayer. A plan drawn up around 816 at St. Gall, a Swiss monastery, shows four gardens. They are rectangular, and each has a particular purpose. One, the herbularius or physic garden next to the infirmary, has sixteen separate beds, each for a different plant: lilies, roses, climbing beans, costmary, fenugreek, rosemary, mint, sage, rue, iris, pennyroyal, watercress, lovage, and fennel. The second, hortus or vegetable garden, has eighteen beds, each for a different plant. The third contains thirteen fruit trees and the graves of deceased monks. The last one, a kitchen garden, is a walled rectangular plot adjoining the gardener's house. It has raised beds, but these, unlike the Roman beds, are enclosed in planks for the first time. Herbs are featured in this garden as in the medicinal: coriander, dill, two kinds of poppies, parsley, chervil, and savory. It isn't surprising to find so many herbs in these gardens, as they were needed for dyeing clothes and illuminating manuscripts, for repelling moths from cloth and fleas and lice from people, for preventing and curing disease, for freshening the air by strewing herbs in rooms and hospitals, and for disguising spoiled food.

Another early document showing the importance of herbs and gardening is a Latin poem referred to as Hortulus or "little garden" written by Walafrid Strabo (808 to 49) and dedicated to Grimald, the Abbot of St. Gall, Strabo's teacher. The first 75 lines contain horticultural information:

He digs up the tangled roots of nettles, a weed. He encloses his raised bed with planks to prevent the soil from washing away. He plants from seed and cuttings and waters them drop by drop "with my own hands letting the water run through my fingers" so as not to disturb the seed by the rush of the water. He grows sage, rue, southernwood, gourd, melon, wormwood, horehound, fennel, iris, lovage, chervil, lily, opium poppy, tansy, catmint, and roses.

With the Renaissance, we see gardens on the scale of public parks, not places for growing food and medicine. Yet herb gardening was not altogether forgotten. It grew in popularity, often as a result of the need for medicine. By the 13th century, most large houses grew a variety of herbs for household use along with vegetables, fruit trees, and flowers. In the 16th century, herb gardens, called physic gardens, were planted by universities for teaching botany and medicine. As new species were brought back by colonial explorers and botanical knowledge expanded, the physic garden contained a far wider range of plants. These were the precursors of the botanical gardens of today.

Formal Gardens
The formal garden, associated with the French, begins to distinguish itself from the gardens of Italy by the year 1600. The Mollet family is at the very heart of the development of the formal garden. In 1651, André Mollet published Jardin de Plaisir, which codified the concept of the formal garden. The text and designs include the following paragraph-a summary of the arrangement and ingredients of a French formal garden:



To the rear of the house [i.e. facing the garden front], the parterres de broideries (the parterre was the part of the garden that was seen from the center and commanding position in the house where the master received and could dazzle his guests with his possessions and his gardens; broderie literally means embroidered like brocade and refers to the varied patterns of boxwood) must be set out, so that they can be seen and enjoyed from the windows, without any obstacle in the form of trees, fences, or other high objects which might interrupt the view.

Beyond the said parterre de broderie will be set the parterres or compartments of turf, as well as the bosquets (groves, arbors), walks, and various fences in their proper places; so contrived that most of the walks are always terminated by some statue or fountain; and at the end of these walks you should erect fine scenes, painted on canvas, so that you may take them indoors in bad weather. To complete this design, statues should be erected on pedestals, and grottoes built in the most appropriate places. According to the quality of the site, the walks should be raised on terraces and one should not neglect aviaries, fountains, water-works, canals, and other such ornaments. When these have been properly established in the right places, you have made the perfect pleasure garden.

Another garden designer of this period who cannot be overlooked is André Le Nôtre. It is he who designed the Tuileries Gardens in Paris, and his greatest garden still survives at Vaux-le-Vicomte, which became the inspiration for Versailles. These formal French gardens are more magnificent parks than gardens. Versailles was described by the Englishman Martin Lister as "a country laid out into alleys and walks, groves of trees, canals, fountains and everywhere adorned with ancient and modern statues and urns." It is indeed vast. It influenced garden design throughout Europe. One can trace the influence in England, Sweden, Russia, Germany, Austria, Spain, Italy, and even in the US in cities like Williamsburg and in estates like Middleton Place in Charleston.