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  • Hazel: Welcome to the new series - Gardens Through  History. I'm Hazel Gardiner, an avid gardener,

  • floral designer and lover of all things horticultural.

  • In this series I'll be exploring some of the most stunning English Heritage garden sites in the country.

  • I'll be delving into their history, meeting the talented teams that care for them and discussing how each garden is kept

  • as faithful to the origins as possible.

  • Coming up in this episode I visit Mount Grace Priory, House and Gardens in North Yorkshire,

  • one of the best preserved monastic gardens in England and a real monks paradise.

  • I also meet the team behind the site's 13 acres of recently restored arts and crafts gardens

  • designed by award-winning gardener, Chris Beardshaw.

  • Hazel: Hi Michael.

  • Michael: Hi Hazel, welcome to Mount Grace Priory.

  • Hazel: So we're standing here in a magnificent cell garden

  • but what is a cell garden? What exactly was it used for?

  • Michael: Well it was used by the monks as part of their  living space. This is a Carthusian priory.

  • The cells are hermit cells because they werehermetic order. There were 23 cells in all and

  • this is their contemplative space and it's also  space where they grew stuff for their own use

  • but also they made it beautiful as a kind of  paradise - as a prayer to God so to speak.

  • It was a European order founded by  Saint Bruno in the 11th century in Chartreux in France.

  • This monastery was one of the last houses  founded in Yorkshire. It was founded in 1389

  • and it was dissolved in 1539 by Henry VIII  and it's the largest preserved Carthusian

  • house in this country, the best preserved.

  • As we can see here the form and structure of this garden is quite formal.

  • Hazel: what was the reason behind laying it out in such a way?

  • Michael: We excavated it in the early 90s and  we found it to have this structure

  • so we know that there was a trench  round that had hedging plant and we don't know the

  • exact hedging plant but there's only a few  available so we chose box.

  • Box was widely used in that period so we know the layout but we don't know what was planted

  • so the planting is speculation. We'll call it speculation but it's  from herbals, from contemporary texts.

  • We know what other groups of monks grew in the period so  we have a shrewd idea what was grown shall we say.

  • The lovely thing about this garden is it's not  very big and they are really gardening a very

  • small space so it's intensive. So if you've gotsmall pot, you've got a courtyard garden even a

  • window box something like that there are ideas  here that you can adopt for your own garden.

  • So it would be great to just have  a look at specific varieties that

  • you've got growing here. Hazel: Could you take us around?

  • Michael: We'll start with the the flowering plant here. This plant here is,

  • that the bees are loving at the moment, is  pulmonaria - it's lungwort.

  • Lungwort was grown because in the medieval mind there was something called The Doctrine of Signatures - a god given

  • signature to all plants. So God gave clues to  the human beings in the plants form what they

  • were used for. So this one's got leaves which are  spongy and they've got spots on and so in their

  • mind that reminded them of lungs. They believed  that it had some useful qualities in terms of

  • bronchial disease and fortunately it has.

  • The celebrity plant is mandrake or mandragora.

  • They used it in operations as an anaesthetic.

  • It was grown specifically because it had those qualities and as such it's a really useful plant.

  • It's also got a kind of mystical quality.

  • The root looks like a human being and there's the story that if you pull it out it screams.

  • Many people say that to pull it out they tied  a dog to the plant, the dog ran off and you hid at a safe distance,

  • the plant screamed and the  poor dog died and then you got your mandrake.

  • So it's got a wealth of folklore surrounding it as  well so it's a really, really interesting plant.

  • Just in front of you is artemisia absinthiumwhich is wormwood.

  • It's main use for the monks was as an anthelmintic, which is basicallyeveryone in the medieval era had worms and

  • what the anthelmintic does is it it paralyses the  worms and they're flushed out of the system - so

  • it's basically like a worming tablet.

  • The other interesting thing about wormwood is it's used in a beverage

  • and it's used to this day by the Carthusian order at Chartreux priory

  • in a drink called Green Chartreuse. There's two monks today who make Green Chartreuse.

  • It's a secret recipe and it is kind of like absinthe but it's a bit sweeter and it's an acquired taste should we say.

  • Should you wish to have a go you're more than welcome.

  • Hazel: Michael, I would love to try some - let's go.

  • Michael: It's going to be an experiencedo you want me to pour? Hazel: Please do.

  • Hazel: Well, chin chin.

  • Hazel: Well Michael, what can I say?

  • Michael: Yeah...potent.

  • Hazel: Yes!

  • Hazel: Hi Karen.

  • Karen: Hi Hazel.

  • Hazel: So you're the gardener here at Mount Grace.

  • Karen: That's right.

  • Hazel: And as you can see I have a tool in my hand,

  • which I'm very excited about, and we are going to plant some stuff.

  • Karen: We are and we're going to plant mandrakewhich you know a little bit about already.

  • And when we've done that we can  then plant some henbane which is

  • another weird plant from Mount Grace.

  • The monks, under The Doctrine of Signatures,

  • thought that the seed heads on this look like  teeth in a jaw so it was really used for toothache.

  • Hazel: Oh wow.

  • Karen: And it works.

  • Hazel: In terms of improving the soil - did  you have to bring in lots of compost or?

  • Karen: Well every year we mulch and obviously  before we started doing the replanting

  • we did apply a thick layer of mulch everywhere  and because of the terrain here you can't just

  • get a truck across the site so everything has  to be carried. There are no proper roadways

  • through the site so generally speaking it's  down to the garden team and the volunteers to

  • carry the bags of soil improver around.

  • We have to cover our ears now incase it screams.

  • That's perfect.

  • Hazel: It's actually really decorative  when you get this close up.

  • Karen: It's actually a really pretty plantThe slugs love it unfortunately.

  • Sometimes if it's a wet week we might put copper  rings and a bit more grit around just to deter

  • the slugs a little bit because they'll demolish  it if given the opportunity.

  • So there we go.

  • Hazel: Then we're moving on.

  • Karen: Okay so here's our henbane.

  • Henbane's a strange one. It has to have a period of  chilling before the seeds will germinate.

  • Hazel: Oh that's interesting.

  • Karen: It's called stratification  and they have amazing flowers.

  • Hazel: Yes so what colour are the flowers?

  • Karen: They're kind of, they're a yellowy mottled  black. They look a bit toxic actually.

  • Hazel: And how long will it take for that to flower?

  • Karen: Once they're in and in the sunshine and they'll  send up some really good leaves and then I'll

  • usually pinch them out a little bit just to  bush them out a bit. We'll plant quite a few

  • to make a good display for the visitors and yeah  they'll be flowering say in June time and then

  • then they start to develop the strange seed  heads which are really decorative, so we tend

  • to leave them on for a long time so people  can admire the strange shape of their teeth.

  • Hazel: Karen, it's been fantastic to meet you.

  • Karen: It's been great, I really enjoyed it.

  • Hazel: It was so good putting something in the soil here.

  • Karen: Yeah it's been really good to meet you.

  • Hazel: The gardens at Mount Grace have been hugely  influenced by the arts and crafts movement

  • known for its combination of exuberant  planting and formal lines as a reaction

  • against Victorian garden design.

  • To find out more I'm meeting Head Gardener, James Taylor.

  • James: Over the past couple of years we've had a £700,000  project here. We got Chris Beardshaw onboard, the

  • famous Chelsea gardener, who redesigned the  whole planting scheme which incorporated

  • about 27,000 bulbs and about 7,500  herbaceous plants.

  • Our top terrace, as we call it, is our typical herbaceous  planting which moves down into an

  • alpine terrace and goes down to  more of a woodland-themed planting

  • and that's your different zones of the arts and crafts theme really.

  • Hazel: If people wanted to take away something from the gardening here that they could use,

  • whether they've got a small  garden or something more grand,

  • what kind of structures could they be inspired by?

  • James: We tend to leave a lot of the plants upright  in the winter for their decorative berries

  • or thorny branches. It's quite attractive and popular now.

  • We've collected natural materials - hazel  or willow which you'd probably use in a pot.

  • You can just build little  structures like fans

  • or supports just to hold  tall herbaceous plantings upright.

  • Hazel: So that concludes my tour of Mount Grace PrioryIt's been fantastic to meet the whole team here

  • and really delve into all the fantastic gardening  techniques. There's a couple of tips I really want

  • you to try at home. The first one is to grow your  own herbs. You can try out using chives, oreganothyme.

  • It's perfect if you've got a windowsill  or obviously if you've got a garden you can pop them in there.

  • A second tip is to use the natural  planting structures that we've seen dotted around

  • all of the gardens here today. They have a utility  purpose but they're also really decorative.

  • I hope that you can join us for our  next episode where we'll be exploring

  • another spectacular garden.

  • See you next time!

Hazel: Welcome to the new series - Gardens Through  History. I'm Hazel Gardiner, an avid gardener,

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Gardens Through History | Episode 1: Mount Grace Priory, House and Gardens

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    Summer posted on 2021/06/10
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