Archive for March, 2009

Friday, March 27, 2009

Bulb Basics

Madonna Lily (Lilium candidum) Cyclamen (Cyclamen persicum) Saffron Crocus (Crocus sativus)

Above, from left to right: Madonna lily (Lilium candidum), cyclamen (Cyclamen persicum), and saffron crocus (Crocus sativus) in Bonnefont Herb Garden.

Many bulbous plants are grown in the gardens of The Cloisters throughout the seasons. In addition to their place in the collection as medieval species, they prolong the garden’s ornamental value, often blooming when there are no other flowers to be seen. The snowdrops (Galanthus nivalis) enliven Bonnefont Herb Garden while there is still snow on the ground. Certain bulbous plants, like the fall-blooming saffron crocus (Crocus sativus), possess a rich history that our garden lecturers are eager to discuss. However, the saffron crocus is actually not a true bulb, but actually what is known as a “corm.” Read more »

Friday, March 20, 2009

Getting the Most Out of Forced Bulbs

Assorted Bulbs Spent Daffodils

Left: Assorted bulbs; right: Spent daffodils (Narcissus pseudonarcissus ssp. obvallaris).

In the world of horticulture, the threshold between late winter and early spring is synonymous with forcing bulbs. Even if you don’t force your own, chances are you have received a pot of forced bulbs as a gift. Either way, you’re probably wondering what to do with the bulbs once the flowers have finished blooming. Many people discard them. However, with a little effort and luck, you can enjoy most forced bulbs well into the future. Read more »

Friday, March 13, 2009

Grapevines at The Cloisters

Grapevines in the courtyard of The Cloisters Pruning the grapevines in the courtyard Emerging leaf on the Concord grape

Above, from left to right: Grapevines have long been trained against the south-facing wall of the courtyard; Kevin Wiecks prunes last year’s growth back to a few dormant buds; the pink of the new foliage is transitory but beautiful.

Wine and wine grapes were of great economic and symbolic importance in the Middle Ages. Vineyards were associated both with royal and noble estates and with monasteries. Medieval wines were drunk new, and spiced wines, or piments, were also enjoyed. Wine was not only a beverage but a medicament, and the Tacuinum Sanitatis recommends grapes as a purifying and nourishing food. Read more »

Friday, March 6, 2009

Marching Out

March page from the Belles Heures March Activity: Cultivating Vines The Zodiacal Sign of Aries

Above, from left to right: Calendar page for March, from The Belles Heures of Jean de France, Duc de Berry, 1405–1408/1409. Pol, Jean, and Herman de Limbourg (Franco-Netherlandish, active in France, by 1399–1416). French; Made in Paris. The Cloisters Collection, 1954 (54.1.1); detail of the activity for the month; detail of the zodiacal symbol Aries. See the Collection Database to learn more about this work of art.

The name “March” is derived from Martius, the Roman god of war, fertility, and vegetation. In ancient Rome, military campaigns traditionally began in the spring, which also coincided with the return to agricultural labor in the fields after the winter rest. Read more »