Posts Tagged ‘pear’

Thursday, May 30, 2013

Coming to Fruition

Pear blossom (detail) Espaliered Pear (detail)

Left: Blossom on espaliered pear tree. Photograph by Corey Eilhardt; Right: Fruit on the espaliered pear in Bonnefont garden. Photograph by Barbara Bell

Join us on Saturday, June 1, for a special Garden Day, celebrating the seventy-fifth anniversary of The Cloisters museum and gardens. We’ll be discussing our fruit trees in a daylong program of events, including talks on the significance of orchards and orchard fruit in medieval life and art, medieval fruits you can grow today, training and pruning espaliered trees like our famous pears, and the care of our beloved quince and other orchard fruits.

For related information, see previously published posts about our pear, medlar, and cornelian cherry trees.

—Deirdre Larkin

Friday, November 9, 2012

Weathering the Storm

Quince

Afternoon sun shining on the quince in Bonnefont cloister garden, which weathered last week’s “super storm” without damage. The Venetian wellhead at the center of the garden has been provided with a wooden shelter to protect it from the elements; the cover will be removed in the spring.  Photograph by Carly Still

The veteran quince and espaliered pear in Bonnefont garden, the pollarded crab apples in Cuxa cloister, the lady apple orchard, and the mature oaks and hollies outside the Museum walls have all come safely through the storms of the past two weeks, despite considerable damage in Fort Tryon Park.

On Halloween morning, staff were relieved to see that the gardens had come through unscathed. In the Middle Ages, as in antiquity, violent storms and the consequent destruction of crops were among the events attributed to the malice of witches. For a translation of the ninth-century bishop Agobard of Lyon’s rebuttal of the superstitious attribution of hail and thunder to human agency, visit the Medieval Sourcebook on the University of South Alabama website.

—Deirdre Larkin

Friday, July 27, 2012

Cool, Cooler, Coolest

fragaria-vesca_235espallieredpearfruit_235

Both edible and medicinal plants were classified by their qualities in the Middle Ages. A given plant might be heating, cooling, moistening, or drying in its action on human bodies; the intensity of this action was expressed in degrees. An herb or foodstuff that was a little cooling was “cold in the first degree,” while a very cooling plant was classed as “cold in the fourth degree.” Above, left: Strawberry (Fragaria vesca) was a mildly cooling fruit, being cold and moist in the first degree. Pear (Pyrus communis) was more refreshing, being cold in the second degree and moist in the first.

The medicinal model inherited by the Middle Ages, based largely on humoral theory, was essentially a “cure by contraries” rooted in the idea that illness was the result of an imbalance of the humors—blood, choler, bile, and phlegm—within an individual. Plants and other substances were either warming, cooling, moistening, or drying in their action on human bodies, which were sanguine, phlegmatic, melancholic, or choleric in complexion. Read more »

Thursday, August 11, 2011

The Intern’s Habit

Sweeping the Garden

My early morning sweep of Bonnefont garden, overseen by the downy thornapple (Datura metel). Photograph by Corey Eilhardt

A quiet life has many rewards: not least of these
Is the joy that comes to him who devotes himself to the art
They knew at Paestum, and learns the ancient skill of obscene
Priapus—the joy that comes of devoting himself to a garden.

—From Hortulus by Walahfrid Strabo. Translated from the Latin by Raef Payne. The Hunt Botanical Library, 1966.

Read more »

Friday, April 22, 2011

The Gardener’s Perseverance and the Fruits of His Labor

Working in the Garden

Above: Carly Still, who joined the staff as a part-time gardener just last week, tending to the woodland plants under the quince. Photograph by Corey Eilhardt

Then come the showers of Spring, from time to time
Watering our tiny crop, and in its turn
The gentle moon caresses the delicate leaves.
Should a dry spell rob the plants of the moisture they need,
My gardening zeal and the fear that the slender shoots
May die of thirst make me scurry to bring fresh water
In brimming buckets. With my own hands I pour it
Drop by drop, taking care not to shift the seeds
By too sudden or lavish a soaking. Sure enough,
In a little while the garden is carpeted over
With tiny young shoots. True, that part there
Below the high roof is dry and rough from the lack
Of rain and the heaven’s benison; true, this
Part here is always in shade, for the high wall’s
Solid rampart forbids the sun to enter.
Yet of all that was lately entrusted to it, the garden
Has held nothing enclosed in its sluggish soil
Without hope of growth. What is more, those plants that were moved,
More dead than alive, to the newly dug furrows are now
Green again; our garden has brought them back
To life, making them good with abundant growth.

—From Hortulus by Walahfrid Strabo. Translated from the Latin by Raef Payne. The Hunt Botanical Library, 1966.

The ninth-century Benedictine abbot Walahfrid Strabo was a gardener as well as a scholar and a poet, and worked hard in his monastery garden. We, too, are hard at work bringing the gardens of The Cloisters back to life after a long winter. Much remains to be done, but the hellebores, violets, daffodils, lungworts, and fritillaries are in bloom. The hops are climbing, the pear tree is blossoming, and the quince are putting out tiny, silvery leaves.

—Deirdre Larkin

Friday, April 15, 2011

Our Pear

Espaliered Pear Pear Blossom

The veteran espaliered pear just coming into bloom in Bonnefont Cloister garden has grown there since the 1940s. The tree is responding well to a program of rejuvenatory pruning. Photographs by Corey Eilhardt

The espaliered pear is one of the most beloved trees at The Cloisters, and has graced Bonnefont garden for more than sixty years. This method of training fruit trees against a wall is a Renaissance development, rather than a medieval technique. The heat and light that radiate from the wall help to ripen the fruit.

—Deirdre Larkin