Our new season is now open: Spring 1677 !
Gardening as a skill
Those who choose this as a skill will need to demonstrate their character's going through the motions of tending to growing plants that are placed under their care either by location (at your home) or by occupation.
Baroque Garden Architecture
Gardening can be described as aesthetic expressions of beauty through art and nature, a display of taste or style in civilized life, an expression of an individual's or culture's philosophy, and sometimes as a display of private status or national pride—in private and public landscapes.
Gardens throughout the 16th and 17th century were formal and symmetrical and enclosed with fences, walls or even moats. The gardens were enclosed, usually by a wall, hedge, fence or moat, because they were considered to be a private area and part of the house.
Knot gardens, which became popular in England in the 16th century, were usually constructed from box or santolina. Flowerbeds often nestled within the low, intricate patterns. But more commonly grass, or even coloured sand or gravel, formed the base. Mazes became popular in Elizabethan times.
The French Classical garden style, or Garden à la française, climaxed during the reign of Louis XIV of France (1638–1715) and his head gardener of Gardens of Versailles, André Le Nôtre (1613–1700). The inspiration for these gardens initially came from the Italian Renaissance garden of the 14th and 15th centuries and ideas of French philosopher René Descartes (1576–1650). At this time the French opened the garden up to enormous proportions compared to their Italian predecessor. Their gardens epitomize monarch and 'man' dominating and manipulating nature to show his authority, wealth, and power.
Renée Descartes, the founder of analytical geometry, believed that the natural world was objectively measurable and that space is infinitely divisible. His belief that "all movement is a straight line therefore space is a universal grid of mathematical coordinates and everything can be located on its infinitely extendible planes" gave us Cartesian mathematics. Through the classical French gardens this coordinate system and philosophy is now given a physical and visual representation.
This French formal and axial garden style placed the house centrally on an enormous and mainly flat property. A large central axis that gets narrower further from the main house, forces the viewer's perspective to the horizon line, making the property look even larger. The viewer is to see the property as a cohesive whole but at the same time is unable to see all the components of the garden. One is to be led through a logical progression or story and be surprised by elements that aren’t visible until approached. There is an allegorical story referring to the owner through statues and water features which have mythological references. There are small, almost imperceptible grade changes that help conceal the gardens surprises as well as elongate the gardens views.
The Dutch style in England was characterised by an emphasis on parterres, topiary, water features, orchards and the planting of avenues in the countryside. . The parterres were simple by French standards. They had water features, statues and topiary but little 'embroidery' or 'scroll-work'. The avenues were occasionally formed by cutting through existing woods but more often by planting lines of trees. London's most important commissions were the gardens at Longleat and Chatsworth. Both were dominated by extensive parterres and had lines of trees projecting into farmland. At Longleat there was also a small star of avenues. It occupied a smaller area than the parterre and could not be compared to a French hunting forest.
There are many areas involved in 'gardening', from soil preparation, to selecting which seeds to grow (or avoid growing), to simple insect control, plant nutrition, periodic care, to harvest and/or propagation.
Players will find that most modern 'How To Plant A Garden' books are of adequate use, just remember that your characters must do everything by hand, with tools of the period, and cannot have 'modern knowledge' of things like soil analysis or chemical fertilizers. Books that feature plants that are grown in England are particularly and especially useful.
Planting and growing were an ages old activity by our game time period, and many nobles as well as commoners practised the planning and care of gardens. The growing of speciality flowers, and herb beds were popular both for fragrance and for the cooking and seasoning of food, as well as for simple home remedies for minor ailments.
Potted plants were very much in fashion, as were imported plants often grown indoors in larger containers. Small trees, shrubs and decorative ferns were grown in larger containers and used to decorate many various locations. (Check with your mentor as to whether a particular plant is available for import and purchase as such from a shop, or must be hunted down by other means 'in game play' before you grow any exotic imported species)
Of course, one could always probably purchase the same cooking spices and very simple natural remedy ingredients from your local apothecary shop, but where is the fun in that?