Posted by: A Part of the Solution | April 5, 2011

Inigo Jones, Nicholas Culpeper and Me

Back in the day (17th c. England in this case), there was a lot more crossover in professions than we see in modern times (with the exception, of course, of model/actress/singer/reality TV star types). My mentors in the process of putting in an herb garden are Inigo Jones and Nicholas Culpeper. Between them, I couldn’t ask for better guidance and advice.

Jones trained as a painter, traveled to Italy, and came back an architect. Because the fields weren’t separated in larger scale projects, he was also a landscape designer and a theatrical designer/costumer. Culpeper trained as a doctor; since he was serious about his vocation, he also learned astrology (considered crucial for doctors back in the day) and herbalism.

Of Inigo Jones’ many landscaping schemes, his work with deciduous trees has created the most enduring aesthetic legacy. He thought carefully about the final shape each tree would make (with and without its cloak of leaves), about the colors of both foliage and bark, about specific requirements for light and air. He wanted composed contrasts–each difference leading the eye to see both the individual character of the tree itself as well as that tree’s relationship to the forest in which it stood. And all of that in the context of grand vistas stretching more than a quarter mile in many instances. Mr Jones’ long-term sensibilities inform my consideration of the herb garden as a design fully realized only across the span of time.

Nicholas Culpeper advocated for herbal preparations to maintain, support and correct health concerns in his patients. He believed in teaching people how to make and keep themselves well–without depending on doctors and their noxious (and expensive) decoctions supplemented by the regular application of leeches. For Culpeper, each herb in the garden bore a relationship to one of the seven known planets–and often carrying a secondary affiliation as well. He believed those herbs could be used to strengthen certain planetary influences, as well as countering the effects of others. I am applying Culpeper’s groupings to the layout of my herb garden, in hopes that herbs of the same ‘planetary’ family will enjoy the same kinds of soil, water, air and light conditions.

In the tradition of Inigo Jones, I hope to lay out the herb garden here on this farm in such a way as to make each species of plant visible and distinct. At the same time, I hope to arrange the garden as whole in such a way as to give it a broader scope and meaning independent of (but appropriate to) its constituent flora.

Taking my cue from Nicholas Culpeper, I want the garden to promote health through all the senses as well as the within the corpus proper. In its maturity, the serenity it will bring to our view from the front porch, compounded by the wonderful scents of the herbs growing in the sunshine–complemented by a constant gavotte of butterflies and the diligent hum of bees should be all one could wish.



  1. Carrie, I am so proud of you for working the word ‘gavotte’ into your blog. So few people do that anymore. Keep up the good work.

    • I know, I know. I was thinking about using ‘galliard’ instead–as a nice nod to the 17th c. and its cultural pastimes, but I really liked how gavotte worked in that particular sentence.

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