A look inside the Queen of Æthelmearc’s beautiful garden
Photo by Magistra Nicolaa de Bracton
By Magistra Nicolaa de Bracton
Editor-In-Chief, The Pennsic Independent
Peering over the walls of the Æthelmearc Royal Encampment, I saw an oasis of greenery. Coming inside, I heard the melodious, gentle sound of a gurgling fountain. Before me lay a labyrinth in stone, with a shaded archway at the center. Closing my eyes, I could see Her Majesty Ariella of Æthelmearc walking the pathways with her ladies-in-waiting, enjoying a quiet moment in the midst of the bustle of War.
Master Ambrose, who many know as the “Labyrinth Guy” for all of the chalk labyrinths he has drawn at Pennsic for many years, first conceived of the idea of a labyrinth within a pleasance to be located in a garden, and presented the idea to Her Majesty—who then asked Mistress Filipia Capriotti to help organize the garden surrounding the maze. The result is what is know as a “raised bed pleasance”, with aromatic plants set amongst the labyrinth to make the journey pleasing to eye and nose. The style of this garden dates to about the 15th – 16th century, although the labyrinth itself is, of course, quite ancient.
“Many of the plants in the garden are those who love the heat—basil, sage, hyssop, and betony,” said Mistress Filipia, who also pointed out some heirloom cucumbers (which look like tiny round melons) with fruit nearing ripeness Other highlights are several fruit trees, including an edible crabapple that is currently bearing fruit and a pair of rescued fig trees she hopes to greenhouse over the winter. Her Majesty contributed some Asiatic lilies in bloom, and others from around the kingdom also contributed a variety of plants from their gardens, including sage and several varieties of dianthus (carnations, pinks, and Sweet Williams). The centerpiece of the garden adjacent to the labyrinth is a fountain from Her Majesty’s own castle.
“Now that we have the infrastructure, we hope this garden can be created on a yearly basis going forward,” said Mistress Filipia. When asked whether there had been a guild or Facebook group around the creation of the garden, she answered no—it had been just an informal group of people, but “a Royal Gardeners’ group might be an idea.”
All are invited in to enjoy the garden and walk the labyrinth. “We had a gentleman propose to a lady there the other evening,” said Mistress Filipia. There are also a number of small plants for sale at $1 each, with larger plants available as well— you might also be able to take a small piece of a royal garden home with you.
So don’t just peer over the wall. Come inside—you are welcome to enjoy a garden fit for Royalty.