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Spring and Summer Attractions in the Gardens at The Cloisters

Garden Days—an annual weekend of programming devoted to the acclaimed and popular plantings at The Cloisters Museum and Gardens—will take place on June 4 and 5. Many of the herbs and flowers in the three enclosed gardens at The Cloisters—the branch of The Metropolitan Museum of Art dedicated to the art and architecture of medieval Europe—are at their peak in late spring and early summer. Located on a hilltop in Fort Tryon Park in northern Manhattan, The Cloisters museum and gardens enjoy an unparalleled view of the Hudson River and the New Jersey Palisades from several vantage points.

The theme of this year's talks, tours, and demonstrations for Garden Days will be "Women and the Medieval Garden."  Programs will explore the symbolic relationship of women and gardens in medieval art and literature as well as women's practical roles in horticulture during the Middle Ages.

These programs are made possible by the Louis and Anne Abrons Foundation, Inc.

Each garden at The Cloisters is unique, while the design and plantings of all three are based on information found in documents and works of art from the Middle Ages. The gardens were originally laid out and planted in 1938, the year The Cloisters opened. In the Cuxa Cloister garden, on the museum's main level, arcaded walkways surround a garth, or enclosed courtyard, that is open to the sky. To achieve an effective display of plants in bloom from early spring until late fall, both medieval and modern species are grown in this garden.

The Bonnefont Cloister garden, on the lower level, contains one of the most specialized medieval plant collections in the world: all of its approximately 300 species were grown and used during the Middle Ages for purposes as varied as food, medicine, magic, and artist materials. The raised beds, wattle fences, and wellhead are all features frequently depicted in medieval sources. Seeds of species not available locally were obtained from botanic gardens and nurseries in Europe. Currently under renovation, the Trie Cloister garden, the smallest of the three, was inspired by the plants that flourish in European woodlands and meadows and along the banks of streams.

The schedule of Garden Day events will be the same on June 4 and 5. The program includes garden tours at 11 a.m. and 1 p.m.; a gallery talk at noon; a garden and gallery workshop for families with children between the ages of four and 12 (offered in English and Spanish) at 1 p.m.; selected readings from The Romance of the Rose of Guillaume de Lorris at 2 p.m.; and a demonstration of medieval embroidery techniques at 3 p.m. In addition, members of The Cloisters' horticultural staff will be available from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. to answer questions and discuss aspects of gardening at The Cloisters. Details about these offerings can be found at www.metmuseum.org/cloisters/.

Tours of The Cloisters gardens also take place for six months of the year, from May 1 to October 31, daily at 1 p.m., rain or shine. Garden tours are free with Museum admission.

Information on plants currently in bloom at The Cloisters can be found in the blog The Medieval Garden Enclosed, available on the Metropolitan Museum's website: blog.metmuseum.org/cloistersgardens/. The Museum's horticultural staff shares practical information about growing medieval herbs and flowers and discusses the history of many plants—some legendary and little-known or grown elsewhere, and some familiar—that are found at The Cloisters. Among the lesser-known plants are mandrake, medlar, bryony, and dragon arum; familiar plants include lilies, roses, mint, thyme, and rosemary. Begun in 2008, the blog has drawn more than 200,000 visitors from 162 countries.

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May 13, 2011

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