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Gardens at The Met Cloisters

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While many of the herbs and flowers in the three enclosed gardens at The Met Cloisters are at their peak in late spring and early summer, there are plantings inspired by the Middle Ages to see year-round at this the branch of The Metropolitan Museum of Art dedicated to the art and architecture of medieval Europe . Located on a hilltop in Fort Tryon Park in northern Manhattan, The Met Cloisters enjoys an unparalleled view of the Hudson River and the New Jersey Palisades from several vantage points.

Although each of the three gardens at The Met Cloisters is unique, their design and plantings 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 Met Cloisters opened.

In the Judy Black Garden at the Cuxa Cloister, on the museum’s main level, arcaded walkways surround a garth, or enclosed courtyard, that is open to the sky. Here, medieval European species and modern garden plants from Asia and the Americas combine to provide color and scent from early spring until late fall.

The Bonnefont Cloister garden, on the lower level, contains one of the most specialized 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 depicted frequently in medieval sources. Seeds of species not available locally were obtained from European sources.

The plantings in the Trie Cloister garden, also on the lower level, evoke the flowering meadow so often depicted in medieval works of art. The single field of herbs and flowers refers to the grounds of millefleurs tapestries, in which many species bloom simultaneously in an eternal spring. Many of the plants depicted in the Unicorn Tapestries—a masterpiece of The Met Cloisters—are cultivated in the Trie Cloister, though the plants bloom in the proper season.
Each summer from May through October, tours of the gardens take place daily at 1 p.m., rain or shine. Garden tours are free with Museum admission.

In winter, the interior walkways are transformed into a conservatory in which potted plants are displayed and spring flowers are forced into early bloom.

About The Metropolitan Museum of Art

The Met presents over 5,000 years of art from around the world for everyone to experience and enjoy. The Museum lives in three iconic sites in New York City—The Met Fifth Avenue, The Met Breuer, and The Met Cloisters. Millions of people also take part in The Met experience online.

Since it was founded in 1870, The Met has always aspired to be more than a treasury of rare and beautiful objects. Every day, art comes alive in the Museum’s galleries and through its exhibitions and events, revealing both new ideas and unexpected connections across time and across cultures.

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June 22, 2016

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