I decided to take advantage of a spell of balmy weather to visit the Cloisters in uptown Manhattan. This museum of medieval art features several rooms that recreate period chapels and cloisters, embedding authentic architectural fragments in a neo-medieval building.
The Unicorn Tapestries are here, but I'm especially partial to the gardens, which, on the right day, can make you feel as if you've been transported to Italy. Unfortunately, March is way too early for there to be anything but brown, dried-up husks and leaves in the Cloisters' gardens, but in the internal cloisters, the gardeners have done their best to brighten things up with some potted plants.
While waiting for the real spring, you can visit the museum's horticultural blog, The Medieval Garden Enclosed, and read about such pleasant subjects as turf benches, boxwood and books of days. The gardens at the Cloisters are themselves museums; one contains all the plants represented in the Unicorn Tapestries, others exhibit traditional methods of cultivation and herbs.
There's a passage in The Magician's Book about the image of the walled garden in Medieval allegory and, by extension, in the Chronicles of Narnia. Because even the tiniest aspects of the world were regarded as elements of God's plan, Medieval art often depicts everyday flora and fauna, as well as ordinary activities like harvesting and cooking, with reverence and meticulous attention. Hundreds of years later and minus the religion, I still find these images immensely tender and touching.