The art of gardening is an ancient one with a fascinating history. This week, we delve into the past with eight interesting facts about gardening in the ancient world.
- The world’s oldest form of gardening is forest gardening, which originated in prehistoric times in monsoon regions. Inhabitants would improve their surrounds by cultivating useful tree and vine species whilst weeding out the less desirable varieties. Eventually alien species were also introduced.
- The first example of landscape gardening dates to around 10,000 BC, when outdoor spaces began to be enclosed to keep away animals and other intruders.
- The Assyrian Kings in Mesopotamia were so interested in incorporating different tree species into their gardens, orchards and game parks that they often demanded tribute from conquered cities in the form of fruit trees
- Gardens were entwined with spirituality and mythology with almost all civilisation appointing various deities responsible for fertility and agriculture, numerous myths explaining the physical characteristics of plants and many tales of mythical gardens which were ‘paradise on earth’
- In ancient civilisations, gardening was a respected trade with gardeners being depicted on Egyptian tomb walls, in illuminated manuscripts, and in mosaics. Gardeners were identified by the specific type of gardening they did (water carrying, head gardener, ornamental gardener, vegetable gardener) and there are some examples of several generations of gardeners carrying on a proud family tradition.
- The Roman empire was well known for their elaborate hardscaping skills which they sometimes used to create a trompe d’oeil effect and are thought to have been the first to invent the art of topiary.
- Egyptian gardeners cultivated flowers to use in bouquets both to enjoy and to used to honour the gods. Floral crowns and garlands also played important ceremonial roles and there was even a court florist dedicated to putting together these elaborate floral decorations one example of Egyptian floral decorating is a floral collar made from sewn together flower petals draped around Tutankhamun’s innermost coffin.
- In most ancient societies, the rose was the most admired flower cultivated by gardeners, followed closely by lilies, sweet violet and narcissus.
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