As a gardener, I’ve often wondered about where or how this
whole gardening thing got started. Who first thought of it (and thanks for
doing so by the way)? If gardening began with the first moves toward
agriculture, then it has a very long history. As I explored this further, I
found that the history of gardening, from thousands of years ago to the
present, has varied greatly, reflecting the changing needs, tastes, culture,
medicine, and more of its gardeners.
Gardening in the Past
Humans first cultivated plants about 12,000 years ago when
they transitioned from a hunter-gatherer lifestyle to farming. They figured out
how to domesticate wild grasses and grow cereal crops for sustenance. This
important first step in gardening is what allowed us to settle down and build
villages, towns, cities, and civilizations.
Gardening in the past was, for a long time, mostly based on
need, a need for food or medicine. Some of the earliest gardens designed simply
for ornamentation, recreation, and luxury were in ancient Egypt and the Middle
East. They planted trees, flowering plants, fragrant herbs, and other plants to
create shady, relaxing spaces for royalty and wealthy people to enjoy.
In ancient Rome, wealthy citizens took inspiration from
those ancient eastern gardens and crafted beautiful outdoor spaces at their
gardens added topiary
In Medieval Europe and during the dark ages, much of gardening returned to
practicality, growing plants for food and herbs for medicine.
The Renaissance brought back more decorative gardening, and
over the next few centuries Europe saw both modest gardens, like English
cottage gardens and more elaborate spaces like the gardens at Versailles.
Notable Gardens Through the Years
The purpose and fashions in ornamental gardens have shifted
over time and continue to evolve. From ancient times, perhaps the most famous is
the Hanging Gardens of Babylon. One of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World,
there are no remains, but the garden was thought to include several tiers with
plants hanging over each level.
One of the most elaborate gardens from history is the
grounds of Versailles in France. Designed for beauty, another purpose of these
amazing gardens was to show off the wealth and power of the French king. Even
earlier in history, Chinese emperors were already using this strategy,
designing and building huge, impressive gardens for recreation and relaxation
but also to demonstrate wealth.
In more recent U.S. history, people planted Victory gardens
during World Wars I and II. These gardens provided food for local areas and
individual families and communities so that other resources could be reserved for
Today, gardens continue to serve important functions and
also provide recreation and a relaxing respite from the indoor world.