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History of Gardening

The cultivation of plants for food long predates history. The earliest evidence for ornamental gardens is seen in Egyptian tomb paintings of the 1500s BC; they depict lotus ponds surrounded by rows of acacias and palms. The Hanging Gardens of Babylon were renowned as a Wonder of the World, although their existence is doubted. Darius the Great was said to have had a "paradise garden"; and around 350 BC there were gardens at the Academy of Athens. 

Theophrastus, who wrote on botany, was supposed to have inherited a garden from Aristotle. Epicurus also had a garden where he walked and taught, and bequeathed it to Hermarchus of Mytilene. Alciphron also mentions private gardens. 

In ancient Rome, the hortus started as a kitchen garden, and evolved into a flower garden maintained in the courtyard of the house. Wall paintings in Pompeii attest to elaborate development later, and the wealthiest of Romans built enormous gardens, many of whose ruins are still to be seen, such as those of Lucullus. 

The historical development of garden styles

Royalty, most likely that found in Egypt, was probably also very instrumental in the development of the garden, much as royalty and the privileged classes throughout the centuries have continued to influence the design and actualization of gardens. 

Assyrian/Persian paradise garden or enclosed hunting-orchard. 
Hellenistic and Roman garden. 
Byzantine/Turkish gardens. 
The developed Persian garden, which evolved into the Mughal gardens of India. 
Islamic Spanish gardens. 
Medieval enclosed garden of northern Europe Hortus inclusus. 
Terraced Italian garden of the Renaissance. 
Baroque French gardens of Le Notre and followers. 
English Landscape garden and its imitators, called 'English gardens.' 
'Hill-and-Pond' gardens of China and Japan. 
Zen garden of Japan. 
Romantic idealized English cottage garden. 
Contemporary gardens. 

Ancient Near East
Assyrian hunting parks and Persian paradise gardens
Egyptian temple courts
Hellenistic and Roman gardens
Islamic gardens
Renaissance gardens
Italian gardens
French gardens
Anglo-Dutch gardens
Landscape gardens
Romantic gardens
Picturesque gardens
'Gardenesque' gardens

The 'Gardenesque' style of English garden design evolved during the 1820's from Humphrey Repton's Picturesque or 'Mixed' style, largely under the impetus of J. C. Loudon, who invented the term. 

In a Gardenesque plan, all the trees, shrubs and other plants are positioned and managed in such a way that the character of each plant can be displayed to its full potential. With the spread of botany as a suitable avocation for the enlightened, the Gardenesque tended to emphasize botanical curiosities and a collector's approach. New plant material that would have seemed bizarre and alien in earlier gardening found settings: Pampas grass from Argentina and Monkey-puzzle trees. Winding paths linked scattered plantings. The Gardenesque approach involved the creation of small-scale landscapes, dotted with features and vignettes, to promote beauty of detail, variety and mystery, sometimes to the detriment of coherence. Artificial mounds helped to stage groupings of shrubs, and island beds became prominent features. 

Historic gardeners

The following names, roughly in historical order, made contributions that affected the history of gardens, whether as botanist explorers, designers, garden-makers, or writers. Further information on them will be found under their individual entries. 

John Tradescant 
Carolus Clusius 
Andre le Notre 
William Kent 
Lancelot "Capability" Brown 
A. J. Downing 
Frederick Law Olmstead 
Gertrude Jekyll 
Vita Sackville-West 
Russell Page 
Luis Barragan 

Notable historic gardens

Central Park 
Chateau Fontainebleau 
Dumbarton Oaks 
Fountains Abbey 
Hadrian's Villa 
Hanging Gardens of Babylon 
Het Loo 
Sissinghurst Castle 
Villa d'Este 
Chateau Villandry 


J. S. Berrall, The Garden: An Illustrated History 
E. Hyams A History of Gardens and Gardening (1971) 

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