A Brief History of Gardening

Gardening fundamentally splits into two halves; gardening for food (or farming) and gardening for aesthetic pleasure. It’s the history of the pleasurable side of gardening that we’re looking into in today’s article.

While gardening for food goes back before records began with some estimates dating it’s inception to approximately 10,000 years ago, gardening for its beauty for the home and garden can credit it’s inception (that we know of) to some Egyptian tomb paintings dated at around 1500 BC depicting lotus ponds surrounded by palms and acacias in neat rows.

Ancient Eastern Gardens

Persia was a center of ancient gardening having a proud history of notable gardens such as the Darius the Great’s “Paradise Garden” and also the “Hanging Gardens of Babylon” which was one of the ancient “seven wonders of the world”.

Ancient Western Gardens

In the western world, the most notable examples of ancient gardens are in Alexandria, Rome and Scotland. Ptolemy’s gardens in Alexandria such as the “Shallalat Gardens” are now underwater due to earthquake subsidence which has claimed much of the ancient city. Rome’s gardening tradition is said to have been started by Lucullus in Pompeii with evidence of elaborate water features, villa gardens and shaded arcades before the eruption famously brought the town under piles of volcanic rubble. Archaeological evidence still survives in Scotland at sites such as Hadrian’s Villa.

The Fall of Rome

Moorish Spain (under the Islamic faith) continued these gardening traditions after the fall of Rome in the 4th century AD. At around the same time, China had started an alternative tradition still used today with temporary ornamental structures with water features and landscape gardening. This tradition was later used in Japan in royal home and gardens.


Gardening traditions in Europe didn’t truly recover until the 13th century in Languedoc and the Île-de-France with the re-discovery of descriptions of Roman homes and gardens. This created the “Italian renaissance garden” in the 15th and 6th centuries. Formal gardens dominated after this with the Garden à la française, including the famous exaple at the Gardens of Versailles. This style dominated European gardens until the 18th century when English landscape gardens and French landscape gardens became fashionable with aristocratic and noble society.

19th Century

Contemporary garden fashion in the 19th century was inspired by a fever for historic gardens including Roman inspired cottages, and wild and perennial gardens in English homes championed by Gertrude Jekyll and William Robinson.

Northern American gardens were inspired by European garden at this point with Andrew Jackson Downing and Frederick Law Olmsted adapted these styles in American public gardens which had influence well into the twentieth century.

Modern Gardening

Modern gardening is a multi billion pound industry world-wide with landscape gardening, public art, and a contemporary influence of considering environmental influences with the use of “sustainable” gardening using features such as rainwater harvesting.

It wasn’t really until modern times that ordinary people gained the will and desire to create truly great gardens. With the advent of television, it became fashionable to spend time and money on personal garden spaces to create gardens that rival royal and public gardens with spending heavily slanted towards garden furniture and other gardenware.

Ryan Dowmann is a published home & garden writer working for Robert Dyas and their online range of homeware, kitchenware and gardenware.

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