March 22nd, 2010
In my back garden there is a beautiful Chestnut tree that must be at least 50 years old. Each autumn it provides me with lovely autumn leaves for my compost. In the summer – welcome shade. All the year long it is a thing of beauty. Sometimes I wonder about the gardener who planted it all those long years ago. As gardeners we are all following in the footsteps of gardeners past, for the gentle pleasures of working in a garden goes right back to the beginning of known time.
The Bible mentions gardens frequently, and talks about them not only in terms of food but also in relation to pleasure. From the Garden of Eden in the very first book Genesis through to Ecclessiates, in which the author talks about his beautiful gardens. The book of Daniel refers to King Nebuchadnezzar II, the ruler of Babylon, who is thought to have created the Hanging Gardens of Babylon, one of the Wonders of the Ancient World.
Murals in pharaohs’ tombs show how ancient Egypt cultivated food such as dates and olives, wheat and figs. It was probably the ancient Romans who first developed the now accepted concept of the garden room. As the Romans conquered Europe and Britain, they introduced many medicinal and culinary herbs. We can follow the chain back, right back into times past.
The cottage garden style that we all know and love so well came into being in the second half of the eighteenth century. It was based on a desire to grow everything you needed, both ornamental and productive, within a very small plot. That is why it is still so practicable today. Fruit, vegetables, herbs, flowers and shrubs were crowded into a small space. This sort of garden also know as a romantic garden has remained popular ever since. Just as it was for our great, great, grandmothers!
When we head out into our little plot, be it ever so humble, we are following a great tradition. We are following in the footsteps of those who have enjoyed all the pleasures a garden can provide. All those gardeners of the past enjoyed the same pleasures we are rediscovering today, the relaxation and pleasure a garden can provide. Just sitting in a garden amongst the green and living plants helps to relax and renew the spirit. Creating a garden uses your imagination and taps into your artistic self.