The Evolution of Gardening has significant impact on today's landscaping styles
The history of the garden is rich and varied, spanning cultures and countries throughout the world. A previous article discussed gardening beginning with the written descriptions of Egyptian plantings in 2000 B.C. through 607 A.D. and the creation of lavish Chinese gardens. The development of the garden continues with the fall of the Roman Empire. After the roman Empire collapsed, Roman gardens throughout the empire fell into ruin. Complex pipes and pools supporting the fountains, aqueducts, and Roman baths were destroyed.
In Europe during the Dark Ages (500-1300 A.D.) monks cultivated grape vines and fruit trees in little walled plots to keep gardening alive. The flowers they grew were valued for their Christian symbolism; the rose signified divine love or Christ's blood; the white lily, purity; periwinkle was grown to make wreaths that were worn by condemned prisoners on the way to the gallows.
In the Middle Ages the growing of herbs became important for several reasons. The flavor of stale bread, bland porridge, and rotten meat, was greatly improved with a pinch of sage or thyme. Herbs were also grown for medicinal purposes and for their fragrance to combat a world that never bathed. During this time various forms of tree controls were invented-pollarding, pleaching, coppicing, and espalier.
Italian garden design flourished with ornate, baroque-styles highlighting sculpted hedges and elaborate fountains as the centerpiece.
In the 1600's, in England, knot gardens became popular. These were enclosed plots of ground in which low hedges of boxwoods or herbs like rosemary, formed knot-like patterns. The rest of the world had their own style of gardening. Mohammed (570-632) promised his followers an afterlife in a garden featuring rivers that would run with wine and honey. Following Islam, the Persian garden style spread across the Middle East to North Africa, east to India, and to Spain with the Moors.
In Japan, gardeners were creating landscapes of moss, raked sand and boulders. Some rocks were so highly valued that they were traded like stocks. Under Kublai Khan the Chinese landscape achieved its greatest triumph. Marco Polo in 1300 marveled at the wonders he had seen which included parks that covered eight miles and featured trees, meadows and various wild animals. Even with Polo's glowing accounts, European gardens remained inside walls.
In the Americas, the Mayas, Incas, and Aztecs all gardened. The great city of Tenochtitlan, now Mexico City, was built on a lake that was surrounded by floating gardens including the world's largest botanical garden. The gardens were "discovered" in 1519 by Cortez, who destroyed them.
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