You probably take gardening for granted, since everyone gardens or knows someone who does. However, did you ever think about how gardening got started and how it developed into the vegetable and flower gardens we have today? Here is a brief history of gardening down through the centuries.
The oldest known type of gardening is called forest gardening. This refers to an ancient type of food gardening. As food producing vines and trees were discovered, they began to be cultivated in groups to gain easy access to food. Eventually, these evolved into more elaborate ornamental gardens kept for the wealthiest members of society.
Gardening in the Middle Ages
Ornamental gardening started dying off a bit during the Middle Ages. Most gardens were designed to grow herbs and other plants for medicine after the fall of the Roman Empire. Many of these gardens were maintained around churchyards. Monasteries had gardens to supply both the infirmary and the kitchen.
Later on, some Europeans began to cultivate gardens both for food and for beauty. It was at this time that lawns of grass were planted and raised flowerbeds were used to decorate the surrounding land.
Many gardens began to develop around a central focal point with hedges and plants being built around the middle monument or sculpture.
Elizabethan Cottage Gardens
During this period, it was popular to grow fruit and herb cottage gardens. Since so many were killed off during the Black Death scourge, land was more plentiful and even the poorest laborer could have a little cottage garden. Workers would keep a little plot of land to put their chickens and pigs and grow some food.
Informal 18th Century Gardens
Gardens eventually started to take on a more natural and informal look as time went on. The walls and hedges gave way to rolling hills and no strict edging and borders. English gardens of this period often contained a body of water surrounded by some trees, flowers, and other herbs or food producing plants.
Later it became fashionable to try to stuff as many flowers as possible into a tiny space. These plots termed as “gardenesque” styles eventually began to include rock gardens also
Gardening has evolved and changed considerably down through the centuries. At times, there was a very formal and architectural nature to gardens, while other times the layout was more free-form and meandering. Sometimes the gardens were strictly for producing food, and other times they were solely ornamental and for bringing pleasure to the observer.
As you can see, gardening has been popular among humans for almost all recorded time. Although the particular styles and methods have changed down through the years, the basics remain the same. People want to have a source of plants near where they live for convenience. Many times this is in order to have easier access to food, but sometimes it’s simply to have a beautiful spot near the home to walk and enjoy the sights and smells of nature.