General comments- Take a landscape garden design course (on-line), short course at Harvard and many Botanical Gardens. Visit the National Arboretum, go on a garden tour, visit botanical gardens in your area or on vacation, and take a history of LA course. Think how the garden relates to the culture and its purpose as well as the form……
How do we interpret ancient gardens when no present day examples exist?
From paintings, temple/architectural details, travel accounts, sketches, visible remains.
Plant materials difficult to identify except using DNA or seed samples from tombs
Ancient gardens were all symbols and expression of perceived or idealized paradise.
Important agricultural and power images of gardens.
Meaning of garden: gan in Hebrew means protect or defend; oden or Eden means pleasure or delight. Gardens are enclosures for pleasure and delight…..Legend of Adam and Eve. Genesis 1 & 11
Religious afterlife purposes, pleasure, kitchen, ornamental design
Start of pleasure gardens, modest use of plants near temples and major structures.
Euphrates Valley gardens around 3500 BC. Origin of many fruits and vegetables
Hanging Garden of Babylon
Egypt- NILE VALLEY- 3500-500BC. Dominance over nature, Deity control by Pharaoh, Relation to Nile and Water, Afterlife Pyramid Design, agricultural settlements, rich had gardens
THEBES 2000 BC- Rectangular and axial arrangements, vine trellis, fruit trees and irrigation channels
Greece- Democracy starts to take hold, Greek Gods, Golden Triangle and Proportion in Architecture/Design, development of the City and Bourgeoisie class, Art and Sculpture, absence of pleasure gardens- only for temples and urban elements
Rome- “Classic Architecture” from Greeks, dominance of Rome and Emperor, all roads lead to Rome, Middle Class and Urban Development, Sports Facilities, use of water in pools, spas, pleasure gardens
Private homes similar to Greeks with interior courtyards, plants in pots
Rich had country villas, with kitchen gardens, fruit trees, fig and mulberry, fragrant flowers- sites usually on hillsides or near water for view and cooling environment, many structures, pools, terraces etc.
Valley of the Tempe, symbolic of Mt Olympus forest
Hadrian’s villa at Tivoli AD 117/138
Landscape Materials and Design Motifs
Stones and slaves- Except for Greece.
Pavers, geometric designs
Greeks elevate sculptures and monuments- not just for Leaders
Forest gardening is the world's oldest form of gardening. Forest gardens originated in prehistoric times along jungle-clad river banks and in the wet foothills of monsoon regions. In the gradual process of families improving their immediate environment, useful tree and vine species were identified, protected and improved whilst undesirable species were eliminated. Eventually superior foreign species were selected and incorporated into the gardens.
After the emergence of the first civilizations, wealthy individuals began to create gardens for purely aesthetic purposes. Egyptiantomb paintings of the 1500s BC are some of the earliest physical evidence of ornamental horticulture and landscape design; they depict lotus ponds surrounded by symmetrical rows of acacias and palms. Another ancient gardening tradition is of Persia: Darius the Great was said to have had a "paradise garden" and the Hanging Gardens of Babylon were renowned as a Wonder of the World. Persian gardens were also organized symmetrically, along a center line known as an axis.
Persian influences extended to post-Alexander's Greece: around 350 BC there were gardens at the Academy of Athens, and 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.
The most influential ancient gardens in the western world were the Ptolemy's gardens at Alexandria and the gardening tradition brought to Rome by Lucullus. Wall paintings in Pompeii attest to elaborate development later. The wealthiest Romans built extensive villa gardens with water features, topiary and cultivated roses and shaded arcades. Archeological evidence survives at sites such as Hadrian's Villa.
Byzantium and Moorish Spain kept garden traditions alive after the 4th century AD and the fall of Rome. By this time a separate gardening tradition had arisen in China, which was transmitted to Japan, where it developed into aristocratic miniature landscapes centered on ponds and separately into the severe Zen gardens of temples.
In Europe, gardening revived in Languedoc and the Île-de-France in the 13th century. The rediscovery of descriptions of antique Roman villas and gardens led to the creation of a new form of garden, the Italian Renaissance garden in the late 15th and early 16th century. The first public parks were built by the Spanish Crown in the 16th century, in Europe and the Americas. The formal Garden à la française, exemplified by the Gardens of Versailles, became the dominant style of garden in Europe until the middle of the 18th century when it was replaced by the English landscape garden and the French landscape garden. The 19th century saw a welter of historical revivals and Romantic cottage-inspired gardening. In England, William Robinson and Gertrude Jekyll were strong proponents of the wild garden and the perennial garden respectively. Andrew Jackson Downing and Frederick Law Olmsted adapted European styles for North America, especially influencing public parks, campuses and suburban landscapes. Olmsted's influence extended well into the 20th century.
The 20th century saw the influence of modernism in the garden: from the articulate clarity of Thomas Church to the bold colors and forms of Brazilian Roberto Burle Marx.
A strong environmental consciousness and Sustainable design practices, such as green roofs and rainwater harvesting, are driving new considerations in gardening today
Persian Gardens, from the ancient to the high classical were developed in opposition to the harsh and arid landscape of the Iranian Plateau. Unlike historical European gardens, which seemed carved or re-ordered from within their existing landscape, Persian gardens appeared as impossibilities. Their ethereal and delicate qualities emphasized their intrinsic contrast to the hostile environment.
The heart of Persia, modern day Iran, is high and dry. A series of basins and plateaus are separated by the two main mountain ranges, the Albourz and the Zagros. Since ancient times, lush gardens have grown in the region due to an ingenious engineering system of underground aqueducts called qanats. Originating in northeastern Iran around 800 BC, qanats brought the water from the snow melt to the plains for irrigation and human use. The very presence and abundance of water became the essence of the Persian garden. A rich variety of species thrived while thin channels delivered water throughout the garden, feeding fountains and pools, cooling the atmosphere and providing tender, constant music in the air. Although gardens were places for poetry, contemplation and seclusion, they were not limited to pleasure and refuge. Throughout Persia's history, gardens were central to the political life of the ruling class. The Achaemenian king Cyrus placed his throne within his garden at Pasargadae. Persian miniature paintings from the 15th to the 17th century depict kings receiving diplomats in their gardens, treaties being signed there, feasts and celebrations, and all defining moments of national identity along with portrayals of legendary loves. The illustrated history, Shahnameh, Book of Kings, details both the dreamy and the practical in court life.
The ancient gardens before Cyrus and those of his descendants show evidence of the characteristics that continued to define gardens in Persia and in places that drew on Persian ideas, from India to Spain. Gardens typically were divided into quadrants by channels of water, often punctuated by geometrically shaped basins. At a central intersection point was a platform for viewing, which later evolved into a formal open pavilion, sometimes decorated with coffered ceiling structures that represented the complexity of the heavens. Geometry as a demonstration of the ordered universe was celebrated throughout Persian gardens from the surface design features to the basic ground plane and its fourfold chahar bagh format, representing the four corners of the world in the ancient vernacular, and the four rivers of paradise more predominately associated with the Islamic period. The roots of an earthly paradise however, originate in Mesopotamia thousands of years before the Achaemenians, long before the Islamic period. Persian design aspects proved to have a natural affinity to certain Islamic concepts but because they were so deeply embedded in the culture of the area, they maintained their Persian-ness throughout the country's tumultuous history.
The relationship of architecture to the Persian garden is layered; influenced by climate and geography and infused with a sense of the ephemeral qualities of light and reflection. The border between interior and exterior spaces was permeable and often transparent through the use of carved screens, deep archways, multiple vaults and honeycomb patterned ceilings punctured with tiny windows of light. Through these devices, the stone, mud and ceramic materials appear as delicate and malleable as paper, conveying the fugitive qualities of light and shadow while playing with what is revealed and what is veiled.
Classical Persian gardens were lived spaces; one imagines that they are best seen from within. As 17th century European gardens expressed the concept of a privileged point of view as demonstrated in Renaissance painting, Persian gardens can also be viewed in relation to their classical tradition of painting during the Safavid period, contemporaneous of the European Renaissance. Where the space of the paintings appears flat and perplexing, a balance is found in multiple entry points and equal attention to every detail whether it is the king's action, a servant's gesture or the ruby red of a bowl of pomegranates. Despite a hierarchical, feudal society, everything is painted equally and in sharp focus. As the viewer, you are at once, inside and everywhere.
The Islamic gardens of Spain constructed during the 14th century are far more elaborate and extensive than northern European gardens of that period. Featuring open garden rooms, intricate tile designs, water features and sculpture, the designs were influenced by the Moors. Unlike the medieval gardens depicted above, these gardens were ornate outdoor spaces where members of the court could convene and cool themselves from the intense heat of the sun. The Alhambra Palace as well as the Generalife gardens that surround the palace in Granada, Spain survive today as well-preserved examples of the mark of Arabic culture on Spanish architecture and landscape design.
Rectangular fishpond with ducks and lotus planted round with date palms and fruit trees, in a fresco from the Tomb of Nebamun, Thebes, 18th Dynasty
A funerary model of a garden, dating to the Eleventh dynasty of Egypt, circa 2009–1998 BC. Made of painted and gessoed wood, originally from Thebes.
Gardens were much cherished in the Egyptian times and were kept both for secular purposes and attached to temple compounds. Gardens in private homes and villas before the New Kingdom were mostly used for growing vegetables and located close to a canal or the river. However, in the New Kingdom they were often surrounded by walls and their purpose incorporated pleasure and beauty besides utility. Garden produce made out an important part of foodstuff but flowers were also cultivated for use in garlands to wear at festive occasions and for medicinal purposes. While the poor kept a patch for growing vegetables, the rich people could afford gardens lined with sheltering trees and decorative pools with fish and waterfowl. There could be wooden structures forming pergolas to support vines of grapes from which raisins and wine were produced. There could even be elaborate stone kiosks for ornamental reasons, with decorative statues.
Temple gardens had plots for cultivating special vegetables, plants or herbs considered sacred to a certain deity and which were required in rituals and offerings like lettuce to Min. Sacred groves and ornamental trees were planted in front of or near both cult temples and mortuary temples. As temples were representations of heaven and built as the actual home of the god, gardens were laid out according to the same principle. Avenues leading up to the entrance could be lined with trees, courtyards could hold small gardens and between temple buildings gardens with trees, vineyards, flowers and ponds were maintained.
The ancient Egyptian garden would have looked different to a modern viewer than a garden in our days. It would have seemed more like a collection of herbs or a patch of wild flowers, lacking the specially bred flowers of today. Flowers like the iris, chrysanthemum, lily and delphinium (blue), were certainly known to the ancients but do not feature much in garden scenes. Formal bouquets seem to have been composed of mandrake, poppy, cornflower and or lotus and papyrus.
Due to the arid climate of Egypt, tending gardens meant constant attention and depended on irrigation. Skilled gardeners were employed by temples and households of the wealthy. Duties included planting, weeding, watering by means of a shaduf, pruning of fruit trees, digging the ground, harvesting the fruit.
Hellenistic and Roman gardens
It is curious that although the Egyptians and Romans both gardened with vigor, the Greeks did not own private gardens. They did put gardens around temples and they adorned walkways and roads with statues, but the ornate and pleasure gardens that demonstrated wealth in the other communities is seemingly absent.
Roman gardens were a place of peace and tranquility, a refuge from urban life. Ornamental horticulture became highly developed during the development of Roman civilization. The administrators of the Roman Empire (c.100 BC - AD 500) actively exchanged information on agriculture, horticulture, animal husbandry, hydraulics, and botany. Seeds and plants were widely shared. The Gardens of Lucullus (Horti Lucullani) on the Pincian Hill on the edge of Rome introduced the Persian garden to Europe, about 60 BC.