of Garden Design
The Persian Carpet Influence
The oldest pictures we have of gardens are from Egypt-paintings
of scenes with plants and animals combined in ways that provide
pleasure as well as function. One such painting, dated 1400 BC,
is in the British Museum, and it depicts an ornamental fishpond.
The pond is a rectangle with a stone border. In the pond are fish,
water fowl, flowers, and clumps of reeds at the edges. Around
the pond are fruit trees, and to one side, there is a servant
holding a basket of fruit, pomegranates or grapes, and a wine
the 3rd century BC market gardens, gardens growing fruit and vegetables
for sale, were common in the Mediterranean and Eastern regions.
In many a town, there was a grove of trees or park of pleasurable
or religious nature (sacred grove). Herb growing was associated
especially with temples that required their use for ritual and
worship. There were frankincense, myrrh, cornflowers, poppies,
lotuses, and chamomile. Chamomile
was identified by pollen analysis as a main constituent in the
embalming oil used to mummify Ramses II who died in 1224 BC.
carpets give us a good idea of what early gardens were like because
these are stylized representations of the gardens. The borders
suggest boundary walls and paths. The interior designs are usually
comprised of four quarters of equal size, each being divided into
six squares. They contain alternately flowerbeds, with flowers
in square and circle patterns, and plane trees located at the
inner corners of the four sections. The rulers sometimes took
the carpets into the garden to lay on the ground or to use as
a canopy against the sun. The use of the carpet this way represents
the canopied platform or open- sided pavilion that the ruler would
erect over the intersection of the waterways. There were always
four waterways, heavenly rivers, and they formed a cross. When
the Moslems conquered Persia, they readily embraced this garden
plan because of its affinity with the descriptions of the Islamic
Paradise, a place that held all the delights inhabitants of burning
desert regions would long for-fountains, shade, and fruit. Marco
Polo described a real Persian garden as a paradise planted with
the finest fruit of the world with four conduits: one flowing
with wine, one with milk, one with honey, and one with water.
This garden concept spread throughout the area conquered by the
Moslems in the 7th century.
Greeks and RomansHanging Gardens of Babylon
The Hanging Gardens of Babylon, one of the seven wonders of the
world in what is now Iraq, was really a terraced roof garden built
over a massive, arching stone foundation and huge storage rooms
whose roofs were waterproofed. Soil was added deep enough to grow
trees, and deep wells supplied water by means of a hydraulic machine.
Records show that thyme, coriander,
saffron, anise, poppy, mandrake, rosemary,
and hemp were grown alongside ornamentals.
as the Islamic conquests spread the concept of the Persian garden,
so the conquests of Alexander the Great (356 -323 BC) did the
same throughout the Hellenistic world. There exists little detail
of the descriptions of Persian and Greek gardens. Theophrastus
(371 to 287 BC), the father of botany and student of Plato and
Aristotle, had a garden that was a place for study for his friends
and disciples. He left the garden to them upon his death. We can
assume that this garden was one where plants were studied and
may be the first botanic garden in existence.
Romans developed the true art of European gardening. We have descriptions
of a Roman villa in the writings of Varro (c.116 to 27), a scholar
and author, and Pliny (23 to 79), a naturalist and writer. Both
had extensive gardens. Villa gardens had covered arcades with
windows placed to take advantage of the views beyond, open areas,
and enclosed courtyard gardens, situated to retain heat and protect
from the wind, keeping them pleasant in summer as well as winter.
These gardens were geometrically precise with colonnades and statuary,
topiary and plane trees, and canals and fountains. They had raised
beds where coriander, dill,
fennel, and many other herbs were cultivated.
Persian rivers became waterworks in the hands of expert Roman
engineers. Pliny describes these in the Tuscan villa where everything
was fed by streams that never ran dry, feeding a multitude of
fountains. One fountain appeared in the center of a small court
shaded by four plane trees as in the Persian carpet design. Another
interior fountain with a bowl surrounded by tiny jets made a lovely
villa boasted of an aviary and a luxurious dining area with a
revolving table bearing food and drink with alternate spouts for
warm and cold water. Clipped arbors and topiary,
the art of training and clipping bushes and trees into artificial
shapes, are found for the first time in the Tuscan villa. The
Romans were avid collectors of Greek statuary that appear in their
gardens, lining the walkways. Some of these details have been
confirmed in remains found at Herculaneum, Pompeii, Coninbriga,
Portugal, and Fishbourne in Sussex, England.