Thursday, March 4, 2010

History books

I enjoy reading about the history of the garden. It has something to do with perspective in time and trying to understand how we got to where we are today. In some sense a garden as we know it today is still a new idea. Consider that for a thousand years we hunted and gathered as we were primarily nomadic in nature until some point when we decided that settling down in one spot had its advantages too. So we learned agriculture and farming. At many points in history a garden was a forest, with trees and wild animals. Ancient Egypt, Ancient Rome and Greece and even during the renaissance period in countries such as France and England a forest was considered a garden - but a garden for royalty. To enjoy such gardens it was necessary to transport water from outside sources. This was and still is an expensive thing to do, divert water from lakes and rivers via canals. Of course if you wanted fountains that cost extra. Flowers were generally grown for rituals for use in temples and churches. Growing flowers for beauty was available again only for the wealthy. Although not a flower grower herself, Madame de Pompadour, known for her ties to Sevres porcelain, would spray her porcelain roses with perfume called the attar of roses. Eventually the ordinary person grew flowers for themselves but only after it had been in vogue by their betters.
Of course this is only a temptation I give you about the history of the garden. I am presently reading volume one of a two volume set called A History of Garden Art by Marie Luise Gothein first published in English from German in 1928. I have a long way to go, but already she offers amazing insight to some of the earliest periods of time.  
A favourite of mine is The Story of Gardening by Richardson Wright. Mr. Wright (1887-1961) wrote many, many gardening  books and makes for very enjoyable reading .
Women Gardeners a History by Yvonne Cuthbertson changes perspective and looks at the woman's role in the garden and gardening through time.
Finally, The Garden by Howard Loxton, is a coffee table size book that has lots of lovely colour pictures. Some history, mostly European, as well as information of design and the plants. 
Tip of the iceberg regarding the books which means I have many more hours of reading ahead of me. Write in and tell me of your favorite gardening books (not necessarily history ones) !

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