No civilization exists that has not felt the need to create its own gardens. And even though their history is still largely unknown to us – because, as opposed to architecture, a garden, consisting of living matter, can cease to exist without leaving any trace except in drawings or accounts – there is no doubt that the presence of the garden has always accompanied man’s existence.
It is thought that the first gardens were above all utilitarian, although personally I doubt this. It is our desire or, rather, I would say our innate necessity for beauty and creation, and which forms part of our genetic code, that has always urged us not only to delight in the beauty of the surrounding nature, but also to create our personal version of it.
Whereas uncontaminated, wild Nature is often hostile and inhospitable to man, in a garden everything is possible. To avert Nature’s obscure, unknown aspects, man clothed the first gardens with a multitude of mystical meanings. The simplicity of medieval gardens is only apparent. Here every element, every plant, every form has a profound meaning that goes far beyond the mere aesthetic aspect. And likewise in Persian, Greek or Roman gardens.
In the course of time this mystical dimension has grown weaker but the garden remains what it was at the outset – a dream of perfect Nature. Of Nature that we can manage to submit and to shape according to our pleasure, extracting from it the aspects that most gratify and satisfy us. A microcosm created exclusively for us, in which the laws of nature at times give way to human caprice, in which everything that frightens us or which cannot be managed is excluded from the perimeter of the garden. It is possible to know and understand an era or a civilization even by just observing its gardens.
The garden is the mirror of our innermost fears, desires, beliefs and aspirations. It is the representation of our perfect world, of our little corner of paradise on earth.
Ancient Egyptians grew flowers for bouquets, for offering them in temples and for use in medicine and embalming. Some flowers had religious and ritual roles. Of these, the most important was Nymphaea caerulea – the sacred blue-flowering water lily – the symbol of Upper Egypt.
The lotus, disappearing during the winter and then re-growing in spring, was the symbol of resurrection after death. In early summer, the pools of palace and temples would be transformed into a sea of blue and white flowers (above blue water lily, Egyptian used to grow the white Nymphea lotus too