The Brief History of Container Gardening

By Chris Edmunds

 
With the first cities came a new leisured class and gardening for pleasure became an option.
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Gardening dates all the way back to the first time that humans decided to plant seeds deliberately. Over 23,000 years ago, our early ancestors began planting and growing their own food. Giving up their nomadic lifestyle, these humans laid down roots that signified the beginning of civilization.

tropical-garden.jpgAs important as this was to human history, modern gardeners are more interested in the later years when humans began dabbling with garden design. This is where history starts to look a little more like what we do in our own backyards today. With the first cities came a new leisured class and gardening for pleasure, instead of for food & fiber, became an option. We developed an eye for aesthetics and started making design choices to make our gardens more beautiful.

Ancient Gardening

The first large kingdoms we know of were in the deserts of Persia, Egypt, and Babylon—modern day Iran, Egypt, and Iraq. These kingdoms held humanity’s first great cities, where the affluent constructed elaborate gardens. They spent their immense wealth toward developing impressive structures and irrigation systems. We can confidently say their gardens were incredible and would probably still be impressive today, even with our standards and technology.

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These ancient gardens were often filled with exotic tropical plants that were carefully tended to thrive in the dry, desert conditions. These gardens became a place to relax and escape the harsh conditions. They loved the contrast between the hot outdoor sand and the lush, tropical vibe of the gardens.

Of the ancient gardens, the fabled Hanging Gardens of Babylon are the most famous. Legend has it that King Nebuchadnezzar built the hanging gardens to cheer up his homesick bride, Amytis. She had come to Babylon to be married in a political arrangement. The dry desert of the Mesopotamian plateau (near modern day Baghdad) made her miss the green mountains of her homeland. The gardens were built to give her a little piece of paradise. The gardens boasted a wide variety of tropical species, supported by an elaborate irrigation system (and a lot of labor).

Things have changed a lot since then, but we still appreciate the luxury of beautiful blooms that we nurture to defiantly overcome our harsh conditions.

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Classic Gardening

After the fall of the Roman Empire, the impressive gardens of ancient history took a step backward for a few centuries. As Rome’s famous, decadent gardens faded, the focus of gardening shifted back to utilitarian. Farming became a staple once again, and gardens of the Middle Ages were mostly tended by monks growing herbs and flowers within their monasteries.

During the Renaissance, science and culture experienced a revitalization, and with it returned luxury gardening. With growing middle and wealthy classes, people began to keep gardens in their homes again. It wasn’t until 17th and 18th centuries, however, that the art of garden design took center stage. Europe became home to some astonishingly decadent gardens. Some of these were even lavish enough to inspire outrage and revolution!

Modern Gardening

Kaw-modern-gardening.pngCloser to home, most gardening in America was mostly about sustenance until halfway through the 20th century. After World War II, the explosion of suburban development encouraged a focus on decorative flowers instead of food. After decades with little advancement in plants or flower bed design, big companies began breeding and introducing more high-performance annuals.

In the ‘90s, container gardening started to look much more like what we are most familiar with now. With so many varieties of annuals available, people began to get more and more creative. Choices were abundant, and people began customizing container designs to fit exactly what they want.

 

Today, the interest in container gardening continues to rise. With so many plants designed to thrive in our often harsh conditions, the sky's the limit for container garden design. At Kaw Valley, it’s easier than ever to create a little oasis in your own yard - making the luxury of the first exotic garden escapes possible right at home. Get started on your own container gardening adventure with the help of our team at our greenhouse in Derby.

 

 
 

Our Gardening Newsletter

 

Need some advice on how to start a beautiful garden? Sign up for our email newsletter, and receive free gardening articles, resources, and container designs to your inbox.

 
 
 

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