Throughout history, gardens have had a variety of uses, from being lush places to escape city life, to important medicinal and learning facilities. Across the world, garden styles have differed due to the available flora and the landscapes they were set in. Keep reading to discover some ancient gardens that can still be viewed today.
Set upon Hŭqiū Shan (Tiger Hill), are many ancient attractions, such as the grave of King He Lu, a Wu noble who died in 496 BC. He was believed to have been protected by a White Tiger which many reported seeing lying over his grave. Within the Wanjing Villa set on the slopes, are numerous ancient bonsai trees, and in the town below the hill, you can view four famous examples of Chinese gardens titled Cānglàng Tíng (Great Wave Pavilion), Liúyuán (Lingering Garden), Shīzi Lín (Lion Grove Garden), and Zhuōzhèng Yuán (Humble Administrator's Garden).
The oldest botanical garden in Europe can be found in Orto Botanic, in Padua, Italy. It was created in 1545 by Duke Vicino Orsini in memory of his departed wife, and today, the garden still stands on its creation site. The original oldest botanical garden is the Botanical Garden of Pisa, which was created two years earlier in 1543, but was re-located twice throughout the centuries. Today, you can view it by visiting the University of Pisa.
Japan is home to some of the most well-preserved ancient gardens, referred to as ‘dry’ Zen gardens, and the ‘wet’ green gardens. Within Kyoto you have the chance to view both of these types, in two temple complexes.
The lush ‘moss’ garden within the Saihō-ji Buddhist temple was created in 1339 to reflect the change over to Zen Buddhism. Here, you can view the beautiful golden pond which is in the Kanji shape for heart - located in the centre of the garden. Interestingly, the garden was created with fine sand, but without moss. The moss came much later during the Edo period, when the temple flooded. The monks did not have the funds to clear it, and the moss quickly became the temples most notable feature. Presently, the moss garden is home to over 120 moss species.
The oldest ‘dry’ garden can be seen within the garden of Ryoanji Temple, and this was created in 1499. The way the sand is raked into spirals, and each of the 15 stones are positioned, creates the illusion of islands surrounded by water. In ancient times, monks often used the stones to depict well-known landmarks, such as mountains, temples, or hills.
Within Madagascar lies the Royal Hill of Ambohimanga, a site used by a variety of royal families from the early Vazimba, to the Merina, to rule over the area. Here, the various royal families amassed a collection of plants over the years from around the island, protecting them and the large forest found below the city. A large majority of these plants have medicinal properties, and one of the best, the Madagascan Periwinkle, also known as the Catharanthus roseus, has spread across the world.
Interestingly, this species was used in place of insulin by soldiers in the Philippines during World War Two, during times of sever insulin shortages. In the 1950s scientists conducting research on the Madagascan Periwinkle were looking for its anti-diabetic properties, but discovered many alkaloids in its tissues have cancer combating properties, which are now used in modern cancer treatments.
- United Kingdom:
Created in 1621, the botanical gardens within Oxford University stand as the oldest of their kind in England. The garden spans over 2 hectares, has numerous greenhouses, and is one of the original physics (meaning medicinal) gardens in Europe. Many famous authors have visited the garden seeking inspiration, such as J.R.R Tolkein and Lewis Carrol. In fact, the Waterlily House appears in the background of the original print of ‘Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland’ and is entitled “The Queen's Croquet-Ground”.
Main image credited to Miguel A. Monjas (Creative Commons).
Author Bio: Roseanna McBain is a writer for the South African booking and accommodation website, TravelGround.