Gardening satisfies a number of basic human needs. A garden is a piece of land that is, specifically, set aside for the purposes of cultivating plants, herbs, trees or flowers for personal reasons. These reasons can range from beautification, medicinal, commercial or domestic purposes. Gardening has been practiced for thousands of years and it evolved from satisfaction of man’s basic needs to food cultivation for domestic use. Later this process incorporated other aspects of gardening such as taking care of plants for aesthetics or growing it as kind of food for animal species over the years. This paper will define the notion of gardening and reasons why people are involved in it.
History of Gardening
Gardening is the act of growing plants for aesthetic, medicinal or commercial purposes. It has been a favorite pastime for many individuals the world over regardless of their age or social status. A garden can simply be defined as a piece of land that is set aside for the purposes of cultivating plants for the purposes of beauty, personal consumption or business purposes. Since its inception, this act of cultivating has undergone various transformations in terms of evolution with regards to the types of gardening, gardening practices and incorporation of gardening styles from different parts of the world. These transformations and advancements can be accredited with shaping how we comprehend the process of gardening today.
Mankind started cultivating crops for practical purposes to sustain himself and his community. It would be prudent to say that ancient gardeners helped people to abandon the hunter-gatherer way of life and start a living in formal human villages or settlements (Rose 2). However, modern gardening as we now know can be traced back thousands of years ago to Ancient Egypt and Mesopotamia where certain plants or herbs were grown for their medicinal and aesthetic value. This is apart from the main purpose of gardening which was to provide nutrition to people and their dependents. Early gardening, however, was initially devoid of any external influences. However, time passed and people began to cultivate gardens for beauty purposes dictated by civilization and social stratification according to classes. For example, gardens in Ancient Egypt were enclosed with walls and fragrant flowers, fruits and vegetables. Depending on the social status of their owners these gardens had vineyards, fish ponds or temples because the Ancient Egyptians believed that their gods loved gardens (Lambert).
Early Roman and Greek Gardening
Lambert states that the Greeks were not accomplished gardeners but they had gardens for practical purposes. For example, they grew vegetables, vineyards there as well as trees in temples and public places to provide a shelter. Romans are known to introduce modern gardening to the Western world so to speak. Ancient Romans had mastered the art of topiary and their gardens were adorned with different sculptures. Their gardens were also well laid out and contained the hedges, vines and a vast collection of flowers such as lilies and lavender. They also introduced various forms of gardening when they conquered the land what is now known as Britain. Consequently, they introduced new flowers, plants and gardening techniques acquired from the conquered lands, such as Egypt, for example. The Roman conquerors are also recognized for introducing roses, leeks, turnips, plums and even cabbages to the Western world (Lambert).
Gardening in the 13th Century
According to Lambert, after the fall of the Roman Empire, gardening declined in Western Europe. However, churches still grew flowers in basic gardens to decorate altars and beautify their garden compounds. They also grew herbs and to make medicine. Later on the process of gardening was restored in Europe in the late 13th century when rich people had gardens to grow medicinal herbs and food there in addition to make their homes more beautiful. In the 14th and 15th centuries, a revolution in gardening saw the introduction of raised flower beds, fruit trees and turf seats.
Gardening in the 16th Century
After a while in the 16th century, gardening was influenced by classical ideas. This happened because of a resurgence in the philosophies of Ancient Rome and Greece. Such elements as symmetry, proportion and balance became an integral feature of gardening. The gardens in those times were adorned with sculptures, grottoes, and water pools. Garden layouts were comprised of hedges and flower beds laid out in squares and divided by gravel paths. Knot gardening was also very popular during that period. This entailed the formation of complex patterns like knots. The spread of Western gardening during that period was accelerated by the formation of British colonies in North America (Lambert).
18th Century Gardening
Lambert affirms that gardening in the 18th century was marked by a rebellion against a formal gardening in preference for a “natural” outlook. This included the introduction of bridges, shrubberies and follies like replica temples. This era in gardening saw the rise of famous gardeners such asWilliam Kent. He was famous for creating a garden in Rosham which pretty much still looks the same like hundreds of years ago. The Society of Gardeners was founded in 1752 in England. The 18th Century was also marked by the introduction of public gardens in London which upper echelon classes enjoyed greatly (Lambert).
19th Century Gardening
The 19th century was famous for the advancements in the world of gardening. In 1829, Dr. Nathaniel Ward inadvertently discovered that plants formed their own micro-climate when kept under sealed glass. This made it easier to transport them over the long distances without compromising on their quality. Besides, in 1830 Edwin Budding invented the lawn mower. This century also experienced the introduction of greenhouses in gardening with the largest one being built in 1851 by Joseph Paxton at Crystal Palace in England. Well-trimmed lawns and a mass of flowers became a fad as well as a new garden style known as gardenesque that displayed a large variety of flowers in a small space. By the way, many gardeners of that period returned to geometric forms and imitation of Chinese, Japanese as well as Italian styles of gardening. The rise of public parks to create recreational spaces for the growing urban population in cities and towns was remarkable (Lambert).
20th Century Gardening
Gardening in the early 20th century was influenced by the Arts and Crafts Movement due to the belief that the Industrial Revolution had led to a lack of taste. Gardens were designed with patterns of flowers, immaculate hedges and traditional English flowers. Moreover, in 1926 Andreas Stihl invented a chainsaw . There was also a rise in the gardening movement known as modernism which rejected the outdated gardening styles and embraced the use of new materials and tidy gardens (Lambert).
Types of Gardening
The different varieties of gardening are influenced by individual taste, space, and personal budget. Therefore, gardening as an activity depends on our capabilities and, of course, what we want to cultivate. However, gardeners’ abilities tend to be restricted in terms of their budget and the area in which they want to engage their skills. The types of gardening can be broadly classified into residential gardening,indoor gardening, water gardening and specialized gardening.
This is the most common gardening technique. Namely, one does not require a technical training or a permit to grow something, or even earn a small income from cultivation. This type of gardening has recently become popular due to the growing demand for organic food and health purposes as now many people feel worried about the heavy contamination of food by pesticides which greatly influenced the food-related illnesses. One also does not require a large area to cultivate their produce, thus making it easier to maintain and deal with complications in a timely manner.
This is the second type of gardening. Despite the fact that it bears a number of similarities with residential gardening, so they should be interpreted as two different types. This is because a residential gardening entails an amateur level of gardening skills or none of them, but indoor gardening needs a certain amount of expertise and training. In some cases indoor gardening may involve special greenhouses with irrigation, light and temperature mechanisms that need to be attuned to ensure that plants receive the right amount of water, warmth or light. This needs to be done in a right way to ensure that external temperatures do not effect the growth of plants within the greenhouse. This type of gardening provides the possibility to cultivate the plants even in other seasons. Scott states that a simplified version of indoor gardening entails growing of potted plants indoors i.e. in your home or office. This does not require a large amount of skills as cultivating plants in a greenhouse, for example. However, the potting soil should be customized to the plant you wish to grow. Moreover, one should not forget about adequate light, water and nutrients as required for each plant.
From time immemorial, the sight and resonance of water body have always piqued the interest of people. Therefore, its presence in a garden will always add an attractive element to it. This leads to the third type of gardening-water gardening. According to Kelsey-Wood and Barthel, this type of gardening requires a greater amount of responsibility in terms of care needed and prior experience in managing a water garden. Comparing water gardening with other gardening types, it requires very specific and professional knowledge to be accomplished (6). Water gardens can sometimes include fountains, miniature waterfalls or even ponds. Some water gardens even have and extravagant combinations of lighting or aquatic animals. The beauty of a water garden to accomplished gardeners lies in the sheer responsibility of its successful maintenance. However, all water gardens regardless of their size will need a constant care through the year. With adequate planning, one can ensure that there is a wholesome balance between the living and ornamental features of a water garden (Kelsey-Wood and Barthel). This provides that the garden can almost be self-sustainable with minimal maintenance inputs from you as a gardener.
Specialized gardening is the last type of gardening and is most likely one of the most difficult type of gardening method. Like water gardening, specialized gardening tends to be more focused on aesthetics rather than on production of goods that can be consumed by man. These gardens are mostly designed in to conform to the changing gardening trends or, for instance, the preservation of native plant varieties to attract wildlife (Knapp 43).
Why We Garden
The reasons that people engage themselves in gardening are diverse as well as satisfactions that different people receive from it. Some people do gardening as a hobby, or for aesthetic, spiritual, or health purposes, to keep fit or simply to save some money. However, whatever the reason is, the only thing that matters is that one obtains a sense of accomplishment or gratification from the activity they admire.
Gardening as a Hobby
We live in a fast-paced world, and it is not surprising that people seek the ways to unwind and forget the hassles of life. Some people want to escape from the reality of life’s problems even for a while. Therefore, people will mostly turn to their hobbies or forms of entertainment that are tailored to relax both their bodies and most importantly, their minds. Gardening is one of those hobbies that effectively soothes the mind and gives the body a well-deserved though light workout. Some people revel in growing plants and nurturing them with tender care to maturity (Mayseless 171).
Most people engage in gardening to enhance the beauty of their surroundings. By nature, human beings are visual creatures. This is why the thought of a beautiful garden recalls a picture of beautiful flowers, plants growing on the immaculately arranged flower beds or well-trimmed hedge or lawn. Therefore, a home with a beautiful and well-manicured lawn is both a delight to look at and a pleasure to live in. Burns-Millyard elaborates this fact by stating that formal flower gardens enhance the overall home look. One does not need to have a piece of land to make their environs look better. You can simply add containers of your favorite flowers to your front porch to make your house more inviting or grow small pots of herbs in your kitchen to spice meals or freshen the room.
Cases of food-borne illnesses and contamination have regularly appeared in the media. This situation had sparked a growing interest in organic gardening due to the increasing amounts of pesticides found in commercially grown produce. The processed food, however, contains preservatives or additives which may affect consumer health in the long run. According to Burch, growing your own pesticide-free food is important to our health, because media articles have found a relationship between poor health and various diseases (3). This is because contaminants can be found everywhere: in the air we breathe, our food and water. Therefore, the only way to reduce the quantity of toxins we ingest is by having a garden to grow your own food. There is nothing like the feeling of being able to go to your garden and pick freshly grown produce for use in your kitchen.
The price of organic produce is relatively high compared to other products. Therefore, it would be considerably cheaper to grow our own produce. Miller cites an example whereby a pound of organic tomatoes cost $ 4.95, while a packet of tomato seeds and potting soil goes for 89 cents and $ 7 respectively. It would be relatively cheaper to grow your own tomatoes and receive twice as much produce at a lower price. Not only do you save on costs, but also have a fresh supply of food at your doorstep. Organic produce is not the only area in which one can save money. Growing your own flowers ensures you have a steady supply of seasonal flowers throughout the year (65). Therefore, with the rising cost of living and struggling economy, gardening can provide an avenue for people to reduce their living expenses and live comfortably within a strained budget.
A majority of people have ventured on a garden and experienced a feeling of happiness, rejuvenation, inspiration and a sense of being at peace with nature and God. Welch and Marshall state that gardening is much more than simply the physical aspect of planting seeds and nurturing plants in order to enjoy the fruits of our labor. Additionally, gardening can also enhance an individual’s spirituality and show how one can connect with the mystical or religious segment of life (40). For a number of years, gardening has been a kind of opportunity to find an inner peace and re-connect with their Maker. According to Welch and Marshall, an increasing number of people such as psychologists and spiritual leaders have advocated for gardening as a way of refreshing and cultivating an individual’s spiritual needs. They have discovered that the timeless tradition of blending meditation, prayers or silence with the daily labors of tilling, watering or pruning gardens has a healing effect (39). Therefore, gardening can help to clear the haze of the fast and noisy modern world that has transformed us into money minting machines with no time to unravel the mysteries of life.
Consequently, gardening accustoms us to life’s struggles and challenges by satisfying the human longing to bring a sense of revitalization, productivity and balance to our lives. Elements of health restoration, mental growth and physical welfare are part and parcel of the spirit of gardening. As a result, gardening enlightens us on such aspects of our lives as our interdependence with nature and connection between labor and creativity. This process of cultivating also shows how to connect to our tranquil and innate states of being, and how we can use this awareness to discern the spiritual facts that we are unable to unravel in other areas of our lives (Welch and Marshall 38). For example, daily gardening and watching our plants die or thrive through the seasons helps us to appreciate the cycle of life. This is because we have the chance to witness the plants through the seasons of flourishing or dying, seeding or bearing fruit and being healthy or grappling with diseases. In other words, we have a deeper appreciation of life and witness the marvelous mysteries of our Creator.
Some individuals view gardening as a method of exercising and keeping trim and in shape. Gardening requires a lot of movement and in some cases strenuous exertion or lifting of heavy objects. Such movements include hoeing, pruning, planting, stretching and straining which in turn help us to keep fit by setting various muscles of our body in motion. According to Coulson, incorporating various modes of exercise such as gardening also helps us not to be bored with conventional exercise routines. This also ensures that we are working different muscle groups (1). Therefore, such activities can be counted as the exercises to burn the calories.
Gardening has been a favorite pursuit for many individuals around the world. It is a universal activity that is practiced all over the world for different purposes ranging from adding a beauty value to personal surroundings, spiritual purposes and to growing food for personal consumption. Individuals also partake in gardening as a leisure pursuit, commercial interest or for a competitive undertaking. The very act of gardening has undergone a revolution over the hundreds of years from a simple activity of food provision to gardening methods that are purely served for aesthetic purposes.