March Fine Item: Gardens of Delight

Arranging flowering plants, shrubs and grasses to please the eye (and the nose) of any who would wander among them at leisure has been an artistic activity worthy of human accolade for many hundreds of years. The Hanging Gardens of Babylon were acknowledged to be one of the Seven Wonders of the World by the second century BC. The extraordinary gardens of the Shugaku-in Imperial Villa in Japan attained noble perfection by1659, just eleven years before the first botanical gardens opened in Edinburgh, Scotland. From 1661 to 1687, Andre Le Notre dedicated more than 25 years of his life to perfecting his sublime vision of nature on the grounds of the Palace of Versailles in France.

But landscaping and gardening have always been possible for anyone in possession of a few seeds or cuttings and a plot of ground, no matter how small. By 1784 the Shaker religious sect were selling paper packets of seeds to gardeners in New England and pamphlets and books began to appear, offering horticultural advice for the appreciative average gardener. In 1832 Louisa Johnson’s book “Every Lady Her Own Flower Garden” was published and ordinary housewives patted seeds into the dirt as gently and lovingly as they might touch the heads of their own children in passing.

March 20, 2008, the day of the Spring equinox is Earth Day. Plant a tree or install a garden and remember for a time that in touching the Earth kindly, its nature is to reward senses and spirits with green bounty.

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