Mary Granville Pendarves Delany 1700-1788

“I have invented a new way of imitating flowers” (Mary Delany) I have come across the name Mary Delany twice in my research, usually in the field of botanical art. I thought her art interesting but perhaps not worth commenting on. Then I changed my mind. A new book on her life came into bookstores last year and that is where I stumbled upon The Paper Garden, Mrs. Delany {begins her life’s work} at 72, by Molly Peacock. Her life is simply fascinating. This book is well written and full of interesting tidbits; well worth reading. Along with The Paper Garden and other sources, I will tell you about Mrs. Mary Delany of London and hope that it tempts you to…

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The Ancient Egyptian garden

The Ancient Egyptian garden goes back to 2800 BC. It was formal in structure. Attached to the house was the portico, a covered porch that could be supported by pillars. The portico connected the house to the outdoors and the garden. In the center of the garden was a pool, either rectangular, oblong or T-shaped. Around the pool could be trees of fig, palm, sycamore, pomegranate, nut trees and jujube. Sometimes arbours of grapevines circled the outer edges of the garden. Flowers would be grown in beds or in pots lining walkways to the house. Flower beds tended to be in solid colours and contained cornflowers, poppies, papyrus, daisies, mandrakes, roses, irises, myrtle, jasmine, mignonettes, convolvulus, celosia, narcissus, ivy, lychnis,…

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A typical hortus conclusus

The Mary Garden

The Medieval period in Europe was an interesting but bumpy time for women. Women were viewed as the instrument of evil, an attitude encouraged by the church. They were subservient to men and led degraded lives. There existed anti-feminist literature and the fabliaux, which are rhymed verses that spoke of contempt for women and their deceit. In the early twelfth and thirteenth centuries this attitude began to change. Part was due to the introduction of the chivalric code of honour. The cult of chivalry, or courtly love, existed only among the nobility. The gentlewoman who looked for love or romance outside of marriage found it with the chivalric knight’s attention. Women of nobility enjoyed great attention, were deferred to and…

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Nur Jahan, Moghul Queen Part 2

“ …she erects very expensive buildings in all directions – sarais, or halting-places for travellers and merchants, and pleasure gardens and palaces such as no one has ever made before.” – Pelsaert The Mughal period in India was one where culture and the arts were of great importance to the royal family and the ruling classes below them. Nur Jahan was fortunate indeed to have lived in this time and to have been born to a wealthy and powerful family. She was skilled in two languages, was considered an accomplished poet, designed and created clothing and jewellery, an art lover and collector, and she is famously known for her prowess as a huntress, her horsemanship and long black hair. It…

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Nur Jahan, Moghul Queen – Part 1

Of all the women I have researched and written about so far,the story of Nur Jahan is the most complete, the most reasonably well documented, and plenty has been written about her. In the first part of this post I will focus on the life of Nur Jahan with reference to the gardens. From Wikipedia: The Mughal Empire or Mogul (also Moghul) Empire in traditional English usage, was an imperial power in the Indian subcontinent south (India Pakistan Bangladesh) and from about 1526 to 1757. The Mughal emperors were Muslims and direct descendants of Genghis Khan through Chagatai Khan and Timur. At the height of their power in the late 17th and early 18thcenturies, they controlled most of the subcontinent….

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Maria Sibylla Merian, illustrator and naturalist

A few summers ago I was in New York city enjoying the artwork of the Frick Museum. I always like to check out the museum store afterward and this time I came upon a small book of illustrations by Maria Sibylla Merian titled Insects & Flowers. A wonderful little book with large and colourful illustrations of exotic flowers surrounded by creepy crawlers of all sorts. I had to have it. Little did I know that this Renaissance artist had regained popularity in the last few decades. Her story is one you will admire.

Hanging Gardens of Babylon

Considered one of the Seven Wonders of the World, the Hanging Gardens are still a mystery today. The story goes, around 600 BC, King Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon (now modern day Iraq) created these wondrous gardens to appease his new homesick wife the Princess Amytis of Persia (now northern Iran). She missed the green hills of her homeland and the King who was considered to be a great builder of his time, thought nothing about building lush green gardens for her. Now that’s love. The garden was terraced with arched vaults and stood 75 feet high (22.5 M) and 100 feet square (30 M). It was built of stone and brick and was capable of growing large trees. A well with…

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Queen Hatshepsut

A couple of time ago I wrote a post on the ancient Egyptian garden, which you can find here. Since writing it I have found out a few more things about gardening at that time but more specifically, the discovery that Queen Hatshepsut had made a name for herself in early plant exploration. So this post is about Queen Hatshepsut but is also an update on ancient Egyptian gardens. Hatshepsut, the fifth ruler of the 18th Dynasty, daughter of Thuthmosis I and Queen Ahmose, married her brother Thuthmosis II. They had one daughter, Neferure. With the death of her husband,a son by a secondary wife became king and Hatshepsut his regent. According to Egyptian ways a woman cannot become a pharaoh;…

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Magdalena Poulle

Magdalena Poulle 1632-1699, Netherlands

Magdalena Poulle was born in Calais in northern France in 1632 and was christened in Amsterdam in 1644. She grew up with five brothers and one sister in a wealthy merchant family. Magdalena married twice and both times widowed, with no children. In 1680 she bought the ruin of a manor house called Gunterstein near the village of Breukelen in the province of Utrecht in the Dutch Republic, which had been devastated by the French invasion in 1672. The purchase of this house allowed Magdalena the title “Lady of the manor of Gunterstein and Tienhoven” a privilege she perhaps sought out since no new titles for nobility were being created at that time. By 1681 Gunterstein was rebuilt and the gardens…

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Chinese Flower Goddesses

While researching for another post I came upon this web site from China that lists gods and goddesses and the flowers that they represent. In my attempt to confirm the names and the story behind each one I was only able to find one other listing. This listing had some duplication of goddess and flower but not all. Perhaps there is more than one list, or perhaps it depends where in China you live. It seems that these goddesses were real people, usually of high society and from what I can tell of ancient times. I was able to confirm a couple of the stories, which were quite lengthy, but not all. My lack of Chinese history and culture, and…

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