Jeanne Baret

Jeanne Baret (1740-1807)

“Without casting any aspersions on the naturalist for having retained her for such an arduous voyage, I want to give her all the credit for her bravery, a far cry from the gentle pastimes afforded her sex. She dared confront the stress, the dangers, and everything that happened one could realistically expect on such a voyage. Her adventure should, I think, be included in a history of famous women.” How does a young woman of about 24 years of age end up as a botanist’s aide on a French naval ship in 1766? During the voyage Jeanne sees a world that no peasant girl would ever think to imagine filled with wondrous lands,fascinating marine animals and unknown plants that she…

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EURASIA

Why did gardens evolve from East to West?

In all my garden research thus far, I have often wondered why there is so much information on gardens in Europe, the Middle East, China and Japan and seemingly less so or else very hard to find in other countries such as South America. These other civilizations survived for millennia and yet it is only with their colonization that there is the mention of gardens.  I realize that most likely all civilizations had gardens in some form or another, and if that is so, the information was never written or passed down or perhaps it was destroyed by its conquerors. However, for me, the question is still pertinent.  Why did the evolution of the garden form move east to west,…

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Camellia sinensis

Tea Gardens – a not so romantic story

Tea estates or plantations have been known by another name for hundreds if not thousands of years as Tea Gardens. Imagine if you will rows of lush greenery rolling along the hillsides of mountains perhaps with a cool mist in the air due to the elevation. This lovely picture you have conjured is found in only certain countries in the world. The countries where the best tea is grown are in China, Japan, Taiwan (Formosa), and Sri Lanka (Ceylon). It has to do with their geography. Tea grows best in mountainous areas of elevations up to 6,000 feet, where there is a wet yet temperate climate, warm sunny days, and cool breezy nights. It is under these conditions that the…

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Flora

Flora, Goddess of Flowers

OK, so she is not a real person but Flora certainly had an influence in early Greek and Roman societies and later in the art world. But already I must partially retract the words that Flora was not a real person, because there seems to be some disagreement on this point. The Romans said that Flora was a woman of pleasure, wealthy due to her trade, and left her wealth to the Roman senate on the proviso that the money was used to celebrate her birthday. The seemingly embarrassed senators agreed to this donation (could it be because they were clients?), gave Flora the title of goddess and thereafter held the Floralia on her birthday. True or not it makes…

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The Hortus Conclusus

I am continuing the theme of the Virgin Mary and the garden because I feel that the idea of the hortus conclusus should not be left out. The hortus conclusus is a particular type of enclosed garden in the sense that it is tied symbolically to the Virgin Mary. While the hortus conclusus takes the form of a garden in Medieval and Renaissance art it is actually a representation of the Virgin Mary. And yet many of its actual physical attributes are taken from even earlier centuries of garden making. When we look far back to the earliest Oriental gardens of Persia, Egypt, Babylon and Mesopotamia we see walled gardens filled with fruit trees, flowers, water and places to sit….

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The Garden in a Nunnery, Part 2: Radegund of Poitiers

Radegund of Poitiers, France Radegund of Poitiers was one of the first Frankish women who founded and ruled over nunneries in France. Her life reads like a soap opera. Born around the year of 520, Radegund was the daughter of a Thuringian King, Berthaire. While just a child, her father was murdered by his brother, Hermanfred, who took Radegund and her brother to raise as his own. But in 531 the Franks invaded Thuringia and defeated and destroyed the Thuringian royal family. The children were captured by the invading Frankish King Clothaire I, who claimed them as spoils of war. Radegund lived with Clothaire in Athies when at the age of 18 he moved her to Soissons to be his…

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Summer (Aestas) from the series The Seasons by Pieter van der Heyden after Pieter Bruegel the Elder

Woman’s Work

Chores in the field and garden were often divided between men and women by body strength, a strategy that has been passed down through time. It has its benefits, but truly is unnecessary. Most of the time the basest of garden chores were handed down to women; the weeding. In English estates weeding was done almost exclusively by women. English records from Rotherhithe (Surrey) for 1354 list women as weeders. Women employed in the 16 century show rates of pay at 3 d a day to remove convolvulus, dandelions, charlock, cockles, dock, dodder, groundsel, thistles and nettles. The women were paid less than the men, but also seemed to hold less value than many of the garden implements they may…

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The Garden in a Nunnery, Part 1

“Come, I’ll dispose of thee among a sisterhood of holy nuns” Romeo and Juliet. Monasteries have been around in many forms. In the East men attracted by the hermits life preferred living in isolated cells (room) to the cloistered community. Early monks depended on the alms collected to survive. If these were insufficient then there would have been a need for a garden. Western monasteries appear to have always been cloistered as a community. Gardens were always part of the plan. Some of the earliest gardens were found in monasteries all throughout Europe. The monastic gardens served many purposes.  Food for the table, flowers for the altar and herbs for the sick were all grown within the walled grounds of…

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Catharine Parr Traill – (1802 –1899)

Catharine Parr Traill is important to Canadian history as is her sister Susanna Moodie for authoring a number of books, some which offer the reader a view of early Canadian history. She is not like most women in garden history who tend to be royalty or wealthy with funds at their disposal for grand gardens or greenhouse collections. She is not a plant hunter or a botanist who identifies species and then sends the moverseas to be catalogued and named by men. How then does she fit into a garden history? Catharine is unique and she belongs in garden history because she has seen a world few of us ever will. She immigrated to Canada in 1832 a time when…

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