Thursday, June 28, 2012

The Garden of Time

Take a walk through a flower garden and walk through, see, and smell time. Each of those well known flowers has a story that takes their introduction to the garden back to a specific time and place. If you know their history, a walk through a flower garden is a walk through time.

The tall hollyhocks returned from the Crusades in the saddlebags of knights in the mid 1100's A.D. In fact, Eleanor of Aquitaine may have brought back hollyhock seeds from the second Crusade, which she went on while queen of France. 

The word tulip comes from a Persian word meaning turban. Tulips arrived in Europe in the 1500's as gifts carried by Turkish ambassadors. They are natives of the Persian mountains and were domesticated by gardeners there.

Nasturtiums were introduced to Europe from South America in the 1500's. They were first used in salads, rather than as a garden flower.

The Aztecs planted golden marigolds in their gardens, in Mexico. The Spanish carried marigold seeds back to Europe in the 1500's.

Geraniums came back to Holland on Dutch trading vessels that had stopped at the South African port on the Cape of Good Hope, on their voyage out to the Spice Islands and India and on their return trip back to Amsterdam, in the 1600's.

The large roses we send on Valentine's day are expensive, but they were once a gift only an empress could afford. They were imported by Empress Josephine for her garden, during the Napoleonic Wars in the early 1800's.

Pansies were developed through crossbreeding violas, to obtain larger more colorful flowers, by an English woman Lady Elizabeth Bennet in 1812.

Perhaps you will take a second look and have a thought for history the next time you walk past those common garden flowers at your local store.

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