Gardens: part of our history

Have you ever thought about the history of gardening? How did we go from growing plants for food and medicine to growing things for the sheer pleasure of the blooms, the fragrance, and the process? At what point did we start copying what we saw overseas on “the grand tour” or employing a specialist to decide what went where in our private gardens?

In New Zealand’s case, a lot of the plants we now enjoy, and many that have turned into pests, were brought here by immigrants keen to make their new land look more like the home they had left behind. My grandfather used to “write home” to England for seeds for his extensive gardens rather than using native plants. To this day the Aquilegia, which took to New Zealand soils like a duck to water, run rampant in that Hawera garden. Of course it wasn’t just plants either, think of rabbits in the South Island for instance.

One way we can trace the history of gardening is through seed catalogues, old advertising posters, gardening books, newspaper advertisements for gardening tools, landscapers etc, and through changes in gardening tools. In our old copies of the Patea & Waverley Press there are pre-war advertisements which relate to gardening, and in our collection of tools we have all manner of implements which relate to gardening.

The other way in which we can trace the change from plants as food to plants as things of beauty is in textiles, wallpaper patterns and so forth, and this includes home crafts. This coming weekend we are exploring some craft ideas from years gone by that involve flowers in some way, including stitch cards and embroidery. Why not join us as we celebrate all things floral?

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