From some of the earliest civilisations to exist in the world, to humans in the present day, people have enjoyed curating nature for millennia. In fact, they have always created gardens, with their intentions being to provide a place to relax, to display a person’s wealth or power, or as a tool to promote both inner peace and world peace.
Gardens have also served as the background for some of the most remembered events in history and in fable, as well as presenting a perfect opportunity to bring new ideas to the world.
To celebrate some of these gardens in all their glory, we’ve curated our own list of the most beautiful and inspiring gardens to exist in both the past and present.
With that in mind, here’s our round-up of the 7 historic wonders of the gardening world…
Gardens of Versailles (France)
Situated to the West of the Palace of Versailles, this is one of the largest and most famous gardens in the world, as well as being widely considered as one of the most beautiful.
Commissioned by King Louis VIV in 1661, the gardens of Versailles were originally designed by Andrѐ Le Nôtre and contain 300 hectares of forest, hundreds of acres of flower beds, 35 kilometres of canals, 600 foundations, and 372 statues. As Louis VIV considered the gardens to be just as important as the palace, and he was keen to review every detail of its construction, this was a very high honour to hold.
Taking around 40 years to complete, creating the gardens was a monumental task. As well as needing large amounts of soil to be shifted to level the ground, the Orangerie was built, and trees were brought in from different regions of France. The Garden of Versailles also needs to be replanted approximately every 100 years to keep it looking its best.
The gardens are still around today, and they can still be visited by the public if you want to see a piece of living history!
Plants of interest: The Orangerie is home to many interesting Mediterranean plants. Examples include the Nerium flowers and towering palm trees.
Humble Administrator’s Garden (Suzhou, China)
Zhou Zheng Yuan (or the Humble Administrator’s Garden) covers around 52,000 sq. metres, making it considered as the largest and most renowned garden in Suzhou in the Jiangsu Province of South China.
Originally built in 1509, the garden changed ownership many times, though it was initially intended to be a private garden for Wang Xianche, a former government servant. It’s said that he decided to build the garden to retire, do some gardening work, and lead a simpler life.
Today, the garden consists of three parks that are connected by wingding corridors; these are referred to as the Eastern Section, The Western Section, and The Central Section.
The Humble Administrator’s Garden is now listed as a World Cultural Heritage site, as well as being a Special Tourist Attraction of China and designated as one of the Cultural Relics of National Importance under the Protection of the State.
Plants of interest: The Central Section is the main section of Zhou Zheng Yuan, and it’s famous for its lotus flowers that float in its central pool and waft their fragrance through this section’s main building.
Taj Mahal Garden (Agra, India)
Built between 1631 and 1648 to honour the memory of Mughal emperor, Shah Jahan’s favourite wife (who died in childbirth), the Taj Mahal is a marble mausoleum that houses the tomb as a centrepiece, as well as a mosque, guest house, and a grand garden.
Spanning the entire distance from the gate to the front of the mausoleum, the impressive 300-metre by 300-metre Taj Mahal Garden is set around a square, as well as being divided into four sections with two main walkways. In the centre of the walkways lies the ‘chabutra’; a beautiful pool that’s lined with marble banks and includes five fountains.
However, it’s not just these features that make the garden impressive; each quarter has been planted with 16 flower beds, and these contain over 400 individual plants.
Plants of interest: With more than 400 plants said to be in each of the quarter’s 16 flower beds, there’s plenty of variety and colour to be seen in the Taj Mahal Garden! Delicate cypresses, colourful poppies, marigolds and tulips, and fragrant rose and jasmine bushes, are just some of the plants that were said to have originally been planted in the garden.
Six Poems Garden (Tokyo, Japan)
A popular tourist attraction that’s widely regarded as one of the most beautiful gardens in Tokyo, the Rikugien Garden (which basically means ‘Six Poems Garden’) was originally constructed between 1695 and 1702 by Yanagisawa Yoshiyasu, a Japanese samurai, with permission from the shogun, Tokugawa Tsunayoshi.
Although the garden was neglected after the death of Yanagisawa, it was restored after being bought by Iwasaki Yatarō (the founder of the Mitsubishi group) in 1878.
With inspiration for the Rikugien Garden’s design drawing from famous classical Japanese and Chinese poetry (as the name suggests), today it has winding paths, a large pond, and other interesting features.
To represent the poetry that influenced it’s being, the garden also has stone markers depicting scenes throughout the garden, though only 32 of the original 88 remain.
Plants of interest: In autumn, the maple trees add warm up the garden and add a very autumnal feel. Delicate cherry blossom is also a key feature of the Six Poems Garden.
Generalife Gardens (Granada, Spain)
Although the meaning of its name has a number of different interpretations, including the Governor’s Garden, the Architect’s Garden, and the Vegetable Garden of the Gypsy Festivity Organiser, one thing remains certain; the Generalife Gardens of Granada is a sight to behold.
Theorised to have been built in the 13th century when Alhambra became a royal palace, the Generalife was originally intended to be a place of rest for the sultans and emirs that resided in the palace. Now one of the best-preserved Moorish gardens to remain in Spain, it houses a six-kilometre water canal, as well as marrying rural fruit and vegetable gardens with beautiful ornamental gardens. These have been planted with over 160 different species of plant.
Many features of the Generalife’s history remains today, such as the boundaries of the thick walls that originally separated the vegetable gardens. Today, the Generalife of Grenada is also a UNESCO World-Heritage site garden, and it brings thousands of visitors to the site each year.
Plants of interest: Of its 160 colourful plant species, pretty pink cockscombs are just one of the plants that add colour and interest to the garden.
Shalimar Gardens (Lahore, Pakistan)
The Shalimar Gardens were commissioned for build by the fifth Mughal emperor, Shah Jahan, in 1637. They are now regarded as one of the best-preserved Mughal gardens to exist today, as well as one of the greatest gardens in the world as it represents the Islamic concept of Paradise.
Located approximately 5 kilometres north-east of the capital city of Lahore, the 500-yard enclosure is made up of 2 gardens, which are split by a narrow rectangular terrace. Keeping in the Persian tradition of the charbargh (or fourfold garden), these are divided further with canals and colourful flowerbeds.
Though originally built for the royal pleasure of Jahan and this court, the gardens lost their prestige in the early 19th Century. However, the Shalimar Gardens are now a popular tourist site, and thanks to on-going conservation efforts, they are no longer on the Heritage Sites in Danger list.
Plants of interest: The Shalimar gardens are well-known for the variety of trees that have been planted within them. These include shrubs, poplars, and saplings of cypress, as well as fragrant, fruit-bearing apricot, cherry, peach and sweet orange trees.
Gardens of Gethsemane (Jerusalem, Israel)
Appearing in Greek in the Gospel of Matthew and Gospel of Mark, the Gardens of Gethsemane traces its roots back to Biblical Times, with the New Testament writing that it was a favourite place for Jesus and his disciples to visit.
Most significantly, however, is the fact that the gardens are recorded as the place that Jesus went to pray the night before his crucifixion.
Although we can assume that the gardens were covered in plenty of plants and crops during the time that Jesus and his disciplines visited it, much of these are now gone. Today, it’s the olive trees that are its defining feature. Dated as being around 900 years old in a 2012 study, it is thought that the olive trees that stand today are possible descendants of those that were present in Jesus’ time.
The fruit of the olive trees is harvested each year, and it’s used to produce rosemary beads and the oil for the Gethsemane’s sanctuary lamps.
Plants of interest: With the olive trees being among the oldest in the world, they are a clear standout feature of the Gardens of Gethsemane.