II Of the Revival, Progress, and present State of Gardening in Holland and the Netherlands
150. Gardening was first brought to a high degree of perfection in Holland and the Netherlands. The crusades, in the twelfth century, are generally supposed to have excited a taste for building and gardening in the north of Europe. But, from Stephanns and Gesner, it would appear that the Dutch had had some taste for plants even previously to this period. It is to be regretted that scarcely any materials are to be found from which to compose such a history as this interesting circumstance requires. Harte (Essays on Agriculture) conjectures that the necessities arising from the original barrenness of the soil (that of Flanders having been formerly like what Arthur Young describes Norfolk to have been nearly a century ago), together with a certain degree of liberty, the result of the remoteness of the situation from kings and priests, may have contributed to improve their agriculture; and that the wealth acquired by the commercial men of Holland, then the most eminent merchants in the world, enabled them to indulge in country houses and gardens, and to import foreign plants. It is certain that the Dutch flowers principally cultivated are all Oriental, as the, ranunculus, anemone, tulip, hyacinth, narcissus, &c. These no doubt came to them from Constantinople, perhaps not before 1453, at the fall of the Eastern Roman Empire, when the Greeks fled into Italy. Thence the flowers might have migrated to Vienna, and into Holland; or perhaps might have been carried by the Arabians into Spain, and thence transplanted by Charlemagne into Holland and the Netherlands. Beckmann says, ï¿½I think I may with great probability assert, that the modern taste for flowers came from Persia to Constantinople, and was imported thence to Europe, for the first time, in the 16th century.ï¿½ By whatever means, however, the bulbous flowers of the East may have reached the Dutch, it is certain that one cause why they have at an early period excelled in their culture is, that the climate, and soil of Holland are singularly favourable for horticulture and floriculture; the two departments of gardening in which the Dutch are most eminent.