The Garden Guide

Book: History of Garden Design and Gardening
Chapter: Chapter 1: Gardening in the Ancient World

Historic flower growing

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36. Flowers, as decorations, must have been very soon used, on account of their brilliant colours and smell. The Greeks, Theophrastus informs us (Hist. Plant., lib. vi. c. 5.), cultivated roses, gillyflowers, violets, narcissi, and the iris; and we read in Aristophanes (Acharn., v. 212.) that a market for flowers was held at Athens, where the baskets were very quickly disposed of. From the writings of other authors, we learn that a continual use was made of flowers throughout all Greece. Not only were they then, is now, the ornament of beauty and of the altars of the gods, but the youths crowned them selves with them in the fetes, the priests in religious ceremonies, and the guests in convivial meetings. Garlands of flowers were suspended from the gates of the cities in times of rejoicing; and, what is still more remarkable, and more remote from our manners, the philosophers themselves wore crowns of flowers, and the warriors ornamented their foreheads with them in days of triumph. These customs existed in every part of the East. There were at Athens, as afterwards at Rome, florists, whose business it was to weave crowns (coronariï¾µ) and wreaths of flowers. Some of these crowns and garlands were of one species of flower; others of different species; and others of branches of peculiar plants, relating to some symbolical or mythological idea. Hence the term coronariï¾µ was applied to such plants as were consecrated to these uses. Of these some were cultivated, and others gathered in the fields; but the name was applied to all such as were distinguished by the beauty of fragrance of their flowers. (Curt. Spreng., Hist. R. Herb., lib. i. ii.; Paschalis de Coronis, lib. x.; Sabina by Bï¾µttinger, in N. Mon. Mag., Jan. and Feb. 1819; Theophrastus by Stackhouse.)