The Garden Guide

Book: History of Garden Design and Gardening
Chapter: Chapter 3: European Gardens (500AD-1850)

Flowers in Italy

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124. A taste for flowers and ornamental plants has thus become general in Italy; and, at the same time, the means of gratification have been afforded, by the superabundant plants and seeds of these gardens being given away, or sold at very moderate prices, to the curious. About the middle of the sixteenth century, the Dutch made regular exchanges of their bulbous roots for the orange trees of Genoa and Leghorn; and the double night-smelling jasmine was introduced at Pisa from Spain, and so highly prized as to have a sentinel placed over it by the governor. (Evelyn.) The use of flowers, it is probable, was never entirely laid aside in Italy as ornaments to female dress; but, in the progress of refinement, their application in this way became more general, and more select sorts were chosen: they became in demand, both gathered in bouquets, and with the entire plants in pots; they were used as household ornaments, both internal and external; and the church, thinking that what pleased man must be pleasing to the gods, or conforming to the taste of the times, and desirous of rendering religion as attractive as possible to the multitude, introduced flowers as decorations of altars and statues, and more especially in their fetes and processions. Pots and boxes of orange trees, pomegranates, bays, oleanders, myrtles, and other plants, are now let out by the day, for decorating the steps and approaches of altars; or sold for ornamenting roofs, balconies, verandas, courts, yards, passages, halls, staircases, and even shops and warehouses, in most of the large towns of Italy. Notwithstanding this, there is a recent instance on record of a lady residing in Rome commencing a lawsuit against a neighbour for filling her courtyard with orange trees, the smell of the flowers of which was by the other considered as a nuisance.