The Garden Guide

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

Sixteenth century flower gardening

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249.The sixteenth century, however, had arrived before the culture of flowers was attempted. Botany now began to be considered a science, independent of medicine. Gardens were constructed, destined for curious and beautiful plants; and the discovery of America and the passage to the Indies augmented their number. Travellers collected seeds, which they sent home to their respective countries; great care was bestowed on such as appeared the most ornamental; of some flowers double varieties were produced, and the colours and size of others varied by culture, till, advancing by degrees, they at length became an object of luxury; and trade and caprice, fashion and variety, gave incredible prices for some of these productions: for in what, observes Deleuze, will extravagance not intermingle ? Henry IV. had a taste for flowers: his gardener, Jean Robin, published a catalogue of plants in 1610, in which the passion-flower and crown imperial are mentioned; the former as newly imported, and the latter as rare. In 1635, the number of varieties of tulips, ranunculuses, and anemones, in the Jardin des Plantes, exceeded that of the species in 1800. Evelyn mentions, in 1644 (Memoirs, vol. i. p. 52.), a M. Morine, who from an ordinary gardener had becomes one of the most skilful persons in France; who had a rare collection of shells and flowers, and above 10, 000 sorts of tulips alone. This florimania seems to have declined, and given way to a taste for exotics, during the reigns of Louis XV. and Louis XVI.; and this taste has ever since continued to prevail.