The Garden Guide

Book: History of Garden Design and Gardening
Chapter: Chapter 5: Gardens in Asia, America, Africa, Australia

History of gardening in Asia

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734. Gardening in Asia Minor, &c., as an art of culture, appears to have attained considerable eminence from an early period. The largest bunch of grapes which we read of in history (Num. xiii. 23.) was raised in that country; and the figs of Smyrna have been celebrated from time immemorial. Pliny says that the Syrians were excellent gardeners, and took such pains, and were so ingenious in cultivating their grounds, as to give rise to a Greek proverb to that effect. (Nat. Hist., b. xx. c. 51.) 'The gardens,' says Buckingham, 'that surround the city of Damascus on the north, the fine olive-grounds and long avenues of trees to the south, the numerous villages on the east, and the great suburb of Salheyah, with the thronged public way that leads to it, on the west, added to the sombre but rich and thickly planted cypresses, the slender poplars, the corn grounds, and the rivers and streams which so abundantly water the whole, give to this charming spot a character becoming a scene in fairy-land.' (Travels among the Arab Tribes, p. 305.) In the neighbourhood of Damascus is a plain celebrated for its roses, which are there cultivated extensively for the purpose of producing tarts, cakes, and the celebrated attar (oil) of roses. This plain forms part of the great plain of Syria: it is about three miles from Damascus, and its entire area is thickly planted with rose trees, which are cultivated and irrigated with great care. A writer in the New Monthly Magazine (No. lxxix. p. 434.) observes, that one of the best tarts he ever tasted was composed of nothing but rose-leaves, and that no conserves are so exquisite as those made in the neighbourhood of Damascus from dried cakes of roses. The environs of Tarabolus, near Mount Lebanon, are chiefly laid out in gardens, in which orange and lemon trees abound. A fine stream flows at the foot of the hill behind the castle, and discharges itself into the sea. Behind the castle is a coffee-house, visited as a place of recreation to enjoy the sound of the water, the verdure, and the shade. (Ibid., p. 462.) The northern portion of the ancient walls of Antioch is now filled with one extensive wood of gardens, chiefly olive, mulberry, and fig trees; and along the winding banks of the river are seen tall and slender poplars. (Bramsen's Letters, &c.) The environs of Jaffa are very fertile, and are adorned with many fine gardens, which produce quantities of dates, lemons, citrons, oranges, grapes, water-melons, and vegetables. (Ibid., p. 562.) The plain of Rama is the most fertile part of the Holy Land; but the environs of Jerusalem are barren. (Ibid.) The musselim, or governor, of Smyrna has, for his summer residence, a house in the midst of a spacious garden; and many acres of the adjoining grounds, belonging to the principal Franks, are laid out in the same manner, abounding with almost every species of fruit of the finest quality. The figs in these gardens, which are eaten when green, and their grapes, so much prized in Europe, are not more delicious than their citrons, lemons, oranges, pomegranates, and melons. (Hob. Alb., p. 629.) The neighbourhood of Smyrna is laid out in a variety of extensive gardens, apparently well kept, and stocked with abundance of fruit. (Bram. Letters.) Macfarlane found the constant mention of the fig trade, at Smyrna, an annoyance nearly as vexatious as the musquitoes. (Travels to Constantinople, p. 64.) The constant subject of conversation at Smyrna is figs. (Madden's Turkey, p. 147.)