container gardens
Pot Gardening - Past and Present

   Gardening in pots and other containers is apparently as old as civilization, for the practice can be traced to the very early use of medicinal and edible plants. In time, pot gardening developed to a high degree, and there are numerous records which reveal its importance in China, India, Egypt, Assyria, Greece, and Rome. Since ancient days, it has been particularly enjoyed in countries with hot, dry summers and low annual rainfall.

   In tracing the history of pot gardening, we can go to paintings from the Middle Period in Egypt to see formal gardens with "beds marked out in squares like a chessboard." * In one illustration of a garden at El-Bersheh, there is a long "row of pot plants, an early example of ornament that became common later on."

In Greece and Rome

   In Greece, the so-called Adonis garden marked the beginning of pot gardening there. In midsummer, when Athenian women celebrated the Festival of Adonis, they placed around the statue of Adonis earthen pots filled with soil in which they sowed fennel and lettuce as well as wheat and barley. As time went on, the simple pagan custom became a children's game and boys who, "sowed quick-growing seeds in great pots," were delighted "when the green began to show." In the writings of Theophras-tus, too, there are references to pot gardening.

   In Imperial Rome, the court of Domitian at the Palatine was "adorned with flowers just as the Assyrians plant them on the roofs in honour of Adonis" and Domi-tian's palace was decorated with tubs placed all around the roof of the pillared court, a practice adopted later in Pompeii. Town houses had flower gardens in front of the windows, "very probably on wide balconies, which were attached to each story 'so that every day the eyes might feast on this copy of a garden, as though it were the work of nature.' " Boxes for growing plants were also attached to windows of Roman houses. Pliny, the Elder, in the first century, described the "mimic gardens" in the windows of Rome, and how they brought the country to the town.

   Boxes for growing plants were also placed on roofs. Seneca wrote that on the high towers of Pompeii, "they planted fruit-trees and shrubberies, with roots where their tops ought to be." It was in Pompeii, too, that "a small nursery was discovered with a whole array of painted pots, presumably for raising seed or cuttings." Byzantine emperors likewise favored rooftop gardening, and a poem on Justinian I describes a little house that had "a balcony-garden with a lovely view of the sea."