container gardens
Pot Gardening - Past and Present
Through the Middle Ages and the Renaissance

   Though medicinal and edible plants were favored in the gardens of the Middle Ages, they were also ornamented with pot plants. Exotics were frequently planted in containers to make them "objects of beauty," and gardeners practiced "the curious custom of placing pots and growing flowers on beds already planted with flowers," particularly carnations, which were favorites. During the Renaissance in Italy and later in France, England, and elsewhere, pot plants became common garden features. On a roof garden in Verona, plants in square tubs, including cypresses, were arranged around geometric beds. Many of the famed Italian villa gardens introduced decorative pots and urns with oranges, lemons, oleanders, and sweet bay, a practice that continues today. At Villa D'Este at Tivoli pots adorned the broad walls, and there were urns filled with plants of many kinds. Hundreds of container plants were also used at Villa Aldobrandini at Frascati, where the stairs were "gay with oranges in pots." At Isola Bella, the fascinating terraced grdens, with their numerous pot plants, never fail to delight visitors today.

In Spain

   In a sense, pot gardening came into its own in the gardens of Spain. Under the Moors, life in Spain was Oriental. The gardens, with their fountains and ornamental flower pots, were open living-rooms. Similar outdoor living areas developed in Portugal, which was also occupied by the Moors.

   From the time of the Renaissance, when the Italian style of gardening was adopted in northern Europe, potted plants and decorative urns were important. When Versailles set the fashion for the rest of Europe, its fabulous gardens, with their tubbed orange trees and elegant urns, were also copied.

Through Germany and Holland

   In Germany, there was a strong trend toward pot gardening. According to a sketch of the seventeenth-century garden of Christopher Peller in Nurenherg, urns and pots were lavishly scattered about. Around the beds, "there are lower stone borders with ornamental pots set on them: these contain plants of many kinds, with orange-trees and other costly foreign plants that have to pass the winter in a hothouse."

   A garden of the same date belonging to Johannes Schwindt, a burgomaster of Frankfort, comprised an enclosure "made of green lattice-work with pillars, windows, and gates," with pots of flowering plants at the windows and on benches.

   A visitor to Holland in 1812, described a typical planting at the village of Broek: "The gardens in front of their houses are just as wonderful to look at. You can find everything there except nature . . . trees ... no longer look like trees so clipped are their tops." Areas between flower beds "are filled with coloured glass beads, shells, stones, and pots in all manners of colours."