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 Egypt (Time Period 1500 -1100BC) 

We know more about Egyptian gardens than any others in the ancient world because they were pictured in the tombs, in both sculptural relief and in paintings, and also because there are many references to garden trees and flowers in the hieroglyphics carved on the walls. None of these ancient homes and palaces exists today as their bricks and timbers have not survived, however, the stone temples, and the tombs built as eternal dwellings for the dead, reveal much of life in ancient Egypt. 

Egypt’s culture developed beside the river Nile where the two factors of water and plentiful sunshine allowed a particular style of garden design. The Nile has always overflowed with predictable regularity and gentleness, gradually depositing a broad layer of dark, fertile soil over the land, which is easy to work and full of nutrients. Its flooding, from mid-July to mid-October, has ensured dependable plant growth for centuries. 

The most complete plan of a home or villa and its garden design was discovered in a Theban tomb during the 19th century. The estate is thought to have belonged to a high official of the reign of Amenhotep III, circa 1411-

1375BC. Its mile-long canal, imposing entrance gate, numerous trees and large vineyard all suggest royal wealth. 

One can imagine arriving there by boat, stepping straight into the cool protection of the gate and then walking to the villa under the shelter of the grape arbour. The roof of the villa was shaded by awnings and small garden pavilions overlooked the storage area. b2ap3_thumbnail_Ancient_Egyptian_Gardens.jpg

The orderly symmetry and usefulness of the whole plan is apparent. The shade-giving trees with their dense, almost evergreen foliage such as date palm (Phoenix dactylifera), all bore fruit. The smaller fruiting trees beneath the palms were probably the common fig (Ficus) or pomegranate (Punica). 

The vineyard of long, trellised arbours provided a wine harvest and the rectangular, papyrus-bordered pools containing lotus flower and waterfowl also became storage tanks for fish, which were fed and kept for eating. 

Almost all Egyptian gardens were places of relaxation. A combination of poolside shaded areas to sit in summer, along with sunny areas in winter, surrounded by flowering woody/herbaceous plants, with vines and edible fruits in abundance. 

Flowers and herbs were cultivated in these gardens. According to Homer the following medicinal/herbal plants were in common use: acacia, aloe, anise, caraway, castor beans, cassia, coriander, cumin, cucumber, dill, elderberry, gentian, lotus, mint, myrrh, pomegranate, poppy, squill, saffron and wormwood. It also seems possible that acacia and tamarisk trees were sometimes planted as their blossoms attract bees and honey was the only known sweetener at that time. 

The flowers and herb beds needed irrigation to sustain themselves as well as vines and fruiting orchards. To achieve this, canals were dug from the river 

some deep enough for riverboats, others designed as ditches from which water could be carried to the crops or to storage wells and pools. These ditches, either T-shaped or rectangular, often became decorative elements in the garden. 

Some paintings show trees surrounded with rims built of earth to conserve the moisture. All plans and pictures of the kitchen gardens indicate that they were formal and geometric, almost checkerboard. In design, they were the prototype of all gardens throughout Europe and the Near East for over three thousand years. 

The legacy that the Egyptian garden leaves to us is irrigation, water ditches, pavilions, arbours, formal and geometric layouts. Special note goes to the union of flowering, fruiting and herbal plants together (decoration and usefulness)

 

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This plant can brighten up the darkest shade, which can be the most problematic spaces in the garden. These stunning and perpetually cheerful shrubs flower in all sorts of vibrant colours during spring when we tend to think of most of the colours coming from bulbs. So why not extend the flower power of your garden from ground level to head height and beyond!

Ancient Greek meaning "Rose Tree" the rhododendron is evergreen and deciduous. The family includes azaleas which are frequently used around foundations and occasionally as hedges, and many larger leafed rhododendrons lend themselves well to more informal plantings and woodland gardens.

Rhododendrons prefer acidic soil and sheltered conditions and grow best in areas with high rainfall, compact hybrid rhododendrons can also be planted in containers. Dwarf alpines can be planted in rock gardens.b2ap3_thumbnail_Rhododendron-Cynthia-1.jpgb2ap3_thumbnail_Rhododendron-by-eiffel-public-domain-20040617.jpg

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Garden lighting

 

With the nights drawing in and Autumn fast approaching, many people will be feeling that opportunities to enjoy the garden are becoming a thing of the past until the spring comes round again. The use of lighting in the garden can change all of that, reclaiming the garden from the night and turning it into a magical, theatrical place. In fact, it may look even better at night by hi- lighting the very best bits and hiding the perhaps more neglected parts.

 

What you are not aiming to do is flood the whole garden with light. You want to manipulate the space with the light and give features, plants textures and colours a different dimension.

 

As a general rule, lighting works best in the garden if there are lots of small sources of light rather than just a few large ones and if the fittings are hidden, either in among the foliage or set flush into the paving.

Spotlights are ideal for emphasising the star features of the garden - a piece of sculpture, a particularly pretty bench or a striking shrub or tree. Statues are best lit from the front so as to emphasise the detail rather than create a silhouette. A tree looks striking when lit from below in the winter, their tracery of branches standing out against the darkness. 

 

Lighting and water - moving water especially - is a magical combination. Even a simple bubble fountain or wall mask becomes a star attraction at night a style light turns each dancing droplet to gold or silver. Up lighters work well underwater in a formal pool especially if they are placed directly under a fountain or jet. As does side lighting, creating a mirror effect on a still pond surface.

Be sure to avoid down lighters in ponds though as these will reveal the mechanics and any debris in the water.

 

If you are looking for a less permanent, quick lighting fix that won't require an electrician to fit, solar powered fairy lights can give a lovely subtle effect when draped through shrubs and trees. 

Not forgetting the natural way of lighting your garden - candles, ranging from large flares on stout canes to versatile tea lights, you can create a beautiful "fairy garden" effect.

Hanging in jam jars along paths, metal lanterns from trees, en masse on the patio or dotted along the walls of raised beds - the more you have, the more magical the effect!

 

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The traditional way of planting a herb garden is in a potager. This is a formal bed design, often edged with a low box hedge, with pathways for easy tending and harvesting. The paths of a potager both organise it and create a pleasing design. Gravel, cobbles, brick, crazy paving or bark can be used to good effect for the paths, and alternative edging plants such as chives, feverfew or decorative cabbages can be used for a less formal edging arrangement.

When planning your herb garden consider the position. Most herbs prefer an open sunny position, but will tolerate some shade. As with all new planting the herb garden will benefit from good soil preparation and the removal of stones. The plot can be as large or as small as you like, and can then be subdivided according to your chosen design. A cartwheel effect can be created in a circular bed. A semi circle could be subdivided by paving into segments or concentric bands. A rectangle could contain a pattern of squares and triangles.

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In the UK, our gardens comprise 12% of the cultivated land and they cover a larger area than all our nature reserves put together. If everyone made their gardens wildlife friendly it could make a huge difference.

If you have the space, you could create a woodland habitat, with small trees such as birch, rowan or hazel, underplanted with shrubs. Shade loving plants such as ferns, aquilegias, foxgloves, aconites and bluebells can be planted on the woodland floor, whilst honeysuckle can be encouraged to climb up the trees. Covering the soil with a layer of chopped bark helps to retain moisture in the soil and creates an instant woodland eco system. If there are any fallen trees or logs in the garden, keep them as part of the woodland area. The wood will soon be covered in fungi and lichens and will be home to countless insects.

Woodland environments, however small, can attract a wealth of wildlife. Trees provide habitats for caterpillars, which in turn attract bluetits and chaffinches. Many species of butterfly will breed and feed in the woodland garden. White admirals lay their eggs on honeysuckle leaves, and speckled wood butterflies feed on ferns and grasses. Small mammals are attracted to woodland areas and will rummage about in the leaf litter looking for insects, nuts, and seeds. Remember that a wildlife friendly garden cannot be too neat and tidy. Leaf litter and plant debris are home to a thriving community of insects and fungi.

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Whether you want a low maintenance garden, a barbeque and eating area, a driveway, pull in for a car, paths or a courtyard garden, paving is a simple and effective solution.

It’s essential that any paving is laid on a base which meets the specification required for the type of use you are going to make of the paved space. Driveways need a high specification base to ensure that there is no sinkage over time. The paving page of the website gives more detailed information.

Another technical aspect which needs to be borne in mind is your property’s damp course. Any paving adjacent to your property needs to be laid below the damp course to ensure that damp doesn’t leech into the walls from the paving. It’s therefore essential that you take advice from somebody with the right skills, experience and expertise when planning paving in your garden, to make sure that the end result is both durable and fit for purpose.

Once you know that the most appropriate base will be used, you can think about the type of paving which would best suit your garden design and your budget. Block paving, which consists of small rectangular bricks, is a practical choice for driveways, and is available in a range of colours. Different patterns can be created, such as herringbone, alternating squares, or regular alternating lines, and contrasting edging can add interest. It works well in combination with gravel and minimal planting for a low maintenance approach.

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