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History of Gardening – The Ancient Egyptians

April 17th, 2009

Sennefer's Garden

The Ancient Egyptians have the earliest recorded history in ornamental horticulture and landscape design in the western world. Its civilisation spanned 3000 years before becoming a Roman province in 31 BC.

Ancient Egyptian gardens, a representation of which is on the right, were typically walled and connected to buildings, usually palaces, temples and chapels. The solid clay walls defended the gardens from the River Nile, which flooded regularly during the summer seasons. There were also ponds, sometimes stocked with fish, within the gardens to act as reservoirs for irrigation.

The trees in the gardens provided valuable shade in a very hot and arid climate. Ornamental stone kiosks and statues were also placed. The gardens were places where the Ancient Egyptians made tributes to their gods.


Ancient Egyptians used shadufs (see left) to draw water effortlessly from ponds and wells. A shaduf is like a see-saw with a bucket made of leather at one end and a counterbalancing weight at the other. A typical garden layout was often symmetrical which is thought to have eased irrigation and maintenance.

Willows, acacia and tamarisk were typical ornamental trees planted. Others included dates, figs and pomegranates. The Ancient Egyptians grew plenty of flowers and herbs too: daisy, cornflower, mandrake, rose, iris, myrtle, jasmine, mignonette, convolvulus, celosia, narcissus, ivy, lychnis, sweet marjoram, henna, bay laurel, small yellow chrysanthemum and poppy, papyrus and lotus.

Fruit and vegetables shared the same gardens as ornamental plants. Typical examples of fruit and vegetables grown were: onion, garlic, leek, bean, lentil, pea, radish, cabbage, cucumber, lettuce, melon and grape.