Gardening is the practice of growing and cultivating plants as part of horticulture. In gardens, ornamental plants are often grown for their flowers, foliage, or overall appearance; useful plants, such as root vegetables, leaf vegetables, fruits, and herbs, are grown for consumption, for use as dyes, or for medicinal or cosmetic use. Gardening is considered to be a relaxing activity for many people.
After the emergence of the first civilizations, wealthy individuals began to create gardens for aesthetic purposes. Egyptian tomb paintings from around 1500 BC provide some of the earliest physical evidence of ornamental horticulture and landscape design; they depict lotus ponds surrounded by symmetrical rows of acacias and palms. A notable example of ancient ornamental gardens were the Hanging Gardens of Babylon—one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World while ancient Rome had dozens of gardens.
Wealthy ancient Egyptians used gardens for providing shade. Egyptians associated trees and gardens with gods as they believed that their deities were pleased by gardens. Gardens in ancient Egypt were often surrounded by walls with trees planted in rows. Among the most popular species planted were date palms, sycamores, fir trees, nut trees, and willows. These gardens were a sign of higher socioeconomic status. In addition, wealthy ancient Egyptians grew vineyards, as wine was a sign of the higher social classes. Roses, poppies, daisies and irises could all also be found in the gardens of the Egyptians.
The Assyrians were also renowned for their beautiful gardens. These tended to be wide and large, some of them used for hunting game—rather like a game reserve today—and others as leisure gardens. Cypresses and palms were some of the most frequently planted types of trees.
Ancient Roman gardens were laid out with hedges and vines and contained a wide variety of flowers—acanthus, cornflowers, crocus, cyclamen, hyacinth, iris, ivy, lavender, lilies, myrtle, narcissus, poppy, rosemary and violets—as well as statues and sculptures. Flower beds were popular in the courtyards of rich Roman life style.
The gardens in the 16th and 17th century were symmetric, proportioned and balanced with a more classical appearance. Most of these gardens were built around a central axis and they were divided into different parts by hedges. Commonly, gardens had flowerbeds laid out in squares and separated by gravel paths.