A Formal Egyptian Pleasure Garden
In Any Size Space
You don't have to create
a large garden. You can incorporate Egyptian atmosphere into an Asian-style
garden, Water Garden, Serenity Garden, or Fruit Tree Garden.
potted ornamental potted trees like pomegranates and figs work well in many
parts of your garden, including the Biblical Garden design, so you can spread it
out and easily add decorative items.
It's too cold here in the
grow a lot of the African hot-weather plants, but there are lots of hardy plants
that can be grown in Zone 6 gardens, and others can be grown in big stone,
cement, clay or
resin pots, brought indoors for winter, and used as awesome houseplants. Those
of you in the hot U.S. climates can grow more of these plants - especially palms
- outdoors all year long.
History of Egyptian
I like to combine the
history of ethnic and theme gardens, with the real-life designs and plants that
can be used today, in my articles. And this is a nice, long, fascinating look at
ancient Egyptian gardens and gardeners.
The history and character of gardens in
ancient Egypt, like all aspects of Egyptian life, depended upon the Nile, and
the network of canals that drew water from it. Water was hoisted from the Nile
in leather buckets and carried on the shoulders to the gardens, and later,
beginning in about the 4th century B.C., lifted from wells by hoists with
counterbalancing weights called "shadow" in Arabic.
In Ancient Egypt
Gardening in ancient Egypt was very hard work;
gardens required constant irrigation, with water carried or lifted by hand,
weeding, and tending, including the artificial propagation of date palms, which
required great skill. Great effort was also needed to keep birds from eating the
crops. Ingenious traps were set to catch the invading birds.
The earliest gardens were composed of
planting beds divided into squares by earthen walls, so the water could soak
into the soil rather than be lost. This is the same method used in ancient Native
American Pueblo Farming, called Waffle Gardens. Gardens belonged to
temples or the residences. Secular gardens were located near the river or canals
and were used mainly for growing vegetables. Creating an Egyptian design theme
garden in your backyard design is as simple as incorporating the plants and
elements of design from this hot region. A water garden or element adds to the
design. Water was an important feature. A bowl with a solar fountain in it, a
bog garden with Papyrus plants, or just birdbaths with a floating solar fountain
would do it.
m a civilization born around the fertile
offerings of a river and its delta, water features are a staple of Egyptian
garden design. Rectangular
ncept that's very popular with landscapers today.
Ancient Egyptian gardens were
formal and ornamental, and often consisted of both trees and other plants. There were
about eighteen varieties of trees grown by the Egyptians. Popular trees included
the sycamore fig, pomegranate, nut trees and jujube. Willows, acacia and
tamarisk were also there. From an enclosed yard with a few fruit trees to
botanical and zoological gardens with exotic trees, ponds, often stocked with
fish, and caged animals and birds, gardens are depicted in many tombs.
Excerpt from"The Gardens and
Ponds of Ancient Egypt":
"The formal layout of the
Persian garden, with an artificial pond mirrored the glittering splendor of a
rich facade beyond it, had already been carried out to perfection in Egypt, at
least as early as the New Kingdom.
Sacred gardens had ponds,
papyrus, flowers and vegetables, as represented schematically in ancient tomb
drawings. There were exotic trees that were brought from the new countries
subdued during the New Kingdom and planted in sacred "botanical"
In the country, the houses and
palaces were set in a large garden surrounded by a wall.
Sometimes there was more than one
pond, and a garden could be divided into areas. As an example:
- The front section had a rectangular pond
parallel to the river, with water plants in it, and there were also date
palms and sycamores.
- A second section in the middle area was
enclosed within a wall and planted with light green trees that were perhaps
- A rear section was the largest area and
again has a rectangular pond bordered on one side by date palms, and on the
other by sycamores. Near this rear section was a small open kiosk of the
type we find at Amarna. On either long side of the whole garden an enclosed
path was planted with trees of alternating species, while tall trees formed
an effective screen at the back of the estate.
Temples were provided with gardens in
decorative layouts, as a source for flowers, vegetables, wine and olive oil,
thus providing necessary ingredients for just about anything.
Houses, palaces, temples and
chapels in the paintings of the tombs nearly always have a garden next to the
building. We very often find a whole, elaborate layout detailed, and thus a
good enough picture of the various types of gardens during the New Kingdom can
be reconstructed from this pictorial evidence.
The actual remains of gardens are
very scarce. This is, in part, due to that earlier excavators seldom cared to
look for them, and ruined whatever evidence might remain. Ancient Egyptians themselves devastated Syrian gardens, and took some gardeners
captive - and Syrian buildings also inspired Egyptian architects.
Palace gardens first appeared in Egypt just
before the Middle Empire (2035–1668). These gardens were very large in scale,
and were laid out in geometric patterns. The ponds of palace gardens were
enormous and numerous. In the second millennium BC, the garden pond of King
Sneferu was large enough for boats rowed by twenty oarsmen.
The rulers of ancient Egypt, such as Queen
Hatshepsut (1503–1482 BC) and Ramses III (1198–1166 BC), used pots to bring
back to Egypt new kinds of trees and flowers discovered during their conquests
in Libya, Syria, and Cyrenia. Flowers,
especially, were an essential part of temple and tomb gardens.
In the King's palace, a large
garden forms the central element, laid out symmetrically about a north-south
alley, leading from a north entrance pylon and accessible from the bridge and
from a gateway on the Royal Road. It is surrounded on three sides by the
buildings of the servants, the royal living quarters and the magazines. On it's
western side there are two lower terraces, one having an arbor with a roof, and
probably a "chamber-of-trees" similar to the one mentioned by texts.
We know of very few depictions of
gardens that surround ordinary houses, but several literary descriptions of a
country estate mention the lush cultivated grounds around a villa of the
New Kingdom. One owner, who obviously enjoyed his garden tells us that,
"You sit in their shades and eat their fruit. Wreaths are made for you of
their twigs, and you are drunk with their wines."
Nothing can be found about the
formal layout of gardens around the landing quays of palaces or temples. But the
data of temple paintings and drawings seems to be fairly exact: Landing quays
were the initial approaches to the buildings from the Nile, and they had to have
benefited as much as the processional avenues from the decorative effects of a
formal garden layout. A text from the reign of Ramses II, referencing the
Temple of Luxor's quay, explains that, "A wall was before it of stone over
against Thebes; it was flooded; and the gardens were planted with trees".
These are presumably the gardens on both sides of the quay walls. At least two
depictions of landing quays feature layouts of gardens.
Gardens were not simply for
pleasant environs to the Ancient Egyptians. There were many symbolisms
associated with trees. For example, the Papyrus and Lotus plants were
symbolic of the two regions of Lower and Upper Egypt.
The villas of the rich
inhabitants of the city also had extensive gardens where a chapel or kiosk
marked the crossing of the axis through the entrance gateway with that of the
house. Gardens were secluded corners, sensuous places where lovers could meet.
In Akhenaten's North Palace there
was possibly a reserve for animal species and a botanical garden. The main
element in the plan is an extensive water court surrounded by trees. The rear
central group of buildings is the formal apartment, with a private suite
bordered on the north by a sunken garden surrounded on three sides by a
columned portico and contiguous cells. Here again, the location of the garden is
to the north of the living quarters, and there is a corner staircase leading up
to the roof of the portico, where a pergola (trellis) must have afforded an
enjoyable view of the precincts. The animals were kept in separate courts and
rooms. Gardens also provided food, including vegetables and wine.
A formal layout was followed in
the large palace gardens. Usually the approach was symmetrical, usually with a
pond on either side of the axis, bordered with rows of trees. At Amarna, where
the ground is not arable, trees were planted in pits filled with humus and
bordered with a round coping.
At the rear of the various groups
of buildings a large area was laid out as an independent garden around a square
pound with sloping sides. In one of the pond's corners, a stairway descends
to its bottom. A deeper basin opening in the bottom is probably filled with
infiltration water. Interestingly, the distribution of the trees seems
particularly informal and may have been another aspect of the Amarna trend
toward freedom and naturalism in art.
Private chapels were built by rich
people in their gardens at Amarna or on the bank of a river or canal. Often the
chapel stands at the rear of the enclosed garden on a higher terrace, with a
rectangular pond flanked by two rows of sycamore trees, or what seems to be two
rows of tall jars surrounded by climbing growth.
Even in tombs, there are texts that depict gardens.
Ineny, an architect who lived apparently during the reigns of Amenhotep I
through Hatshepsut, describes his garden as being in the West, and his yearning
"to walk in his garden of the West, cool under its sycamores, admire its
grand and beautiful growths of trees, which he had made while he was on
earth". The various trees in his garden included 90 sycamores and 170 date
palms located in Western Thebes.
The garden was very often on the
north side of the main hall of the living quarters, probably to allow the
cool breeze from the north to carry the sweet fragrance of the flowers to
the king and to provide a cool shaded garden. There must have been some device
in the upper stories of the buildings, consisting of windows or pergola on the
terrace, from which the view on the garden could be enjoyed.
Many depictions in tombs show what
might be the standard garden: Typically, a symmetrical layout was used
with a rectangular or T-shaped pond in front of the house on the main
longitudinal axis. This garden would then be surrounded by rows of trees
of various species, possibly alternating in the same rows. It was not uncommon
to find a pergola bordering the main alley along the axis or surrounding the
pond. It should be noted that many times these ponds were stocked with fish,
and at times included exotic examples. Fruit trees have their leaves or
branches supported on the trelliswork of the pergolas. The shortest species of
trees are planted nearest the pond, while the tallest, such as doum palms and
date palms, are in the outside rows. This arrangement provided a graded
perspective about the canter of the garden.
The temples of Amun were favored
with gardens. The Papyrus Harris I contains records of the endowments and riches
of the temples in the reign of Ramses III. Some of the figures cast light upon
the very extensive properties. Ramses III more than once stated that he
donated gardens "equipped" with "groves and arbors, containing
date trees; lakes supplied with lotus flowers, papyrus flowers, isi flowers, the
flowers of every land, dedmet flowers, myrrh, and sweet and fragrant woods for
thy beautiful face". We are even told of the restoration of gardens by him:
"I made to grow the august grove, which was in its midst; I planted it with
papyrus in the midst of the Delta marshes, [as] it has begun to decay formerly.
Beginning during the time of the New
Kingdom, pleasure gardens became a common feature of luxury residences.
According to paintings in tombs in Thebes from the 18th Dynasty (1552–1296
BC), gardens of that time had a standard design. They had a pond, usually
rectangular, in the center, filled with colorful fish, with lotus blossoms in
the water and flowers around the edges. Around the pond were successive rows of
trees, including sycamores, palms, and grenadiers, alternating with flower beds.
The edges of the water basins were sloping, with a stairway down one side so
gardeners could collect water for irrigation.
Water features are a staple
of Egyptian garden design. Rectangular fish and duck ponds lined with fruit-bearing
trees were commonplace in the ancient gardens of wealthy Egyptians. Fed by
irrigation channels, which eliminated the need to manually transport water from
the river, man-made ponds allowed ancient Egyptians the opportunity to expand
agriculture away from the flood basin of the Nile.
Shade was an important feature of the garden,
provided by trees and by grapevines supported between columns. Describing these
gardens, Shaw and Nicholson wrote: "The overall effect would have been one
of cool shade, heavy with the fragrance of the flowers and the trees. Gardens
are therefore one of the most frequent settings of Egyptian romantic
Walls constructed of adobe brick were
another common feature of Egyptian garden design. Built to differentiate garden
spaces and protect vegetables and fruit crops from animals, walls were part of
the formal layout of the garden. Like ponds and housing, gardens were
rectangular and reflected the Egyptian’s understanding of complex geometric
funeral garden dating to the
Eleventh dynasty of Egypt
Metropolitan Museum of Art
water features are a staple
of Egyptian garden design. Rectangular fish and duck ponds lined with fruit
bearing trees were commonplace in the ancient gardens of wealthy Egyptians.
Fed by irrigation channels, which eliminated the need to manually transport
water from the river, manmade ponds allowed ancient Egyptians the opportunity
to expand agriculture away from the flood basin of the Nile
Read more at Gardening Know How: Egyptian Garden Design – Creating An
Egyptian Garden In Your Backyard https://www.gardeningknowhow.com/special/spaces/egyptian-garden-design.htm
Funeral gardens were miniature versions of
house gardens that were placed in tombs with the deceased.
They usually had a small square house or
pavilion with wooden columns, surrounded by a wall, and within the wall, was a
basin surrounded by a row of trees. The house resembled the kiosks in gardens,
where the owner would play checkers or relax. The dead were traditionally
surrounded by the objects they would have enjoyed in life, and it was expected
that they would continue to enjoy their gardens in their afterlife.
The inscription of one tomb said: "You
promenade at your ease by the lovely bank of your pond; your heart rejoices from
your trees and is refreshed under your sycamores; your heart is satisfied by the
water from your wells that you made so that they would last forever."
and plants in the Egyptian garden
Trees were used in the gardens to produce
fruit and for shade. Nineteen different species of trees were found in the
gardens of Ineni, the architect to the Pharaoh Thutmose I (1504–1492 B.C.).
The pink flowered tamarisk, acacia and willow trees were common in gardens. The
sycamore (Ficus sycomorus) and tamarisk trees were sometimes planted in
front of temples, as they were at the temple of Nebhepetra, from the 11th
The ancient Egyptians cultivated Ficus
sycomorus from Predynastic times, and in quantity from the start of the
third millennium. It was believed to be the ancient Egyptian Tree of Life,
planted on the threshold between life and death. Zohary and Hopf note that
"the fruit and the timber, and sometimes even the twigs, are richly
represented in the tombs of the Egyptian Early, Middle and Late Kingdoms."
Some of the caskets of mummies in Egypt are made from the wood of this tree.
The most common fruit trees were date palms,
fig trees and doum palms (Hyphaene thebaica). The persea tree was
considered sacred, and was found in both temple gardens and residential gardens.
The pomegranate tree was introduced during the New Kingdom, and was prized for
its aroma and color. Other fruits grown in the gardens were jujube, olives, and
peaches. Vegetables were grown for food or for ceremonies. Cos lettuce was
considered sacred and was connected with Min, the deity of reproduction, and was
believed to be a powerful aphrodisiac. Grapes were used to make raisins and
Tomb paintings show that grapevines were sometimes planted
on top of pergolas
to provide shade to the garden. Flowers were raised in gardens to make
decorative bouquets and for use in religious ceremonies. Common garden flowers
were the mandrake and the daisy, chrysanthemum, anemone, and poppy, jasmine, and
Flowers, especially, were an essential part
of temple and tomb gardens. Ancient Egyptians believed floral fragrances
indicated the presence of gods. They symbolically adorned and garnished their
deceased with flowers prior to entombment. In particular, papyrus and water lily
embodied the ancient Egyptian’s beliefs of
creationism, making these two species crucial plants for Egyptian gardens.
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).
vineyard of long, trellised arbors 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.
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. Egyptian ponds and basins were often
decorated white and blue lotus (Nymphaea caerulea) and with papyrus.
The pond was often surrounded by walls or columns supporting grapevines. The
walls and columns were decorated with colorful paintings of people, animals, and
plants such as the poppy and rose.
Beginning during the New Kingdom, gardens
were attached to more luxurious residences and were sometimes enclosed by walls.
Temple gardens were used to raise certain vegetables for ceremonies.
of Eden contains descriptions that correspond with some of the very ancient
Egyptian gardens as well.
Some were house-gardens or garden-houses.
Temple gardens often had rows
of fig trees and sycamores (the tree sacred to the goddess Hathor), tamaris,
willows, or palm trees. Rows of trees sometimes stretched for several
kilometers, connecting several temples. The temples themselves had esplanades
planted with trees. When rows of trees were planted far from the river, wells
had to be dug ten meters deep to reach water for irrigation.
During the time of
Amenophis III, some temples were devoted to a goddess in the form of a tree,
with a trunk for a body and branches for arms. This goddess was believed to
carry water to the dead to quench their thirst.
Temple gardens often were the homes of animals sacred to the gods, such as the
ibis and the baboon. Flowers were part of all the religious ceremonies during
the time of the god Amon. These gardens also produced medicinal herbs and spices
such as cumin, marjoram, anise, and coriander."
Ponds and pools were a common feature of the
residential gardens of the wealthy and powerful of ancient Egypt, and are shown
in a number of tomb paintings. Sometimes, as in the garden of Hatshepsut’s
mortuary temple at Deir el-Bahri, the pond was in the shape of a T, with one
part of the T connected to a river or canal. The water was usually hoisted into
the pond from the river by hand, or using a shadouf. Fish for food and ornament
were raised in the ponds. They also were the home of migrating water birds.
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.
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. Native
American Pueblo Waffle Gardens utilized this concept for harvesting rainwater
for farming. The
legacy that the Egyptian garden leaves to us is irrigation, water ditches,
pavilions, arbors, formal and geometric layouts. Special note goes to the union
of flowering, fruiting and herbal plants together.
Temples often had extensive gardens. The
Temple of Amun at Karnak had twenty-six kitchen gardens, alongside a very early
botanical garden, which, according to an inscription, contained "all kinds
of beautiful flowers and bizarre plants which are found in the divine land which
His Majesty has conquered." The hymns painted on the walls of tombs show that religious ceremonies centered
on the cycles of nature and the changing seasons.
Flowers such as white and blue lotus were
grown in the ponds for decoration and for ceremonies, and papyrus was known to
grow at Deir el-Bahri.
Later, during the Persian occupation of Egypt, the pink lotus was introduced.
The Blue Lotus is Egypt's
Flowers were abundant in ancient Egyptian gardens, and included
cornflowers, mandrakes, roses, irises, myrtle, jasmine, mignonettes,
convolvulus, celosia, narcissus, ivy, lychnis, sweet marjoram, henna, bay
laurel, small yellow chrysanthemums and poppies. There were also papyrus, lotus
Select some of these common special plants for Egyptian gardens
|Trees and Shrubs
Fruits and Vegetables
- Cos Lettuce
- Date Palm
- Wild Celery
- Bird of Paradise
- Lotus (water lily)
- Rose Poinciana
Acacia, aloe, anise, caraway, castor
beans, cassia, coriander, cumin,
cucumber, dill, elderberry, gentian, lotus, mint, myrrh,
poppy, squill, saffron, wormwood.
It is possible that acacia and tamarisk trees were planted to attract
bees, because honey was the only known sweetener at that time.
Metropolitan Museum of Art
The Gardens of Ancient Egypt, Jim Dunn
Botanical and Nature Illustration Collections
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