There are two fundamental original garden types from which all the world's gardens derive in various combinations. The first to enter Europe was the Middle Eastern water garden, a 'paradise', transmitted through the Imperial Greeks and Romans. The other form of garden comes from a distinctive tradition of manipulating water and trees to make landscapes. This idea arose in India and China and was transmitted to Japan, where it developed into aristocratic miniature landscapes centered on trees and ponds and separately into the severe Zen mineral gardens of temples.

Paradise gardens
The word paradise is derived from the Avestan language, or Old Persian. Its original meaning was a walled-in compound or garden; from pairi (around) and daeza or diz (wall, brick, or shape). The most basic feature is the enclosure of an irrigated cultivated area. This excludes the wildness of nature, which originally was an Middle Eastern arid or semi-arid ecosystem. The paradise enclosed the tended, watered greenery of the garden, which primarily served the utilitarian purpose of providing food. Once the needs of the owner for food were met, the greenery and its water supply were arranged to delight the eye and connect the mind to ideas beyond the daily round. Though cultivation of plants for food long predates history, the earliest evidence for ornamental gardens is seen in Egyptian tomb paintings of the 1500s BC; they depict lotus fish ponds surrounded by rows of acacias and palms. The other ancient gardening tradition is of Persia: Darius the Great was said to have had a "paradise garden" and the Hanging Gardens of Babylon were renowned as a Wonder of the World. The Achaemenid kings set these gardens within enclosed royal hunting parks, a different landscape garden tradition, which they inherited from the Assyrians, for whom the ritual lion hunt was a rite that authenticated kingship, far more than a mere royal sport. The European menagerie and the deer park were produced in response to the same class-dominant sentiment. Our botanical and zoological gardens are direct descendants of these collections of wild things and the art associated with them.

In its simplest form, the Persian ornamental paradise consists of a formal rectangle of water, with enough of a flow to give it life and movement, and with a raised platform to view it from. A pavilion provides more permanent shelter than the original tent. Strictly aligned, formally arranged trees, especially the chenar or Platanus, provide shade, and the perimeter is walled for privacy and security. Odor and fruit are important elements in this paradise, which realizes the symbol of eternal life, a tree with a spring issuing at its roots. This assembly became the foundation of much of the garden traditions of Islam, and later on of Europe. The commonest and easiest layout for the perimeter walls is that of a rectangle, and this forms one of the prime features of this kind of garden. Another common theme is the elaborate use of water, often in canals, ponds or rills, sometimes in fountains, less often in waterfalls of various kinds.

The rectangular or rectilinear theme of the garden is often extended to the water features, which may be used to quarter the garden. This layout is echoed in the four rivers of the Biblical Garden of Eden, and much of the use and transcendental symbolism of the paradise garden is derived from this connection. The contrast between a formal garden layout with the informality of free-growing plants provides a recurring theme to many paradise gardens.

Persian influences extended to post-Alexander's Greece: around 350 BC there were gardens at the Academy of Athens, and Theophrastus, who wrote on botany, was supposed to have inherited a garden from Aristotle. Epicurus also had a garden where he walked and taught, and bequeathed it to Hermarchus of Mytilene. Alciphron also mentions private gardens.

The most influential ancient gardens in the western world were Ptolemy's gardens at Alexandria and the gardening tradition brought to Rome by Lucullus. Wall paintings in Pompeii attest to elaborate development later, and the wealthiest of Romans built enormous gardens, many of whose ruins are still to be seen, such as at Hadrian's Villa, which inspired the Rennaissance gardens of the Villa d'Este.

Byzantium and Moorish Spain kept garden traditions alive after the end of the Western Roman Empire in the 4th century.

Byzantium undoubtedly occupies an important place in the history of garden design. The city, which became Istanbul, was capital of the Eastern Roman Empire and survived for a thousand years after the fall of the Rome. The gardens of Byzantium were however mostly destroyed after the fifteenth century Turkish conquest.

Byzantine gardens were based largely on Roman ideas emphasizing elaborate mosaic designs, a typical classical feature of neatly arrayed trees as well as man made-structures such as fountains and small shrines, which gradually grew to become more elaborate as time progressed. Byzantine gardens developed a distinct style of their own however, drawing upon Oriental, and in particular contemporary Islamic influences from the near East and North Africa. Some elements of Moorish influence are somewhat tangible, particularly concerning the aforementioned fountain design, but also Persian Gardens had a distinct influence, emphasizing a common theme in Byzantine Culture, that of the clash of colours.

Little else is known about Byzantine gardens however, and very few references exist on the subject. The Byzantines, like their Greco-Roman predecessors, attached great importantance to such matters of aesthetics, but throughout the whole of Greco-Roman history the garden never seemed to occupy the place of prestige in its culture that it occupied in the Middle East. Rather, the tradition of cultivating gardens was largely drawn from the more practical purposes of groves of olive trees. The latter is summarised in Pliny's ideal Roman estate: villa, vineyards and olive grpves, backed by dark woods with distant views of gentle farmland and mountains.

In the farthest west, the Moorish tradition is best known by the paved and tiled courtyards with arcades, pools and fountains of Moorish Andalusia.

In the east, the Persian paradise gave rise to the Mughal gardens of India, a late example of which is the grounds of the Taj Mahal at Agra. The founder of this empire, Babur, details his enthusiasm for gardens in his memoirs, the Babur-nama. Babur had occupied Samarkand as a young man and seen the Persian-influenced gardens made by Timur. He described his favoured type of garden as a charbagh, though this word developed a new meaning in India because, as Babur explains, India lacked the fast- flowing streams required for the Central Asian charbagh. The Agra garden, now known as the Ram Bagh, is thought to have been made by Babur and to have been changed at a later date. India and Pakistan have a number of Mughal gardens which differ from their Central Asian predecessors in their highly disciplined geometry.

'Hill-and-Pond' gardens of China and Japan.
Both Chinese and Japanese garden design traditionally is intended to evoke the natural landscape of mountains and rivers. However, the intended viewpoint of the gardens differs: Chinese gardens were intended to be viewed from within the garden and are intended as a setting for everyday life. Japanese gardens, with a few exceptions, were intended to be viewed from within the house, sort of like a diorama. Additionally, Chinese gardens more often included a water feature, while Japanese gardens, set in a wetter climate, would often get by with the suggestion of water. (Such as sand or pebbles raked into a wave pattern.) Traditional Chinese gardens are also more likely to treat the plants in a naturalistic way, while traditional Japanese gardens might feature plants sheared into mountain shapes. This contrasts with the handling of stone elements: in a Japanese garden, stones are placed in groupings as part of the landscape, but in a Chinese garden, a particularly choice stone might even be placed on a pedestal in a prominent location so that it might be more easily appreciated.

Traditional Chinese gardens go back almost 2,000 years to the Han Dynasty though most Scholar's Gardens date back to the more recent Ming and Qing dynasties. A Scholar's Garden would have been built by a scholar or an administrator retiring from the emperor's court. It would have been an enclosed private garden always associated with a house which, in turn without its garden, would not have been considered whole.

The art of the Chinese garden is closely related to Chinese landscape painting - it is not a literal imitation of a natural landscape, but the capturing of its essence and spirit. The parallel could be drawn to a Chinese hand scroll painting which as it unrolls, reveals a journey full of surprises and meditative pauses.

The enjoyment of the garden is both contemplative and sensual. It comes from making the most out of the experiences of everyday life, as such, architectural elements are always a part of a Scholar's Garden. The painter's eye must be used to lay out the main architectural elements - the wall becomes the paper the rockery and plant are painted on. The structures playfully rise and fall, twist and turn and even "leave" the garden to take advantage of and even create a great variety of beautiful scenes.

To paraphrase the 15th century garden designer Ji Ching:

"The garden is created by the human hand, but should appear as if created by heaven."

Development of European traditions
In Europe, gardening revived in Languedoc and the Ile-de-France in the 13th century. In Giovanni Boccaccio's 'Decameron', written about 1350 when Florence had been subject to a plague, a group of young people telling stories move from garden to garden in order to escape the life in a corrupt and plague ridden city. The group consists of seven young women and three young men and and whilst there they entertain each other with various tasks and songs and storytelling to pass the time. In the picture on the left, the British Pre-Raphaelite painter, John William Waterhouse is depicting 'The Enchanted Garden' illustrating one of the stories where a summer garden is magically produced in the depths of winter.

So, even by Boccaccio's time gardens were on their way as an adjunct of art. This theme of gardens in art was part and parcel of the Renaissance rural retreat. It developed from the idea of the rich man's ornamental farm through the great Italian villa gardens of the early Renaissance. This move towards rural living led to the main architectural transformation of the Italian Renaissance, which involved the opening up of domestic space to admit light and air. Walls became thinner and windows larger, while enticing loggias offered expansive vistas over landscapes or gardens. Classical inspiration encouraged architects to create special zones within the house for summer and winter use and coupled these zones with access to winter and summer gardens. The classical text on architecture by Vitruvius, the Roman architect of the 1st century, had recommended that winter dining-rooms should have a southe-western exposure, bathed by the gentle warmth of the setting sun, whereas summer dining-rooms should face norath. Protected from direct sunlight. The energies for these 16th century as creations came from a literate elite, grown rich from business or the church, as 'theatres' to represent pre-Christian myths and legends. In the circle of the narrow elite recent research has revealed there were close similarities between the static choreography of the formal gardens of the nobility and the moving choreographies performed by the members of the court. The principles of order and proportion, the expression of splendour, the geometrical forms, were all fundamental principles of both Renaissance court dance and the formal garden. The patterns in both these art-forms were meant to be viewed from above. This close similarity in design principles between the horticultural and kinetic arts existed right through the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries and continued into the seventeenth century.

Because of their alliance with Spain, who ruled the world, the provinces of Flanders at that time provided a favourable soil for the development of painting gardens. The architectural painter Vredemann de Vries lived and died at the court of Rudolph II. His numerous garden sketches, which were published in 1568 and 1583 in a series of engravings called Hortorum Viridariorumque Formæ, have more of the town character; and although he chiefly took his examples from the gardens of his own home, they are best ranked as specimens of the German style. De Vries was a zealous student of Vitruvius, and thought that his gardens could have no higher recommendation than that they were divided as Vitruvius demanded into Doric, Ionic, and Corinthian. But it is not the fact that there is any real difference in style. The gardens are very much alike, even in so far as they try in individual parts to obtain a great variety. At any one site there are always different gardens divided by hedges or barriers, and seldom with any axial arrangement. For the most part they have a tree in the middle, now and then a pavilion with a fountain, and occasionally are varied with a sunk basin.

By the mid-17th century gardens had come to be regarded as 'mirrors of the world'. John Evelyn writes of 'that Great and Universal Plantation (ie the World), epitomiz'd in our Gardens'. John Worlidge in 1669 had also observed the 'Gardens, orchards, partirres, avenues... represent unto us epitomized, the form and idea of the m ore ample and spacious pleasant fields, groves and other rustick objects'. To Evelyn the gardeners can be 'most usefull members of Humane Societie' because their purpose is to make representations of 'Nature herselfe'.

From the very beginning Holland had made a great effort to surpass its natural limitations. With an insatiable hunger, Flemish artists seized upon the material of the whole world. Dutch garden art lives for us still in an abundant supply of pictures, both paintings and woodcuts, and above all in those copper engravings that the Flemish people loved so dearly. It may be that with this mass of material individuality was sometimes wiped out; for in the immense number of pictures of the months and seasons we find spring and summer, April, May, and generally some autumn months as well, depicted as garden scenes; and these in the faithful reproductions of this most realistic kind of art give many significant details of the style of that day; yet these gardens are not to be taken as individual portraiture, for the same scene is often found transferred from one picture to another. For instance, a painting by Breughel in the Museum at Lille and another by Abel Grimmer at Antwerp show exactly the same garden with scarcely any change in the accessories.

Making a break with the Italian garden designs, based on myth and legend, the French developed parterre gardening at the end of the 16th century reaching high development under Andre le Notre, were abstract geometrical creations. He was the foremost gardener in the French manner. English 18th century landscape 'gardens with trees' were the next development that opened a new perspective on nature in the countryside. All of these European developments of gardening where aimed at displaying wealth and class status.

The 19th century saw a welter of historical revivals and cottage-inspired gardens of the Romantic movement, as well as the rise of flower gardens, which became dominant in municiple park and small- scale home gardening in the 20th century.

In the mid-20th century gardening expanded into town and city planning with a new profession of landscape architect. Garden designers are faced with the much wider perspectives of inspiration, not only from history, which was for centuries the main driving force for change, but also from the challenges of wildlife conservation and land remediation.

Although garden designers cannot escape from history the they are entering the 21st century having condensed the historical development of gardening into the following seven themes. Most gardens, old and new, have something of each, but the outstanding 'classical gardens' of the new millennium fall clearly into one of the following thematic categories.
  • Formalistic- regular or symmetrical in its layout
  • Floristic- dominated by drifts of intermixed flowers
  • Minimalistic- designed with the least possible components and techniques
  • Fantastic- strange, weird or fanciful in appearance
  • Romantic- emphasis on feeling and content rather than order and form
  • Naturalistic- imitating or reproducing ecosystems
  • Exotic- having a strange or bizarre non-native allure, beauty or quality