Prepare to be fascinated, we have researched and found 10 of the oldest surviving gardens in the world.
Gardening first began in the forests in pre-historic times, and around 10,000 BC is thought to have evolved to the enclosure of outdoor space.
The Epic of Gilgamesh, thought to have been written as early as 2100 BC contains the oldest mentions of gardens in surviving literature. Gilgamesh states that his city Uruk was ‘one third gardens’, and in the story visits the ‘Garden of the gods’, a garden with precious stones, pearls and jewel-laden trees.
It is important to set out the criteria used for this list. We decided that the garden must be a planned space, still be maintained, and must have stayed at the same location.
This is an article I have been thinking about for a long time, and have spent weeks researching – so I really hope you enjoy it!
Missouri Botanical Garden
The Missouri Botanical Garden is the oldest botanical garden in continuous operation in the USA.
Founded in 1859, it houses one of the world’s biggest collections of rare and endangered orchids, and features 79 acres of horticultural displays.
The gardens were originally commissioned and funded by philanthropist Henry Shaw, who hired the services of George I. Barnett to design amongst other things a herbarium – which has now grown to house over 6.6 million specimens – making it the second biggest in the US.
There are more than 4,800 trees on the grounds of the Missouri Botanical Garden, with some specimens dating back to the 19th century.
Estimated Age: 158 years old
Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh
Founded in 1670 by Dr. Robert Sibbald and Dr. Andrew Balfour, the Edinburgh Botanic Garden is the oldest botanic garden in Scotland and the second oldest in the UK after Oxford.
Between 1905 and 1932 plant hunter George Forrest added more than 10,000 different specimens to the collection at Edinburgh.
Image: 1, 2, 3
Estimated Age: 347 years old
Oxford Botanic Garden
Founded in 1621 following a donation of £5,000 by Henry Danvers, the 1st Earl of Danby, the University of Oxford Botanic Garden is the oldest botanic garden in the United Kingdom.
The site chosen was on the banks of the River Cherwell at corner of Christ Church Meadow, part of Magdalen College.
Part of the garden had in the past been a Jewish cemetery, until Jewish people were expelled from Oxford and the rest of the UK in 1290 under the ‘Edict of Expulsion’ issued by King Edward I.
Estimated Age: 396 years old
Jardin des Plantes de Montpellier
The oldest botanical garden in France, it was inspired by the Orto Botanico di Padova, and itself served as a model for the Jardin des plantes in Paris.
The garden was created in 1593 under the supervision of Pierre Richer de Belleval, established by letters patent from King Henri IV.
Today the garden holds around 2,680 different species of plant, 500 of which are native to the Mediterranean.
Estimated Age: 424 years old
Completed in 1590, the Fin Garden is the oldest surviving garden in Iran, and part of the Persian Gardens, a designated World Heritage site.
The garden contains Kashan’s Fin Bath, where in 1852 the Qajarid chancellor Amir Kabir was assassinated by King Nasereddin Shah.
Estimated Age: 427 years old
Orto Botanico di Firenze
Also known as Giardino dei Semplici, the ‘Garden of Simples’, the garden was founded on December 1st 1545, by Cosimo I de’ Medici, the Grand Duke of Tuscany.
Early on the garden’s prime interest was medicinal plants, but in 1753 the Società Botanica was created and the focus changed to experimental agriculture.
Today the site occupies 2.3 hectares and contains over 9,000 plant specimens, including a Taxus baccata tree planted in 1720.
Estimated Age: 472 years old
Orto Botanico di Padova
Founded by the Venetian Republic in 1545 on the property of the Benedictine monks of St. Justine, the Orto Botanico di Padova in Padua, Italy, is the oldest surviving university botanical garden in the world.
The collection held many rare plants and was often targeted by thieves, so a circular enclosing wall had to be built around the gardens to protect them.
Estimated Age: 472 years old
Although the site has temples and a history going back to the 11th century, the garden at Ryōan-ji was thought to have been built between 1450 and 1473.
A World Heritage site, it is considered to be one of the defining surviving examples of a form of Japanese Zen temple garden design called kare-sansui or ‘dry landscape’.
Estimated Age: 567 years old
The College Garden at Westminster Abbey
Founded by monks and used as an Infirmarer’s Garden growing medicinal herbs and food.
College Garden is thought to have been in continuous cultivation for over 900 years – making it the oldest in England.
Estimated Age: Over 900 years old
Classical Gardens of Suzhou
The Classical Gardens of Suzhou in Jiangsu Province, China, were founded in the 6th Century, at a time that the city was capital of the Wu Kingdom.
Many dozens of gardens were built, and over 50 still survive – nine of which: Humble Administrator’s Garden, Lingering Garden, Net Master’s Garden, the Mountain Villa with Embracing Beauty, the Canglang Pavilion, the Lion Grove Garden, the Garden of Cultivation, the Couple’s Garden Retreat, and the Retreat & Reflection Garden, are considered to be the embodiment of Chinese ‘Mountain and Water’ gardening.
The oldest known of these gardens is the Canglang Pavilion, which was built in the 11th century on the site of another destroyed garden.
This means that the Canglang Pavilion is possibly the oldest surviving garden in the world.
Estimated Age: 973 years old
These are the oldest gardens still in use today that I could find in my research. If you know of an even older one, or any you think we have missed please include them in the comments!