Well, to begin with, gardens are so much more than the traditional fruit and vegetable variety. Obviously vegetables have a place in the garden, but ornamental plants and green spaces are also very dear to garden enthusiasts. From gardening for pleasure to specific hobby gardening to farming, gardening embodies a diverse range of activities.
According to Penelope Hobhouse, author of The Story of Gardening, gardens are also unique and diverse because, “Different people want different things from gardening, and different cultures and climates make people see things differently.” Based on Penelope Hobhouse’s analysis of gardens, it seems that gardening and garden art is less about the plants, and more about the general experience of being in the garden. Thus, successful landscapers will shape the natural environment in a way that accentuates the beauty already present in the area. Hobhouse’s definition also implies that gardens from one culture may seem out of place, or unnecessary when taken out of context and applied to another culture.
For instance, Roman gardens during 753 BCE were known for their exotic plants, religious themes, and general symmetry. The landscaping was also considered formal, or structured with straight lines, as demonstrated in the picture below. Roman culture also valued art and the use of sculpture in their gardens (which appears in the garden below).
Traditional roman garden. For more information see this website: http://blogs.getty.edu/iris/archaeologist-kathryn-gleason-on-roman-gardens/
Monastic gardens during the Mediœval era, however, were known more for their utilitarian design and focus on practicality. Due to the desire for self-sufficiency, Monastic gardens were necessary to produce plants for food. Additionally, Mediœval gardens were known for their use of raised plant beds, as pictured below. Maintaining and owning a garden during the Mediœval era was also a luxury, as only the monastery, kings, nobility, and the wealthy working class (professionals, merchants, and artisans) were able to afford gardens.
Example of a Mediœval garden. See this website for more information: http://decodedpast.com/the-early-horticulture-of-benedictine-and-cistercian-monks/101
Based on the context then, gardens occupy different meanings and hold different social significance. Differences aside, gardens provide important opportunities for individuals to experience the outdoors and natural world. Especially as urban centers grow, green spaces and gardens will remain an important part of society. There have also been studies which link mental health with green spaces; in that, being in a green space reduces stress and helps people feel more calm. Generally, gardens are a celebration of the natural world and offer a way for people to find repose.