Do Gardens in Art Hide Provocative Secrets?

March 17, 2020

The Artist's Garden is an oil painting of a young girl with a white cat by the artist, Karin Schaefers. This original work of art is created in an impressionistic style.

By Chelsea Reed

Imagine colorful blossoms... Nature and architecture… Canvas and planting… All balanced in perfect harmony. Art and gardening are both great examples of people expressing the joys of life. It’s no surprise then that the two activities are a natural fit together. Gardens have long been a subject of art and literature in Western Europe. The master artists Monet and Renoir painted many garden scenes. And the classic 1911 novel “The Secret Garden” is a favorite to see on today’s big screen.

This brings up the burning question...do gardens in artwork hide deep secrets for us to uncover? 

Let’s dig into the art history of gardens to find out!

The Art of the Garden Language

Pink Glow is an original watercolor painting of an iris by the artist Rebecca Latham. This work of art is created in a realistic styleBotanical symbolism in art is as old and mysterious as the flower language. Flowers were common imagery in ancient Greek and Roman art. Their mythological meanings were later adapted to European Christian artwork. Garden language in art was very popular in the Middle Ages and Renaissance. Carnations, for example, represented love in ancient Greece and Western Europe. The beech tree, once a symbol of the Roman pantheon, became associated with Christ instead. Indeed, the meaning of plants in European artwork is a complex language. It’s helpful to do some research ahead of time to appreciate the piece you are looking at. The Master painter Hieronymous Bosch’s triptych art is an excellent example of this.


Gardens were very popular in Western European culture. They provided healthy  spaces for people to enjoy and get away from the stresses of court life and crowded cities. Western societies were familiar with the biblical Garden of Eden. Concepts of paradise, innocence, and pursuing happiness were associated with their own gardens. These beautiful corners of the world were easy subjects for artists to paint. 


Garden inspired artwork in the Middle Ages was not exclusive to religious art. It was a way of life. Medieval herbalists carefully documented pictures of flowers and plants into their art books. Each one had its own meanings and medicinal uses. The poisonous hemlock symbolized evil, but the salve of a clover was a life saver for a snake bite patient. This knowledge was passed down from the ancient writings of Pliny and other historians. Knowing the purpose of each flower could mean life and death for the patient!

From the Past to the Present

As you can see, garden plants in art symbolized all sorts of meanings for complex reasons. In some cases, they even depicted the eternal. But sometimes they also represented the beauty in the present. This was especially important in the 19th Century Impressionism movement. Artists like Monet, Renoir and Pissarro worked hard to capture the fleeting beauty of the garden. Renoir even painted a picture of Monet painting in his own garden! 

Of course, the results of the Impressionist Movement were fabulous. Stunning gardens were captured in art to be enjoyed long after the blooms faded. Many artists were inspired to paint floral impressions, and the tradition continues today. Karen Schafers has gorgeous impressionistic florals at Seaside Art Gallery. More examples include Karen Chamblin and Gregory Kalvalec. 

Find Your Secret Garden Getaway

Impressionism not your thing? No worries! Garden art is available today in a variety of styles, such as etchings and realism. Browse through Seaside Art Gallery online today. You can see floral artwork from artists like Rebecca Latham, Stephan Whittle, and more. Who knows? You may even find your own secret garden to bring home!


Chelsea Reed is a copywriter who writes online content, articles, blogs, and websites from her base in North Carolina. 





Also in Blog

Karen Latham: The Call of the Wild and a Nature Loving Artist.
Karen Latham: The Call of the Wild and a Nature Loving Artist.

December 17, 2020

Karen Latham paints with her daughters Rebecca and Bonnie. The family of artists live in Minnesota where they are surrounded by mesmerizing scenery and wildlife. As Karen was painting art to get ready for The Wonderful World of Wildlife event at Seaside Art Gallery, she found the time to chat with us and answer a few questions about her career as an artist.

Continue Reading

Magic in a Quiet Moment. Get to Know Artist Rebecca Latham.
Magic in a Quiet Moment. Get to Know Artist Rebecca Latham.

December 17, 2020

Rebecca Latham is in her studio surrounded by the artwork she’s creating. Her favorite household cat is curled up next to her keeping her warm... with a rolling purr. With her paintings in sight, you can feel the knobby pines, the downy swans, and the wiry coat on the fox kit as she brings them to life on canvas.

It is in this setting that Rebecca shares the journey that brought her here.

Continue Reading

Evening Brilliance by Bonnie Latham
An Inspiring Artist. A Conversation with Bonnie Latham.

December 03, 2020

While Bonnie Latham was painting art to get ready for The Wonderful World of Wildlife event that is going on right now at Seaside Art Gallery, we found her in her studio and asked her a few questions about her career as an artist.

Here’s a look at a fun one-to-one chat with Bonnie.

Continue Reading

Back to top