Horticulture marries science, art
December 19, 2017
While I don't work with test tubes or petri dishes, nor do I paint or sculpt, as a horticulturist I am a scientist and an artist. I am not only a horticulturist, but also a practicing active gardener. If you are also a gardener, you too are a scientist and artist because horticulture is a science and an art.
I like how the University of Minnesota defines horticulture: "The art and science of plant production for both beauty and utility." It encompasses decorative and functional ornamental plants including turf and flowers; edibles such as fruits, vegetables and nuts; and commercial applications comprising golf courses, parks, playing fields and garden centers. Horticulture is practiced at home, commercially whether retail or wholesale, and through nonprofit organizations. Liberty Hyde Bailey, a renowned American scholar of horticulture, wrote that it was "the growing of flowers, fruits and vegetables, and of plants for ornament and fancy." Horticulture covers "producing, improving, marketing, and using fruits, vegetables, flowers, and ornamental plants" (American Society for Horticultural Science – ASHS). Horticulture is a branch of agriculture and horticultural crops diversify our diets from traditional agricultural crops.
We often reap the benefits of horticulture: every time we eat a meal that includes fruits or veggies; every time we enjoy a park or a golf course; when we put up a Christmas tree or buy a poinsettia; whenever we appreciate the beauty of a landscape; or each time we are given or give a bouquet of flowers, just to name a few. According to the ASHS, what differentiates horticulture from botany, agriculture or other plant sciences is that it combines both science and aesthetics. Those of us already thinking of next year's landscape or garden improvements certainly understand the pleasure of the visual aspect.
Besides food and beauty, the science of horticulture is important in soil management, arboriculture, landscape restoration and plant conservation. Under the horticulture umbrella are landscape horticulture, urban horticulture, horticulture therapy, social horticulture, turf management, pomology, viticulture, oenology (wine production and marketing), and floriculture.
As this year winds down, I congratulate all my fellow scientists and artists for continuing to expand your horticultural knowledge and your gardening arts. Kudos to you for all you have done this past year in the interest of horticulture: mowing the lawn; planting trees, flowers and shrubs; fertilizing; pruning; turning the compost pile; tending the garden; raising and eating veggies; picking apples and other fruits; and even stopping now and then to drink wine.
JoAnne Skelly is Associate Professor & Extension Educator, Emerita, University of Nevada Cooperative Extension. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.