Thursday, July 26, 2012

What is Horticulture?

 Liberty Hyde Bailey has been dubbed the, "American Father of Modern Horticulture" but most people would be hard pressed to give a definition of horticulture or feel that they should know, feeling the tinge of embarrassment. However, we don't need to be embarrassed. Bailey himself wrested with it. Let's see what Bailey thought of the word:

Etymologically, horticulture means the cultivation of a garden (hortus, garden, cultura, cultivation); and as all intelligent cultivation rests upon many scientific principles, both the art and science of garden cultivation should be included in the definition. The scope of the definition turns upon the meaning of the word garden. This word comes directly from the Anglo-Saxon gyrdan, to enclose, and is allied to the verb to gird; and indirectly it is allied to the Latin hortus, which originally related to an enclosure. - L.H. Bailey, Annals of Horticulture 1891

Annette Bailey at Ithaca family garden
I suppose that we will always dispute as to what horticulture comprises. I have tried several times to define it...The older I grow, the less I care to define anything. Definitions are at best only formal attempts to express what we already know by experience; and experience is always our guide. By general consent, various arts are loosely assembled under the one word horticulture. How long this one word will be held to cover the entire group, no one can tell, nor is it much worth while to speculate or prophesy. I have come to feel that prophesying is poor business for ordinary folk: if we do our work well and with hopeful enthusiasm, the prophesy will come as the flower comes out of the bud. Therefore, I am well content to let horticulture be merely horticulture, and to be happy that it has fallen to my lot to dally and to work in such a delightful field. -L.H. Bailey, Recent Progress in American Horticulture, 1908

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