Protected crops in a stunning display
What is Horticulture?

It has been only recently - this morning in fact - that I have had to finally admit that maybe I am some kind of gardening snob. Why? Because after six, struggling years of intensive training in the black art of horticulture, I find that the red mist of lividity (I think that may be a real word) gently slips over my kindly veneer of tolerance whenever I am referred to as a gardener!

Old school gardener
Old school gardener
I have to be honest - and this shouldn't be taken as a slight against the country's hard working and poorly paid army of professional gardeners - but I do not like gardening! I don't like traipsing around in cold wet mud. I don't like the skin peeling off my hands because I forgot to wear gloves - again. I don't like getting stones in my boots. I don't like scrabbling around on my hands and knees to do the weeding and inadvertently put my hands in some cat poop - especially when I don't even own a cat! I don't like being in the wind, and I don't like being in the rain. I don't like septic thorns in my fingers, and I don't like next doors brambles slicing thin lengths of skin from my arms and legs - the list goes on.

It comes down to this simple statement:

'...All gardeners may well consider themselves to be horticulturists, but not all horticulturists are gardeners...'

I of course, consider myself to fit within the latter. I am not saying that I don't garden as it is unavoidable if you want to maintain standards. I am just saying that I don't enjoy it.

So, what is horticulture?

Modern glasshouse production
Modern glasshouse production
You can tell by the name that horticulture is the science, but it is far more than that. Horticulture is also the technology, and business involved in intensive plant cultivation for human use. It is practised from the individual level in a garden, and right up to the activities of a multinational corporation.

Horticulture is so diverse in its activities, incorporating plants for food (fruits, vegetables, mushrooms, culinary herbs) and non-food crops (flowers, trees and shrubs, turf-grass, hops, medicinal herbs) that no single person can ever know it all - although I have met plenty who think they already do.

Horticulture also includes related services in plant conservation, landscape restoration, landscape and garden design/construction/maintenance, horticultural therapy, and much, much more.

Horticulturists apply the knowledge, skills, and technologies used to grow intensively produced plants for human food and non-food uses and for medical personal or social needs. The work of a horticulturist involves plant propagation and cultivation with the aim of improving plant growth, yields, quality, nutritional value, and resistance to insects, diseases, and environmental stresses. We work as gardeners, growers, therapists, designers, and technical advisers in the food and non-food sectors of horticulture.

Micro-propagation laboratory
Micro-propagation laboratory 
Horticultural scientists focus on the research that underpins horticultural knowledge, skills, technologies, education, and commerce. Horticultural science encompasses all of the pure sciences – mathematics, physics, chemistry, geology, and biology – as well as related sciences and technologies that underpin horticulture, such as plant pathology, soil science, entomology, weed science, and many other scientific disciplines. It also includes the social sciences, such as education, commerce, marketing, healthcare and therapies that enhance horticulture's contribution to society.

So in defence of my earlier statement - and with gardening being only a tiny part of the horticultural world, am I really a gardening snob or just a horticulturist at heart?

For related articles click onto the following links:

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What is Horticulture?

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