February 1, 2012

Horticulture – Origins and Impact

According to the dictionary, the word horticulture comes from the Latin words hortus (garden) and cultura (to grow).  Horticulture is further defined as “the cultivation of a garden, orchard, or nursery; the cultivation of flowers, fruits, vegetables or ornamental plants” or “the science and art of cultivating such plants”.  Within horticulture, you’ll find the areas of edible crops (i.e. fruits, vegetables, potatoes), medicinal, herb and spice crops, as well as ornamental crops, such as trees, shrubs, turfgrass, sod and golf course, cut and potted flowers and bedding plants.  Plants are grown indoors and outdoors, in the soil, in pots or containers or in other areas.  You’ll also find a host of assembly, support or maintenance industries, including landscapers, landscape architects and designers, lawn care professionals, arborist, horticultural therapists and the list goes on.

Most of the time, when you mention or indicate an interest in horticulture, you are greeted with a blank stare or a hearty “huh?”  I suspect that most of the confusion comes from a lack of understanding of the term, rather than a true lack of comprehension.  That being said, most people are unaware of the millions of impact points of horticulture in their daily lives.

Take a walk with me through an average day and see how you are “touched” by horticulture.  Maybe you’ll feel a little more horticultural at the end of it.

You wake up and hear the rustle of leaves on the trees outside in your yard or on the boulevard. Maybe you hear the whir or rumble of the neighbour’s lawnmower or the smell of fresh mown grass.  You prepare a healthy breakfast, complete with orange juice, cereal or pancakes topped with fresh berries or toast with jam.  Splurge and have an omelette with sweet bell peppers and chives or green onions. 

As you head to work, you pass a green space, rows of trees, decorated flower beds and hanging baskets.  Your lunch has carrot sticks or a mixed garden salad.  The atrium in your building is full of tropical plants.  You bail out early to hit the links with some friends, enjoying the tightly mown, immaculate greens and shady trees lining the fairway.  You pick up a potted plant or a bouquet of fresh cut flowers to decorate the table at home.  You head out in the yard after dinner and weed the vegetable garden and flower beds.  And you relax.  Calmness ensues.

And that is just one stereotypical day.  Horticulture has significant references throughout history.  More recently, horticulture represents multi-billion dollar industries.  Gardening is one of the top pass times or hobbies in the world.  So many of the commonplace activities or events in our daily lives are influenced by horticulture, it really is amazing.  The next time you have a chance, hug a horticulturist.  We matter.