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Gardening art and science

Gardening, the laying out and care of a plot of ground devoted partially or wholly to the growing of plants such as flowers, herbs, or vegetables.

Gardening can be considered both as an art, concerned with arranging plants harmoniously in their surroundings, and as a science, encompassing the principles and techniques of plant cultivation. Because plants are often grown in conditions markedly different from those of their natural environment, it is necessary to apply to their cultivation techniques derived from plant physiology, chemistry, and botany, modified by the experience of the planter. The basic principles involved in growing plants are the same in all parts of the world, but the practice naturally needs much adaptation to local conditions.

The nature of gardening

Gardening in its ornamental sense needs a certain level of civilization before it can flourish. Wherever that level has been attained, in all parts of the world and at all periods, people have made efforts to shape their environment into an attractive display. The instinct and even enthusiasm for gardening thus appear to arise from some primitive response to nature, engendering a wish to produce growth and harmony in a creative partnership with it.

It is possible to be merely an admiring spectator of gardens. However, most people who cultivate a domestic plot also derive satisfaction from involvement in the processes of tending plants. They find that the necessary attention to the seasonal changes, and to the myriad small “events” in any shrubbery or herbaceous border, improves their understanding and appreciation of gardens in general.

A phenomenal upsurge of interest in gardening began in Western countries after World War II. A lawn with flower beds and perhaps a vegetable patch has become a sought-after advantage to home ownership. The increased interest produced an unprecedented expansion of business among horticultural suppliers, nurseries, garden centres, and seedsmen. Books, journals, and newspaper columns on garden practice have found an eager readership, while television and radio programs on the subject have achieved a dedicated following.

Several reasons for this expansion suggest themselves. Increased leisure in the industrial nations gives more people the opportunity to enjoy this relaxing pursuit. The increased public appetite for self-sufficiency in basic skills also encourages people to take up the spade. In the kitchen, the homegrown potato or ear of sweet corn rewards the gardener with a sense of achievement, as well as with flavour superior to that of store-bought produce. An increased awareness of threats to the natural environment and the drabness of many inner cities stir some people to cultivate the greenery and colour around their own doorsteps. The bustle of 20th-century life leads more individuals to rediscover the age-old tranquillity of gardens.

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