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A gardener

A Garden is a planned space, usually outdoors, set aside for the display, cultivation, and enjoyment of plants and other forms of nature. The garden can incorporate both natural and man-made materials. Gardening is the activity of growing and maintaining the garden, but even more, it is a metaphor for investment, patience, and bringing out beauty in an independent other.

Gardening is an art and a science. It is an activity that brings out the creativity in all who undertake it. An unending array of colors, textures and sometimes fragrance can be assembled in the garden of all designs. Gardens are as unique as the gardener and his or her interaction with the natural world's elements. For millenia, gardening has been a practice of experimentation where new varieties of flowers, vegetables, fruits and other types of plants are constantly developing under the through selective cross-breeding by plant breeders. From the development of new plant varieties that are resistant to disease, pests and environmental hazards, gardening is ever becoming a less risky endeavor for unexpected or undesirable outcomes. Science has enhanced gardening practices and has armed gardeners with knowledge to create superlative beauty with the raw materials that nature supplies abundantly.

Gardening includes the growing of flowering plants, vegetables, and fruits. Although a garden typically is located on the land near a residence, it may also be located in a roof, in an atrium, on a balcony, in a windowbox, or on a patio or vivarium. Gardening can provide a satisfying emotional outlet for the individual who loves to be outdoors or a year-round pursuit for those fortunate enough to have a greenhouse. Gardening not only connects people to the natural world in a fun and purposeful way, but can be very educational and lead to a lifelong love of the plant world. People of all ages can enjoy the experience of gardening. Children, especially, can be introduced to the mysteries of life cycles, growth and death through observations in a small garden of their own. Nurturing plants in a garden can be a metaphor for a parenting experience.

Gardening also takes place in non-residential green areas, such as parks, public or semi-public gardens (botanical gardens or zoological gardens), amusement and theme parks, along transportation corridors, around tourist attractions and hotels. In these situations, a staff of gardeners or groundskeepers do the gradening.

Many countries have national gardens or arboretums that showcase an expression of their culture or society. Some nations dedicate special gardens for the sake of world peace. The International Peace Garden straddles the border of the United States and Canada at the cities of Dunseith, North Dakota and Boissevain, Manitoba. The Peach Arch International Park straddles the US-Canadian border at the cities of Blaine, Washington and Surrey, British Columbia.

Human dedication to gardening is a testament to the innate desire to live in an ideal environment that is harmonious, beautiful and joyful, engendering peace, healing and rebirth within ourselves and for our all of our planet.


Gardening for food extends far back into prehistory. Cereals and legumes are amongst the oldest crops cultivated by the human race. Between the cereals and legumes there is a parallel domestication: wheat, barley, pea, lentil, broad bean, and chick pea in West Asia and Europe; maize and common bean in Central America; ground nut in South America; pearl millet, sorghum, cowpea, and bambara groundnut in Africa; rice and soya bean in China.[1]

The earliest evidence for ornamental gardens is seen in Egyptian tomb paintings of the 1500s B.C.E.; they depict lotus ponds surrounded by rows of acacias and palms. The other ancient gardening tradition is of Persia: Darius the Great was said to have had a "paradise garden" and the Hanging Gardens of Babylon were renowned as a Wonder of the World. Persian influences extended to post-Alexander's Greece: around 350 B.C.E. there were gardens at the Academy of Athens, and Theophrastus, who wrote on botany, was supposed to have inherited a garden from Aristotle. Epicurus also had a garden where he walked and taught, and bequeathed it to Hermarchus of Mytilene. Alciphron also mentions private gardens.

The most influential ancient gardens in the western world were Ptolemy's gardens at Alexandria and the gardening tradition brought to Rome by Lucullus. Wall paintings in Pompeii attest to elaborate development later, and the wealthiest of Romans built enormous gardens, many of whose ruins are still to be seen, such as at Hadrian's Villa.

Byzantium and Moorish Spain kept garden traditions alive after the fourth century. By this time a separate gardening tradition had arisen in China, which was transmitted to Japan, where it developed into aristocratic miniature landscapes centered on ponds and later into the severe Zen gardens of temples.

In Europe, gardening revived in Languedoc and the Ile-de-France in the 13th century, and in the Italian villa gardens of the early Renaissance. French parterres developed at the end of the sixteenth century and reached their high development under Andre le Notre. English landscape gardens opened a new perspective in the eighteenth century.

The nineteenth century saw an increase of historical revivals and Romantic cottage-inspired gardening, as well as the rise of flower gardens, which became dominant in home gardening in the twentieth century.[2]

For millenia, gardens were not only created for aesthetic beauty, but were often created to attract special insects such as butterflies or various types of birds and animals. Gardens have been grown for fragrance, medicinal purposes and to structurally enhance public and private properties.

American era

English settlers arriving in Virginia and Massachusetts in the early years of the seventeenth century brought seeds for wheat, barley, rye, oats, hay, and peas, which were grown as field crops. Kitchen gardens, close to the house, included vegetables, herbs, fruit trees, and berries. An integral element of the household, the garden supplied not only food, but also medicines, insect repellents, preservatives, air fresheners, dyes, and other necessities.

This same process was repeated as they traveled westward. As pioneers of the West settled, they planted gardens and orchards for immediate sustenance. Farming the land for cash crops took much more effort. Many of the original varieties of plants that were grown by the early homesteaders can still be found today. These varieties are known as heirloom plants among contemporary gardeners. There are garden clubs and organizations known as "seed savers" that continue to keep these historical plants and seeds perpetually available for interested gardeners.

Andrew Jackson Downing began a horticultural revolution with the 1841 publication of A Treatise on the Theory and Practice of Landscape Gardening. Downing's idea was to unify the classical standards of European style with the irregular, raw, and picturesque beauty of America. His vision included home design and had unprecedented popular appeal. Downing advocated a free-flowing style of planting and the scattering of parts of the garden about the grounds. Public parks, even cemeteries, reflected the new naturalistic trend.

Thirty years afterward, Frank J. Scott published The Art of Beautifying Suburban Home Grounds of Small Extent. In his work, Scott addressed the nation's growing middle class, whose estate might be as small as an eighth of an acre. He suggested that front yards be open to the street and to adjoining neighbors' properties, the look that characterizes American suburbs today.

The books that have been valued gardening references in American homes since colonial times have been joined by radio shows, television programs, and Internet resources. In 2001, the National Gardening Association found that eight out of ten American households regularly tend lawns and gardens. Most gardeners are homeowners, aged 35 to 54. Men and women are equally represented. In 2001, Americans spent $37.7 billion on horticultural products. The Department of Agriculture has ranked the nursery and greenhouse industry as the fastest growing segment of United States agriculture and the second most important in economic output.[3]

Gardening compared to farming

In respect to its food producing purpose, gardening is distinguished from farming chiefly by scale and intent. Farming occurs on a larger scale, and with the production of saleable goods as a major motivation. Farming is generally a full-time commercial activity involving large land usage, irrigation systems, chemical fertilizers, and an investment in heavy equipment to prepare, plant and harvest crops. Gardening is done on a smaller scale, primarily for pleasure and to produce goods for the gardener's own family or community. Gardening is labor-intensive and employs very little infrastructural capital, typically no more than a few tools, e.g. a spade, hoe, basket and watering can. Sometimes there is an overlap between farming and gardening because some moderate-sized vegetable growing operations called market gardens are considered to be farming on a small scale. Hobby farming is another term used to describe gardening or raising livestock on the smallest of levels by one family as a very basic income supplement, usually on an acreage of five or less acres.

Ringwood Community Garden in Melbourne, Australia

In part because of labor intensity and aesthetic motivations, gardening is very often much more productive per unit of land than farming. In the former Soviet Union, half the food supply came from small peasants' garden plots on the huge government-run collective farms, although they were tiny patches of land.

The term precision agriculture is sometimes used to describe gardening using intermediate technology (more than tools, less than harvesters). This form of gardening is found especially in small organic farming operations.

Community gardening is a growing movement across the United States and in some countries such as Great Britain and Australia. Small plots are made available to urban dwellers to plant for personal use. Many community gardens can be found on land that is vacant, and often in inner city areas. Community gardening brings people together, beautifies the neighborhood, and creates a sense of ongoing care for the local environment.

Gardening in all its forms has become a major part of modern living for both rural and urban dwellers. Seasonal seeds and bedding plants can be found not only in the traditional plant nurseries, but also at grocery stores, drug stores, and many department stores. Many of today's one-stop department stores have gardening departments complete with furniture, art, statuary, pond supplies and all manner of gardening supplies to create a place in the outdoors that is inviting and enjoyable. There are no boundaries to the imagination once one gets started with creating a unique garden of personal taste and affordability.

Social aspect

In modern Europe and North America, people often express their political or social views in gardens, intentionally or not. The lawn vs. garden issue is played out in urban planning as the debate over the "land ethic" that is to determine urban land use and whether hyperhygienist bylaws (e.g. weed control) should apply, or whether land should generally be allowed to exist in its natural wild state. In a famous Canadian Charter of Rights case, "Sandra Bell vs. City of Toronto," 1997, the right to cultivate all native species, even most varieties deemed noxious or allergenic, was upheld as part of the right of free expression, at least in Canada.

In US and British usage, the production of ornamental plantings around buildings is called landscaping, landscape maintenance or groundskeeping, while international usage uses the term gardening for these same activities. In landscape gardening an overall aesthetic effect is sought, usually to enhance dwellings, public buildings, and monuments and to integrate and beautify parks, playgrounds, and fairgrounds. Formal landscaping involves artificial modifications of the terrain and emphasizes balanced plantings and geometrical design; the naturalistic style incorporates plantings with the natural scenery.

In the British Isles people often surround their house and garden with a hedgerow. Common hedge plants are privet, hawthorn, beech, yew, leyland cypress, hemlock, arborvitae, barberry, box, holly, oleander and lavender. The idea of open gardens without hedges is distasteful to many who like privacy.


The importance of gardening has become a lesson being relearned in the modern educational process. The Slow Food movement has sought in some countries to add an edible schoolyard and garden classrooms to schools. Some elementary schools in the USA have gardening clubs for elementary school children as extracurricular programs to foster interest and knowledge of gardening as well as a love for the outdoor environment.

In the United States, Canada, and Australia there are Master Gardener programs promoted by many university extension programs for the purpose of not only educating the individual but for spreading the knowledge of gardening practices to the public at large. Most Master Gardener programs require their graduates to volunteer a certain number of hours per year to share their gardening expertise with their communities.


As urban areas and industries continue to grow the concern for the quality of the environment continues to grow. Many avid gardeners are ardent supporters of the annual Earth Day celebration that has been held worldwide every April 22 since 1970. Gardening is one of foremost ways for an individual to directly exert a positively influence on the urban environment. Unfortunately, some of the modern tools for gardening have become an environmental issue. In 1990 California made a move to control some everyday tools of modern American gardeners: gasoline-powered lawn mowers, leaf blowers, hedge trimmers and snow blowers. In an effort to regulate exhaust from these and other "utility" machines, the state's Air Resources Board was attempting to reduce pollutant emissions by 55 percent. It was claimed that the machines produced up to 50 times more pollution per horsepower than trucks produce.

The lawn-and-garden industry has become big business in the United States. From $4.6 billion in sales in 1990[4] to $8.8 billion in 2005[5]the industry shows no signs of slowing.

A strong argument for an increase in small food gardens in the U.S. is made by the statistic that each year, food-borne diseases cause about 76 million illnesses, 325,000 hospitalizations, and 5,000 deaths. One reason for this is the length of time it takes to get the product from garden to consumer.[6]

Gardening as art

Zen garden, Ryōan-ji
Villa di Castello, Florence, Italy

Garden design is considered to be an art in most cultures, distinguished from gardening, which generally means garden maintenance. In Japan, for instance, Samurai and Zen monks were often required to build decorative gardens or practice related skills like flower arrangement known as ikebana. In eighteenth century Europe, country estates were refashioned by landscape gardeners into formal gardens or landscaped parklands, such as at Versailles, France or Stowe, England. Today, landscape architects and garden designers continue to produce artistically creative designs for private garden spaces.

Inspiration for art

There is hardly any artist of note who has not done paintings of gardens. Vincent van Gogh and Claude Monet are two of the most famous who drew inspiration from gardens. Monet painted the reflections in the lily pond at his Giverny garden. Van Gogh made gardens one of his prime and enduring motifs for experimentation. Edward Steichen, as a child working in his father's garden, developed an interest in plants that would later play a role in the development of his paintings and photographs and in international recognition for his own perennials.

Obstacles to gardening

Successful gardening requires a knowledge of the various pests that present an obstacle to perfect gardens. A weed is an uninvited plant pest which robs a garden crop of space, moisture and nutrients. Insect pests damage garden crops by feeding on garden plants and reproducing there.

There are many types of controls for garden pests. For weed control, there is hoeing, hand pulling, and cultivating between plants to remove weeds. Some gardeners like to cover the ground between plants with dried grass clippings or a natural or plastic mulch to preserve soil moisture and limit weed growth. Herbicides are chemicals used to control or eliminate the spread of weeds. The gardener who wants to keep to natural methods will turn to organic gardening.

International protection

Governments of most countries restrict the importing of plant material because of the threat of invasive species of plants or the diseases and pests that may accompany them. As a result there are strict laws about transporting plants across international borders. In the U.S.A., there are also restrictive measures within states to limit transportation of local produce as a means of protecting against the spread of pests and diseases.


  1. Gardening Timeline Compiled by Michael P. Garofalo Retrieved September 30, 2007.
  2. History of Gardening.
  3. Gardening
  4. Robert Reinhold. 1990. California Acts on Pollution in the Garden Retrieved October 1, 2007.
  5. Garden Equipment Manufacturing Industry in the U.S. (Q2-2007 Edition) Retrieved October 1, 2007.
  6. Food-Related Illness and Death in the United States Retrieved October 1, 2007.

ISBN links support NWE through referral fees

  • American Horticultural Society. The American Horticultural Society Gardening Manual. New York, NY: Dorling Kindersley, 2000. ISBN 0789459523
  • Bartholomew, Mel, and Mel Bartholomew. All New Square Foot Gardening: Grow More in Less Space! Nashville, Tenn: Cool Springs Press, 2006. ISBN 1591862027
  • Buczacki, Stefan. Beginners Guide to Gardening. London, England. Conran Octopus Publishing, 2000. ISBN 1840911530
  • Bush-Brown, Louise Carter, James Bush-Brown, and Howard S. Irwin. America's Garden Book. New York: Macmillan USA, 1996. ISBN 0028609956
  • Calkins, Carroll C. Reader's Digest Illustrated Guide to Gardening. Pleasantville, NY: Reader's Digest Association, 1996 (original 1978). ISBN 0895770462
  • Carroll, Maureen. Earthly Paradises: Ancient Gardens in History and Archaeology. Los Angeles: J. Paul Getty Museum, 2003. ISBN 0892367210
  • Christopher Brickell. The American Horticultural Society Encyclopedia of Plants and Flowers. DK Publishing, 2002. ISBN 0789489937
  • Christopher, Thomas, Margaret Roach, and Douglas Brenner. Gardening 101: learn how to plan, plant, and maintain a garden. New York, NY: Martha Stewart Omnimedia, 2000. ISBN 0848719357
  • Darke, Rick. In Harmony with Nature: Lessons from the Arts & Crafts Garden. New York: Friedman/Fairfax, 2000. ISBN 1567999042
  • The Encyclopedia of Organic Gardening. Emmaus, Pa: Rodale Press, 1988 (original 1978). ISBN 0878572252
  • Groves, Marjorie P. Better Homes and Gardens Complete Guide to Gardening. Des Moines: Meredith Corp, 1979. ISBN 0696000415
  • Huxley, Anthony. An Illustrated History of Gardening. London: Macmillan in association with the Royal Horticultural Society, 1983. ISBN 0333351495
  • Streep, Peg. Spiritual Gardening: Creating Sacred Space Outdoors. Alexandria, Va: Time-Life Books, 1999. ISBN 0737000600
  • Weishan, Michael, and Laurie Donnelly. The Victory Garden Companion: America's most popular gardening series offers expert advice for creating a beautiful landscape for your home. New York: Collins, 2006. ISBN 0060599774

External links

All links retrieved May 23, 2017.


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