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Picture of fall pumpkins in field.

Picture of fall pumpkins in field.

David Beaulieu

Horticulture is the science or art of cultivating fruits, vegetables, flowers, or ornamental plants. Etymologically, the term can be broken down into two Latin words: hortus (garden) and cultus (tilling).

As William L. George explains in his definition, horticulture must be broken down into five distinct disciplines:

  1. floriculture
  2. landscape horticulture
  3. olericulture
  4. pomology
  5. post-harvest physiology

According to George, #1 pertains to producing and marketing flowers (think of the wholesale businesses from whom florists buy flowers to sell in arrangements to retail customers). #2 is about producing, marketing and maintaining landscape plants. Along the same lines, producers and marketers of vegetables and of fruits may have studied olericulture and pomology, respectively. Finally, have you ever wondered if someone actually studies how to prevent that produce you buy at the supermarket from spoiling prematurely? Well, now you know: that's what post-harvest physiologists deal with.

Scholars have been writing about horticulture for centuries, including Greco-Roman scholars. Among the Romans, Cato the Elder, Varro, Columella, Virgil and Pliny the Elder stand out. Virgil, better known for his Aeneid, set down his reflections on horticulture in the Georgics. As a poet, his work on the subject is appreciated more for the way he related the information rather than for the factual content.

If you're interested in learning more about horticulture, I recommend the following articles:

Master Gardeners are well-versed in horticulture.

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