Horticulture and gardening seem to be shrouded in some kind of a mystique. Too many people believe the proverbial “green thumb” is an actual indicator of whether or not a person can grow plants.
I believe that the green thumb myth is based on our agrarian forebears who could grow plants without any real knowledge of how they grew. This approach came about by trial and error and those said to inherit the green thumb simply observed what their parents and grandparents did, copied them and passed the information on to their descendants.
The fact is that knowledge of how plants grow and how to care for them can be acquired, and there are many sources of this knowledge available to people of all ages and socioeconomic status.
This knowledge can be acquired from the many books available at the library or local bookstore. You can also go online, but the information you’re seeking may not be as reliable as a published book that has been fact-checked, edited and, possibly, even peer reviewed.
Here in our area, we have excellent gardening education resources. In our hometown of Webster, we have the renowned Webster Arboretum that conducts classes on various gardening and horticulture subjects. In Rochester, the Rochester Civic Garden Center publishes a whole seasonal catalog of courses. This catalog is available online (www.rcgc.org) and in paper form. Both of these organizations are membership organizations so the discounted member fees for their educational programs can more than make up for the membership cost.
Each state has a cooperative extension service within its state agricultural college and each operates a Master Gardener program. There’s no charge for the excellent, comprehensive educational program that Master Gardeners receive. In exchange, however, you have to volunteer for at least a minimum number of service hours. This service may take the form of answering questions on the phone at the Cooperative Extension office, talking to garden clubs and other interested organizations, writing for the newsletter or a variety of other outreach activities.
While botany and horticulture are subjects that can be learned, good landscape design requires a certain amount of “God-given” talent in addition to sound horticulture knowledge. Also, the best horticulture knowledge cannot prepare you for the physical labor needed to install a new landscape or maintain large trees.
The most important lesson you can learn is to know what you can do well and identify your limitations. Do those tasks that you are able to do and want to do and hire the best people you know to do the other stuff. That’s why we’re here. We really like to work in partnership with knowledgeable property owners to create and maintain beautiful landscapes. Visit us at www.birchcrestlandscape.com.