This section is from the book "The Gardener V1", by William Thomson. Also available from Amazon: The New Organic Grower: A Master's Manual of Tools and Techniques for the Home and Market Gardener.
Your true amateur, in things horticultural, is the representative of a class of persons to whom the pages of the 'Gardener' ought to become subjects of deep interest, and full of matter of the most useful character. Perhaps too much of the matter in its columns has hitherto been devoted to the teaching of that portion of its readers who least require it - I mean, the professional gardeners, many of whom are, perhaps, as well able to treat of things horticultural as are their teachers. I have sometimes noticed a tendency, on the part of many writers in gardening papers, to forget that the gardeners of the nation whom they are addressing are in many cases as well informed as themselves, and generally disposed to somewhat resent the almost dictatorial style in which professional articles are frequently indited. Men who have grown grey in the service of horticulture do not relish information, however valuable, if so conveyed; and are far more likely to appreciate that spirit in the teacher which seems to say, "Come now, and let us reason together," rather than that which jumps too quickly at conclusions, and sets up in spirit infallible dogmas of horticultural faith in regard to matters about which their readers may widely differ.
But our amateur is a totally different person. He places emphatic reliance on all that falls from the pen of a professional man. He gazes with wonder and admiration when shown what the professional capacity has accomplished, and treasures up every word uttered by men qualified to speak; and, if possessing moderate capacity, will soon show how he appreciates the advice given. Our amateur has no bounds to his horticultural ambition other than his pocket. He is, however, generally wise enough not to have too many irons in the fire at one time, so he devotes himself sometimes to one special thing and sometimes to several, with varying success. The amateur cultivator of the Pelargonium is largely represented. They soon get posted up in the special knowledge requisite to grow a Pelargonium well; and if cuttings cannot sometimes be begged, plants must be and are bought, and frequently successfully grown. If there is a flower-show held in his locality, he will be there in great force, and will display in his love of plants how beneficent are the influences that horticultural societies can exert, if rightly conducted.
I can also particularise the amateur grower of the Auricula and Polyanthus. He is sure to be a very enthusiast in his pursuit, and will freely spend his money to gain coveted varieties. Strangely enough, the cultivator of these fine old flowers rarely troubles himself about any other plants, unless it be a few Pansies or Tulips; but his devotion to the flowers of his choice leads him to do them well - so well, indeed, as often to out-pace the professional grower.
Working in a somewhat more extensive sphere is found the amateur fruit-cultivator, for he either rejoices in a goodly-sized garden, or has his bit of glass, under which he grows a few Vines, and possibly a Peach-tree or two, and as many Plums or Pears, etc. His experiences are not always pleasurable, for he finds that mildew will appear and thrip will thrive, and he is driven to his wit's end to find a means of ridding himself of them. He will call on you, and ask you to look in and see his house, and not only tell him but show him what to do, for you told him before, and he did it, but it was of no avail. Perhaps he did it wrongly, so you must show him how to do it rightly, that he do not fail in the future. If you walk into his parlour, you will see lying prominent upon his table, and well-thumbed, Thomson on the Vine, and Rivers's 'Orchard-House' and 'Miniature Fruit-Garden.' The contents of these he has well digested, but he will tell you, with apparent sincerity, that after all he requires practical knowledge to apply his information. Fortunately, our fruit-amateur is not a despairing being. He is not daunted by a failure or two.
He comforts himself with the assurance that experience, to be worth anything, must be bought, and so he goes to work again with renewed energies, and is ultimately successful. I dare not forget the amateur Rose-cultivator, but I touch upon him with diffidence, for visions rise up before me of great men - not only mentally but physically great - who, clothed in broadcloth and linen of spotless purity, have made themselves kings and princes amongst amateur cultivators in the great modern Wars of the Roses. Our Queen of Flowers must have no common men for her chief ministers, although all may bask in the sunshine of her sweet smiles; and thus it is that, at the present time especially, our Rose-amateur stands far above the range of other amateur growers in the position he holds in horticultural society. The amateur vegetable-grower may be said to dwell in a lower world. The labour he has to undergo in the pursuit of his special pleasure would scare a man made of tenderer stuff, for vegetables must have exercised over them much physical toil - indeed, the success the amateur meets with will usually prove the best test of the toil he has bestowed on the production of his crops.
At one time he will astonish you with the size and shape of his Onions; at another, with the fine quality of his Potatoes (for this noble esculent he exhibits, and rightly too, a special pride); and then, later on, he will show you such Celery, so white and crisp, and withal so delicately flavoured, that you can hear him chuckle as he puts it to you whether you can beat it 1
These are, however, but a small selection of types from out our great army of amateur cultivators - thanks to the spread of horticultural information through the medium of the press. A love of that beautiful science is fast permeating all classes of the community, and not least in importance are the results to be found amidst the suburban denizens of our great towns, whose occupations, whether professional or otherwise, are usually of a sedentary character, and who, therefore, find in their gardens the purest and healthiest recreation, combined with a profitable bestowal of labour. This class furnishes what might be termed the general amateur, for he dabbles a little in most things that appertain to a garden. It is to this body I intend, as occasion serves, to offer some information suited to their special circumstances. Living, as I do, in the suburbs of a large town, and being myself to a great extent one of this class, I hope not only to instruct others, but, in the act of doing so, to be myself taught, and so each and all be benefited by the action.