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.
Botany is the science which gardeners generally identify as the one pre-eminently connected with gardening. In one sense, botany is a "gardener's science" before all others; but I question if botany can lay claim to our notice as being of as much practical value as chemistry. Botany, chemistry, and geology are, properly speaking, different branches of one division of natural philosophy, and to thoroughly understand any one of them, one must have a certain knowledge of the other two. One cannot be a thorough botanist without knowing the chemical components of the plants he studies; one cannot be a thorough geologist without knowing to what order or class to refer the fossilised plants which his science has discovered; and one cannot be a chemist without having plants, and rocks, and minerals to operate upon.
It is with a view to draw the attention of gardeners like myself (just entering, as it were, into real gardening life), to chemistry, that I have written this. I lay no claim whatever to be a chemist myself, in any sense of the term, only I hope I know enough to see the importance of a clearer, deeper knowledge of the science.
There has often been pressed upon the attention of gardeners, especially young gardeners, the necessity of some mental cultivation, in order to prevent our intellects - like our gardens - from running rampant with confusion - worse, noxious weeds. There are differences in intellects, just as there are differences in soils; but, as almost any soil can by cultivation be made to " bloom and blossom as the rose," so, in like manner, can the intellects be made to bloom and blossom, or, neglected, become the nursery-bed of noxious weeds, not only ruining the possessor, but spreading seeds of ruin all around.
It is as a means of cultivating the mind that I recommend the study of chemistry; and not only so, but as a means of profit, for a thorough knowledge of the elements of this science will fit the possessor for a higher position in life than the man who knows nothing whatever of its teachings.
It is that we may become better gardeners that I recommend it; for, be it borne in mind, that it is given to few to excel in more things than one, therefore the thing we should excel in is gardening; so, while cultivating our minds in the study of science, let us select those sciences which will help us on our way to perfection in that profession of which we are representatives.
With our worthy Editor's permission, I will, at some future time, indicate a few points in horticulture where a knowledge of chemistry would revolutionise the daily operations of not a few.
In conclusion, let me say that I address myself " principally to you young men," for it is we who one day will be called upon to "tread the road our fathers trod;" and we should strive to do better than those who have "gone before," seeing we walk in times when science has thrown a clearer light around the occupations of our everyday life.