This section is from the book "The Gardener V3", 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.
It is very much to be regretted that the slightest jealousy or ill-feeling should spring up and exist in any quarter whatever, between those who may be termed the scientific representatives of horticulture and those who are generally termed practical gardeners. That such a feeling exists at present between these two sections, is deplorably manifest to those who have had sufficient opportunities of hearing the remarks, and knowing the sentiments, of the one towards the other. What has been recently said in the columns of a contemporary, acknowledged as the representative organ of the scientific section of horticulturists, has been keenly felt by their practical fellow-labourers, and the impression produced is no less than that their feelings must become active in some shape or other. When practical horticulturists are busily discussing what they consider the unfair, the unkind, and entirely uncalled-for utterances to which we refer, it is certain that the state of feeling is anything but so harmonious as it is most desirable that it should be.
It is no part of our business to shield either party from whatever measure of blame can be attached to them respectively, in bringing about a state of feeling so very much to be regretted. We cannot, however, refrain from expressing our conviction that the manner in which our contemporary recently represented gardeners as a class was sadly incautious, and calculated to do much harm, especially from its want of sufficient discrimination. It would be folly on our part to defend all who profess themselves to be horticulturists from the charges of being sadly lacking in professional knowledge, and of the honest and honourable characteristics without which they cannot be worthy members of a body of men who, as a body, are much more worthy, professionally and morally, than they have lately been represented. And we cannot but think that had our contemporary the same work to do again, it would either not do it at all, or do it with more discrimination. Already there is evident proof that a desire exists on its part to mollify the wounds it has made.
But it is a pity that - we trust unwittingly - so much indignation and ill-feeling has been created without doing some corresponding amount of good.
There does not exist any class or body of men, from the peasant to the lord, that does not furnish its quota of disreputable characters; but it would be a gross injustice to any class to gibbet those characters, and exhibit them as samples. The greatest care should be exercised, in dealing with such a subject, that any such tendency should not be apparent; and we cannot believe that our contemporary wrote in any other spirit, though the letter of its utterances was sadly indiscriminate and unfortunate.
Our principal object at present is more to ask why, in the nature of things, there should be any of the apparent jealousy or ill-feeling existing between those who, according to custom, we shall designate scientific and practical horticulturists? Let it be distinctly understood that no mere pretenders are intended to be included in such categories; for there are no lack of them in both. We would reiterate the question, why any such feelings should exist between those who study horticulture as a science only, and those who intelligently put that science into practice? One can sympathise with Newton - whose attention was ever directed on the track of some sun or planet - when he expressed contempt for the Earl of Pembroke's taste for sculpture, as being so much taken up with stone dolls. But no such sympathy can exist for any want of cordial feeling between two sections of workers in the same field. For, looking at them both from a scientific point of view, what is the difference between them? What is science? Is it not as well explained by the two words "demonstrative knowledge" as it can be explained? If this be so, there is much that is identical in the work which each performs for horticulture, for we presume that demonstrative knowledge is most of all attributable to those who are year by year and day by day applying all the means and ways by which they are producing the finest fruits, vegetables, and flowers.
The mere possession of sound knowledge may lay undeniable claim to be classed with the scientific; but he who, over and above, demonstrates his sound and accurate knowledge by the regular production of substantial results, is not a man to be treated with coldness and contempt by his fellows. The horticulturist who can descant on the physiology and functions of plants has acquired no mean knowledge; and if, in addition, he can produce fine fruits, vegetables, and flowers, his acquirements are surely all the more onerous and worthy.
The practical man who will not willingly sit at the feet of any scientific Gamaliel, and learn anything that may enable him the more successfully to carry out his garden practice, is not deserving of sympathy, and has denied himself one source of improvement. The man whose immediate sphere is the more purely and exclusively scientific, has no business to pour contempt on any man who has to carry on the real, the profitable, and substantial battle of the garden, simply because he may fall short of the highest standard of technical knowledge and phrases. And to select, as has been recently done, some miserable examples with which the writers have come in contact, and hold them up to public gaze as representatives of gardeners, either morally or intellectually, is unfair and ungrateful towards a body of men who are at least as honourable, intelligent, and respectable as any in receipt of the same remuneration. We say this much fearlessly, and they who are prepared to deny it must surely know little of the position of the generality of gardeners. Not only must they be respectable themselves, but every one connected with them must be so, or they will soon come to grief.
And any man who can successfully carry on a garden establishment of first, second, and third rate importance, must of necessity be a man of varied information and intelligence; and it is no disgrace to gardeners, as a body, that in this respect they are mostly self-taught.
Away, then, for ever, with the distrust, or rather the cause of it, which exists between two sections of fellow-labourers in the same field. Let all who are disreputable in both sections be treated as they deserve, but let neither hold up any mere pretender or unworthy members of either fraternity as samples of the mass. There has been far too much of this, and the result has been a vast amount of jealousy and evil, which it will take a long time to eradicate completely. When men of science have overtaken and fulfilled all the high and useful functions which yet lie in their way, practical men will thank them heartily for their labours; meantime, they may safely intrust other matters which do not lie within their sphere to the owners of gardens and those who serve them. When practical horticulturists have more spare time and work of a less laborious character than falls to their lot at present, perhaps they might be able to ignore all other assistance; meantime, it behoves and becomes both parties to be on better terms.