Horticulture, the most perfect method of tilling the earth so as to produce the best results, whether the products are objects of utility or of beauty. It is difficult to define the line between horticulture and improved agriculture upon the one side, and landscape architecture upon the other. Horticulture or gardening has been pursued from the earliest times of civilization or national refinement. Among the Romans, according to Pliny, small gardens filled with roses, violets, and other sweet-scented flowers were in repute; while many of the choicest plants and flowers which we now cherish were cultivated by the ancient Greeks. Horticultural art declined, however, with the fall of Rome, and not until long after did it revive under the monastic institutions. A part of the policy of Charlemagne was the establishment of gardens by royal edict, prescribing the very plants which were to be grown. In the 16th century several botanic gardens were founded by Alfonso d'Este, duke of Ferrara, and in consequence many other noblemen had fine gardens of their own. The Venetians and Paduans followed the example, and in 1555 a garden founded at Pisa by Cosmo de' Medici had become so rich in plants as to excite admiration.
The garden at Mont-pellier in France, founded by Henry IV., contained before the end of the 16th century upward of 1,300 French, Alpine, and Pyrenean plants. At this time the garden at Breslau in Germany, to which the celebrated botanist Fuchs was attached, was in existence; and in 1577, at the suggestion of Bontius, was founded the garden at Leyden. In England, pleasure gardens with fountains and shady walks, with hedges and designs, were known from the time of the conquest, but it was not until the construction of conservatories for the preservation of tender plants that horticulture made much progress. According to Loudon, it was not till 1717 that such structures were furnished with glass roofs, and from this time a new era in gardening began. The education and training of young persons to the practice of gardening raised the occupation to an art, and has brought horticulture in European countries especially to a high rank - We have considered horticulture as the acme of agriculture; and those familiar only with ordinary farm tillage would be surprised to find how productive land can be made when husbanded by practical gardening.
In the best market gardens the soil, by abundant manuring and working, is kept up to the highest attainable state of fertility, and is made to produce always two, and frequently three and four crops in a year. It often happens that a single acre near a large city yields the cultivator a greater profit than many entire farms bring to their owners. Within the last 30 or 40 years horticulture in the United States has rapidly advanced, and its progress has been largely due to the influence of the various horticultural societies, especially those of Pennsylvania and Massachusetts. In this country there are very few magnificent gardens; but in the diffusion of a knowledge of horticulture among the people at large there has been a steady advance, and a special literature pertaining to the science and practice of horticulture has sprung up. The large works of other countries upon the general subject are superior to any yet published here, but our works upon separate topics are more thorough and practical than those of any European country.
Among the earlier horticultural works published in this country is "The American Gardener," by William Cobbett (New York, 1819). "The American Gardener's Calendar," by B. McMahon (Philadelphia, 1819), is one of the few works embracing every department of horticulture. In landscape gardening the leading authors are A. J. Downing, Copeland, Weidenmann, and Scott; in arboriculture, Warder, Hoopes, and Bryant; in flower gardening, including roses, Breck, Buist, Rand, Parkman, and Parsons. In floriculture under glass, " Practical Horticulture," by Peter Henderson (New York, 1868), is the only recent work. Among works on vegetable gardening, the most prominent are Burr's " Vegetables of America," White's " Gardening for the South," Quinn's " Money in the Garden," and Henderson's "Gardening for Profit." The leading agricultural journals have each a horticultural department with a competent editor, and there are now only three journals devoted solely to horticulture; these are: " The Horticulturist " (New York), established by A. J. Downing in 1846, and now (1874) edited by H. T. Williams; "The Gardener's Monthly" (Philadelphia, 1859), Thomas Meehan, editor; and "The California Horticulturist " (San Francisco, 1871), C. Stephens, editor.