horticulture [Lat. hortus = garden], science and art of gardening and of cultivating fruits, vegetables, flowers, and ornamental plants. Horticulture generally refers to small-scale gardening, and agriculture to the growing of field crops, usually on a large scale, although the distinction is not always precise (for example, market gardening could be classed either way). A horticultural variety of a plant is one produced under cultivation, as distinguished from the botanical species or varieties, which occur in nature. Although many horticultural practices are very ancient (see botany), comparatively recent knowledge of genetics, plant physiology, biochemistry, ecology, plant pathology, entomology, molecular biology, and soils, and the systematic application of such knowledge to practical use (e.g., in plant breeding), has expanded horticulture into an extremely complex science. Agencies such as the various bureaus of the Dept. of Agriculture, the state experimental stations, and the many agricultural colleges; organizations such as the American Horticultural Society and the various state horticultural societies and local granges and garden clubs; and the commercial flower-growing and experimental nurseries (see nursery)—all engage in developing, analyzing, systematizing, and disseminating improved horticultural practices for the benefit of both amateur and professional gardeners. See also garden.
See E. P. Christopher, Introductory Horticulture (1958); J. B. Edmond et al., Fundamentals of Horticulture (3d ed. 1964); T. H. Everett, The New York Botanical Garden Illustrated Encyclopedia of Horticulture (10 vol., 1980–82).