Amateur vs Professional: Gardener vs Horticulturalist

Hobby versus professional Gardener – Horticulturalist.  Anyone can be a gardener, right?

Wrong.

I know many gardeners and as cliched as it sounds, the best gardeners are Horticulturalists.  They have studied at university, or TAFE or a combination.  Or as apprentices.

Because as the amateur gardener would know, it takes a while to get your garden looking as fabulous as it does.  The hobby gardener have their own likes and dislikes and paint THEIR landscapes with that.  Social media shows us these gardens and we all sigh, thinking, Damn, I might be out of a job soon.  However realisation sinks in.  This is their successes.  This is their garden.  Its a lot different gardening in your own garden compared to clients’.  Its not just the differences in taste, its the little things, like soil type; pH, climate; topography.  Suburb to suburb can change enormously.  Sun and shade are two very real problems every garden needs to look at when planning and structuring a landscape.

The home gardener can plant where ever they want and if it dies, then that’s fine.  They’ll find something to replace it soon.  If the professional gardener had that same attitude, we would never get more work.  Obviously, we aren’t machines, so human error does occur and there are always losses.  However, if you are planting out an entire landscape, one would hope for less than 5% losses.  In other words, the plants we choose for your gardens need to be of good quality before we even plant them.  This is something of a problem with the home gardener too.  It doesn’t matter how many gardening shows you watch, “Do not buy the flowering plant!”  Its almost impossible to pass by those beautiful blooms (first timers).  You get it home and the flowers die off and you have a very bleak looking plant.  Its not just the flowers, its the roots.  One needs to understand whether your plant is pot bound, or has only been potted up (seedling to 14cm pot).  Some of these need to stay in the pot a bit longer to harden off.  (Which means to get used to the new and bigger pot plant)  They need this time to grow more substantial roots.  The shock of putting this plant into the ground too early can kill it.  Obviously, it does depend on the plant.  While being mesmerised by the blooms, you may have also missed the discoloured leaves due to a deficiency or disease.  Sure, these can be treated, but not knowing the history of the plant, may jeopardise not only other plants in your garden, but your soil as well.

The home gardener will google everything and although in some instances, google is wonderful (what did we do before it?), its also overwhelming.  So many differing opinions out there that may not be actual fact.  How does one find out what is fact or fiction?  Go to your local nursery (nursery, not hardware store) and there will be a horticulturalist who should be able to help you.  Most of home gardeners do the trial and error, which is fantastic and I truly recommend it.  Its your garden.  If google can’t make up their mind whether the Grevillea would work in your garden, then to your best knowledge of your garden, plant it.  Grevilleas may not be the best example as they can be quite temperamental.  However, some people have huge successes with them and they are not in the industry.

Gardening in your own garden is different also because you have all the time in the world.  You can thoroughly understand the nuances of your garden.  The soggy bit; the perpetual dark bit; even the bit where the dog likes to wee.

As a horticulturalist, we don’t have that luxury.  Sometimes, we only see it for the briefest of time and comment there and then if a tree/bush would look good there…

I say hip-pip hooray for the home gardener!  Because without them, their neighbours wouldn’t feel the need to keep up with them!

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