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Gardening Answers Knowledgebase

Knowledgebase record #52

Fruits and Plains by Philip Pauly, 2007

Reviewed by: Brian Thompson
Review date: 2012-04-01

Philip Pauly was a professor of history at Rutgers University. His book, Fruits and Plains , was published by Harvard University Press. These are high academic credentials for a book that at first glance appears to be about gardening. But this is no ordinary gardening book. As suggested by the sub-title, The Horticultural Transformation of America, this is a serious study of the importance of horticulture to all aspects of American life particularly from the founding of the country well into the 20th century.

The key here is the term horticulture. To Pauly, "In general conversation it is an upmarket synonym for gardening" and includes the design, selection, and maintenance of plants in private and public gardens. But he uses the term more broadly and claims that in the 1800s, "horticulture was equivalent to what is now call plant biotechnology."

The early history he recounts is focused on utility of gardens, particularly fruit producing trees and shrubs. Later he turns to arboriculture, highlighting the arguments for and against native and exotics species; century old arguments that continue today.

But of perhaps greatest interest is chapter nine, "Culturing Nature in the Twentieth Century". Here are some keen insights to focus of gardeners today and the cultural environment at the time of the founding of the Washington Park Arboretum.

Excerpted from the Spring 2012 Arboretum Bulletin.

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