I think it is the nature of gardeners to be curious. It also belies an inclination toward science, probably more than many gardeners would like to admit. I do not share their disdain for scientific study as it plays out in the garden. I am always observing, always tinkering with light, soil, different plants, different plant combinations and placement to get the results I envision or just to see what comes of something.
This scientific pursuit was also shared by most of our Founding Fathers or as a book I am reading calls them, Founding Gardeners. Both Washington and Jefferson had an insatiable curiosity for plants, botany and horticulture. These visionaries even carved out places on their land to experiment with plant cultivation.
At Washington’s Mount Vernon estate, an area next to the upper garden and close to the gardener’s quarters was reserved for experimentation and play. Essentially this area would have been unused or simply grassed over but Washington used this area to plant exotic plants, create new cultivars and work with new crops to find the best specimen to harvest seeds from. Jefferson too, at his Monticello estate carved out nursery beds for experimenting with different plant specimens and new grape and other fruit cultivars.
While many of us who live in more modest homes with more modest yards may not be able to have grand plant laboratories, we can continue to plant new and exciting things in our gardens, tweak the environment and observe how plants thrive, struggle, live, propagate and die to gain a closer connection with nature and to expand our knowledge of the plant kingdom.
I like to think that my garden plays many roles; supplier of food and beauty, peace and tranquility and as a scientific experiment to broaden my own horticultural horizons.