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Horticulturists are agricultural scientists whose focus is finding a better way to develop, grow, harvest, store, process, and ship fruits, vegetables, and decorative plants. They work with orchard, field, garden, nursery, and greenhouse plants to research and conduct tests related to breeding, spraying, and harvesting plants. Horticulturists also use their expertise to develop new plant varieties, such as varieties that can better resist insects or disease or are better adapted to growing in a range of climates and soils.
At a glanceImagine you are being interviewed by a local newspaper about a plant that has been in the news a lot lately. You are a horticulturist working for the city's parks department and an expert on a flowering plant called Whenthorn. The Whenthorn perennial is a popular decoration in city flowerbeds because it is hardy and its large, colourful blooms last for months each summer. Unfortunately, this plant can also be dangerously toxic, and it has become your job to educate area gardeners on the risks of Whenthorn and convince them to dig it up. As a horticulturist, you have spent years training and working with decorative plants like Whenthorn. But Whenthorn's flowers, unlike most, damage flowerbeds and even the urban ecosystem each year they are permitted to bloom. With its small, acidic leaves that decompose and lower the pH of the soil, and roots that suck up all the soil's moisture and nutrients, Whenthorn effectively chokes out all other plants in its bed. Its beautiful blooms are also highly toxic to animals that chance a taste, including birds and sometimes even neighbourhood dogs and cats. Because of its nasty nature, you want to see the area rid of Whenthorn, so you have started a campaign to pull it out of every garden and flowerbed in the city. You've volunteered on television and radio talk shows as a horticulture expert, conducted dozens of media interviews, and organized neighbourhood clean-ups. Next week you will host a demonstration showing residents how to remove all traces of Whenthorn and rehabilitate damaged beds and make recommendations as to what plants can replace the colourful Whenthorn. Keeping city gardens safe and healthy is an important part of your job.
Job dutiesDuties vary significantly from job to job, but the following list includes typical job duties one might encounter as a horticulturalist:
- Prepare soils for planting.
- Plant seeds and tend and harvest plants.
- Monitor plant growth and health, including collecting and analyzing data from plantings and test plots.
- Propagate plants, including collecting seeds, grafting, dividing rootstock, and de-budding flowers, trees, shrubs, and ornamental plants.
- Apply garden chemicals, including fertilizers and pesticides.
- Research new varieties of fruits, vegetables, and flowers, including how and where they grow best.
- Research new methods for cropping, storing, and processing.
- Sell plants and horticulture products to clients and the general public, including assessing plant quality and markets.
- Ensure compliance with applicable regulations, including food safety regulations and the import and export of injurious pests and diseases.
- Create planting plans for gardens, including timing and plant rotation.
- Work with industry to address issues related to competitiveness and sustainability.
Work environmentHorticulturists work in a variety of locations, including: In the office:
- Doing paperwork and analyzing data for reporting
- Communicating on the phone and in meetings with clients, government departments, colleagues, and experts in the field
- Designing experiments and trials Writing scientific papers
- Researching new technology and advancements in horticulture
- Planting, tending, harvesting, and inspecting plants
- Meeting with clients and customers and selling products
- Assessing quality, health, and value of plant products
- Conducting experiments and trials
- Making presentations to industry and colleagues
Where to workThere are a number of places horticulturists can find employment. They include:
- Nurseries and greenhouses
- Federal, provincial/territorial, and municipal government departments
- Universities and colleges
- Horticulture, floriculture, and agriculture research companies
- Fruit and vegetable farming operations
- Garden centres and plant retailers
- Landscapers and property management companies
- Self-employed consultant
- Not-for-profit and non-governmental organizations
- Zoos and botanical gardens
Education & requirementsIf you are a high school student considering a career as a horticulturist, you should have strong marks or an interest in:
- Environmental Science