University of Vermont Extension 
Department of Plant and Soil Science

Anytime Article


Dr. Leonard Perry, Extension Professor

Over the centuries, many people have played a role in shaping horticulture through their research, writings, gardens, and explorations.  Here are nine individuals, whose names begin with the letters G through I, who are significant in this respect.

First there's John Gerard, who lived in London in the latter half of the 1500s.  Although a barber-surgeon by trade, he also studied botany and cared for several prominent gardens.  In his own garden he cultivated more than 1,000 species of plants, a remarkable accomplishment for that time.  He published a listing of his plants in 1596, including the first printed reference to the potato. He is most famous for his Herball, which was written in 1597.  It is probably the best known publication of its kind and served to inspire many botanists you came after him.

Asa Gray was not really a horticulturist but rather a botanist of the mid-1800s.  Practicing first in New York State, where he published his famous Elements of Botany, he later went to Harvard University where he directed the botanic garden. He became America's leading taxonomist, promoting systematic botany (plant names and relationships).  His texts were used well into the 20th century.

Another horticulturist of note is Sir Thomas Hanbury, who is best known for his famous Italian gardens, La Mortola, and for donating the land near London where the famous Wisley Gardens of the Royal Horticulture Society are located.  He lived in the latter two thirds of the 19th century.

William Randolph Hearst, a resident of San Simeon, California, in the first half of the 20th century, is best known for his wealth and castle estate housing antiques and art treasures.  The gardens surrounding his majestic home are one of the foremost such display gardens in the country.

The Hoare family of England is famous for its gardens of Stourhead, said by many to be among the most beautiful and classic gardens in the world.  Most of the landscape garden was designed and implemented by Henry Hoare II during the middle of the 1700s.

Sir Joseph Dalton Hooker was another important British botanist of the 1800s.  Like many botanists of the period, he had a great influence on horticulture through his plant explorations and introduction of future ornamental plants.  His first large explorations were in the Antarctic with later ones in the Himalayas.  From the latter he brought back more than 7,000 specimens, including many new rhododendrons.  He also was the director of the Royal Botanic Gardens at Kew in London for many years.

A German scientist, Baron von Humboldt, is credited with influencing travelers such as Charles Darwin with his books about his explorations of Central and South America in the late 1700s and early 1800s.  He introduced more than 40 new plant species, including several dahlias and lobelias.

Walter Ingwersen was a nurseryman and plant collector in Britain in the early half of the 20th century.  Beginning as head of  the rock garden at Wisley, he ended up with his own famous nursery of alpine and rock garden plants.  Among his many plant introductions is one we find in our gardens, Geranium renardii from the Caucasus in southern Russia.  He founded the Alpine Garden Society and wrote much on the subject.  Son, Will, followed in his father's footsteps and is famous for several classic references including the Manual of Alpine Plants (1978).

John Innes was not a horticulturist, but rather a wealthy benefactor.  However, he's earned a place on this list of famous persons in horticulture for his influence on the nursery industry.  He provided funding to establish the famous John Innes Horticultural Institute in Britain, where container media called "John Innes composts" were developed.  These revolutionized production of ornamental plants in that country, and subsequently in our own.

In previous articles I've covered some famous persons with names beginning with earlier letters in the alphabet.  You can find these and other articles on horticulturists and plant explorers on my Website at

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