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Botanical Progress, Horticultural Innovations and Cultural Changes

Garden and Landscape Symposium, 2004

Botanical Progress, Horticultural Innovations and Cultural Changes

In conjunction with the Smithsonian Institution Department of Botany, and the United States Botanical Garden

This joint symposium will explore how major developments in botany and horticulture impacted gardens, gardening, landscaping and science; how these disciplines depended upon ongoing social and cultural changes; and, more importantly, how botany and horticulture contributed to larger changes in social and cultural practices.In order to frame interrogations about the potential impact of present botanical and horticultural changes brought about by molecular biology, presentations at this symposium will offer broad perspectives, relating large botanical and horticultural changes to the cultural, social, economic and political contexts. Major changes in plant introductions, techniques of cultivation, breeding practices and naturalization of exotics, as they relate to important changes in society, and to far-reaching cultural transformations, will be documented.The symposium will begin with the synthetic analysis of a small number of situations taken in the most varied historical and geographical contexts, such as Ancient Egypt, Andalusia, China, England, France, India, Japan, the Mediterranean region, Persia, Turkey, the US and Yemen, and proceed to the present. We shall also examine contributions of botanical and horticultural changes to very different domains of culture and social practice, such as medicine, religious practices, eating habits, taste for exoticism, production and use of perfumes, conspicuous consumption and social distinction.These scientific and horticultural innovations are embedded in political and economic changes to which they contribute. Policies that were proposed or attempted by different political regimes in an effort to harness horticultural and botanical change in the pursuit of specified aims will be addressed. In short, we will explore the social and political conditions under which horticulture and botany gave added cultural significance to nature.

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