Liberty Hyde Bailey: Local boy makes good 130 years ago

Inspiring garden quotes and more from this Michigan gardening giant.

In 1878, a Michigan youth from South Haven entered Michigan Agricultural College, which is now Michigan State University. Liberty Hyde Bailey came from a strong agricultural and fruit-growing background and received his horticulture degree in 1882.

Bailey was ahead of his time when it came to horticulture and innovative ideas. He became a Michigan Agricultural College professor in 1885 and established the Department of Horticulture and Landscape Gardening, eventually becoming its first chairman. Eventually, he moved onto Cornell University and was chairman of their horticultural department for many years. He was also instrumental in the creation of a national Extension Service and 4-H for children.

During his career, Bailey wrote many books on horticulture and nature. He invented the word “cultivar,” an abbreviation of “cultivated variety,” which is still used today.

He also gave gardeners many quotes that still resonate with those who love plants. Here area few for our readers’ enjoyment.

Liberty Hyde Bailey on gardening

“A garden is half-made when it is well planned. The best gardener is one who does the most gardening by the winter fire.”

“Give children the opportunity to make a garden. Let them grow what they will. It matters less that they grow good plants than they try for themselves.”

“One does not begin to make a garden until he wants a garden. To want a garden is to be interested in plants, in the winds and rains, in birds and insects, in the warm-smelling earth.”

“A garden requires patient labor and attention. Plants do not grow merely to satisfy ambitions or to fulfill good intentions. They thrive because someone expended effort on them.”

“I do not yet know why plants come out of the land or float in streams, or creep on rocks or roll from the sea. I am entranced by the mystery of them and absorbed by their variety and kinds. Everywhere, they are visible yet everywhere occult.”

“If today you care only for pinks and roses and other prim garden flowers, next year, you will also admire the wild convolvulus on the old fence and the winter stalks of the sunflower. There are times and seasons for all plants. One’s sympathies are wide as one’s life is full and resourceful.”

“Is there any progress in horticulture? If not, it is dead, uninspiring. We cannot live in the past good as it is; we must draw our inspiration from the future.”

Liberty Hyde Bailey on Extension

 “Extension work is not exhortation. Nor is it exploitation of the people, or advertising of an institution, or publicity work for securing students. It is plain, earnest and continuous effort to meet the needs of the people on their own farms and in their localities.”

“Teachers of agricultural subjects who do not investigate are either dead or superficial,and in either case, they are useless.”

More about Bailey

If you would like to learn more about Bailey’s life, go to: rmc.library.cornell.edu/bailey/biography

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