Public gardens are scientific and educational institutions, whose purpose is the advancement and diffusion of a knowledge and love of plants. In North America, public gardens are as diverse as the natural world itself and include botanical gardens, display gardens, therapeutic gardens, nature centers, sculpture gardens, arboreta, parks, college campuses, zoos, cemeteries and historic landscapes.
Public gardens are not only a tonic for individuals; they are positive forces in the community, engaging in civic activities that include city beautification programs, historic preservation, arts, educational programs, lectures, flower shows, and a wide assortment of other social, recreational, and cultural activities. More than just pretty places to visit, public gardens are heavily involved in significant scientific research and innovation (e.g., introducing new plants to the nursery and home gardening trade through breeding, collection, and selection programs). Many have extensive education programs for visitors of all ages and serve as a major source of information about plants for the general public. Public gardens go beyond their garden gates to promote global environmental and conservation issues; some are involved in providing refuges for rare and endangered plants; others work to preserve the habitats for those endangered plants.
A public garden is a mission-based institution that maintains collections of plants for the purposes of public education and enjoyment as well as research, conservation, and higher learning. It must be open to the public and resources and accommodations must be made to all visitors. Public gardens are staffed by professionals trained in their given areas of expertise and maintain active plant records systems.
Many related entities are part of APGA or benefit from being member organizations. These entities include: Botanical gardens, arboreta, cemeteries, zoological gardens, sculpture gardens, college and university campuses, historic homes, urban greening organizations, natural areas, and some city/county/state/federal parks.
The following definitions are presently utilized by some of these entities:
American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language botanical garden definition:
A place where a wide variety of plants are cultivated for scientific, educational and ornamental purposes, often including a library, a herbarium and greenhouses; an arboretum.
Merriam-Webster Dictionary definition of Botanical Garden:
A garden often with greenhouses for the culture, study, and exhibition of special plants —also called botanic garden.
Merriam-Webster Dictionary definition of an Arboretum:
A place where trees and plants are grown in order to be studied or seen by the public.