Lesson 7) The Gardening Effect Revisited – Philosophy and Herbology

Herbology 501

Professor Tudor



Year 5 – Politics, Theory, and Research

Lesson 7 – The Gardening Effect Revisited – Philosophy and Herbology

The Gardening Effect: the change in perspective by the magical community towards the natural world, expressing the belief that the earth not magical and therefore of inferior interest

Lesson Objectives

  • Students should have a basic grasp about why philosophy is important to Herbology
  • Students will be able to explain to others what The Gardening Effect is and how it has affected the magical and non-magical community
  • Students should be able to apply their understanding of The Gardening Effect to situations outside of what has been mentioned in the lessons

Optional Additional Reading

  • Heroic Hermione: Celebrating the Love of Learning (https://reasonpapers.com/pdf/341/rp_341.pdf) Note: this is a longer article than most optional readings, and there are other philosophical articles in here which you may be interested in.
  • Review of Herbology Year One, Lesson Eight


Before we can continue into this lesson we need to look at the preliminary question: what is philosophy? Answering this question will help us in understanding the rest of this year’s content, as well as approaches to Herbology at the NEWT level. The word philosophy has many different uses, several of which are relevant to us today. Philosophy comes from a Greek word which may be transliterated as philosophia, which means “love of wisdom.” At its basis philosophy is about the study of knowledge. The knowledge which philosophy is interested in spans almost all disciplines, including magic, the arts, natural and social sciences, literature, and religion. While philosophy is separate from the disciplines studied therein, there is an undeniable influence from philosophy on those disciplines. This means that philosophy effects Herbology directly, but also that it affects the politics which surround Herbology.

            The second relevant meaning of the word philosophy is as a system of thought. Every person has the ability to have their own personal philosophy. A personal philosophy encompasses beliefs, concepts and ideas, and attitudes.  The definition of philosophy as a system of thought also covers disciplines. The philosophy of Divination, for example, is very different from the philosophy of History of Magic, and again from the thought systems utilized in Transfiguration. Personal philosophies affect individual’s attitudes and perceptions of Herbology, and the different disciplines of thought also have the ability to value or devalue the knowledge and methods of Herbology.

            In Herbology we will focus on the system of thought within our own discipline, and the ways in which other systems of thought interact with ours. Furthermore, we will look at how different forms of individual philosophies relate to Herbology. As we do this, we will not be saying whether these philosophies are correct or not, but only judging them in terms of their treatment and logical conclusions as they relate to Herbology. Some systems of thought may work for some situations better than others, and we are only concerned with how these systems can positively or negatively interact with Herbology.

The Gardening Effect

We first covered the Gardening Effect in your initial year at Hogwarts, in the lesson before your final exam. The Gardening Effect may be the single greatest problem we herbologists have ever faced, and now that you all are older we can go deeper into this issue which has plagued the study of Herbology.

            Some of you may be thinking, “Isn’t climate change a bigger issue than The Gardening Effect?” Well, it would be, but the issues surrounding climate change stem from The Gardening Effect. Muggles have developed many approaches to studying the natural world, which is wonderful! Unfortunately, in the last several hundred years, these methods of study have lead many people to view the world as a sort of test subject, and nothing more. It is good to learn more about the earth, to study the effects of the acidity of soil, to learn the properties of elements, and to discover new ways to extract resources. However, this is a problem when the learning becomes an end in itself. Learning facts is only the first step. Let’s take Defence Against the Dark Arts as an example of why learning is not enough. In Harry Potter’s O.W.L. year at Hogwarts, Dolores Umbridge was the Defence Against the Dark Arts professor. She took a theoretical approach to the subject. This meant that, for her, knowledge was a sufficient end to the study of Defence Against the Dark Arts. Instead of being satisfied with a theoretical approach, Harry Potter, Ron Weasley, and Hermione Granger set up a student run group to work on the practical application of the knowledge found in the Defence Against the Dark Arts discipline. The students who were in this group exemplify why facts are not the end of learning, especially when several of them worked together to escape Umbridge’s tyranny and battle Death Eaters at the Ministry of Magic. Anyway, when a sizeable portion of the non-magical community ceased to look at the practical application of their studies of the earth, they were content to classify the world as an encyclopedia of facts. This simplification lead to a negative counter response in the magical community, which expressed the idea that the earth was specifically not magical and therefore unworthy of magical interest. The effects of this view has been damaging to the entire magical community.

            While the Gardening Effect is about people’s philosophy of the whole earth, in the wizarding community it has been Herbology that has been most affected. Plants are, unfortunately, easy to ignore when that is what a person wants to do. In the early twentieth century in America, there was a ban on magical creatures, which was largely due to fear of exposure of the wizarding community. This prejudice against non-magical folk and magical creatures reveals some of the extended repercussions of the Gardening Effect. However, magical creatures are not as easily ignored as the Magical Congress of the United States of America hoped. Despite the laws, a magical creature called the Thunderbird is responsible for keeping the wizarding world a secret after Gellert Grindelwald tries to expose magic to the non-magical people in New York.

            While magical plants were not banned, this does not mean the situation was any better for those working with plants. The ban on creatures made work difficult for most potioneers in America, and those in positions of healing ministry had to focus on finding spells that would help make up for the decline in supplies needed for potions. With less creature parts available, the demand for plants in potions went down, and with that further funding. I mentioned in our first lesson on the Gardening Effect that nowadays in Britain most of our very little money for research comes from joint work with researchers in Care of Magical Creatures, or with the projects of potioneers. St. Mungo’s gives some funding as well, to research healing properties of plants. Due to the low funding for research, herbologists have spent this time working towards political change. Herbologists have always been involved in the political sphere, but now this tends to be more out of necessity then aptitude for politics. Those who still work with plants and greenhouses tend to treat Herbology as a second part time job, to some, as a hobby. This is discouraging, and is paralleled in the non-magical community with their treatment of the arts (children who want to be musicians, dancers, or involved in another form of art are often told that it isn’t a real job and they will not make any money). Magical folk who are involved with plants tend to find their money-earning job at the Ministry of Magic, due to the regular hours and pay found within most departments. The most politically minded of these herbologists use this time in the Ministry to work towards enacting change in the attitudes of the government and the community, as well as to try and pass helpful legislation to protect the environment.

            The Gardening Effect shows a lapse in connecting thought to the study of Herbology by other disciplines. Growing plants is more difficult than a three step process, as many of you will have realized from trying to grow your dandelions. It is not just as simple as getting all the steps right, like it is when casting a spell. Plants have life, and that factor adds complexity to the discipline. Herbology is still a part of the disciplines for becoming an auror or a healer, and is also necessary for careers involving potions or magical creatures. People in these disciplines tend to be the most willing to appreciate the discipline of Herbology, although they are not always willing to stand up for the subject in wider circles. Plants are a building block of both magical and non-magical societies, so the lack of support is hurting everyone. Not only does this mindset continue to take excellent people away from Herbology to disciplines viewed as more respectable, but with more funding we could use plants to cure more diseases, create better environments, and build a healthier community.

            Muggles are suffering from their side of the Gardening Effect too. With the view that the world is no more than an experiment/test subject, issues like Climate Change remain unresolved. The magic that is the beauty of the universe has been lost, and all our hearts are a little darker for it. Older generations are saying, “Do as I say and not as I do.” Students, don’t leave solutions to the next generation. When you hear older people saying “Your generation will fix things,” hold them accountable to helping you do it. The next generation mindset is an excuse for not solving issues, and indeed letting them get worse.

Simple Ways to Combat The Gardening Effect

  • Appreciate the small things in life! See the beauty in the sunrise and the sunset, enjoy sharing a meal with a friend, treat yourself to a special dessert, give a child a hug… the possibilities are endless. Let the magic in your life go beyond casting spells.
  • If you live near or with Muggles, take the time to ask them: “what was the most magical part of your day.” This is a way to challenge their thinking to help them appreciate the subtle beauties in their lives as well.
  • Call plants non-magical rather than mundane (connotation matters! Non-magical does not mean dull)
  • Learn about the non-magical community and their great accomplishments which the magical community does not have
  • Bring up in conversation how Herbology helps people in other disciplines

Review Point

This week we will have a very short review point, about magical plants in non-magical literature.

            You may recall from your fourth lesson in Year Two, that the Ministry of Magic monitors information about magical creatures in non-magical literature far more closely than they do information about magical plants. Now that we have talked about The Gardening Effect again, I suspect you can see some correlation. Even magical plants are hardly seen as magical, given their lack of likelihood to bring about the exposure of the wizarding world to the non-magical community.

            Magical plants which are known, even as being fictional, by the non-magical community, present an interesting outlet for those who wish to spread the joy of Herbology. Many magical folk who decide to publish through non-magical publishers choose to do so because of the wonderment and appreciation that some Muggles have for their genre “fantasy.” Herbologists are particularly prone to dabbling in non-magical literature, due to the freedom of expression that is unmatched in the wizarding community. The plants found in non-magical literature therefore provide an insight as to the author’s interests, if the author is indeed magical (or at least a squib). The Fern Flower, Moly, and the Lotus tree were the ones I included in your lesson. You may consider doing outside research to see what magical plants you can find in non-magical literature besides those written in the Year Two lesson. The Mandrake is probably one of the more common ones which was not in that lesson since we had already studied the plant, and Raskovnik is one of my favourites, although it was saved for the next lesson of that year.

            The Fern Flower has a strong place in non-magical literature due to the fact that it has the capability to drive the plot of a story. Indeed, the magical qualities this plant possesses are so dual natured. It is said that the plant brings luck, but it does so through malicious means. In 1902, the Muggle W. W. Jacobs published a short story called The Monkey’s Paw, which is based upon an earlier Slavic story by Josef Shevchenko called A Fern Burial. By the title of the second work, you may have realised it was a story about the Fern Flower. Unfortunately, the Slavic story has never been translated into English, but I am sure you’ll be able to figure out where the adaptations and changes have occurred, and perhaps even imagine what the original is like.

            The key points you should consider about magical plants in non-magical literature (aside from knowing about the plants themselves) are the connection between politics and Muggle knowledge of magical plants, what role magical plants can play in non-magical literature, and what reasons wizards might have for wanting to write about magical plants for a non-magical audience.

This week’s lesson does not have any photos, due to the knowledge intensive nature of this topic. I look forward to seeing you back for the final lesson of the year, as next week it will be Professor Liv Rowan teaching you all!

New Year Five Herbology lessons will be posted as soon as possible.

To continue to receive house points, you may choose to complete these lessons.

Thank you for your patience,
Professor Rowan