Leftwood said:An arboretum's interpretation would be its truest sense, meaning alpine terrain and/or the harsh conditions that accompany it[alpine terrain].
That could certainly include the deserts of Utah, and many other ecosystems, too. And for instance, there are a lot of quintessential high alpine plants in the European Alps that grow in low elevations in Scandinavia, and sometimes the same plants that grow on the Appalachian mountain tops also grow at sea level in Labrador. I'm not sure what the problem is here. Why can't there be a "truest sense of a word" and a "more all-encompassing sense" of the same word?
No one said that the truest sense of any word "must be stuck to" in every case. But regarding an arboretum's view, what would be the point of not teaching what alpine garden is, and lumping it with any garden with rocks? Is it not their responsibility to teach what is correct, rather than to bow to what the general population seems think is right?
Example: Most everyone thinks that acorns, pecans, peaunts and almonds are nuts. Should the opportunity arise, is it not an arboretum's duty to point out that acorns and pecans are actually nuts, but peanuts and almonds are actually seeds and not nuts? Should we change the definition of what a true nut is? Certainly not! Does that mean that we must launch a campaign to thwart every instance of true nut misnomers? Also, certainly not. The multiple meanings coexist, along with the knowledge that there is a difference.
Example: I go to a Knitting Class to learn how to knit. However, I then find that the teacher is actually teaching how to crochet. She explains that her definition of "knitting" includes crocheting, and I should shut up and sit down. Who is right? It is true that most people don't realize the difference between knitting and crocheting, but should that have an influence on the true meaning of "knitting"? Does that mean the teacher is right?
People are free to call any evergreen tree a pine tree (most do), but we know there is a difference between pines and spruces, and firs, and arborvitae, etc. Technically, these people are wrong, but it's an acceptable misnomer in most cases, and no one makes a fuss. But it would be wrong for an arboretum to embrace such unclarity.
It is my contention that any teaching institution, like an arboretum, has an obligation to imbue definitive instruction, and not ambiguous nomenclature. This could still include the many forms that rock gardening embraces in a larger sense, but the distinction between them would need to be explained.