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The Brother Gardeners: Botany, Empire and the Birth of an Obsessionby Andrea Wulf
Synopses & Reviews
This is the fascinating story of a small group of eighteenth-century naturalists who made Britain a nation of gardeners and the epicenter of horticultural and botanical expertise. Its the story of a garden revolution that began in America.
In 1733, the American farmer John Bartram dispatched two boxes of plants and seeds from the American colonies, addressed to the London cloth merchant Peter Collinson. Most of these plants had never before been grown in British soil, but in time the magnificent and colorful American trees, evergreens, and shrubs would transform the English landscape and garden forever. During the next forty years, Collinson and a handful of botany enthusiasts cultivated hundreds of American species. The Brother Gardeners follows the lives of six of these men, whose shared passion for plants gave rise to the English love affair with gardens. In addition to Collinson and Bartram, who forged an extraordinary friendship, here are Philip Miller, author of the best-selling Gardeners Dictionary; the Swedish botanist Carl Linnaeus, whose standardized nomenclature helped bring botany to the middle classes; and Joseph Banks and Daniel Solander, who explored the strange flora of Brazil, Tahiti, New Zealand, and Australia on the greatest voyage of discovery of their time, aboard Captain Cooks Endeavour.
From the exotic blooms in Botany Bay to the royal gardens at Kew, from the streets of London to the vistas of the Appalachian Mountains, The Brother Gardeners paints a vivid portrait of an emerging world of knowledge and of gardening as we know it today. It is a delightful and beautifully told narrative history.
"The Brother Gardeners" follows the lives of six 18th-century naturalists whose shared passion for plants gave rise to the English love affair with gardens. The text paints a vivid portrait of an emerging world of knowledge and of gardening as it is known today.
One January morning in 1734, cloth merchant Peter Collinson hurried down to the docks at London's Custom House to collect cargo just arrived from John Bartram, his new contact in the American colonies. But it was not reels of wool or bales of cotton that awaited him, but plants and seeds...
Over the next forty years, Bartram would send hundreds of American species to England, where Collinson was one of a handful of men who would foster a national obsession and change the gardens of Britain forever, introducing lustrous evergreens, fiery autumn foliage and colourful shrubs. They were men of wealth and taste but also of knowledge and experience like Philip Miller, author of the bestselling Gardeners Dictionary, and the Swede Carl Linnaeus, whose standardised botanical nomenclature popularised botany as a genteel pastime for the middle-classes; and the botanist-adventurer Joseph Banks and his colleague Daniel Solander who both explored the strange flora of Tahiti and Australia on the greatest voyage of discovery of modern times, Captain Cook's Endeavour.
This is the story of these men - friends, rivals, enemies, united by a passion for plants - whose correspondence, collaborations and squabbles make for a riveting human tale which is set against the backdrop of the emerging empire, the uncharted world beyond and London as the capital of science. From the scent of the exotic blooms in Tahiti and Botany Bay to the gardens at Chelsea and Kew, and from the sounds and colours of the streets of the City to the staggering vistas of the Appalachian mountains, The Brother Gardeners tells the story how Britain became a nation of gardeners.
About the Author
Andrea Wulf was born in India and moved to Germany as a child. She trained as a design historian at London's Royal College of Art and is coauthor (with Emma Gieben-Gamal) of This Other Eden: Seven Great Gardens and 300 Years of English History. She has written for The Sunday Times (London) and The Financial Times, and her reviews have appeared in numerous newspapers, including The Guardian, The Times Literary Supplement, and The Mail on Sunday. She appears regularly on BBC television and radio.
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History and Social Science » Europe » Great Britain » General History