Synopses & Reviews
From the author of the acclaimed The Brother Gardeners,
a fascinating look at the founding fathers from the unique and intimate perspective of their lives as gardeners, plantsmen, and farmers.
For the founding fathers, gardening, agriculture, and botany were elemental passions, as deeply ingrained in their characters as their belief in liberty for the nation they were creating. Andrea Wulf reveals for the first time this aspect of the revolutionary generation. She describes how, even as British ships gathered off Staten Island, George Washington wrote his estate manager about the garden at Mount Vernon; how a tour of English gardens renewed Thomas Jeffersons and John Adamss faith in their fledgling nation; how a trip to the great botanist John Bartrams garden helped the delegates of the Constitutional Congress break their deadlock; and why James Madison is the forgotten father of American environmentalism. These and other stories reveal a guiding but previously overlooked ideology of the American Revolution.
Founding Gardeners adds depth and nuance to our understanding of the American experiment and provides us with a portrait of the founding fathers as theyve never before been seen.
"Not only did Washington, Adams, Jefferson, and Madison operate farms, all believed agriculture was the noblest occupation and the foundation of democracy. All loved to talk about it, write about it, and spend leisure time (between building a nation) inspecting local farms. Scholars have not ignored this, but British design historian Wulf (The Brother Gardeners: Botany, Empire and the Birth of an Obsession) focuses on the agricultural passion that also reflected the political convictions of America's founders. Even while fighting the Revolution and governing the nation, Washington bombarded the manager of his beloved Mount Vernon with detailed instructions and insisted on prompt replies. During years of diplomatic service overseas, Adams and Jefferson toured private gardens and studied the latest agricultural techniques. This obsession went beyond the personal, influencing the design of Washington, D.C., and the White House, where Jefferson wanted only native shrubs and trees. Detailed botanical descriptions, garden layouts, and crop yields of their estates may appeal more to fans of horticulture than of history, but Wulf offers a delightful new perspective on the men we usually associate more with politics than with plants. 16 pages of color illus.; 19 b&w illus. (Apr.)" Publishers Weekly (Copyright PWxyz LLC)
"Illuminating and engrossing....The reader relives the first decades of the Republic not only through her eloquent and revelatory prose but through the words of the statesmen themselves." The New York Times Book Review
"Anecdotes...shimmer through Andrea Wulf’s fine story of how gardening and farming shaped the thinking of Washington, Thomas Jefferson, John Adams and James Madison....Luxurious and sharp-witted." San Francisco Chronicle
"[A] lively and deeply researched history....Wulf ingeniously connects...highbrow political philosophy to the founders’ personal passion for horticulture." The Washington Post Book World
"A timely and passionate book, with resonances beyond today’s legion of new gardeners....Wulf traces the birth of the modern environmental movement back beyond Thoreau and Muir to the founding fathers’ passion for nature and plants." The Guardian
"Andrea Wulf shows in her eloquently written and very beguiling Founding Gardeners that the garden, the natural world and the shape of a new nation were, for the men who launched the United States, parts of a whole....She is a writer of considerable grace and breadth of vision, and Founding Gardeners is an excellent portrait of the early years of the federal republic. It will delight the general reader." The Plain Dealer
"A highly enjoyable and thought-provoking book. Wulf combines a sure knowledge of garden history and 18th-centry politics with a keen eye for domestic detail and evocative description. By focusing the grand narrative of early America on four individuals, she writes the best kind of popular history." The Irish Times
"It is certain that Wulf has wonderfully illuminated an often overlooked and very important aspect of the founders’ lives, providing new reasons to be inspired by them....Delightful, enlightened reading." NashvilleScene.com
"Wonderfully engaging....Breaks new ground." The Times Literary Supplement (London)
"Fresh and bountiful....Wulf’s delectable anecdotal approach...reveals each founder’s personality and perpective, while her dynamic analysis results in a paradigm-altering vision of how ‘the balance of nature’ underlies our founding principles." Booklist (starred review)
About the Author
Andrea Wulf trained as a design historian at London's Royal College of Art. She is the author of The Brother Gardeners (long-listed for the Samuel Johnson Prize in 2008 and winner of the American Horticultural Society 2010 Book Award) and the coauthor (with Emma Gieben-Gamal) of This Other Eden. She has written for the Sunday Times (London), the Guardian, the New York Times, the Wall Street Journal, and the Financial Times, and appears regularly on BBC television and radio. She lives in London.