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The Brother Gardeners: Botany, Empire and the Birth of an Obsession

Andrea Wulf



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01 April 2009
History; Social & cultural history; Gardens (descriptions, history etc)
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 in the American colonies. But it was not 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- Philip Miller, author of the bestselling Gardeners Dictionary; the Swede Carl Linnaeus, whose standardised botanical nomenclature popularised botany; the botanist-adventurer Joseph Banks and his colleague Daniel Solander who both explored the strange flora of Tahiti and Australia on Captain Cook's Endeavour.

This is the story of these men - friends, rivals, enemies, united by a passion for plants. Set against the backdrop of the emerging empire and the uncharted world beyond, The Brother Gardeners tells the story how Britain became a nation of gardeners.
By:   Andrea Wulf
Imprint:   Arrow
Country of Publication:   United Kingdom
Dimensions:   Height: 198mm,  Width: 129mm,  Spine: 28mm
Weight:   342g
ISBN:   9780099502371
ISBN 10:   0099502372
Pages:   384
Publication Date:   01 April 2009
Audience:   General/trade ,  College/higher education ,  Professional and scholarly ,  ELT Advanced ,  Primary
Format:   Paperback
Publisher's Status:   Active

Andrea Wulf was born India and moved to Germany as a child. She trained as a design historian at the Royal College of Art and is the co-author (with Emma Gieben-Gamal) of This Other Eden: Seven Great Gardens and 300 Years of English History. She has written for the Sunday Times, the Financial Times, Mail on Sunday, The Garden, the Architects' Journal, and regularly reviews for several newspapers, including the Guardian and the Times Literary Supplement. She is a regular contributor to BBC radio and television.

Reviews for The Brother Gardeners: Botany, Empire and the Birth of an Obsession

British journalist Wulf (co-author: This Other Eden: Seven Great Gardens and 300 Years of English History, 2005) explores into the personalities that spurred the evolution of the 18th-century English garden.Renaissance and baroque gardens on the European continent were characterized by smooth lawns, clipped hedges and topiary in a formal, geometrical structure, writes the author. When Thomas Fairchild, already famed for his luxuriant nursery outside of London, developed the first hybrid in 1716, he set in motion a chain of events so momentous that in time no gardener would ever think about plants in the same way again. Wulf loosely follows these developments in smart, stylish prose without delving very deeply. Fairchild's mule, a cross between sweet William and a carnation, proved that plants reproduced sexually, an incendiary notion that Swedish botanist Carl Linnaeus underscored in his binomial nomenclature. This encouraged gardeners to meddle empirically in their own garden plots, just as Philip Miller's enormously accessible Gardeners Dictionary (1731), a catalogue of all plants then in cultivation in Britain, transformed gardening from an aristocratic preserve into the passionate pursuit of amateurs. Profoundly influenced by Miller's dictionary, London cloth merchant Peter Collinson began importing seeds and plantings from the North American colonies, specifically from Pennsylvania, with the help of Philadelphia farmer John Bartram. These floral dispatches, much desired because their hardiness precluded the need for hothouses, continued for more than four decades and helped make the English garden a natural-growing perennial marvel. Another contributor to this sea change was the treasure of botanical specimens brought back from Captain Cook's South Seas expedition, organized and bankrolled by celebrated botanist Joseph Banks, who was elected president of the Royal Society in 1778. Banks' economic use of such plants as cotton and the Indian gum tree propelled British industry, but Wulf skirts this crucial subject. She also gives scant attention to the idea of the English garden as an Enlightenment ideal.An ornamental study, frustratingly lacking in contextual cultivation. (Kirkus Reviews)

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