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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. It’s 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 Cook’s 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.
“Throughout The Brother Gardeners Wulf’s flair for storytelling is combined with scholarship, brio, and a charmingly airy style. . . . She has written a delightful book–and you don’t need to be a gardener to enjoy it.”–The New York Times Book Review
"Enthralling . . . Gripping . . . Brilliantly readable . . . Andrea Wulf has written a wonderful book, using a clutch of fascinating men to remind us the British Empire was once as much about white pine and Camellia japonica as it was about guns and steel." —The Mail on Sunday
"The Brothers Gardeners is an excellent, hugely entertaining and instructive tale, and Wulf tells it well." —The Guardian
"This absorbing and delightful book about eighteenth-century botanists stand out among histories of plant hunting . . It is about friendships, frustrations and rows, as well as about new species." —The Sunday Telegraph
"As Wulf triumphantly shows, plans and gardens reveal a wider view of the forces that shape society . . . Rarely has the story of English plants been told with such vigor, and such fun." —The Times Literary Supplement
"A delightful look at horticultural history." —Scotland on Sunday
"Compelling, well-edited and cleverly structured . . . a valuable addition to the existing small library of paeans to the art and architecture of the landscape garden." —The Literary Review