Hester's Reviews > The Brother Gardeners: Botany, Empire and the Birth of an Obsession

The Brother Gardeners by Andrea Wulf
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's review
Jan 22, 2010

really liked it
bookshelves: europe, farms-gardening, great-britain, history, plants, america-american-history
Read from January 21 to 22, 2010

A surprising book about how the British did not become the West's most obsessive gardeners until they were able to get plants from their American colonies, especially Pennsylvania. They got them through the correspondence of an English merchant, Collinson, and an American farmer, John Bartram. Initially a man of modest social stature, Bartram's botanical interests led to renown and an important role in Pennsylvania's intellectual life. He was friends with Ben Franklin and gave Oswego tea its English name.
This spurred the English interest in botany and horticulture, paving the way for men like Joseph Banks (such a jerk!), who traveled with Captain Cook, taking plant samples and seeds along the way. The English then used their botanical expertise to cement their empire.
A wonderful and surprising book, filled with insensitive, arrogant intellectuals(Linneaus and Banks) and lovely, kind, bickering friends(Franklin, Bartram, and Collinson). It tells the story of men( and a couple women) who shaped our lives, but are forgotten.
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