Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Book Review: The Brother Gardeners

The Brother Gardeners: Botany, Empire and the Birth of an Obsession by Andrea Wulf is a wonderful book. It tells the story of a group of men who changed the plant world and made England the center of horticulture in the 18th century. Starting with Thomas Fairchild and his nursery, the author then introduces us to Peter Collinson and John Bartram and their lifetime correspondence and exchange of plant material between England and North America. Also included is Philip Miller, the head gardener of the Chelsea Physic Garden and author of the Gardeners Dictionary which was the first book written for the average gardener and listed all the plants currently grown in England. Carl Linnaeus, the Swedish botanist who introduced the binomial nomenclature, Jospeh Banks and Daniel Solander come next. Banks and Solander were responsible for introducing new species from Australasia, as part of the Endeavour expedition. The history of these men and their interactions, and the details of the plants they introduced are fascinating.