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The Brother Gardeners

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A wonderfully readable investigation of the origins of the modern garden in 18th-century England, told through the interwoven stories of four Englishmen , a Swede and an American. Popular history at its finest.

About the Author

Andrea Wulf was born in 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, The Garden, The Architects' Journal, and regularly reviews for several newspapers, including the Guardian and the Times Literary Supplement.


A garden will never look quite the same after you've read this book on the 18th-century British botanists who exploited the colonial system to acquire thousands of previously unknown plant species. Wulf argues that their imports vastly increased the blooming season and variety of English gardens, enabling gardeners to create the naturalistic "English" gardens coming into fashion after the geometry of the previous century. The London merchant (and backyard gardener) Peter Collinson persuaded Philadelphia's John Bartram to make plant-collecting treks through the wilderness, and this results in the introduction to British gardens of such mainstays of the modern border as azalea, mountain laurel, paper birch, and wisteria. Bartram supplied seeds to propagate North American varieties of oak, pine, hemlock, and cedar across the ocean. New species also appeared from Australia and Asia. Ships circumnavigated the globe to collect and classify new plants (including an ill-fated voyage captained by William Bligh). The brother gardeners resisted (but eventually gave way to) the novel system invented by obstreperous Swedish botanist Carl Linnaeus to classify the confusing array of new discoveries. Verdict Wulf's book will be of interest to anyone with a garden, even if it's on a windowsill.-Stewart Desmond, New York Copyright 2009 Reed Business Information.

"This absorbing and delightful book about 18th-century botanists stands out among histories of plant hunting because it treats of collective endeavours, rather than daring individual missions. It is about friendships, frustrations and rows, as well as about new species. The approach works superbly because Andrea Wulf makes us see her subjects so vividly." -- Jenny Uglow Sunday Telegraph "A wondrous telling of the history of the very English love affair with gardens and growing things...I have learned so much from this book." Jon Snow "The Brother Gardeners is a delightful book. It brings the story of 18th-century gardening to life in a remarkably vivid way, and sheds new light on the personality clashes and prejudices which lay at the root of the Georgians' passion for plants." Adrian Tinniswood "Immaculately written and researched, this book brings to life the dramas and dangers of eighteenth-century plant collecting. You will never look at the plants in your garden in quite the same way when you know what these intrepid men went through to find them." Catherine Horwood "In her excellent book, The Brother Gardeners, Andrea Wulf tells the story of these men, admirably conveying the excitement and horticultural advancements of the age and bringing everything to life with vivid contemporary detail." House & Garden

Wulf, a German-born journalist, wonderfully conveys the allure and cultural importance of the garden. Spanning nearly 100 years and several continents, Wulf begins her cultural investigation with the creation of the first manmade hybrid by devout Christian gardener Thomas Fairchild, who spent the rest of his life racked with guilt for the blasphemous act. She also introduces egomaniacal Swedish botanist Carl Linnaeus, who scandalized British society with his sexual system of classification; his book was banned by the Vatican. There is New World farmer John Bartram, who braved storms and steep mountains to discover new plants and send them back to his customers in England, hungry for exotic vegetation from America. As Wulf fills her readily accessible book with adventures aboard Captain Cook's ship, petty rivalries and outsized personalities, she provides an entertaining account of kooky botanists traveling the world and explores how gardening neutralized class lines, how horticulture and botany brought wealth and power, and how the English garden had a profound impact on modern landscape gardening, elevating the humble pursuit into the highest art. (Apr.) Copyright 2009 Reed Business Information.

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