Saturday, February 7, 2009
The Brother Gardeners : Botany, Empire and the Birth of an Obsession by Andrea Wulf
A quieter revolution took place among the flowerbeds of 18th-century England, as is revealed in this charming and well-written study. The first hybrid flower was created in 1716 - although Thomas Fairchild, creator of the Fairchild Mule, feared that it might incur God's wrath. Philip Miller's Gardeners Dictionary (1731) was the original gardening book, while the first gardening magazine appeared in 1787. American shrubs and trees were imported into England, and the gardens at Kew became, in the words of Joseph Banks, "a great botanical exchange house for the empire". Thanks to Banks and his confrères our gardens are full of the descendants of plants from all over the world. A nation of gardeners was born and there was no doubting the superiority of English horticulture. French gardens were cultivated à l'anglaise and Catherine the Great was gripped by anglomania. Wulf also tells us about Carl Linnaeus's sexual system of plant classification and the correct pronunciation of fuchsia; named after the German Leonard Fuchs, it should be pronounced "fooks-ia".