Ever notice how once something is brought to your attention you suddenly notice it everywhere? Well, after hearing about the publication of Andrea Wulf’s new book The Founding Gardeners on Twitter I knew I had to read it. Next, I learn that it’s an Editor’s Choice in the New York Times Book Review. AND THEN, I’m driving home and our local NPR station is talking about an event at a nearby nursery: Edge of the Woods Native Plant Nursery. Andrea Wulf will be speaking and signing books 20 minutes away. So of course I had to go.
It was a lovely day and the Nursery is beautiful. The fact that Edge of the Woods specializes in native plants made the venue feel particularly appropriate. The talk lasted about 1-1/2 hours and I’m happy to report that Andrea Wulf is a wonderful speaker. I’d heard her before in radio interviews & BBC podcasts for The Brother Gardeners, discussing John Bartram (who before the American Revolutionary War started a nifty little business sending Native American plants and seeds to England). This new book is the natural continuation of that story. Ms. Wulf explained that while studying Bartram she was surprised to discover what rabid gardeners Washington, Jefferson, Adams & Madison were. She mentioned orders she found in Bartram’s paperwork from George Washington for his gardens in Mt. Vernon. She discussed how a visit to Monticello made her realize that these early American presidents were designing their gardens with the same principles in mind with which they were shaping the new country. It was really fascinating. And, honestly, it was one of the few times I’ve heard an author clearly and concisely explain where the idea for a book was born.
Afterwards there were questions and answers. Unfortunately fewer than I would have liked. There was a very good question about the influence of Native Americans on these early gardens. And I did ask one question (and a follow-up! as my husband had fun pointing out) about Jefferson’s & Madison’s influences on each others gardens (I’ve always, probably unfairly, imagined Madison as Jefferson’s sidekick in an unflattering, Robin to Jefferson’s Batman, kinda’ way) … but I do wonder how people can come to a reading, listen to someone talk for over an hour and then have absolutely no questions afterwards. Fortunately, the event coordinators had the foresight to invite a John Bartram impersonator, who engaged the author with questions about the transport of “his” plants & seeds to England and the terrible time he had trying to get payment from the British. When I first read that John Bartram would be there, I worried it would be more kid-friendly than what I was looking for. In actuality, it was a lot of fun & very well done.
Afterwards, there were refreshments and Ms. Wulf graciously signed copies of her books.
It’s been a while since I’ve been to an event like this. They’re usually held on weekdays and the authors I would be interested in hearing don’t normally come to this area. So I’d forgotten how fascinating it is to listen to an author discuss their book. And how much you can learn when they take questions from the audience. Andrea Wulf mentioned that she’s about 2/3 of the way through her book tour. If you have the opportunity to hear her speak in your area I highly recommend doing so. Here’s a link to her Upcoming Events.