Throwback Review –Brother Gardeners: Botany Empire & the Birth of an American Obsession

Today’s post is a throwback to my June 2009 review of Brother Gardeners: Botany, Empire and the Birth of an Obsession by Andrea Wulf. I was and remain a huge fan of Wulf’s nonfiction… I even attended a reading at a local plant nursery in 2011 to hear her speak about her (then) new book Founding Gardeners.

I also seem to be a bigger fan of a certain Voltaire quote than I realized.

My review of Founding Gardeners: How the Revolutionary Generation Created an American Eden will be available later this week. I listened to it on audiobook, so it was an entirely different experience. But more on that later. For now, I think this old review holds up surprisingly well a decade on –

It was in this period of less than a hundred years that the small island of England became the metaphorical and literal greenhouse of the world. These men and their gardens would ultimately change the landscape of England and its colonies.   They would influence major, seemingly unrelated, historical events.   Carl Linnaeus’ classification system of binomial nomenclature, the colonization of Australia and the infamous mutiny on the Bounty all had their impetus in the quest for botanical discovery…. what is often viewed as just the peculiar British national hobby – was in fact the keystone of a colonial empire.  How so?  Well… if you have slaves in the West Indies that need a cheap and productive food supply you import bread trees from Tahiti.  You can ship New Zealand flax plants to Australia in order to create a niche in the linen industry.  You attempt to break China’s monopoly on tea by sending plants (and willing Chinese planters) to India. 

2 thoughts on “Throwback Review –Brother Gardeners: Botany Empire & the Birth of an American Obsession

  1. Hi Tara, here’s a suggestion for this series on gardening. Have you read Landscape and Memory of Simon Schama? It’s a big book, it took me all summer to read it, but I learned so much from it about those magnificent European and British gardens that we all visit as tourists. I read it long before blogging, and it would be wonderful to read a review of it now😊. Lisa

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Lisa – I definitely will check it out, but sadly won’t be able to fit a review in before the end of the month. 😦 Once August starts everything is Women in Translation… well mostly everything. But I’m thinking of making this a yearly tradition. Though, that might be a little self-indulgent?
      Thank you for the recommendation. AND I have a recommendation for you – have you read Jamaica Kincaid’s My Garden Book? I absolutely love it. I’m hoping to finish out the series with that one next week. Weirdly, it’s the first thing I’ve read by her. No idea how that happened.


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