Founding Gardeners: The Revolutionary Generations, Nature, and the Shaping of the American Nation by Andrea Wulf is a delightful day spent in the flower and vegetable beds, garden, and yard–no not yours, theirs. Before your next planting of trees and shrubs, before your next visit to Mount Vernon, Monticello, Montpelier, Peacefield, or the White House, please read this book.
You will enjoy the historical sites in ways you have not in the past because you now know how the Founding Fathers felt and thought of their landscapes. You will look at your own landscape, large or small, with a renewed interest in making it uniquely yours and American in a new-old sense.
George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, John Adams, and James Madison were all farmers who worked for productivity, beauty, and conservation. They never stopped experimenting and improving their land. They never stopped educating themselves, and were personally dismayed at the wasting practices and disregard for conservation of their fellow American farmers.
They collected and knew well all the latest farming, plant, and garden design books published in England and France. Wherever they were, they inspected and noted what night be useful to them and to other farmers. They shared plants and seeds with friends and correspondents across America and all over the world. When Jefferson sent Lewis and Clark to survey the New West, plants, seeds, and notations on soils were very high on their list of responsibilities.
John Bartram, the great American naturalist, should be listed among the Founding Fathers for his significant role in identifying American species and making them available not only in the colonies and to the other Founding Fathers, but to the English aristocracy who feverishly planted and designed their great estates around native American species. American species were the rage.
The love for green America grows in fertile soil, sunlight, and shade in Wulf’s account of our revolutionary period. You should expect to pick up new ideas and inspiration from the book.
When I started looking for images to use with this review, I happened to click on Trees of The Missouri State Campus–Springfield first, and stopped my search there. Here are three images I thought would whet your appetite for Founding Gardeners. Charles Marlin