Founding Gardeners: The Revolutionary Generation, Nature, and the Shaping of the American Nation By Andrea Wulf (Book on CD)

Jun 15, 2011

This non-fiction book surveys four of our Founding Fathers; Adams, Washington, Jefferson and Madison, and highlights their interest in gardening.  At the time they were planting the seeds of liberty, they were also planting and cultivating their own gardens, estates and farms.  This well-researched book illustrates how the past-time hobby of the founding fathers shaped their political ideas and leadership.   

The book provides a different and new perspective on historical characters and leading statements, and a look at their lives as gardeners and nature lovers. George Washington, while conducting war and not being able to visit Mount Vernon for eight years, was planning his estate grounds via exchanging letters with the estate manager.

During their diplomatic trips overseas, Adams and Jefferson visited private gardens, collected botanical plants, trees and gardening catalogs, and learned about new gardening techniques. Franklin was sending seeds from London to his wife in letters. She shared the seeds with other people in Philadelphia as an idea of parent trees and off springs sent across the nation to other newly formed 13 states. Later they decided to plant only native species.

Adams was the closest to a gardener because he had done most of the work himself. Madison was interested in preserving land against the destruction of native forest and the fragile ecological system, and could be considered the father of environmentalism. He pioneered the use of manure to replenish depleted soil from tobacco growing.  We now call his recipe compost. The White House Rose Garden and Michelle Obama’s vegetable garden follow a long tradition of presidential gardeners. 

I selected this book during a family road trip because it would appeal to a wide audience.  It is a book for men and women, combining the topics of gardening with the history of this nation. It is indeed possible to learn about history from a book on gardening.  Author Andrea Wulf was born in England and has researched and written several books dealing with the topic of the history of gardening.   The book inspired me to plan a trip to visit all of these gardens and estates. Now I just have to look for another book to listen to on this trip….

Written by Magda B.


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