The Brother Gardeners: Botany, Empire and the Birth of an Obsession

A recording from Andrea Wulf’s CVHF talk on Sunday, 30th June 2013.

One January morning in 1734, cloth merchant Peter Collinson hurried down to the docks at London’s Custom House to collect cargo just arrived from John Bartram in the American colonies. But it was not bales of cotton that awaited him, but plants and seeds… Over the next forty years, Bartram would send hundreds of American species to England, where Collinson was one of a handful of men who would foster a national obsession and change the gardens of Britain forever: Philip Miller, author of the bestselling Gardeners Dictionary; the Swede Carl Linnaeus, whose standardised botanical nomenclature popularised botany; the botanist-adventurer Joseph Banks and his colleague Daniel Solander who both explored the strange flora of Tahiti and Australia on Captain Cook’s Endeavour. In this charming and utterly fascinating talk, Andrea Wulf tells the story of these men – friends, rivals, enemies, united by a passion for plants. History and gardening meet in this telling of the birth of Britain’s green-fingered obsession.