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, his new contact in the American colonies. But it was not reels of wool or bales of cotton that awaited him, but plants and seeds ver 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, introducing lustrous evergreens, fiery autumn foliage and colourful shrubs. They were men of wealth and taste but also of knowledge and experience like Philip Miller, author of the bestselling Gardeners Dictionary, and the Swede Carl Linnaeus, whose standardised botanical nomenclature popularised botany as a genteel pastime for the middle-classes; and the botanist-adventurer Joseph Banks and his colleague Daniel Solander who both explored the strange flora of Tahiti and Australia on the greatest voyage of discovery of modern times, Captain Cook s Endeavour. his is the story of these men friends, rivals, enemies, united by a passion for plants whose correspondence, collaborations and
Andrea Wulf was born in India and moved to Germany as a child. She trained as a design historian at the Royal College of Art and is the co-author (with Emma Gieben-Gamal) of This Other Eden- Seven Great Gardens and 300 Years of English History. She has written for The Sunday Times, the Financial Times, The Garden, The Architects' Journal, and regularly reviews for several newspapers, including the Guardian and the Times Literary Supplement.