Looking for a little patriotic reading during the July 4th holiday? Check out Andrea Wulf’s new book Founding Gardeners: The Revolutionary Generation, Nature, and the Shaping of the American Nation.
Inspired by the grounds of Thomas Jefferson’s estate, Monticello, Wulf looked back at America’s early history through the lens of gardening and traced our country’s roots to the horticultural inspiration that George Washington, John Adams, James Madison and Thomas Jefferson infused into our founding principles.
In keeping with the American Revolution, gardening with American natives and rejecting British imports could be seen as an act of patriotism – albeit the only good publications on American flora to consult at the time were in fact British.
Washington combed the forests for transplant potential – aspen trees from neighboring Fairfax, magnolias from the South, black gum, American linden, and sassafras. As a gardener, you can sympathize with Washington’s frustration at never having enough time to spend in his garden. The War of Independence was always getting in the way. Endless correspondence related to his political responsibilities and landlord duties kept him holed up in his study, when he yearned to be out planting.
So, as you celebrate Independence Day this year, you can thank the founding fathers for establishing our connection to the land and — amidst all their other preoccupations of the day — promoting an appreciation for our native trees.