Turning Over a New Leaf . . .

Sept mumAndrea here. As summer begins to unfurl here where I live in New England, the profusion of colors and textures—both wild and cultivated—coming to life have me thinking about gardens. Now, in the spirit of full disclosure, I am NOT a gardener. Other than the annual rite of planting impatiens in the big urns on my entrance steps and herbs on my deck, I don’t have the patience to dig and weed, and work toward a vision that may take years to come to fruition. But I truly appreciate the artistry, and am grateful to those who have a passion for cultivating the earth.

The Brother GardenersMy recent walks reminded me of a fascinating story in botanical history. One of the many books (too many—I really need more bookshelves1) stacked on the overflow table of my TBR and Keeper piles is The Brother Gardeners, by Andrea Wulf. It’s wonderful history revolving around a small group of men who started the movement of trading seeds and specimen plantings between America and Britain, which changed the face of the English landscape.

At the heart of the story is Peter Collinson, who was born into a prosperous English mercantile Quaker family. His father was a cloth merchant, dealing in high quality fabric both in Britain and its American colonies. Collinson, who couldn’t attend university in England because of his religion, took over the family business. But his real passion was botany.

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Shaping The Ideal English Landscape

Overview 3
“With large sweeping expanses of lush green fields, groupings of trees, winding paths, and serpentine-shaped rivers and lakes, the English landscape appears as an ideal form of nature; it is, however, an expertly crafted construct.” 
—from the exhibit, "Moving Earth"

Overview 1Andrea/Cara here
, Spring is bursting into bloom where I am, the colors and textures transforming the stark planes of winter into a whole new landscape. It got me to thinking about how trees and shrubs and flowers shape our perception of our surroundings. Modern life, with all its crowded cities and endless strip malls, has tended to dull that bond to the natural world. It got me to thinking about the English countryside, which has always seemed to me to be the quintessential example of a wonderful balance between the wildness of Nature and the careful cultivation of Man.

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