This week on We Dig Plants tune in for a transatlantic conversation with renown garden historian Andrea Wulf. Calling from across the pond Ms. Wulfe gives us an in-depth history lesson of the plants of the revolutionary times based upon her recent book, The Founding Gardeners. From the seeds that Benjamin Franklin sent over from England right before the Declaration of Independence to the gardens at Monticello, learn about the fascinating way in which America came into its own true horticultural identity and even how the choice of gardens at George Washington’s Mount Vernon estate, with it’s all native plants, mirrors the revolution itself. This episode is sponsored by White Oak Pastures

“Jefferson and Adams went on a garden tour in 1786 [in England] . . and they go into several gardens and what they see, what was very fashionable in England at that time, they see so-called ‘ornamental farms’. So these are gardens that combine elements of working land with elements of a pleasure grant. . . and it was this combination of beautiful and useful that appeal to them . . so when they returned to America later they incorporated these elements because it very much chimed with their vision of America as a country of vast lands that would feed the nation but also of sublime beauty.”

“And on the brink of the war Washington writes a letter to his estate manager in Mount Vernon and advises him to on plant native American species,so he’s telling him go to my forest and pick up these plants and shrubs and plant them in my garden. It is almost as if this is his horticultural declaration of independence.”

“Until then American gardeners tried to recreate the Old World in their gardens and there [Washington] is ripping them out [at Mount Vernon] and replacing them with native species. He is creating what I would call the very first truly American garden. He uses his garden almost like a canvas to make this political statement.”

“Washington’s idea behind a national university is that we have these 13 states together now but we really have to mature from being a war alliance to being a truly united nation. . and he believed if you would bring these young men together at a young age, studying together, learning together, they would become one and they would believe in America’s destiny as a united country. And the national botanical garden should belong to the university because if they would see all these trees from all 13 states growing together in horticultural union again that would give them the sense of ‘we are one country’.”

–Andrea Wulf on We Dig Plants