“Fifty shades of green” perhaps?

I realise that this book has been around for some time now, but I’ve only just discovered it.  It’s Virgin Earth by Philippa Gregory and it should appeal to historians who enjoy gardening and gardeners who like a bit of history.  So I thought quite a few Charioteers might enjoy it, if they don’t already know it.

The book is based on the life of John Tradescant the Younger and is set during the English Civil War. [ There is an earlier volume based on the life of John Tradescant the Elder, entitled Earthly Joys.]  Part of the action is set in Virginia round the new colony of Jamestown, detailing the initial friendship and subsequent animosity between the English settlers and the native Powhatan Indians, the tribe to which Pocahontas belonged.  The Indians cannot believe how much territory the settlers are claiming, driving them ever farther inland.  But tobacco is a lucrative crop and more and more land is granted to new settlers.

In England Charles I is making more and more of a mess of trying to rule his subjects.  He gives his word and then immediately reneges on it. He has a shrewish French wife, which doesn’t help.  Tradescant, as royal gardener has the opportunity to see the king and queen at close quarters.  Of course Oliver Cromwell doesn’t emerge with flying colours either and neither does the turncoat General Monk.

There is no S&M, not much sex at all really, so no comparison with “Fifty Shades of Grey”, but I enjoyed reading it and the idea that so many of our plants, now taken for granted, came across the Atlantic packed in barrels and sprayed with sea water is quite amazing.

2 thoughts on ““Fifty shades of green” perhaps?”

  1. Sounds good, thanks for the heads up.
    I was more than aware of Tradescant’s contributions I was amazed when I first saw tradescantia , the purple thingummy all over the Gulf coast and positively festooning New Orleans! A lot of his stuff is to be found in the gardens of the Royal Chelsea Hospital and the Physic Garden.
    There are some fantastic botanic drawings of his plants which are available in a book, the original of which I believe is in the Ashmolean.
    Trouble is, lots of his plants are a bit marginal for the UK and are thus only to be found in professional places such as Kew. or very sheltered locations in the South of the country. Eg the large Southern Magnolia (magnolia grandiflora) and the tulip tree (tulipifera liriodendron) Which is why people are not too aware of him.
    Many of our border plants are his and his father’s discoveries, golden rod, phlox, michaelmas daisies, coneheads (echinacea) to name a few, but they have all been around for so long that people assume that they are indigenous.

    Sounds like a good read for me at any rate. Thanks.

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