Friday, February 13, 2009

Pray go very clean ...

I am enjoying Andrea Wulf's The Brother Gardeners very much. It's an account of the relationship between the American farmer, John Bartram, with London cloth merchant and plant fanatic, Peter Collinson in the 18th century. The power balance between the two men is beautifully drawn, as John Bartram slowly realises that Collinson needs the plants and seeds he collects and sends to Britain. However, this doesn't stop Collinson patronising him constantly. Before a trip to Virginia to collect plants for Collinson, for example, Bartram receives a letter from England telling him, 'Pray go very Clean, neat & handsomely Dressed to Virginia' and don't 'Disgrace thyself or Mee.'

Of course, once there Bartram charms everyone. I wish I'd read this book before I went to Virginia (luckily clean and neat) so I could look out for the plants Bartram collected and sent to London. However, what I could recognise was this description of the landscape:

The hills were blanketed in trees - each crown adding to the patchwork of autumnal red and rusty orange. Once the sunbeams began caressing the leaves, the whole landscape was set alight. The leaves of maples, scarlet oaks and dogwoods were like drops of amber clinging to the branches, against which were set the dark needles of the conifers.

Obviously it wasn't Autumn when I was there and not a hill either, but there was definitely some sunbeam caressing going on most mornings...

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