Plantsmen

David Allen

  • The John Tradescants: Gardeners to the Rose and Lily Queen by Prudence Leith-Ross
    Owen, 320 pp, £20.00, March 1984, ISBN 0 7206 0612 8
  • Sydney Parkinson: Artist of Cook’s ‘Endeavour’ Voyage edited by D.J. Carr
    Croom Helm, 300 pp, £29.95, March 1984, ISBN 0 7099 0794 X

Gardeners and, even less, flower painters are not usually thought of as leading adventurous lives. Their pursuits above all others are suggestive of peacefulness, of contented days quietly tucked away in hothouses and arbours, with no greater dangers to contend with than pricks from rose-bushes or stings from wasps. Yet it has never been like that entirely. Someone had to seek out that great variety of plant life in the first place, and the best people to do so were the plantsmen themselves: they alone knew what was most likely to flourish in the particular conditions they were able to offer back at home, they alone had the motivation to penetrate the more unpleasant portions of the wilds and the patience to emerge with the necessary cultivable material. Not a few of them, in consequence, have fallen prey to the hazards and suffered injuries, disease or even death.

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