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Plants & America: A July 4th Reflection

Every summer, near the Fourth of July, I try to read a history of the American Revolution or a biography of a founding father. This period has long captivated my imagination: Enlightenment thinkers led a young nation discovering its identity.

Bartram Gardens

Jean Leon Gerome Harris, George Washington Visiting Bartram’s Gardens in 1787 (Courtesy of the Smithsonian American Art Museum)

Recently, I read Founding Gardeners: The Revolutionary Generation, Nature, and the Shaping of the American Nation by Andrea Wulf. The book explores the fascination of several founding fathers–George Washington, John Adams, Thomas Jefferson, and James Madison–with the natural world. Plants, gardening, and farming helped form their individual philosophies. Furthermore, such pursuits contributed to the development of a shared American culture. A great story.

During this long July 4th weekend, spend a few quiet hours with a similarly inspiring book. Then, head back the cookout or the beach. Or your garden.

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