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HUMANITIES 261 Eileen Woodhead. Early Canadian Gardening: An 1827 Nursery Catalogue McGill-QueenJ-s Univ~rsity Press. }20, 141 illus. $45.00 It is a pleasure to filld a book that takes the history of horticulture in Canada as seriously as does Eileen Woodhead's edition of William Custead's catalogue of the Toronto Nursery. And it is a mark of the development of garden history in this country thatwe have passed beyond the anecdotal anthology to the connections between botany, history, economics, and horticulture. Woodhead's book complements her republication of the Toronto Nursery's catalogue with a history of that nursery, and account of the development of botany and horticulture.in North America, and a taxonomial history of the plants that Custead had to offer. The last occupies most of the book and is the most thorough account of Canadian plants since Charlotte-Erichsen Brown's Use ofPlants (1979). It would have been good, though, to have a map showing the present location of the nursery's site and perhaps an illustration of what a Canadian garden (nursery or otherwise) of the period might have looked like. . Where the book is weakest is in its account of botanical history, not just in Canada but in North America generally. There is no mention of the first Canadian botanical book, Cornut's Historia Plantarum (1635), nor is there any sense that Woodhead is familiar with the huge transatlantic plant exchange that began, effectively, with the Tradescants (an exchange carefully set out in Prudence Leith-Ross's book on them), was extended by the work of such pioneering botanists as John Banister and Mark Catesby (both well published), and was set firmly in place by John Bartram in the 17305. Woodhead mentions the pioneering work of Catharine Parr Traill in Upper Canada (though she misspells her name), but more than a century earlier, within a few years of the Conquest, plants from Quebec were in the Botanic Garden in Edinburgh under the direction oOohn Hope. Given that her book is essentially an annotated nursery catalogue (a straightforward 'translation' of the names into modern nomenclature would have been useful), it is surprising that she says so little about nursery catalogues generally or about the history of them. And her book, as a consequence, seems strangely deracinated. A great deal has been written about the problem of nomenclature ill nurseries that she seems not to know: JohnHarvey's Early Garden Catalogues and The Georgian Garden: An Eighteenth-Century Nurseryman's Catalogue (as well as several important articles in Garden History), Hazel Le Rougetel's book on Philip Miller, The Chelsea Gardener, or E.J. Willson's West London Nursery Gardens for example. Woodhead is aware of the importance of Miller in the popular dissemination of Linnaeus's nomenclature but not that Miller resisted Linnaeus's systems until the seventh edition of The 262 LETTERS IN CANADA 1998 Gardeners Dictionary (1759) or that amateur botanists read Linnaeus in the popular form of the Introduction to Botany (1760) by the Fulham nurseryman , James Lee. The consequence of these lacunae is that the history of botany and nurseries in Early Canadian Gardening is very hit and miss, scrambling back and forth across the centuries in a way that is confusing, especially about the dates of plant introduction. In her third chapter, 'Horticulture in the Nineteenth Century,' for example, we find that this was 'a period of cultural transition between the eighteenth century's Age of Reason and the extravagant Victorian epoch.' Where these generalizations are not meanmgless they are laughable. The early nineteenth century, as Ann Shteir has pointed out in her book Cultivating Women, Cultivating Science (1996), was precisely the period in whichwomen staked aclaim to botanical knowledge. Itwasthe age that produced Catharine ParrTraill, for example. Moreover it was the period in which (in gardens) the transformation was not from reason to extravagance, butfrom the cult of the picturesque to that of the gardensque, exemplified by John Claudius Loudon and his wife, Jane. If anything gave rise to the interest inindividual plants it was the specimen-bed planting that Loudon encouraged. McGill-Queen's has notbeen generous with its copy-editing of this book. Not...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1712-5278
Print ISSN
0042-0247
Pages
pp. 261-262
Launched on MUSE
2014-07-02
Open Access
No
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