If you ever get the chance to hear author Andrea Wulf speak, definitely take advantage of the opportunity. She's a really amazing speaker and I am eager to read her work now. Not so long ago I had checked out her book Founding Gardeners: The Revolutionary Generation, Nature and the Shaping of the American Nation from the library, but as a slow nonfiction reader it went back unread but marked as a book to revisit. Revisit it I shall as I now have my own copy signed by Andrea.
The event was organized by Omaha's Lauritzen Gardens, which I have mentioned before on a few occasions. The space inside and gardens out are really beautiful. It's a place that is calming and peaceful, and when I discovered that there was an upcoming lecture by an author who was already on my radar I was thrilled to be able to attend.
Here's a peek into the lecture hall before Andrea's talk. The room is actually larger than it looks and it was filled to capacity. Apparently it was the best attended event of all their past lectures. Andrea provided visuals along with her talk, which was thoroughly fascinating. Founding fathers? Gardening? Colonial America? Eighteenth Century? Sometimes history can be a little dry depending on how it's presented, but Andrea is a talented speaker and she brought it all alive and with a dash of humor that had us all laughing and imagining Thomas Jefferson, George Washington, John Adams and James Madison in their element--their gardens--all while shaping the burgeoning country of America.
She's obviously well acquainted and familiar with her material and it sounds like she has spent quite a lot of time researching the period. She had lots of interesting anecdotes. It was interesting to hear her impetus for writing the book, which grew out of her research for an earlier book on British gardens, The Brother Gardeners: A Generation of Gentleman Naturalists and the Birth of an Obsession. Did you know many British gardens were created with American seeds? (You're welcome!). It was all the rage for British gardeners to buy plants from the New World, and John Bartram who was a farmer from Philadelphia had quite a business selling his plants abroad.
Andrea is a design historian and studied at the Royal College of Art in London but now writes full time. She was born in India and grew up in Germany but now lives in London, so it was interesting to hear about American history from a very different 'foreign' perspective. She obviously has a great affection for what she writes about and will be curious to see if it comes through in her writing, too. Her most recent book (which I also had to have) is Chasing Venus:The Race to Measure the Heavens and is currently writing a book about Alexander von Humboldt who had ties to the New World as well.
I have to share a couple of photos, too, from the Lauritzen's current exhibit, Polynesian Paradise. Isn't this an inviting scene? I could happily relax on that hammock with a book in hand and a cool glass of lemonade close by. Just the right kind of respite from the neverending winter we can't seem to shake off here.
Hah. Isn't this guy great? I didn't have enough time before the lecture to read the placards, so I am not sure what the sculpture/totem signifies (must do a little after the fact research), but the sentiment is wonderful. He looks rather fierce--just how I feel sometimes.
I love attending these sorts of events and learning something new and interesting. I will be watching for more that Lauritzen has to offer and look forward to when the gardens are finally in bloom. For now, though, I can't wait to start reading my new books.