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Many of the world's most renowned and exciting ornamental plants – including magnolias, roses, rhododendrons, tree peonies, lilies, and blue poppies – have their origins in China. In the mid-nineteenth century, professional plant hunters were dispatched by nurseries and botanic gardens to collect living botanical specimens from China for cultivation in Europe, and it is these adventurers and nurserymen who are often credited with the explosive bloom of Chinese flowers in the West. But as Jane Kilpatrick shows in Fathers of Botany, the first Westerners to come upon and document this bounty were in fact cut from a different cloth: the clergy.
Jane Kilpatrick is an Oxford-educated freelance historian and garden writer who is based in the UK. She is the author of Gifts from the Gardens of China: The Introduction of Traditional Chinese Garden Plants to Britain 1698-1862.