Britain has only a few hundred indigenous plants, and most of the trees, shrubs and flowers we take for granted in our gardens have been imported from elsewhere in the world.
The Middle Ages saw the arrival of anemones and crocus, hollyhocks and lavender, lupins and rosemary. The discovery of America and the opening of sea routes to India led to the planting of nasturtium and artichokes, apricots and yuccas, pumpkins and sunflowers – all of which grew in English gardens by 1600. From then on the pace quickened. The 17thc bought in horse chestnuts and cedar of Lebanon, sweet peas and magnolia, michaelmas daisies and mimosa.
The 18th saw the start of exploration of Australia and the Pacific, and fuchsia, camellia, gingko, rhododendron, bottle brush and monkey puzzle trees began to grace our gardens. By the 19thc the demand for new plants was enormous. Plant hunting became a profession. Nurseries sent out regular expeditions to every quarter of the globe to find new and interesting plants to propagate and exploit for the growing number of gardeners…dahlias came from Mexico, wisteria from China, hebes from New Zealand and the rubber plant from India.
Even now when one would think that all possibilities for garden-useful plants have been exploited plant hunters are still hard at work!
This talk could be tailored to almost any period in history, to almost any country or continent or to any one of a number of individual plant hunters and their travels.