John Bartram was born in Pennsylvania in 1699 and was a farmer.
He became interested in horticulture after examining the beauty and complexity of a wild flower that was excavated by his plough. So he then learned Latin in order to study Botany.
He planted the first Botanic Garden in North America and he made long collecting trips into the interior of the country and sent seeds and plants to other botanist in the colonies abroad.
The King’s Botanist
In 1765 he was appointed as the King’s Botanist, which sounded important but which paid way for very little for a man who had many children to support.
However, because of the post he was able to travel from Georgia to Florida accompanied by his fifth son, William who followed in his father’s botanical footsteps.
It is said that the outbreak of the Revolutionary War in 1776 hastened John Bartram’s death. After the battle of Brandywine he became terrified that approaching troops would savage his garden.
Fortunately, this did not happen, and the garden survived and is preserved in Philadelphia with some of his trees and his house, as part of a public park.
Bartram was probably our first home-grown hybridist of flowering plants and started a tradition in his region for show casing flowers.
Nowadays, the Philadelphia Flower Show, which is held early in March every year, continues to celebrate the beauty and complexity of flowers, with glorious displays and educational activities.
[Information about the Philadelphia Flower Show can be found at the web site of the Pennsylvania Horticultural Society, www.pennsylvaniahorticulturalsociety.org]