The Founding Gardeners, By Andrea Wulf

The outdoors pursuit of happiness

In this unusual book, Andrea Wulf argues that the founding fathers' ambitions for America were reflected in their gardens.

George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, John Adams, and James Madison lovingly developed their estates, and Wulf argues that their respectful treatment of nature sowed the seeds for the environmental movement. She skirts some important issues, not least of them the uncomfortable question of who actually did their planting and weed-pulling. (I'll give you a clue: they weren't paid, and weren't allowed to leave.) But her account is persuasive, and enlivened with vivid descriptions of US countryside from "soaring white pines" to "swathes of quamash" that "shimmer like lakes" across the plains.