Williamson Free School Gardeners and the Quaker Botanical Trade

“I am continually impelled by a restless spirit of curiosity in pursuit of new productions of nature, my chief happiness consists in tracing and admiring the infinite power, majesty, and perfection of the great almighty Creator, and in the contemplation, that through divine aid and permission, I might be instrumental in discovering and introducing into my native country, some original productions of nature, which might become useful to society.”    William Bartram

Williamson Free School, Kirk R. Brown, John Bartram, Philadelphia Flower Show

The flag is displayed proudly on the parade ground of Williamson Free School where all classes and categories of students gather each morning for roll.

The landscape and horticulture students at Williamson Free School of Mechanical Trades are working on an exhibit demonstrating the complexity of trading in botanical specimens during the 18th century.  Their investigations in the trans Atlantic crossing of seeds, roots, cuttings, divisions and containers will be unveiled to the horticultural public during this year’s Philadelphia Flower Show:  http://www.theflowershow.com/  It will be a brilliant assemblage of English landscape design and American scientific ingenuity.

John Bartram, Philadelphia Flower Show, Kirk R. Brown, Williamson Free School

This miniature model of Independence Hall displays the level of professionalism and horticultural excellence attained by featured exhibits on the show floor.

The senior class, under the tutelage of Chuck Feld, invited me to tour their campus and discourse on the technical challenges of sending the dozens of Bartram’s Boxes that successfully landed on English shores.  Officially, the students attend this school to receive training in programs that award them a degree as an Associate in Specialized Technology.  Also helping the Horticulture, Landscaping and Turf Management class will be the combined efforts of the other programs in Carpentry, Paint and Coatings, Construction Technology and Machine Tool Technology.  http://www.williamson.edu/about/history.htm

John Bartram, Kirk R. Brown, Philadelphia Flower Show, Williamson Free School of Mechanical Trades

John Bartram joins the seniors of the Horticulture, Landscape and Turf class at Williamson Free School of Mechanical Trades.

The display will showcase all of the native North American botanicals that I introduced to the world of horticulture through my correspondence with many of the world’s most famous men of letters, science, and industry:  James Logan, Peter Collinson, Philip Miller, Carl Linnaeus, Benjamin Franklin, Mark Catesby, Peter Kalm, Johann Gronovius, and Johann Dillenius.

John Bartram, Kirk R. Brown, Philadelphia Flower Show, Williamson Free School

John in a familiar pose of writing to his many horticultural correspondents.

Featured in the exhibit will be rooted seedlings of the Franklinia alatamaha.  This tree, collected on a tour through the swamps of Georgia along the Alatamaha River, was never again found in wild after the early part o the 19th century.  The examples that we now have of it are all descendants of the original copse of trees that my son William and I discovered in 1765.

John Bartram, William Bartram, Kirk R. Brown, Franklinia alatamaha

John and William Bartram discovered the unique Franklinia during a collecting trip along the Alatamaha River in Georgia.

The exhibit will educate the masses about the how, why, when, where, and who of the start of international horticulture.  This fine concept will ultimately recognize the amazing vitality and economic incentive given the art and science of botany by those members of the Philadelphia Quaker community.  Please stop by the booth on your trip through this “Brilliant” Philadelphia Flower Show between March 2 and 10.  I will be fronting the booth to welcome all comers during the first weekend of the display.

Williamson Free School, John Bartram, Kirk R. Brown Philadelphia Flower Show

The senior carpentry class from Williamson Free School will be constructing the bones of the Philadelphia Flower Show Educational Exhibit

As the spring season opens, more will be said about the specifics of the display and the difficulty of translating a vision of 300 years of international plant search and sharing.

A Seeker After Trees and Truth

“Scilicet ut vellem curvo dinoscere rectum atque inter silvas Academi quarere…”  (So that, you know, I was eager to distinguish the straight from the crooked, and to hunt for truth in the groves of Academe.. )   Horace

I am a quester.  That is:  a seeker.  The word comes from the Latin verb, Quarere.  The meaning is “to seek, to ask.”

John Bartram, Kirk R. Brown, American Philosophical Society, Questers, Quercus rubra

John Bartram co-founded the American Philosophical Society with his friend and mentor, Benjamin Franklin

In my searches I have discovered many new genus and species of plants.  I have also discovered amongst the roots of nature a trail that leads straight to God.  Quarere Deum.  Search for God.

James Logan, Stenton, John Bartram, Kirk R. Brown

John Bartram in the Library at Stenton

Did I know that I was searching for God along the trails, among the natives, abreast with fellow seekers?  Life always becomes more clear by the nearer you come to the end of the story.

Wyck, Quaker Horticulture, John Bartram, Kirk R. Brown

John Bartram traveled far and wide to discover new genus and species. Here is admires the prized antique roses at another Quaker garden: Wyck.

Perhaps through self-revelation, the Latin word for Oak is quercus.  Derived from the same Latin root.  It is the stately tree in ancient forests to which the mages, priests, elders and sages traveled to question their natural gods.  It was the tree through which all answers came.

John Bartram, Awbury Arboretum, Kirk R. Brown, Historic Trees

John Bartram under a record-holding tree. Regardless of genus or species, he invariably traveled out of his way to see the premiere example of the plants he went on to collect.

I question everything and notice much.  My quest is to discover the reasons for God’s handiwork.  As a quester, I strive to extend the reach of man’s knowledge to benefit all and praise a benevolent deity.

Kirk R. Brown, Independence Hall, John Bartram, Founding Fathers

John Bartram traveled in company of the famous and the scholarly. His garden was only a short trip from the political center of Independence Hall

I am a quester.  Then.  Now.  Forever.  I will be appearing with others of my stock when the Moland House Questers gather on January 9.  I look to meet and greet as many as I may.  My spirit will forever stay young in the search for wisdom and knowledge and fellow travelers!