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Plant book

David Fairchild

David Fairchild Controlling Pests

“The World Was My Garden” published in 1938 is an extraordinary travelogue and history lesson written by David Fairchild. It’s remarkable that this man was able to clearly capture scenes, names and dates beginning with his birth in 1869 at Michigan State College.

Yes, plants and places are central to Fairchild’s 494 page book but his discoveries and people he encountered over the years enrich the story. He does not drop names for fame’s sake but introduces us to Alexander Graham Bell (before marrying his daughter), the Wright brothers and stained glass master Louis Comfort Tiffany.

Bombax Bloom

There is something about a rose petal in quality and color that is seldom equaled by any other flower, and it is little wonder that hybrid roses have become so much a part of the life of human beings. In fact, the words “garden” and “roses” seem indissolubly connected in the mind.

I once said as much to Louis C. Tiffany as we were standing one brilliant morning in Miami, gazing at the gorgeous red flowers of the Bombax malabaricum. I complained somewhat peevishly that Northern people who settled in South Florida insisted on spending time and money growing roses, and I could not wean them from the idea, even when they saw gorgeous trees like the Bombax.

“Don’t you know,” he said, “that the vast majority of people are influenced more by their memory of flower gardens, than by their appreciation of the beautiful? To most people a garden means roses, and they will always try to grow them even in Florida, where they may have to plant them every year.”

David Fairchild, “The World Was My Garden” 1938.
Detail of one of the many stained glass windows by Tiffany at the Morse Museum in Winter Park, Florida.

What a pleasure to read about discussions and thoughts of great minds who influenced gardening and art.