"In the beginning was the garden.
In the Mosaic tradition it is called the Garden of Eden; in other cultures it has different names. It is a place of abundance, peace, and joy, from which humans wandered or were expelled, and for which men and women have yearned ever since."

Mary Soderstrom

Recreating Eden
A Natural History of Botanical Gardens

Véhicule Press, 2001
This is not a guidebook. There are no maps or tips on keeping aphids at bay--not even a lot of pretty pictures of flowers to ogle. Instead it's about Mary Soderstrom's curiosity over why instituitions form to collect, describe, preserve and display plants. During the 1500's when the first botanical gardens were planted, the founders said they gathered plants from all parts the world they knew because they wanted to know God: "since each plant was a created thing, and God had revealed a part of himself in each thing that he created, a complete collection of all the things created by God must reveal God completely."

the some 1,600 botanical gardens in the world, Mary Soderstom picked nine to write about. All of the gardens she describes have a common purpose. They collect and nurture plants from their part of the world and other parts of the world to display and study. They are separated by time in their original purposes for collecting and preserving plants: the oldest, the Hortus Botanicus in Leiden was founded in 1590. The most recent, the University of British Columbia Botanical Garden in Vancouver dates from the 1960s., a span of almost 400 hundred years. They all "speak to a univeral desire to situate ourselves in good, green places, just as our ancestors over the eons chose places that promised food to gather, water to drink and good forage for animals they wanted to hunt." In today's world she feels that meeting that universal need is in danger. Soderstrom says that botanical gardens are needed as examples and as advocates for the stewardship of our planet.

Here are the nine botanical gardens Soderstrom describes:

Gardens of the Empire
Hortus Botanicus (Leiden, The Netherlands)
Le Jardin des Plantes (Paris, France)
The Royal Botanical Gardens, Kew (London, England)

Gardens of the Nineteenth Century
The Singapore Botanic Gardens (Singapore)
The Missouri Botanical Gardens (St. Louis, Missouri)
The New York Botanical Garden (Bronx, New York)

Gardens of the Twentieth Century
Jardin botanique de Montréal (Montréal, Canada)
Strybing Arboretum & Botanical Gardens (San Franciso, California)
University of British Columbia Botanical Garden (Vancouver, Canada)