Book Review: 1493


When children recite, “Mary, Mary, quite contrary, how does your garden grow?” perhaps a more appropriate question would be, “From where does your garden grow?”  That’s the question I ‘m asking myself this Columbus Day weekend after reading the best-selling new book 1493: Uncovering the New World Columbus Created, by Charles C. Mann.  This meticulously researched book examines the world after Columbus set foot in North America. 

While Columbus certainly has his critics, there can be no mistaking that his arrival in the New World placed the entire world on the globalization frontier.  The author’s position is that much of what we enjoy today can be traced back to what he calls the Columbian Exchange, a means of moving plants and seeds and animals from one part of the world to another part.  It is why, for example, that tomatoes arrived in Italy and citrus arrived in Florida.  So much of what we take for granted wasn’t always so; and much of it would not be if Columbus had not set the process in motion. 

I myself am a bit of a mutt: English, Scottish, German, French, and Italian.  My paternal ancestors arrived in North America in 1675; my maternal great-grandfather entered through Ellis Island.  While this is my gene pool, I wonder just how diverse and worldly is my garden? 

Thanks to the Internet and Google, I learned that what I plant has traveled a long way to be planted.  In fact, my garden could be a lesson for world leaders seeking peace.   Although it heavily favors Asia and Central and South Americas, there is little conflict in plants from many lands successfully sharing common ground.   (Note to self: bring Australia into the mix, but wait until full-out global warming for Antarctica to come into bloom.) 

And to think my melting pot only took 518 years — and still counting — to plant. 

Happy Columbus Day — and enjoy the weekend in the garden.

9 thoughts on “Book Review: 1493

  1. This souds like a great book. I have noticed as well that the American landscape is not really American much at all, and gardens are made up of all sorts of plants native to other places.

    I guess that’s part of the fun, but I do admire the gardeners who have native wildflowers. Great entry!

  2. Thanks for the recommendation…and your comment re your garden being a lesson for world leaders seeking world peace is so, so true.
    Also love of plants provides common ground. I remember working in refuges with women from domestic violence situations, and some could not speak Engish. But we always managed to communicate once we went to the community garden. They would name plants, I would tell them the english name, which sometimes crossed over…we spoke a common language, plants!

  3. Pingback: A Schnoodle’s Guide to Biodiversity, Gardening, and Genetic Purity | Visionary Gleam

  4. I know the trend is to grow natives, and I do have several in my garden, but I like the look of a diversified garden – and after reading your post, I can now say I’m being “worldly”. I bet that book was a good read.

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