Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Job Baster and Philip Miller. The Dutch-English madder connection.

English horticulturist Philip Miller travelled to the Netherlands in the mid-18th century and is known to have met Dutch physician and scientist Job Baster at Middelburg. Shortly after, Miller published a book on the cultivation of madder in the Dutch Zeeland province (1758), probably helped in his desciption by Baster (who, in his turn, translated several of Miller's works on garden culture).
He advocates the culture of madder in England, but warns against a simple matter of planting and growing. He notices the details of soil selection for madder, and distinguishes three kinds of madder, all cultivated and traded as roots and shoots. A first without mention of origin, but supposedly the Dutch mother plants, are preferable as planting material. A second (aspera), imported from France and Spain, is decidedly inferior. A third, native to the English coast, is described as still botanically the same species, but clearly unsuitable for culture.

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