Earthly Joys by Philippa Gregory
Tremendous historical novel of the early 1600s, as seen through the eyes of John Tradescant, gardener to the great men of the age. A traveller in a time of discovery, the greatest gardening pioneer of his day, yet a man of humble birth: John Tradescant's story is a mirror to the extraordinary age in which he lives. As gardener and confidante to Sir Robert Cecil, Tradescant is well placed to observe the social and political changes that are about to sweep through the kingdom. While his master conjures intrigues at Court, Tradescant designs for him the magnificent garden at Hatfield, scouring the known world for ever more wonderful plants: new varieties of fruit and flower, the first horse chestnuts to be cultivated in England, even larches from Russia. Moving to the household of the flamboyant Duke of Buckingham, Tradescant witnesses at first hand the growing division between Parliament and the people; and the most loyal of servants must find a way to become an independent squire.