Welcome to Halfman, Halfbook for my stop on the Blog Tour for Green Gold by Gabriel Hemery and published by Unbound.
About the Book
In 1850, young Scottish plant hunter John Jeffrey was despatched by an elite group of Victorian subscribers to seek highly prized exotic trees in North America. An early letter home told of a 1,200-mile transcontinental journey by small boat and on foot. Later, tantalising collections of seeds and plants arrived from British Columbia, Oregon and California, yet early promise soon withered. Four years after setting out, John Jeffrey, and his journals, disappeared without a trace. Was he lost to love, violence or the Gold Rush? Green Gold combines meticulous research with the fictional narrative of Jeffrey’s lost journals, revealing an extraordinary adventure.
About the Author
Gabriel Hemery is a tree-hunter, forest scientist and published author. As a young researcher he led a seed-collecting expedition to the walnut-fruit forests of Kyrgyzstan, and in his career as a hands-on scientist has planted tens of thousands of trees in plantations and experiments across Britain. Gabriel played a lead role alongside other prominent environmentalists in halting the sell-off of England’s public forests. After leading the Botanical Society of the British Isles as its first Director of Development, he co-founded the environmental charity Sylva Foundation, since leading it as Chief Executive. His first book The New Sylva was published to wide acclaim in 2014. He lives near Oxford in England.
In the middle of the 19th century, the fervour amongst the great and the good was reaching fever pitch for the plants that were yet to be discovered. A committee was formed, the Oregon Association, with the intention of sending someone out to North America where the riches pickings were available, and potentially the wealthiest return. A gardener from Edinburgh’s Royal Botanic Garden called John Jeffery was interviewed and appointed and charged with the collection of seeds and cones and to be returned to the subscribers of the Association. He was asked to keep two journals and to send regular correspondence and packages back to the UK.
Jeffery left the UK in mid-1850 and headed northwards. After a stop in Orkney, he arrived on the North America Continent in August. He wrote to the Association saying that he had arrived and then the toughest part of his journey was about to begin as he was to travel 1200 miles across snow, mountains and harsh landscape towards the Columbia River where he could begin his great commission. Over the next four years, carefully curated packages of seeds along with notes of the plants and their locations would arrive back in Scotland for the subscribers to the Association to share amongst themselves. Apart from the odd letter though, he never kept his promise to supply the journals of his travels. Eventually, the Association, who thought they were going to get untold botanical riches from their collector were disappointed with the packages sent back. They set about dismissing him from his post. Before anyone representing the Association could find Jefferies to inform him of this decision, he had vanished off the face of the earth when travelling from San Diego across the Colorado Desert.
I have never been a huge fan of docu-dramas, so when I first realised that this was a fictionalised account of John Jeffrey my heart sunk a little. However, Hemery has worked wonders here. Relying on extensive research combined with reproductions of the correspondence between all the interested parties his has written a compelling story of what Jeffrey’s might have been in the lost journals about his travels across the very much Wild West in the search of plants for his employers. At the time of his collections, the disappointment of the Association was very evident, though they did not cover themselves in glory with the organisation of the trip, it turns out that his discoveries were more significant they realised. An unexpected good read.
Don’t forget to visit the other blogs on the blog tour
Buy this at your local independent bookshop. If you’re not sure where your nearest is then you can find one here
My thanks to Unbound for the copy of the book to read and to Anne Cater from Random Things Tours for arranging everything for this blog tour.