John Bartram devised wooden crates to send his precious seeds and specimens to Peter Collinson, and eventually a wide variety of clients, in Britain. For five guineas, clients received a container of generally 100 or more varieties of seeds, and sometimes dried plant specimens and natural history curiosities as well. Despite the dangers of a sea voyage to tender seeds, including seawater, rats, and theft, many happily made it to their destinations.
These boxes were John Bartram’s livelihood and the start of a trans-Atlantic plant business that carried into three generations. The plant exchange had a significant impact on European gardens and landscapes, creating a new palette of colors and shapes. New plants included magnolias, mountain laurels, azaleas, and rhododendrons. Sugar maples, black gums, viburnums, and sumacs created brilliant fall color unseen in Britain until this point.