Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Jefferson's Garden

Jefferson's garden at Monticello - July 2012

Note : You can see all of the pictures I took during my visit to Monticello here at the set I have posted on Flickr.

During my week at Monticello one of the things I enjoyed most was seeing  Jefferson's garden and learning a little more about his approach to gardening.

The mere sight of Jefferson's 1000 foot long garden at Monticello is impressive.  The garden has been painstakingly reconstructed on the same site and is currently growing the same vegetables.  I enjoyed walking through and seeing many of the same items we know grow in our own small family garden.

Jefferson is sometimes given erroneous credit for single handedly introducing certain vegetables to the United States, like the tomato. He did, however, help to advocate for increased popularity of some vegetables which were not common in the United States at the time.  His garden at time would have definitely been a "revolutionary garden".

Sea Kale in Jefferson's garden at Monticello - July 2012

As you walk the garden it is impossible to not be touched by the beauty of the surroundings.  The garden is built on the side of the mountain upon which Jefferson built Monticello with an amazing view looking out over the valley and the towering big mountain of Montalto keeping watch.

In addition to the garden, Jefferson also surrounded himself with beautiful flower beds and trees.  The flower beds surrounding the house have a wide variety of species.  He also had systems created to collect rainwater runoff to help water his plants.

Jefferson's flower beds at Monticello - July 2012

Jefferson's flower beds at Monticello - July 2012

If you visit Monticello I would recommend the garden tour.  It was a very informative 45 minute tour and I learned a lot about Jefferson's involvement with plants on the grounds.  I wanted to read up on the garden when I returned home so I purchased the book "A Rich Spot of Earth" by Peter Hatch.  Hatch has been the gardener at Monticello since 1977.  I highly recommend this book if you want to learn more about this topic.  It is both a coffee table book with incredible photography and informative read with historical perspective and background on the types of vegetables grown.  This book is a must if you have an interest in Jefferson's garden.

As I walked around Monticello last week I found myself thinking about how Jefferson would like use to remember him today if we could only focus on one of his talents.  Would he like us to think of him as the one who crafted our most important document?  Would he want us to think of him as an architect first as we wait for hours to take a tour of his 200+ year old house?  Is he most proud of his contributions as a gardener?  What of his ability to adapt and implement the inventions around him in an attempt to create a more comfortable and efficient life?  I personally think his answer might vary from day to day but last week as I walked around his grounds I thought first of his ability to create a tranquil and beautiful place on this "rich spot of earth".

Flowers at Monticello - July 2012

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