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Show #13/1513
Monticello


Thomas Jefferson
HE BELIEVES THAT THE CULTIVATION OF THE SOIL IS AS NECESSARY IN THE MODERN WORLD AS IT HAS EVER BEEN. He has always believed that the prophets of the future are found in the wisdom of the past. Our ancestors had a great regard for the cultivation of the soil. They realized, indeed, that it provides the individual, his family and society with holding the reigns of self-government. One is providing directly their own sustenance, for the sustenance of your family and for the neighborhood. For good heavens, can one imagine if all of our nation's noble farmers were to remove themselves from their farms and go be seated in urban markets. Why they would have to become dependent upon others for their livelihood, perhaps even dependent upon government itself for welfare. No, he believes that those that cultivate the soil are the most noble breed throughout mankind.

Click here for more info

Monticello
And, MONTICELLO IS A FAMOUS PLACE, it's the only house in the U.S. on the world heritage list of internationally significant places as designated by the United Nations. It's also an autobiographical statement by Jefferson. One sees Jefferson as a farmer, an architect, a scientist, a musician but also and particularly as a gardener. He felt that one of the greatest services one can offer their country is to introduce a new plant. Jefferson's Monticello was a botanic garden, an experimental stage of new and unusual plants that were brought here literally from around the world. Jefferson documented the planting of 330 varieties of vegetables and 170 varieties of fruit. Monticello was the Ellis Island of new and unusual plants that came from around the world.

Click here for more info

The Garden Book
He kept good gardening records, he was unique, an almost obsessive record keeper. HE KEPT A DIARY CALLED THE GARDEN BOOK, that was published, and was some 700 pages long. In The Garden Book Jefferson was a real scientist as he would count how many Carolina beans it took to fill a quart jar, which would in turn plant so many feet of rows in his gardens. This enabled him to be this sort of seedy missionary of seeds. He would pass out things to all his friends and neighbors, even his family and political allies throughout his life. He used plants as a way to relate to people. Gardening kept him young throughout his entire life.

Click here for more info

Oval Flower Beds
RICHARD NOTICES 15 OR 20 FLOWER BEDS AND MOST ARE OVAL IN SHAPE. Peter thinks Jefferson picked up the oval idea from visiting English landscape gardens which took place in the 1780's when Jefferson was serving as Minister to France. But late in his Presidency, in April of 1807, he sketched a plan for 20 oval flower beds in the corners or the angles of the house. This was a difficult period in Jefferson's Presidency. He was having periodic migraine headaches and was also going through the trauma of the Aaron Burr treason trial. During this difficult time Jefferson was designing flower beds for his retirement at Monticello.

Click here for more info

The Winding Walk
THE WINDING WALK IS THE PATHWAY IN FRONT OF MONTICELLO. Jefferson pretty much failed in the plantings in the old flower beds. His granddaughter wrote him and said the bulbs had done well but none of the seeds planted had come up. So, despite the temporary setback, Jefferson decided he needed more room for a greater variety of flowers. He sketched a plan for a winding walk that went around the west lawn that had a flower border along its entire length. And one could say that Jefferson was like all gardeners, when he found he couldn't take care of or handle a small garden, he just decided to make it 3 times larger.

Click here for more info

Grove or Woodland Garden
It is an ornamental forest, about 18 acres, that Jefferson sketched the plan for in 1806. THE GROVE, IN SOME WAYS, WAS A WOODLAND GARDEN, but on the other hand was sort of an expression of Jefferson's ideal of what the true American garden might be. He said that in America we can make gardens without expense, we have only to cut out the super abundant plants. He also said that under the constant beaming and almost vertical sun of Virginia, shade is our Alyssum, or our paradise. His idea of the woodland forest or grove was to prune the trees very high, to create a canopy up above, then clear the ground cover and have a planting basically of grass.

Click here for more info

Vegetable Garden
JEFFERSON WAS SERIOUS ABOUT VEGETABLES. And the vegetable garden at Monticello is immense. It's really an American garden in its scale and scope. The style and huge terrace was literally hued out of the side of the mountain. Jefferson hired 7 slaves from a Fredricksburg, Virginia farmer and over a period of 3 years they carved out the plateau to create what one person called a hanging garden. It's one thousand feet long, supported by a thousand foot long stone wall and below the stone wall a 400 tree orchard that surrounds 2 vineyards and various squares of Currents, Gooseberries and Raspberries. It was all surrounded by a 10 foot high fence that ran for nearly 1/2 a mile and had boards so close together that, according to Jefferson, not even a young hare could get between them.

Click here for more info

Gardening On A Mountaintop
IT WAS DIFFICULT TO GARDEN ON A MOUNTAINTOP. Jefferson was always having problems, with water for an example. Wells, cisterns and springs were always drying up on him. One of the advantages of gardening on a mountainside is the way that in the spring and fall the warm air rises up over the hillside, the elevation of Monticello. Thus they don't often have a frost in this garden until well into November. Jefferson would gloat over the fact that his neighbors fruit trees were killed by frost while his own remained unscathed. It is a perfect place to grow just about anything. It's very much open to the sun, it's a great microclimate. It's a warm, hot garden and defined by a lot of the things Jefferson was able to grow here. And much of what was grown was very different from what was typical in his day.

Click here for more info

Growing Hot Weather Vegetables
HE USED THE MICROCLIMATE OF THIS GARDEN TO GROW A LOT OF HOT WEATHER VEGETABLES that weren't common in America at that time. From tomatoes to lima beans to okra, it was a revolutionary garden. One wonders if any man had grown so many different things in one place before Thomas Jefferson did it here at Monticello. It is also a sustainable garden. The 1st step in sustainability is diversity. The second is to improve the soil. When Jefferson was serving as Secretary of State he got a letter from his daughter, Martha, and she was complaining about the insects riddling her cabbage plants as fast as she could set them out in her garden. Jefferson wrote back and said - Well, next winter we'll cover the entire garden with manure. He said that when plants are growing in rich soil they will in turn, in Jefferson's words, bid defiance to droughts and pests and diseases and insects and all the things that riddle a garden in Eastern North America.

Click here for more info

Saving Seeds
AND THEY SAVE SEEDS. Seed saving is an important part of the mission here. This is a seed bank of old varieties and traditional varieties. This past April, the White House chef, Sam Kass returned from Monticello to the White House with seeds from this garden. He planted a special Jefferson garden section devoted to and attributed to Thomas Jefferson in the White House kitchen garden. Peter believes that to be a sustainable gardener one needs to save seeds. Alloium cepa Tree Onion is also called the Hanging Onion or Egyptian Onion. It was a favorite onion of Jefferson's and is a perennial onion, it keeps coming back year after year. So, what could be more sustainable. And it's easy to save the seeds and pass them around. By snipping off the seed bolts they can actually be set in the ground or dry them for sending on to a friend later.

Click here for more info

Supporting Peas
Peter is SUSTAINABLY SUPPORTING PEAS. The pea is a vining plant and needs support. So, in the wintertime when they prune their peach trees they select branches, then use them to support the peas. When the peas come out of the ground, they stick the branches in the ground, the peas grow up them and flourish with this type support structure. It's a perfect way to reuse something that is typically thrown away. The technique works well for gardeners not only with vegetables but flowers and tomatoes, all sorts of vining plants. It's a great way to support a plant that's very naturally linked to the landscape.

Click here for more info

Purchasing Plants From Monticello
MANY OF THE PLANTS ONE FINDS AT MONTICELLO CAN BE PURCHASED. They have a nursery, the Thomas Jefferson Center for Historic Plants offers historic varieties of seeds and plants that originally came from the gardens here, many that date from the era of Jefferson or native plants that have been around a long time. To view those plants, click on the link below.

Click here for more info

 

LINKS:

Garden Smart Plant List

Boar's Head Inn

Monticello

Center for Historic Plants

Thomas Jefferson Foundation

Bill Barker is Thomas Jefferson

Michie Tavern

Brown's Subaru


Complete transcript of the show.

13/1513. Monticello
The word Monticello means little mountain in Italian. But there is nothing little about the house or gardens or our 3rd President, Thomas Jefferson. Richard meets Bill Barker the man who portrays Thomas Jefferson (TJ) across the country, particularly at Colonial Williamsburg. Richard feels it's an honor to meet TJ. and TJ is delighted to welcome GardenSMART to the area, it is truly God's country.

Richard feels that TJ is in his top 5 people, past or present, that he would like to meet. TJ wonders why. Well, certainly his politics are a factor, but more importantly TJ's gardening ideas are particularly relevant today. TJ is appreciative of the recognition. HE BELIEVES THAT THE CULTIVATION OF THE SOIL IS AS NECESSARY IN THE MODERN WORLD AS IT HAS EVER BEEN. He has always believed that the prophets of the future are found in the wisdom of the past. Our ancestors had a great regard for the cultivation of the soil. They realized, indeed, that it provides the individual, his family and society with holding the reigns of self-government. One is providing directly their own sustenance, for the sustenance of your family and for the neighborhood. For good heavens, can one imagine if all of our nation's noble farmers were to remove themselves from their farms and go be seated in urban markets. Why they would have to become dependent upon others for their livelihood, perhaps even dependent upon government itself for welfare. No, he believes that those that cultivate the soil are the most noble breed throughout mankind. Indeed, cultivators of the soil cannot help but be God's chosen children. Many of TJ's ideas are self sustainable. TJ is delighted in providing ancient elements in the cultivation of not only crops, but vegetable gardens, with orchards, even with the cultivation of wine, in a fashion that might improve upon us now. Continually resuscitating the soil wherever we deplete its nutrients, as man reaps, he must as well sow again, continue in the cultivation, thereby providing for the maintenance of nature's habitat. That is why the earth belongs to the living generation. The dead have no power over us, we are stewards of this planet as we occupy it and must maintain it the way we found it for those that come after us. Where improvements are needed, attention to the cultivation of the soil is most necessary.

TJ was born about 2 miles to the northeast from Monticello on a farm his family settled in the 1730's. The town was named for a little hamlet east of London where his mother Jane Randolph Jefferson was baptized. TJ would often spend an entire day climbing up his little mountain, where he now resides, in the company of his good friend Daphne Carr. They would often stand on the precipice looking out over the gentle undulation of the treetops into the distance and imitate their fathers, both of whom sat in the Virginia House of Burgesses. Then in the evening, what a pleasure, they would sit under an Oak tree and gaze out at the evening sun behind the magnificent and majestic Blue Ridge Mountains. TJ assures us it was then that he decided that he would situate himself upon this mountain. And it is here that he wishes to spend his days.

TJ knows Richard will enjoy visiting Monticello.

Richard next meets Peter Hatch the horticulturist and Director of Gardens and Grounds at Monticello. Peter has held this job since 1977. He's responsible for caring for the 2,400 acres that the Thomas Jefferson Foundation owns and operates today. He's also a garden educator for numerous programs that interpret the gardens as a reflection of the man who lived in this great house.

Peter was an English major in college but developed an interest in organic vegetable gardening. He then went to a 2 year trade school in landscape gardening and his 1st position was as a horticulturist at an 18th century restoration in Old Salem, North Carolina. There he restored, maintained and interpreted the gardens of the 18th century village. It was a great introduction to the field and to Monticello.

There is a growing belief that the landscape and gardens surrounding historic homes reflect the character, intelligence and imagination of the owner, as much as the artifacts or the architecture of the house itself. And there are few topics that tell us more about Thomas Jefferson than gardening.
Top

If one wants to see what Monticello looks like they simply need to look at the back of a nickel. There one finds a picture of Monticello. And, MONTICELLO IS A FAMOUS PLACE, it's the only house in the U.S. on the world heritage list of internationally significant places as designated by the United Nations. It's also an autobiographical statement by Jefferson. One sees Jefferson as a farmer, an architect, a scientist, a musician but also and particularly as a gardener. He felt that one of the greatest services one can offer their country is to introduce a new plant. Jefferson's Monticello was a botanic garden, an experimental stage of new and unusual plants that were brought here literally from around the world. Jefferson documented the planting of 330 varieties of vegetables and 170 varieties of fruit. Monticello was the Ellis Island of new and unusual plants that came from around the world. Jefferson gardened well into his retirement years between the ages of 67 and 83. Gardening for Jefferson became sort of a barometer of his health. A rage against the aging process.
Top

He kept good gardening records, he was unique, an almost obsessive record keeper. HE KEPT A DIARY CALLED THE GARDEN BOOK, that was published, and was some 700 pages long. In The Garden Book Jefferson was a real scientist as he would count how many Carolina beans it took to fill a quart jar, which would in turn plant so many feet of rows in his gardens. This enabled him to be this sort of seedy missionary of seeds. He would pass out things to all his friends and neighbors, even his family and political allies throughout his life. He used plants as a way to relate to people. Gardening kept him young throughout his entire life.

And he did quite a bit with flowers. Jefferson loved flowers, not just to ornament his house but also, in his own words, for their fragrance and for their curiosity. Flower gardens were part of this experimental laboratory. Jefferson cultivated plants that were brought back by the Lewis and Clark expedition. Many were first grown by Thomas Jefferson in eastern North America. He also collected wild flowers and experimented with them in his gardens.
Top

The guys look at one of the old flower beds. RICHARD NOTICES 15 OR 20 FLOWER BEDS AND MOST ARE OVAL IN SHAPE. Peter thinks Jefferson picked up the oval idea from visiting English landscape gardens which took place in the 1780's when Jefferson was serving as Minister to France. But late in his Presidency, in April of 1807, he sketched a plan for 20 oval flower beds in the corners or the angles of the house. This was a difficult period in Jefferson's Presidency. He was having periodic migraine headaches and was also going through the trauma of the Aaron Burr treason trial. During this difficult time Jefferson was designing flower beds for his retirement at Monticello. This showed clearly how gardening offered for Jefferson a retreat from the slings and arrows of political life. And Jefferson had a lovely image for the flower gardens. He compared the succession of blooms in the seasons to being like the acts of a play. The Tulips would come out and perform their show, then the Sweet Williams would come out later in the season and be followed by the Lilies later in the summer. And he referred to the flowers themselves as being like what he called the belles of the day, who after retiring, retired to the more interesting office of reproducing their life. So, it was great poetry when Jefferson was talking about gardening, particularly the flower gardens in discussions with his daughters and granddaughters. Jefferson used gardening as sort of a retreat from the problems of political life and from the stresses of everyday life. All great reasons to garden.
Top

THE WINDING WALK IS THE PATHWAY IN FRONT OF MONTICELLO. Jefferson pretty much failed in the plantings in the old flower beds. His granddaughter wrote him and said the bulbs had done well but none of the seeds planted had come up. So, despite the temporary setback, Jefferson decided he needed more room for a greater variety of flowers. He sketched a plan for a winding walk that went around the west lawn that had a flower border along its entire length. And one could say that Jefferson was like all gardeners, when he found he couldn't take care of or handle a small garden, he just decided to make it 3 times larger.

The whole family would come out together and plant flowers at Monticello. There was a reminiscence of Jefferson's granddaughter who recalled a day of flower gardening, the whole family going out together and planting Tulip and Hyacinth and other bulbs in the fall. Jefferson was older then and his job was to space the bulbs apart and also labeling them as they were set in the ground. Wormley Hughes, who was sometimes called Monticello's head gardener, an enslaved African American, was armed with spade and hoe, obviously doing the preparatory work for the daughters and granddaughters. The granddaughter recalled how the bulbs arrived and how they had really colorful variety names. They were named after classical heroes, there was the Queen of the Amazon, Marcus Aurelius and Julius Caesar. She recalled going through the long winter, then seeing the foliage of the Tulips coming up out of the ground and this miracle of flowers. She would run to her Grandpa, as she recalled, to announce that she believed Marcus Aurelius had risen from the dead and that Julius Caesar was suddenly alive. She talked about how the whole family would go out together and marvel at the colors and combinations and the contrast and she concluded this lovely revelry by saying , oh these were happy moments for us and him.

The flower gardens were restored by the Garden Club of Virginia in 1939. They would come up at night to find where the gardens were, identifying them by shining the headlights of their automobiles across the west lawn, where they could see the depression of the walk. The raised beds on either side of the walk had flowering bulbs still coming up 115 years after Jefferson died. Great precision was utilized in putting this flower garden back to the way it is today. And, it looks spectacular.
Top

Richard and Peter next visit Thomas Jefferson's grove. It is an ornamental forest, about 18 acres, that Jefferson sketched the plan for in 1806. THE GROVE, IN SOME WAYS, WAS A WOODLAND GARDEN, but on the other hand was sort of an expression of Jefferson's ideal of what the true American garden might be. He said that in America we can make gardens without expense, we have only to cut out the super abundant plants. He also said that under the constant beaming and almost vertical sun of Virginia, shade is our Alyssum, or our paradise. His idea of the woodland forest or grove was to prune the trees very high, to create a canopy up above, then clear the ground cover and have a planting basically of grass. It provides an almost cathedral effect and is 20 degrees cooler on this day versus outside the area. He also talked about leaving stumps where they might be picturesque and planting hardy perennials because they would not require attention. So, in some ways it was an expression of Jefferson's ideal garden and a very sensible one. We look back and think the woodland garden is a great idea and a choice idea.

Jefferson was an amazing planter, quite a designer and a landscape architect. He considered landscape architecture, landscape gardening among the 7 fine arts, along with things like sculpture, painting, architecture and music. His ideal definition of landscape design was the art of embellishing grounds by fancy. Jefferson throughout his life had numerous fanciful schemes for the landscape. When he was Minister to France in the 1780's he went on a trip of English landscape gardens with John Adams, the 2nd President of the U.S. Jefferson kept a diary of his visit to these 19 gardens. They were an expression of this new style of garden, this irregular garden, which garden designers tried to imitate the picturesque schemes of renaissance landscape painters. The formal regular geometric garden of the past was wiped out and replaced with the naturalistic garden. The grove was Jefferson's attempt to sort of translate this into American traditions. And it works very well. And, is lovely throughout the seasons.
Top

JEFFERSON WAS SERIOUS ABOUT VEGETABLES. And the vegetable garden at Monticello is immense. It's really an American garden in its scale and scope. The style and huge terrace was literally hued out of the side of the mountain. Jefferson hired 7 slaves from a Fredricksburg, Virginia farmer and over a period of 3 years they carved out the plateau to create what one person called a hanging garden. It's one thousand feet long, supported by a thousand foot long stone wall and below the stone wall a 400 tree orchard that surrounds 2 vineyards and various squares of Currents, Gooseberries and Raspberries. It was all surrounded by a 10 foot high fence that ran for nearly 1/2 a mile and had boards so close together that, according to Jefferson, not even a young hare could get between them. This was Jefferson's retirement garden. Between the ages of 67 and 83 he was still trying to get cucumbers from the Governor of Ohio that were very long. Jefferson loved gardening to the very last days and coming into the garden was very much a barometer of his aging and was a rage against the pathos of getting on in years.
Top

Few gardeners failed as often as Jefferson. The Garden Book is riddled with the word failed, failed, failed. Jefferson said that in gardening, the failure of 1 thing is repaired by the success of another. He was an experimenter, this was his laboratory, he was trying a lot of new things that hadn't been done before. IT WAS DIFFICULT TO GARDEN ON A MOUNTAINTOP. Jefferson was always having problems, with water for an example. Wells, cisterns and springs were always drying up on him. One of the advantages of gardening on a mountainside is the way that in the spring and fall the warm air rises up over the hillside, the elevation of Monticello. Thus they don't often have a frost in this garden until well into November. Jefferson would gloat over the fact that his neighbors fruit trees were killed by frost while his own remained unscathed. It is a perfect place to grow just about anything. It's very much open to the sun, it's a great microclimate. It's a warm, hot garden and defined by a lot of the things Jefferson was able to grow here. And much of what was grown was very different from what was typical in his day. This was a revolutionary American in the scope and scale of the different things Jefferson grew here.
Top

HE USED THE MICROCLIMATE OF THIS GARDEN TO GROW A LOT OF HOT WEATHER VEGETABLES that weren't common in America at that time. From tomatoes to lima beans to okra, it was a revolutionary garden. One wonders if any man had grown so many different things in one place before Thomas Jefferson did it here at Monticello. It is also a sustainable garden. The 1st step in sustainability is diversity. The second is to improve the soil. When Jefferson was serving as Secretary of State he got a letter from his daughter, Martha, and she was complaining about the insects riddling her cabbage plants as fast as she could set them out in her garden. Jefferson wrote back and said - Well, next winter we'll cover the entire garden with manure. He said that when plants are growing in rich soil they will in turn, in Jefferson's words, bid defiance to droughts and pests and diseases and insects and all the things that riddle a garden in Eastern North America. He was not only carrying the banner of the organic movement but served as a balance between nature on one hand and the cultivated garden on the other. And the soil today still looks well cared for.

They've had a nice crop of Brassica botryis cauliflora Cauliflower this year. Cauliflower requires a rich, fertile soil with lots of organic matter. They cover the entire 1,000 foot garden every year with a heavy coating of manure or compost or rotted leaves or some sort of organic matter.
Top

AND THEY SAVE SEEDS. Seed saving is an important part of the mission here. This is a seed bank of old varieties and traditional varieties. This past April, the White House chef, Sam Kass returned from Monticello to the White House with seeds from this garden. He planted a special Jefferson garden section devoted to and attributed to Thomas Jefferson in the White House kitchen garden. Peter believes that to be a sustainable gardener one needs to save seeds. Alloium cepa Tree Onion is also called the Hanging Onion or Egyptian Onion. It was a favorite onion of Jefferson's and is a perennial onion, it keeps coming back year after year. So, what could be more sustainable. And it's easy to save the seeds and pass them around. By snipping off the seed bolts they can actually be set in the ground or dry them for sending on to a friend later. The guys view a plant. At this stage there is a stem coming out of the onion. Peter believes this is an ideal time to save the seeds. Now they wouldn't need to be dried too long. He would try to get it into the ground fairly soon because it is sprouting and he thinks the plant would relish the opportunity to get back into the ground, a new home.
Top

Peter is SUSTAINABLY SUPPORTING PEAS. The pea is a vining plant and needs support. So, in the wintertime when they prune their peach trees they select branches, then use them to support the peas. When the peas come out of the ground, they stick the branches in the ground, the peas grow up them and flourish with this type support structure. It's a perfect way to reuse something that is typically thrown away. The technique works well for gardeners not only with vegetables but flowers and tomatoes, all sorts of vining plants. It's a great way to support a plant that's very naturally linked to the landscape.

Jefferson had a lot of fruit trees. His south orchard, or his fruitery was a collection of the finest fancy fruits known at the time. He had a collection of 170 varieties which he grew for what he called precious refreshment. Jefferson was revolutionary in the fact he was actually eating the fruit. At that time it was common practice just to make peaches into brandy or apples into cider or grapes into wine. But Jefferson enjoyed actually taking fruits to the table. He was different in that sense.
Top

MANY OF THE PLANTS ONE FINDS AT MONTICELLO CAN BE PURCHASED. They have a nursery, the Thomas Jefferson Center for Historic Plants offers historic varieties of seeds and plants that originally came from the gardens here, many that date from the era of Jefferson or native plants that have been around a long time. To view those plants, click on the link below.

Peter believes that Jefferson was not necessarily a wizard of a horticulturist. But that mattered little. He wrote that if heaven had given me my choice of position and calling it should be a rich spot of earth, well watered and near a good market for the productions of the garden. As an old man he said, I am but a young gardener. What a great spirit. Thomas Jefferson was truly remarkable, a passionate gardener and the gardens of Monticello reflect that passion. We enjoyed our visit.
Top

LINKS:

Garden Smart Plant List

Boar's Head Inn

Monticello

Center for Historic Plants

Thomas Jefferson Foundation

Bill Barker is Thomas Jefferson

Michie Tavern

Brown's Subaru

   
 
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