GardenSmart :: EPISODES :: 2009 show33
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Show #33/1707
Colonial Williamsburg's Historic Gardens


Joe meets Thomas Jefferson
Joe first meets Bill Barker portraying, artfully, the character PRESIDENT THOMAS JEFFERSON. Joe comments that Garden Smart has met some incredible people during the course of its long history but has never had the opportunity to spend time with a former President, especially one from 200 years ago. A lot of people know Thomas Jefferson for different reasons but he is a hero to Joe because he was a gardener with a lot of influence on gardening. President Jefferson suggests that he engaged in what he considers the most delightful occupation of any individual, the cultivation of the soil. In fact, he considers it the most noble vocation of man. He has held many offices, but were it left to him to decide how he should spend this short time he has upon the globe, it would be the cultivation of the soil. Simply put, because one is providing directly your own sustenance, the sustenance of your family, the sustenance of your neighborhood, your nation, you thereby learn more directly how to hold the reigns of self-government. Is that not the very foundation of these United States of America? Self-reliance, governing oneself - it is no different in gardening, in the cultivation of the soil.

Click here for more info

Williamsburg's Gardens Provide Design Ideas For Today's Gardens
THE GARDENS OF WILLIAMSBURG WERE INFLUENCED BY EUROPEAN DESIGN and today we can tour a great place like this to get ideas for our own home garden. Laura Viancour is the Garden's Program Coordinator at Colonial Williamsburg and joins Joe in this program to lead the tour. They discuss the fancy building behind them. This is the Governor's Palace and its gardens. It is a fancy building and that was intentional. The Governor wanted to show off his wealth, both in the building and in the garden. The Garden was an extension of the house.

Click here for more info

The Governor's Palace
THEY START WITH THE GARDENS AT THE GOVERNOR'S PALACE. As discussed, the gardens were influenced by European design. The English gardens were influenced by the French and the French were influenced by the Italians. Italians because of their mountainous terrain usually had a lot of terraces and they used a lot of evergreens. But their gardens were basically green. The French brought in color with flowers and utilized geometric beds and partiers. They had a lot of order and structure to their gardens. At that point one started to see the plants being sheared into topiaries.

Click here for more info

A Garden of Status
THIS IS A GARDEN OF STATUS. It can be identified as one because of the amount of brick in this garden. Brick was expensive and to have this much brick screamed of status. Also, the plants were sheared into shape. That took some professional gardeners with the skill and time to do that. Behind the Palace one sees the diamond shaped partiers. They have a document, an engraving, from the 1700's that shows those diamond shaped beds. It also shows a lot of plant material that required great skill to cultivate. As well, the urns, were very costly and wouldn't have been found in many gardens in the 1700's.

Click here for more info

The Plants
THEY NEXT LOOK AT THE PLANTS. These are accurate representations of plants that would have been here originally. This is known because of documents from the 1700's. People wrote letters and would describe plants they were exchanging. They also have botanical prints. Mark Catesby was a naturalist that came to visit his sister here in the 1700's and did beautiful paintings of the plants and animals. They also have portraits of people that have, in the background, vases of flowers. So that all adds up to tell what plants were here. But when Laura looks at the plants in this garden she thinks about how spoiled she is when it comes to the plants in her garden. She, like most of us, just goes to the local garden center. But in colonial times one needed to know a London agent and have the plants shipped across the ocean which could have taken 6 weeks.

Click here for more info

Home/Gardens of Orlando Jones
JOE AND LAURA NEXT VISIT THE HOME/GARDEN OF ORLANDO JONES. Orlando was a member of the gentry in the 18th century which meant he was one of the affluent members of society. Orlando was Martha Washington's grandfather. In this garden one sees features similar to those found at the Palace, such as the flowerbeds and topiary, although on a lesser scale.

Click here for more info

How to Make a Larger Space Seem Smaller
What Laura sees here is a great lesson to take home - HOW TO MAKE A LARGER SPACE SEEM SMALLER by using hedges and fences. They look first at the fence. The pickets in the fence are different at different points along the way. It almost appears as an illusion but it's the color that unifies the fence. As one walks through Colonial Williamsburg they see different fence types. At home when constructing a fence one must consider cost as well as the look. A simple board fence costs less to construct than a more ornate fence and once painted it will require upkeep versus letting the natural wood age on its own.

Click here for more info

Garden of a Midling Sort
LAURA AND JOE NEXT VISIT THE GARDEN OF A MIDLING SORT. In the 19th century, the midling sort were those people that worked with their hands, the tradesmen, shopkeepers, tavern owners or merchants. There is a lot going on in this garden, annuals, perennials and a food garden. It has a formal look with raised beds and linear lines. As mentioned before a formal garden is just that, geometric shaped beds with enclosed hedges and fences. In this case the materials are simpler because their resources were much more limited.

For more information on 18th century plants and gardens click below.

http://www.history.org/history/CWLand/index.cfm

http://www.history.org/history/CWLand/histry1.cfm

http://www.history.org/history/CWLand/resrch1.cfm

http://www.history.org/history/CWLand/nursery1.cfm

http://www.history.org/history/CWLand/plants.cfm



Click here for more info

Christiana Campbell's Tavern
NEXT VISITED IS CHRISTIANA CAMPBELL'S TAVERN which in the 18th century was one of George Washington's favorite places to dine. Today one can still dine there and the garden provides a wonderful place to relax after a meal. The benches invite one to sit. Plant material also has a lot to do with the relaxing feel. It has the European feel or influence because it has clipped topiaries on axis with nice straight pathways. It has a limited plant palette but those that are here are more loose in structure. The Acuba japonica Acuba, has been left in its natural shape, is very loose and contrasts with the Boxwood which is sheared. The Acuba has variegated leaves, which further adds contrast to surrounding plants. It's a nice plant with dense foliage in shade or partial shade. Hydrangea Quercifolia Oak Leaf Hydrangea is always a favorite, it has year round interest with the white flowers of spring turning pink in summer and the fall foliage is dynamite with different colors of crimson and burgundy and in the winter the orange exfoliating bark again makes a statement.

Click here for more info

A Garden That Exemplifies What We've Seen So Far
LAURA BELIEVES THIS GARDEN EXEMPLIFIES WHAT WE'VE SEEN THUS FAR except on a smaller and more manageable scale. Joe still sees some of the formal look but here it's all tied together. First and foremost it has that sense of order created by the enclosure of the fence as well as unity and harmony created by similar materials. There may be different styles throughout but the brick walkways and white fence tie it all together. In the last garden the center area was similar but had clipped topiaries. Here they don't have the topiaries, instead plants that are very low growing by design. That's because here they don't want the eye to stop. Instead they want it to continue all the way to the back of the property, to the pleached arbor. Thus they don't want the eye to stop in the middle of the garden.

Click here for more info

 


LINKS:

Colonial Williamsburg

Colonial Williamsburg Resort

Thomas Jefferson's Blog

http://www.history.org/history/CWLand/index.cfm

http://www.history.org/history/CWLand/histry1.cfm

http://www.history.org/history/CWLand/resrch1.cfm

http://www.history.org/history/CWLand/nursery1.cfm

http://www.history.org/history/CWLand/plants.cfm

Garden Smart Plant List



Complete transcript of the show.


Many of us learn about gardening from our parents or grandparents. In this episode Garden Smart goes back 200-300 years and we see that many of the design elements that were in play back then can be effectively utilized today.
Joe first meets Bill Barker portraying, artfully, the character PRESIDENT THOMAS JEFFERSON. Joe comments that Garden Smart has met some incredible people during the course of its long history but has never had the opportunity to spend time with a former President, especially one from 200 years ago. A lot of people know Thomas Jefferson for different reasons but he is a hero to Joe because he was a gardener with a lot of influence on gardening. President Jefferson suggests that he engaged in what he considers the most delightful occupation of any individual, the cultivation of the soil. In fact, he considers it the most noble vocation of man. He has held many offices, but were it left to him to decide how he should spend this short time he has upon the globe, it would be the cultivation of the soil. Simply put, because one is providing directly your own sustenance, the sustenance of your family, the sustenance of your neighborhood, your nation, you thereby learn more directly how to hold the reigns of self-government. Is that not the very foundation of these United States of America? Self-reliance, governing oneself - it is no different in gardening, in the cultivation of the soil. The gardens at Williamsburg were designed when Jefferson first arrived. Coming to Williamsburg more of less opened his mind to what is possible in the design of gardens. The Governor's Palace in Williamsburg is a representation of the elements of gardens from the earliest time in human history. Here one sees the more defined, mathematical, geometrically designed gardens, evolving them through more simple and broad forms. A great example is the gentle undulation of the hill down to the grand canal where he and Joe are standing. Even it is beautiful and sublime, a natural garden. His advice for gardeners today and down through the ages is as Solomon sayeth. "There's no new thing under the sun." Sir Frances Bacon, a great influence in this modern world has written - "the more man builds stately sooner, the less he gardens finely." As if gardening is the greater perfection. President Jefferson says, "I can assure you, Sir, the older I become, I remain but a young gardener. We are never finite in education. We are always learning, Sir."
And that's the essence of Garden Smart. We thank you President Jefferson, it has been an honor to meet.
Top


THE GARDENS OF WILLIAMSBURG WERE INFLUENCED BY EUROPEAN DESIGN and today we can tour a great place like this to get ideas for our own home garden. Laura Viancour is the Garden's Program Coordinator at Colonial Williamsburg and joins Joe in this program to lead the tour. They discuss the fancy building behind them. This is the Governor's Palace and its gardens. It is a fancy building and that was intentional. The Governor wanted to show off his wealth, both in the building and in the garden. The Garden was an extension of the house. Back then there was no television, people came out and had conversation, they leisurely walked through the garden and that's how they got their name, pleasure gardens. People took pleasure in them. These gardens were influenced by French gardens and today our gardens are influenced by these gardens.
Joe asks Laura about her background. She originally came from the Philadelphia area. Her family came here on a family vacation when she was in the 7th grade and she fell in love with the place. She went home and decorated her room accordingly, went to college at Virginia Tech so she could get to know the state and people in it, then started out as a gardener here in 1982. She later became a Landscape Supervisor, but now her responsibilities are the garden education programs. Laura believes these gardens have a lot to tell their guests and she hopes when the guests leave the gardens they take ideas with them that they can use in their own gardens.
Top


THEY START WITH THE GARDENS AT THE GOVERNOR'S PALACE. As discussed, the gardens were influenced by European design. The English gardens were influenced by the French and the French were influenced by the Italians. Italians because of their mountainous terrain usually had a lot of terraces and they used a lot of evergreens. But their gardens were basically green. The French brought in color with flowers and utilized geometric beds and partiers. They had a lot of order and structure to their gardens. At that point one started to see the plants being sheared into topiaries. The English took the French ideas of topiaries and flowers but kept their gardens enclosed, very compartmentalized like the French but on a smaller scale.
A garden with a formal design is one that is enclosed, a combination of geometric shapes. The beds and walkways are clearly defined. Many think that a formal garden has to be very ornamental but that's not so. Even a vegetable garden can be formal in design. What makes it ornamental is the attention to detail.
Top


THIS IS A GARDEN OF STATUS. It can be identified as one because of the amount of brick in this garden. Brick was expensive and to have this much brick screamed of status. Also, the plants were sheared into shape. That took some professional gardeners with the skill and time to do that. Behind the Palace one sees the diamond shaped partiers. They have a document, an engraving, from the 1700's that shows those diamond shaped beds. It also shows a lot of plant material that required great skill to cultivate. As well, the urns, were very costly and wouldn't have been found in many gardens in the 1700's.
The paths are made with shell material. This is Tidewater, Virginia thus shell is a readily available resource, thus was used a lot. However, the walkways are edged with brick. It was not only aesthetically pleasing but very functional. It helped keep the shell where it belonged and not jump over into the grass.
Top


THEY NEXT LOOK AT THE PLANTS. These are accurate representations of plants that would have been here originally. This is known because of documents from the 1700's. People wrote letters and would describe plants they were exchanging. They also have botanical prints. Mark Catesby was a naturalist that came to visit his sister here in the 1700's and did beautiful paintings of the plants and animals. They also have portraits of people that have, in the background, vases of flowers. So that all adds up to tell what plants were here. But when Laura looks at the plants in this garden she thinks about how spoiled she is when it comes to the plants in her garden. She, like most of us, just goes to the local garden center. But in colonial times one needed to know a London agent and have the plants shipped across the ocean which could have taken 6 weeks. And it wasn't successful every time. They have letters from gentlemen like John Custus talking about how disappointed they were that the plant they were expecting died. In crossing there was salt water, mice, dogs eating the seeds, etc. It took several tries before it was successful. We're very fortunate today.
Top


JOE AND LAURA NEXT VISIT THE HOME/GARDEN OF ORLANDO JONES. Orlando was a member of the gentry in the 18th century which meant he was one of the affluent members of society. Orlando was Martha Washington's grandfather. In this garden one sees features similar to those found at the Palace, such as the flowerbeds and topiary, although on a lesser scale.
Top


What Laura sees here is a great lesson to take home - HOW TO MAKE A LARGER SPACE SEEM SMALLER by using hedges and fences. They look first at the fence. The pickets in the fence are different at different points along the way. It almost appears as an illusion but it's the color that unifies the fence. As one walks through Colonial Williamsburg they see different fence types. At home when constructing a fence one must consider cost as well as the look. A simple board fence costs less to construct than a more ornate fence and once painted it will require upkeep versus letting the natural wood age on its own. Importantly the different types of fence differentiate different parts of the garden. And, as mentioned, by breaking up a space, with a fence, for example, it breaks a larger space into smaller spaces. It importantly let's you know you're in a different part of the garden.
There are also hedges in this area. And they too have different styles. One is a Buxus Boxwood which is a slow growing hedge. It provides a nice green background to the garden and also helps carry the eye through the garden as well as delineate the space. An advantage of using a slow growing plant is that it only needs shearing one time a year. If a fast grower, a lot of time can be spent shearing and less time enjoying the hedge. Growth rate is a major consideration when selecting a plant for a hedge. The hedges here were certainly used to delineate space in this relatively small garden and to break up the rooms. But hedges are great for a number of reasons such as screening an unsightly view or for framing a view. In one instance they've used hedges to frame the flowerbeds. In another case they've used a natural hedge, and not sheared it, letting it grow in its natural shape to hide an area, a garbage area at home could be hidden similarly. Here they've used Myrica Pennsylvania, Northern Bayberry for this function. Hedges can also make an excellent sound buffer or utilized to cut down wind.
Hedges are excellent in all these areas but trees can often be utilized similarly. In this garden they've used trees as aerial hedges. By limbing them up they provide privacy and also let air move through the property. They make an excellent Picture frame.
They next look inside the bed where there is some great color. Many of the plants are similar to the Palace because the gentry were emulating the Governor's Palace. There are also several different plants in this area. One, the Gomphrena Globe Amaranth is a wonderful annual, very drought tolerant, an excellent dried flower and has very few pest problems. Joe likes another, although it wouldn't be in this garden because it doesn't fit the time period. It is Gomphrena 'ce 'Strawberry Fields' Globe Amaranth 'Cestrawberry Fields' variety, a nice little strawberry look to the Gomphrena. A great orange color but definitely not native nor introduced before 1800, thus would not be in this garden.
Top


LAURA AND JOE NEXT VISIT THE GARDEN OF A MIDLING SORT. In the 19th century, the midling sort were those people that worked with their hands, the tradesmen, shopkeepers, tavern owners or merchants. There is a lot going on in this garden, annuals, perennials and a food garden. It has a formal look with raised beds and linear lines. As mentioned before a formal garden is just that, geometric shaped beds with enclosed hedges and fences. In this case the materials are simpler because their resources were much more limited. For example they have pine straw for pathways and to keep it in place instead of brick edging they have wooden boards.
The herb bed is a favorite and they take a closer look. Laura believes that the best thing we can do for our herbs is to prune the plants. We're growing herbs to use them and we can't use them unless we prune them. Lavendula Angustifolia Lavender and Rosemarinus are good examples. They are native to the Mediterranean, it's not humid there but very humid here. So, to encourage air to circulate through the plant and to let sunlight in, cut the plants back. Cut them back by a third and thin them out by a third. In spring when that new flush of growth is coming back, thin the plants out a third, down to their growth point, then cut the rest back a third.

For more information on 18th century plants and gardens click below.

http://www.history.org/history/CWLand/index.cfm

http://www.history.org/history/CWLand/histry1.cfm

http://www.history.org/history/CWLand/resrch1.cfm

http://www.history.org/history/CWLand/nursery1.cfm

http://www.history.org/history/CWLand/plants.cfm


Top


NEXT VISITED IS CHRISTIANA CAMPBELL'S TAVERN which in the 18th century was one of George Washington's favorite places to dine. Today one can still dine there and the garden provides a wonderful place to relax after a meal. The benches invite one to sit. Plant material also has a lot to do with the relaxing feel. It has the European feel or influence because it has clipped topiaries on axis with nice straight pathways. It has a limited plant palette but those that are here are more loose in structure. The Acuba japonica Acuba, has been left in its natural shape, is very loose and contrasts with the Boxwood which is sheared. The Acuba has variegated leaves, which further adds contrast to surrounding plants. It's a nice plant with dense foliage in shade or partial shade. Hydrangea Quercifolia Oak Leaf Hydrangea is always a favorite, it has year round interest with the white flowers of spring turning pink in summer and the fall foliage is dynamite with different colors of crimson and burgundy and in the winter the orange exfoliating bark again makes a statement. Rhus Glabra Smooth Sumac, or Smooth Leaf sumac is not often found today, it's a great plant, can take a variety of soils and has incredible fall foliage, similar to the Oak Leaf Hydrangea. Prunus Virginiana Choke Cherry has seasonal interest with tiny white blossoms, then red fruit, which birds love, then beautiful shades of yellow, orange and red in the fall. It's a great looking plant.
Top


Next, Joe and Laura enter the garden from the street where before they've been coming in from the backyard. There is a lot more activity on the street side. The side of the house also provides a lot of opportunity. Even at Joe's home he's left the side yard somewhat neglected, it's the last thing he's gotten to. LAURA BELIEVES THIS GARDEN EXEMPLIFIES WHAT WE'VE SEEN THUS FAR except on a smaller and more manageable scale. Joe still sees some of the formal look but here it's all tied together. First and foremost it has that sense of order created by the enclosure of the fence as well as unity and harmony created by similar materials. There may be different styles throughout but the brick walkways and white fence tie it all together. In the last garden the center area was similar but had clipped topiaries. Here they don't have the topiaries, instead plants that are very low growing by design. That's because here they don't want the eye to stop. Instead they want it to continue all the way to the back of the property, to the pleached arbor. Thus they don't want the eye to stop in the middle of the garden. They extend the view through the garden gate towards the rear of the property giving the illusion that there is more space than is really here. There are also some plants we haven't yet seen. The Ageratum Houstonianum Floss Flower is a great edging plant. It's a true blue and Laura doesn't feel blue is used enough in gardens. She likes lots of bright colors but blue helps calm them down a little making those hot colors not so hard on the eye. It's a great compliment to a lot of other colors, plus provides a sense of coolness to a garden on a hot day. The Lantana Shrub Verbena is filled with butterflies. It is a great butterfly plant, a good drought tolerant plant which is important as water becomes more of an issue. It's low maintenance and sometimes fragrant.
The other side of the fence also has a lot going on but doesn't seem nearly as maintenance heavy. It too has similar principles of a formal garden but shouldn't require as much time to maintain. For example, the perennial bed although requiring some maintenance is fairly easy to maintain. The different brick pavers add interest and the patio is a great way to utilize space particularly if you don't have good soil because it takes up lawn area. The different brick patterns make it interesting. Some are broken pieces of brick called brickbats. This is what brick sidewalks would have been like in colonial times. Brick was expensive thus one wouldn't put it in a walkway unless it was broken. Even if you were the Governor you had a brickbat sidewalk. But it creates a lot of interest leading out the gate. They next look at the lawn. In colonial times they used large scythes to cut the grass and after they cut it they had to rake up the clippings. That messed up the lawn, thus had to bring in a heavy roller made of stone to pack it all back down. It was a lot of work. Today because we have a lawnmower we don't need a large labor force but back then a lawn provided a whole different impression. Joe notices, when looking more closely, that the lawn, although nice, lush and green is filled with clover. Lawns in the 18th century weren't golf course quality, they were more like flowery meads. But clover and other plants provide a nice green color in the real heat and drought of summer, thus not a bad thing. In fact, by design, that is what Laura has in her backyard and thinks it's a great ground cover.
Joe and Laura find a nice place to sit and cool off, the pleached arbor. It is similar to what we saw earlier in the show but on a smaller scale, something most could manage on their own. Laura believes that the lesson learned today is to start small, divide your property into different sections, into more manageable pieces, create unity and harmony with enclosure, using similar materials and similar colors. Create unity and start small, those are her thoughts for our audience.
Thanks Laura, we throughly enjoyed Colonial Williamsburg. The property is fantastic, the people involved with it, superb. A great experience. We hope many in our audience will have the opportunity to visit.
Top



LINKS:

Colonial Williamsburg

Colonial Williamsburg Resort

Thomas Jefferson's Blog

http://www.history.org/history/CWLand/index.cfm

http://www.history.org/history/CWLand/histry1.cfm

http://www.history.org/history/CWLand/resrch1.cfm

http://www.history.org/history/CWLand/nursery1.cfm

http://www.history.org/history/CWLand/plants.cfm

Garden Smart Plant List

 
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