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Monticello Gardens

If you love gardens, visit Monticello. Thomas Jefferson was passionate about plants. His two orchards boasted 170 fruit varieties. In his 1000-foot-long vegetable garden, Jefferson cultivated over 330 varieties. And, of course, Jefferson included lovely flower walkways and flowering shrubs in the grounds of Monticello.

The Gardens


Thomas Jefferson grew 105 (plus or minus) species of herbaceous flowers. This number is based on notes in his Garden Book and the species of seeds that he ordered from Paris. His many flower beds, filled with plants native to America, including those sent by Lewis and Clark, as well as tulips and other flowers imported from Europe
. Jefferson's flower beds almost disappeared with him as they were not maintained after his death in 1826.

It wasn't until 1939 that restoration began. The Garden Club of Virginia took on the task and were successful in recreating the gardens by studying Jefferson's sketches, detecting depressions in the lawn, and observing the surviving perennials. Currently, the flower gardens are planted with species that Jefferson recorded in his book and sometimes with flowers listed by Bernard McMahon, a florist who provided Jefferson with many plants.

While the flower gardens are lovely, the vegetable garden is even more impressive. This is where Jefferson experimented as botanist. He cross-bred different varieties in search of a favorite, tested out vegetables from Europe and Mexico, and even grew vegetables as ornaments, creating arbors with bean vines. Favorites of Jefferson included peas and sea kale. While he was President, lettuce was purchased most often for dinners, no doubt served with olive oil, something he discovered while living in France as American minister.

The vegetable garden was not recreated until 1979. The location, while documented by Jefferson, was confirmed by archaeological excavations. This 1000 foot expanse is located on a terrace above the orchards. It has been recreated complete with authentic growing techniques and as many original species as possible.

Grow Your Own

If you can't make the trip to Monticello in the near future, comfort yourself with a visit to the garden pages of Monticello.org.
You can read the latest news about Monticello gardening from the Twinleaf Journal and purchase heirloom seeds and plants from the Thomas Jefferson Center for Historic Plants.
Look for "Sensitive Plant", a Monticello favorite.
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