4.27.2012

Monticello Garden Tour recap

A group of UVa students spent a wonderful afternoon in the Monticello Garden yesterday afternoon.  This tour, and transportation back and forth from Grounds, was provided free of charge to students thanks to UVa Dining.

I have visited Monticello a number of times at this point but yesterday was able to take in the grounds with new eyes - and realize that nothing was accidental or out of place - as Gabriele Rausse, our delightful tour guide and Associate Director of Gardens and Grounds at Monticello, pointed out various flora and fauna around the house.

Thanks to Gabriele's expertise, we learned that a huge hollow tree trunk was actually a secret storage chamber for moonshine in the early part of last century; that the placement and shape of the garden beds on the West Lawn actually represented Jefferson's embracing of a new, less rigid and structured kind of garden than had been the convention; that the grove of trees beyond his first roundabout was actually intentionally maintained on the north slope of the mountain in order to provide a cool respite from summer's heat and humidity; and that the beautiful and stately trees bordering the vegetable garden were actually maple trees purchased from a Long Island nursery in the hopes that they would produce sugar in a less labor-intensive way than what was required at the time.

Thomas Jefferson cultivated an incredible amount of edible and non-edible plants, and they all seem to have brought him joy and pleasure throughout his life.  I particularly like the fact that he used the plant world as a way to understand and explore the natural environment around him, as evidenced by his tendency to collect plants on his travels (his greenhouse contained lemon trees from Italy, for example) and his meticulous notes about gardening at Monticello.

Natasha Sienitsky, Associate Director of Planning and Facilities at the Thomas Jefferson Foundation, introduces us to Monticello

Natasha points out Tufton Farm and mentions potential plans to create a Center for Sustainable Agriculture on site

Gabriele Rausse discusses the Monticello greenhouse

Rausse explains the garden beds and their contemporary style in Jefferson's time

The tour continues

Labels (a "TJ" on the sign means there's a record of the plant in Jefferson's notes; an "LC" indicates that the plant was brought back from the Lewis and Clark expedition; no initials means that it was grown in the nursery where Jefferson got many of his plants)

By the fish pond

What a beautiful setting for this educational afternoon

Gabriele shows us the bloom of this particular plant whose Latin name is an homage to Jefferson - and the blooms tend to blossom on April 13th, ie Founder's Day (coincidence?!)

Looking closely

Gabriele Rausse

Learning food preparation tips (yum)

Jefferson's vegetable garden

Jefferson held an annual pea contest to see whose peas would be ready the earliest!

Taking it all in

Overlooking the grape vines

The herb plot

"A rich spot of earth", indeed
Thanks to Monticello for hosting us!  We hope to make it back before too long - and definitely to the upcoming Heritage Harvest Festival in September.

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