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.


Earth Week Review

Three cheers for another great UVa Earth Week!

UVa Dining celebrated by hosting and participating in a number of events.  See how they went in the photos below:

Alderman Cafe Coffee Giveaway (free coffee for those who brought their own reusable mug!)

The crowd gathers (disclosure: these pictures are from the first giveaway  in March, as I didn't take any photos this time around)

Reusable mugs!

Nothing better than free coffee for that mid-afternoon slump

Fine Arts Cafe Local Food Fair

The raw ingredients from the Farm at Red Hill - these get turned into amazing salsas and other dips...

...Like the ones pictured here!

UVa Eco Fair

Groups start to set up in the amphitheater

Green Dining table

Signing up for the Green Dining listserv

Discussing sustainable dining 

Goofy moment at the Eco Fair photo booth

Farm to Fork Luncheon

The Farm to Fork Luncheon was delicious, as to be expected.  We were all stuffed and happy at the end of the meal!  Special thanks to the Local Food Hub for providing much of the food.

Don't forget to RSVP directly to me at kendall.singleton@virginia.edu if you'd like to attend tomorrow's Monticello Garden tour.  There are still a couple of spots left.