News / USA

American President Was Revolutionary Gardener

Thomas Jefferson's horticultural legacy is on view at his home, Monticello

Thomas Jefferson's vegetable garden at his home of Monticello.
Thomas Jefferson's vegetable garden at his home of Monticello.

Multimedia

Rosanne Skirble

America's third president Thomas Jefferson was a man of many talents.

He wrote the Declaration of Independence. He was a skilled architect, scientist, landscape designer, farmer and life-long gardener.

As a young man, Jefferson inherited his family's 2,000 hectare plantation on Monticello Mountain near Charlottesville, Virginia where he designed the neo-classical house and flower gardens and planted grain fields, fruit orchards and vineyards.

Jefferson's garden

Centuries ago, Jefferson's slaves dug a 300 meter long cut into the red clay hillside for a terraced vegetable garden, which is where Peter Hatch makes his daily rounds today.

Hatch is the director of gardens and grounds at Monticello and says the garden is laid out as Jefferson had planned it, in 24 squares - or beds - of herbs and vegetables.

"This was a laboratory for Thomas Jefferson, an Ellis Island of new and unusual plants that came literally from around the world. Jefferson documented the planting of 330 varieties of vegetables and 170 varieties of fruit in this garden."

Jefferson exchanged seeds from people in the U.S states and in foreign countries, where he traveled as secretary of state before he was president. Hatch says many of those seeds blossomed in Jefferson's Virginia home garden. "He wrote that the greatest service which can be rendered to any country is to add a useful plant to its culture."

According to Hatch, the food grown in Jefferson's garden inspired a revolutionary cuisine with new crops like lima beans from the American Indians and tomatoes and potatoes, European discoveries from Central and South America.

Meticulous records

Jefferson believed that organizing the world according to scientific methods led to human progress and happiness.

He writes about his horticultural ups and downs in meticulous detail in his Garden Book, a diary he kept from 1766 to 1824. Hatch says unlike few gardeners, Jefferson was not afraid to admit failure. "On one page in 1809 the word failed is written down 19 times. He had a holistic view, as we say today, of the gardening process. It is the failure of one thing that is repaired by the success of another."

When Hatch came to Monticello 30 years ago, about a third of the terraced vegetable garden was a parking lot. Restoration was based on archeological and documentary evidence. While Hatch is faithful to Jefferson's plan, few species remain from Jefferson's day. Hatch says the challenge is to add to the collection.

"Some things we found were Jefferson's plants, like tennis ball lettuce and tree onions, but other things elude us. So planting is done in an interpretative way to illustrate Jefferson's horticulture views."

Experiment

Visiting from Denver, Colorado, Kris Somers and Doug Corley are struck by the vista from Monticello Mountain, the geometric planting beds, and the garden's history.

"I could see him out here experimenting," Somers says. Corley says the garden is an inspiration for backyard gardeners like himself. "I think he was on to something well before we were."

Somers nods in approval, "Yeah, I think that we could still learn a thing or two from what's he's done here for sure."

Peter Hatch says Jefferson's advice to modern day gardeners would be to experiment. Visitors to Monticello can start with seeds harvested from Jefferson's garden on sale in the museum's gift shop.

You May Like

New England Bears Brunt of US Blizzard

Boston, surrounding region grapple with as much as 3 feet of snow, coastal flooding; leaders in New York, spared most severe weather, criticized for being overly cautious More

China Lifts Lid on Sale of Fake Goods Online

A recent survey found nearly 60 percent of a random sample of items bought from Taobao were fake More

Upward Aims to Create Old-girls Network in Silicon Valley

Lisa Lambert, an executive with Intel Corp.'s venture-capital unit, responds to the gender-disparity debate by creating a new social organization More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
NASA Monitors Earth’s Vital Signs From Spacei
X
Rosanne Skirble
January 27, 2015 5:05 PM
The U.S. space agency, NASA, is wrapping up its busiest 12-month period in more than a decade, with three missions launched in 2014 and two this month, one in early January and the fifth scheduled for January 29. As VOA’s Rosanne Skirble reports, the instruments being lifted into orbit are focused on Earth’s vital life support systems and how they are responding to a warmer planet.
Video

Video NASA Monitors Earth’s Vital Signs From Space

The U.S. space agency, NASA, is wrapping up its busiest 12-month period in more than a decade, with three missions launched in 2014 and two this month, one in early January and the fifth scheduled for January 29. As VOA’s Rosanne Skirble reports, the instruments being lifted into orbit are focused on Earth’s vital life support systems and how they are responding to a warmer planet.
Video

Video Saved By a Mistake - an Auschwitz Survivor's Story

Dagmar Lieblova was 14 when she arrived at Auschwitz in December 1943, along with her entire Czech Jewish family. All of them were to die there, but she was able to leave after several months due to a bureaucratic mix-up which saved her life. Now 85, with three children and six grandchildren, she says she has a feeling of victory. This report by Ahmad Wadiei and Farin Assemi, of RFE/RL's Radio Farda is narrated by RFE’s Raymond Furlong.
Video

Video Weekly Protests in Korea Keep Japanese WWII Atrocities Alive

Every week in Seoul protesters gather in front of the Japanese Embassy to demand an apology and reparations from Tokyo for the thousands of South Korean women who were forced into prostitution during World War II. Although this year marks the 70th anniversary of the end of the war, these protestors have helped keep the issue of comfort women alive and made it difficult for Japan to move beyond its past wartime atrocities. VOA's Brian Padden reports from Seoul.
Video

Video Exercise: New Prescription for Parkinsons Disease

Exercise could be the new prescription for Parkinson's Disease, a progressive disorder of the nervous system that affects movement. More than six million people worldwide suffer from Parkinsons and they're traditionally treated with medication and surgery. Shelley Schlender has more.
Video

Video Brussels Shaken as New Greek Leader Challenges Europe’s Austerity Drive

Greece’s youngest-ever prime minister, 40-year-old Alexis Tsipras, was sworn in Monday after his victorious far-left Syriza party entered a coalition with far right rivals. Tsipras says he will restore dignity to Greece by ending spending cuts. So begins a new chapter for the country at the epicenter of Europe’s economic crisis - a change that has sent tremors across the continent, as Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
Video

Video Obama Urges Closer Economic Ties During Historic India Visit

U.S. President Barack Obama says the United States and India must do better to capitalize on untapped potential in their economic relationship - by removing some of the roadblocks to greater trade and investment. As VOA correspondent Aru Pande reports from New Delhi, Obama spoke after participating in India’s Republic Day celebration.
Video

Video White House Grapples With Yemen Counterterrorism Strategy

Reports say the U.S. has carried out a drone strike on suspected militants in Yemen, the first after President Barack Obama offered reassurances the U.S. is continuing its counterterrorism operations in the country. The future of those operations has been in question following the collapse last week of Yemen’s government. VOA White House correspondent Luis Ramirez reports.
Video

Video Worldwide Photo Workshops Empower Youth

Last September, 20 young adults from South Sudan took part in a National Geographic Photo Camp. They are among hundreds of students from around the world who have learned how to use a camera to tell the stories of the people in their communities through the powerful medium of photography. Three camp participants talked about their experiences recently on a visit to Washington. VOA’s Julie Taboh reports.
Video

Video US, Japan Offer Lessons as Eurozone Launches Huge Stimulus

The Euro currency has fallen sharply after the European Central Bank announced a bigger-than-expected $67 billion-a-month quantitative easing program Thursday - commonly seen as a form of printing new money. Henry Ridgwell reports for VOA from London on whether the move might rescue the eurozone economy -- and what lessons have been learned from similar programs around the world.
Video

Video Oil Price Drop Troubles Texas Producers

As oil prices have fallen over the past several months, drilling operations have slowed in some parts of the United States - including Texas, the state that surpasses all others in energy production. The Lone Star State’s energy output has been boosted in recent years by development of resources trapped deep below ground in the Eagle Ford shale deposit, which stretches across south central Texas. As VOA’s Greg Flakus reports from Karnes City, Texas, the drop in oil prices has created concerns,
Video

Video Nigerian Elections Pose Concern of Potential Conflict in 'Middle Belt'

Nigeria’s north-central state of Kaduna has long been the site of fighting between Muslims and Christians as well as between people of different ethnic groups. As the February elections approach, community and religious leaders are making plans they hope will keep the streets calm after results are announced. Chris Stein reports from the state capital, Kaduna.
Video

Video As Viewership Drops, Obama Puts His Message on YouTube

Ratings reports show President Obama’s State of the Union address this week drew the lowest number of viewers for this annual speech in 15 years. White House officials anticipated this, and the president has decided to take a non-traditional approach to getting his message out. VOA White House correspondent Luis Ramirez reports.

Circumventing Censorship

An Internet Primer for Healthy Web Habits

As surveillance and censoring technologies advance, so, too, do new tools for your computer or mobile device that help protect your privacy and break through Internet censorship.
More

All About America

AppleAndroid