Gotta Garden

Thursday, February 22, 2007

Garden Education: Peter Hatch on Thomas Jefferson the Gardener

Among many good reasons to attend the Maymont Flower Show, one of the best is the free lectures. This particular one was my favorite on the day that I was there. Mr. Hatch is the Director of Gardens and Grounds at Monticello and has held this position some 30 years. To say he knows his subject is an understatement.

While I had some knowledge of Thomas Jefferson and his gardening efforts ("Though an old man, I am but a young gardener"), I learned much more from listening to Mr. Hatch. One of my favorite items was the page he showed from his garden ledger (it looked more like that than a journal per se, to me) with his listings of "failed, failed, failed" for any number of plants/seeds. Don't you appreciate honesty!

Jefferson surely had that eternal optimism that gardeners are infected with in that he continued to try new plants and seeds, even ones that would seemingly have little chance of surviving in his mountaintop climate, up until his death. I wish I had written down one quote, but it was something along the lines of "failure of one plant is made up in the revival of another"...well, something like that!

We also learned that during a particularly difficult time in his presidency, Jefferson turned to planning his garden for relief, distraction and/or comfort. We were shown a copy of his plan, complete with changes and notations.

Monticello today is Jefferson's vision, complete with plants that are rather difficult to obtain and/or not native to that area of Virginia. Through the diligence (above and beyond the call, but definitely amusing to hear about) of Mr. Hatch, the estate acquired the chinaberries that Jefferson envisioned, as one example. Meticulous research and care has been an ongoing aspect of the effort to make Monticello as Jefferson dreamed.

Some perspective on that was brought to bear with an old photograph of Monticello with asphalt parking right up by the main house complete with tour buses. We can be thankful that today's caretakers have, with much effort, brought Monticello back to grace and glory. I'm sure Mr. Jefferson is smiling.

Mr. Hatch shared with us the history of the Albermarle Pippin apple. To learn more about this legendary "Virginia" apple, click here.

For those of you unable to visit Monticello (most unfortunate!), you can shop online and grow some of Thomas Jefferson's beloved plants in your own garden.


Marc said...

Very interesting post! I would like to visit Monticello some day. Good for Jefferson keeping gardening records!

I think we need more gardeners as president! Maybe a garden blogger even!

Gotta Garden said...

Greetings, marc! Oh, I think Mr. Jefferson was the ultimate record! Mr. Hatch joked that people had remarked when did Mr. Jefferson have time to plant, he spent so much time writing about it!

Hmmm, I try very hard to avoid politics here, so I'll just say that the results are mixed regarding presidential gardeners!

However, a garden, there's a thought to consider! Lol!

All in good fun, thanks for stopping by!

Carol said...

I've been to Monticello and toured the gardens on a lovely July day with temperatures around 100 degrees, but I enjoyed every minute of it.

Thanks for this post, it brought back nice memories of my visit.

Melanie Vassallo said...

I've read about Thomas Jefferson and Monticello before but always forget to try to visit there.

It sounds so lovely , hopefully I will get there soon. This year is the first time in many years that I'm going to try to grow vegetables. Somehow I don't think I'll be keeping records like old Tom.

Gotta Garden said...

Hello carol! Glad to be of service! I haven't been in several years; however, I am going to try to get there and several others around me (so to say) this year.

Hi melanie! Yes, yes, yes! You should visit there! Lol! Ah, but we have the internet and our, in some sense we'll keep records...much easier, I might add! Good luck with the veggies! I'll probably just stick to my basics...tomatoes and peppers.

Kylee said...

Well, this most interesting post led me to part with some of my money today. Those mushrooms and garden cloches will be on their way to my garden shortly!

Gotta Garden said...

Lol, kylee! Just remember, you are supporting a good cause! Those kind of things don't really count as expenditures, do they?! Besides you needed them, didn't you??

You are in good company! If we can't be working in our gardens (big snow today), we may as well shop for our gardens!

Thanks for stopping by!

Annie in Austin said...

Hello Gotta Garden,
Thank you for stopping by my garden blog... I'm enjoying your posts and would love to see Monticello some day. One reason I first wanted Malva sylvestris/ French hollyhocks was that they grew in Thomas Jefferson's garden.

But the Chinaberry reference is pretty funny now, since they're considered an invasive tree all over much of the south, including Texas!

Annie at the Transplantable Rose

Gotta Garden said...

Hi Annie! Yeah, more than a few heads shook in the audience at the Chinaberries! Although, obviously back then, Jefferson had no idea...he had some unusual ideas for sure...even for the time!

One of the amusing comments from the lecture was something along the lines of folks learning to eat their fruits vs drinking them...apparently, a lot of fruit trees were planted to make brandy or other spirits.

Thanks for visiting!

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