Hello fellow readers, There’s an Old Farmer’s Almanac calendar, which sits by my desk noting Friday, April 13, 2017, is Thomas Jefferson’s Birthday – the 275th anniversary of his birth. Beyond being a founding father and the third president of the United States, Jefferson was a philosopher, a scientist, and a proponent of plants. Jefferson’s birthdate recalls my visit to Monticello; some consider a “lab for plants” in Charlottesville, VA, a handful of years ago. It was the last garden I walked in with dear old Mom.
He initiated the Lewis and Clark Expedition to explore and map the acquired territory to the west coast after the Louisianan purchase to establish an American presence there. From May 1804 to September 1806, the objectives of the exposition were also economically and scientifically driven—to discover and research the plants, animals, and geography of the region and set up trade relationships with Native American tribes.
About Thomas Jefferson’s Monticello
The essence of the history of Jefferson’s plantation was moving—learning about Jefferson’s initiatives to experiment with ornamental and edible plants found natively and around the world. And about his pursuit to develop agricultural practices that he felt would be the backbone of our economy and independence. With that, the horrific and heartbreaking history of those enslaved that worked the land.
Jefferson kept a log known as the Garden Book, which documented vegetation as well as diseases and insects of the vast gardens he meticulously designed and monitored. His flower gardens were composed of twenty oval-shaped beds around the house, each planted with a different flower. And a winding flower border, every ten feet a different species, encompassed the West Lawn, which is the view on our nickel. The array of species reflected Thomas Jefferson’s floral interest, a museum of sorts, about twenty-five percent, which was North American natives. The winding border of the curving walk also reflected his interest in informal landscape design, transgressing from the formal designs of the earlier era. Then there are the extensive vegetable gardens that served as a horticultural laboratory and source of food.
Jefferson humbly wrote his epitaph.
Towards the end of his life, Jefferson designed his gravestone and wrote the engraved epitaph. “Here was buried, Thomas Jefferson. Author of the Declaration of American Independence… Of the Statute of Virginia for religious freedom & Father of the University of Virginia.” It’s fascinating he made no mention of his presidency. Instead, he mentioned his contribution to independence, freedom, and learning.
Standing before Thomas Jefferson’s grave with his own words about his life stirred great pride in his remarkable contributions, despite controversies and injustices. I sensed his self-awareness of imperfections, which we all have. Beauty and goodness can shine above flaws in life and within our gardens. Garden Dilemmas? Askmarystone@gmail.com
Column updated 9/26/21
Thomas Jefferson’s Monticello is one of 250 historical landmarks, beautiful homes, and gardens in the annual Historic Garden Week in Virginia. (visit vagardenweek.org for information)
Thanks Mary for a lovely article about Thomas Jefferson. Truly an amazing person…..
Indeed he was. Thank you, April!