24 June 2013

Visiting Jefferson's Monticello

After visiting Washington's Mount Vernon, I was especially eager to visit Jefferson's Monticello.  I had picked up a copy of this book at my local library, delighted in the garden photos, and desired to see the grounds in person.  And this book, which I also picked up from my local library (a small but wonderful little building), mentioned heirloom varieties that Jefferson had planted in his garden even while he was in the presidency.

So when we found out we would be moving this summer, and that our route away from home would go within half an hour, the dear husband and I decided it would be a great three-year anniversary treat to buy the tickets and relax a little before we drove three thousand miles.  While the tickets were even more expensive than the ones to Washington's Mount Vernon, we felt they were completely worth it (and our happy marriage was worthy of the price!):  the area was beautiful, and you can join several guided tours as well as meander the grounds and gardens on your own.

My photos today are not in any particular order.  (Click to enlarge them, if you wish.)

I had the most wonderful time seeing all the different ways a person could make a trellis for climbing plants.  Above, you see just sticks stuck in the ground at angles.  The two rows lean toward the center, making a triangular tunnel.  I don't recall what was to grow there, but the different kinds of stick trellises gave the garden a natural look.

The garden is almost at the top of the hill.  (The house is at the very top.)  Looking down here, you can see the vineyard and orchard, and the valley with all its green splendor sprawling out below.  At various points along the garden (which you may recall from seeing photos is quite long and narrow relative to its length), volunteer master gardeners were stationed to answer questions about the plants, the garden, the plans Jefferson implemented here.  From one of these master gardeners, I learned that Jefferson did indeed have the crops rotated from year to year throughout the garden (except, of course, for the perennials such as some of the woody herbs that generally stayed in their places).

Each row in the garden is marked well with a little stake, showing the name of the plants as well as the year of the first recorded propagation of that variety.  It was fun to see some that had been cultivated, the seeds saved and replanted from generation to generation, since 1794.

Here is the back of the house.  There is a large lawn here, surrounded by a walkway bordered with flowers.  As at Mount Vernon, no photography is allowed inside the house during the house tours.  However, I highly recommend taking the house tour, both at Monticello and Mount Vernon.  I was struck by the vast difference between the houses.  Jefferson's fascination with education (think Enlightenment philosophy) was evident from the entry way, where there were educational items laid out as if in a miniature museum, and throughout the rest of the house.  

My favorite technological innovation was a machine he used when writing letters, of which he wrote many.  The pen with which he wrote was attached to a sort of pulley system that had another pen at the other end.  As he moved the one pen, the second pen simultaneously followed every motion he made with the first pen, creating an exact copy on the spot.

Sometimes I feel like I need one of those.  Yes, I still write some letters by hand.

A beautiful creature, no?

Another example of some stick "trellises".

Very old Nasturtiums!  This variety has been around longer than the Declaration of Independence!

Another view of the garden and its path.  Here again, my visit was not long enough to give proper time to ponder the issue of slavery at Monticello (not that time could ever help me understand it, or comprehend how the same pen could write about all men being created equal as well as record the purchase of a human being), but the thought of how much labor it must have taken to maintain this garden crossed my mind many, many times as I wandered through it. 

The cicadas (the ones who come out only every seventeen years) were out in force.  They were loud, they were beautiful, they were amazing with their black and orange.  Have you seen one before?

And in case you were wondering?  You can buy heirloom seeds on site or online.  Maybe you'd like to have the Nasturtium variety that has been around longer than our country.

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