Here’s something you’ve all seen a million times – the view of Thomas Jefferson’s Monticello shown on the American nickel – and it’s been preserved and/or restored to its condition at the time of Jefferson’s death. What’s changed are some of the plants, and even more so, how they’re arranged.
Above, what the heck is this plant? My notes fail me.
On my recent visit I learned that though Jefferson did indeed design this West Lawn with a flower border along the winding walkway at its edge, divided into 10-foot sections, his instructions specified that each section would contain just one species. Since then they’ve been redesigned by the Garden Club of Virginia in the current mixed-border style that you see here, though many of the popular plants from Jefferson’s day were used.
Foliage from this Joseph’s Coat was used in salads.
The excellent garden tour guide, with cockscomb in foreground.
Plants that were grown here in Jefferson’s day are identified with a “TJ” or “LC” at the top of the marker, denoting whether it was chosen by Jefferson himself or brought here by Lewis and Clark. I found that little detail pretty exciting, historically. On the right is one of four cisterns installed by Jefferson, each holding 3,830 gallons.
Meet Peter Hatch, who’s held the job of director of gardens at Monticello since 1977. He remembers the grounds-keeping staff assigned to him then as mountain men from nearby Bacon Holler. Scenes from the movie “Deliverance” come to mind.
Green roofs at the Visitor’s Center are covered not with the Sedums typically seen on roofs but with Buffalo grass because Peter decided it would look more appropriate here on this historic spot – which it certainly does. The vertical tufts are groom broom sedge, and the two species were planted in gravel with very little soil.
Peter gave my friend and me a rare tour of the parking lot because that’s where he’s used some rarely seen plants – like the Little Bluestem you see on the right. It not only looks gorgeous but is preventing erosion while trees are becoming established on a slope. He has it weed-whacked once a year, in December.
On the left you see the hard fescues Peter planted in this low-visibility spot because it looks good enough, and only needs to be cut once a year. He does remember that it needed a whole lotta weeding during its first two years on this site.
Next – the Kitchen Gardens of Monticello.