Author: Peter Hatch

director of gardens and grounds at Thomas Jefferson's Monticello (retired)
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Jefferson, Thomas and Gardening

Thomas Jefferson‘s interest in gardening arose from a passionate curiosity about the natural world. From his childhood home at Shadwell, where in his early twenties Jefferson recorded that 2,500 pea seeds would fill a pint jar, until 1825, when at the age of eighty-two he sought and later received from the former governor of Ohio seeds of giant cucumbers, Jefferson had an unrelenting enthusiasm for natural history and horticulture that was expressed in his Garden Book. Sixty-six pages long, bound in leather, and residing today at the Massachusetts Historical Society, the Garden Book is also a reflection of Jefferson’s Enlightenment ethic. Although he also displayed his love of gardening, food, and wine during his political life in Paris, Philadelphia, and Washington, and at his retirement retreat at Poplar Forest, Jefferson’s lifelong home at Monticello became his experimental horticultural laboratory as well as a natural canvas on which to indulge his interest in landscape design, whether sketching plans for garden temples, planting groves of native and introduced species of plants, or composing dreamy visions for classical grottoes around natural mountain springs.

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