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Headlights and Horticulture: Great Gardens of the World- Monticello

Updated: Dec 31, 2022

Since I was a student in the History of Interiors at University I had dreamed of going to Monticello. My mom and dad went on their honeymoon trip through Virginia in 1974. I remember asking my mom, "who the skinny and nerdy-hippy guy in front of Monticello?" in an old picture album when I was a kid. To which she replied, "that's your father dear." Yikes!

My first year of marriage we dropped by on the way home from a trip to Washington, DC. For most, it's the mystique of being the home of one of our founding fathers which draws most visitors and second it's the draw of Jefferson's "Essay in Architecture" as it was for me.

What so many visitors neglect is that Monticello is one of the great gardens of the world. It's here in this UNESCO World Heritage Site that you can experience Jefferson's passion as one of the first great plantsmen and horticultural enthusiasts in Colonial America. Jefferson's

home is an intact example of formal gardens near the house and an intact plantation kitchen garden. The gardens were restored in the early Twentieth Century by the Virginia Garden Club. Finding the layout of two hundred year old paths through Jefferson's garden was done at night by illuminating the grounds with the headlights of cars. This proved to be an effective if not low tech archeological technique allowing the gardeners to find the silhouette of the beds and paths long since gone.

Monticello was a place of experimentation for potential American crops with Jefferson, ever the scientist, keeping detailed journals. Vitriculture had its start first here. Wine grapes were first planted here to see if wine could be produced in the United States. Jefferson even had a greenhouse as part of his personal apartment.

Monticello should be a place of pilgrimage for anyone, not just to pay homage to Jefferson's genius but also as one of the great gardens of America.

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