Garden History – Thomas Jeffersons Monticello Plantation Gardens

There are many wonderful and famous gardens around the world.

One of my favorite gardens is relatively close to me: the Monticello gardens at Thomas Jefferson’s Plantation in Virginia.

Thomas Jefferson loved to garden and would collect seeds while traveling in the United States and overseas. Those who knew of his interest would send him unique seeds and plants from all over the world. Many of these seeds are now considered heirloom seeds and are valued for their history and unique characteristics. Unfortunately Jefferson would often save seeds by calling them after who ever send him the seeds so Mary’s Sunflower has lost its original name like many other seeds in the collection. Work is constantly being done to identify many of these seeds origins.

The plantation can be broken down into several different areas, flowers, vegetables, fruit and the grounds. Each area had its own unique look and was basically an experiment and study in progress. He also had two greenhouses and a pond, which he worked with water plants.

Monticello Grove was an area where Jefferson planted his ornamental trees and would invite his quests to see his “pets” as he called them. Flowering trees and shrubs from all over the world grew in his grove.

The entire grounds had a unique layout that was a cross between experimentation, beauty and art. Jefferson kept complete records of his garden plantings, varieties grown. Included were his experiments with planting techniques and seeds.

The terraced vegetable garden was where he conducted many of his growing tests and experiments in different growing techniques. These observations were written done in his famous Garden Book, the “Garden Kalendar.” His garden varieties included 250 different varieties of 70 different species of vegetables with his garden being 1000 foot in length. This beautiful garden terrace served both as a supply of food and a place where he experimented with vegetable varieties.

The terrace was carved into the hillside, which actually acted as a buffer against the weather and allowed Jefferson to grow plants that normally would not grow in Virginia. It is reported that he grew a banana tree that actually produced fruit. The garden was at its peak during 1808 to 1812 with new plants and seeds being introduced each year.

In 1826 Jefferson died and the gardens slowly declined. By 1836 the gardens were is total disrepair. The land was sold and the gardens continued to decline. The Thomas Jefferson Memorial Foundation and the Garden Club of Virginia stepped in and have restored the gardens back to their beauty.

Jefferson’s gardens are a study in beauty and gardening and his love for plants and nature are still evident after all these years.

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