Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Monticello in the Spring during Virginia Garden Week

Monticello April 20, 2015
It's hard to not be blown away by the gardens at Monticello in Charlottesville, Virginia. Yesterday as part of Virginia Garden Week I attended a free lecture and tour by Architectural Historian, Gardiner Hallock, on the latest restoration project, The Kitchen Road. It was a blustery beautiful day on the mountaintop. A storm was brewing so the sky was full of white clouds floating among brilliant blue.

Lower section of Mulberry Row up to the Hemings log cabin.
In Thomas Jefferson's day, the Kitchen Road was the work area of "the farm". A bustling hub where food from the garden and deliveries were collected and dispatched up the hillside to the underground kitchen, ice house, and wine cellar. Wagons stocked with household items traveled up the mountain and ended up on the kitchen road to be sorted out by slaves.  Over 20 buildings were along Mulberry Row which connects to the Kitchen Road. Slave homes, an ironworks and weavers shop, and little stable were along this network of short pathways that let up to and serviced Monticello.

Ongoing archaeology survey of the stables.
A lot of work has gone into reconstructing a Hemings slave cabin, and connecting pathways up to the house. Some trees and shrubs have been removed and pathways have been recovered to the original Thomas Jefferson day pattern. Even the privy vent has been restored to the original design which is a much simpler and more natural stone outcropping. Monticello was one of the few homes with indoor bathrooms and was considered to be very modern. If alive, TJ would be fascinated by the new geothermal system that has just been completed at Monticello.

The tulips were in FULL BLOOM up at the main house.
All projects are based on Thomas Jefferson's drawings, historic photos, and archaeology digs. Some of the discoveries are quite interesting. Old cobblestones, paint chip analysis, and plenty of dirt sifting reveals centuries of history. Very few slave gravesites have been found (one is near the visitors center). There have to be more burial sites on the mountaintop but were unmarked and are difficult to find.

Dwarf Tulips that at one time I grew and loved.
Oh but I digress, the grounds were bursting with the most beautiful display of Tulips. The white Dogwood and Purple Redbud speckled throughout the mountaintop forest.

Fothergilla shrub in bloom at the Visitors Center
This is the peak time of year at the Visitors Center to see the native plant landscaping in full bloom.

Crested Iris
I would love to get my little grubby gardening gloves on some Crested Iris. What a lovely ground cover it has made at the Visitors Center underneath the white Fothergilla. I see it every year and dream of having a start and would like to replace my aggressive Vinca Vine with it.

It was a beautiful day and the weather held off this year, last year I was drenched so decided to attempt the same tour again. Thank you Gardiner for an amazing tour!


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