President's Day: Our Thoughts Turn To Gardens

I’ve never aspired to be the President of the United States, nor even to be the president of the garden club that I once belonged to.

But many presidents have aspired to be gardeners and farmers, to tend the land, including George Washington and Thomas Jefferson, who were both gentleman farmers and gardeners after serving as president. And we are fortunate that today we can visit their restored gardens, Mount Vernon and Monticello.

Several years ago, on my way through Virginia, a friend and I stopped for the night in Charlottesville and I realized the next morning that we were just two miles from Monticello, Thomas Jefferson’s home and gardens.

Gardens? I could not pass up the opportunity to see them. Though it was 102 degrees in the shade that July day, up the hill we went to see Monticello. The house was nice, but the gardens were better and had it not been 102 degrees in the shade, I could have spent much longer admiring them.

I was particularly impressed by the vegetable garden, pictured above, all 1,000 linear feet of it, covering nearly two acres. Who wouldn’t be? My own little garden seems so humble in comparison, like a pebble on a beach compared to a majestic mountain.

I was struck by not just the size of the vegetable garden, but the beauty of it. The rows of vegetables form a pattern across the terraced land, nearly as far as you can see. It’s a wonderful tapestry of vegetables of all shapes, sizes, and colors.

I don’t understand gardeners who shun vegetable gardens as common or ugly or not befitting their “landscape” or who look down on those of us who do eat what we grow.

To me, a well laid out vegetable garden is as pretty a garden as one could ever hope to have.

"No occupation is so delightful to me as the culture of the earth, no culture comparable to that of the garden ... But though an old man, I am but a young gardener." - Thomas Jefferson, Garden Book, 1811


Carolyn gail said…
Great post, Carol. Thomas Jefferson has long been a great hero of mine and the first president to be a talented gardener.
Leslie said…
That really is an impressive garden! Although I've always been impressed by the size of your vegetable garden too. And I agree...there's not much prettier than ripening tomatoes and a nice row of basil...and it smells good too!
Mary said…
The state of the nation would be so grand if all of the presidential candidates were gardeners.

Nice post, Carol.
I can't imagine a vegetable garden as large as 2 acres. I can believe you were impressed. I would be too.
Christine said…
I would love to see the gardens at Monticello, but maybe not in July, though.
Cabs said…
I too loved the gardens at Monticello! I am so glad you mentioned it today and brought back to my mind.
Your post also reminds me of the garden plot I used to have many years ago in a community garden, with all of its neat rows. Now my gardening space is smaller but I find ways to tuck herbs and a few vegetable plants in among my perennials.
lintys said…
My kids learned to love vegetables by picking them warm, sweet and organic in their own back yard and putting them straight into their mouths.

Their dad and I took them to Monticello about 18 years ago when they were still little girls. Thanks for reminding me of that trip!
lintys said…
p.s. Thanks for visiting and commenting on my blog!
Frances said…
Great post! We went to Monticello and seeds were purchased from the gift shop, supposedly collected from the very plants grown there. The purple hyacinth beans and black hollyhock did so well, we had them for years by saving seeds. Did they have those beans growing on the arbors all along the expanse of the veggie bed like they did when we were there, many years ago? What a breathtaking sight, with the view of the hills out over the slope. Magnificent.
Nancy said…
Oh, how I wish I had a spot big enough and sunny enough for a proper vegetable garden.

I'm going to have to make do with some raised beds for tomatoes and with slipping a few illicit veggies amoung the day lilies out front (where it does get sunny, but the HOA frowns on food crops).
Good post Carol (as usual). I think you could find a connection to gardening from any aspect of life, couldn't you?
kate said…
This was an interesting post. I'd love to visit Monticello and see the veggie gardens. I'm with you on veggie gardens being pretty.
Layanee said…
Carol: What a nice tribute on President's Day! I have been to Monticello but not Mount Vernon. It sounds like a good trip!
WiseAcre said…
I have to agree that a vegetable garden has a beauty all it's own. In my old hippy self-sufficent days I tended nearly an acre. Today I create flower gardens for others and in each I'll plant some vegetables. At first people wonder why. But cherry tomatoes, peppers, egg plants, hebs and a number of other vegetables add a unique flavor to the garden.
Connie said…
I would love to visit Monticello...maybe someday?
In the meantime I will plant and enjoy the larkspur seeds I received (from a Gardenweb seeed trade) that originated from the garden at Monticello :-)
Kerri said…
What an imaginative tribute to Presidents Day. Monticello sounds like a lovely place to visit with that wonderful vegetable garden.
Yes, they can be every bit as attractive as a flower garden. Ours is much too large, especially with the kids grown and gone, but my hubby keeps finding more veggies he wants to try. We grow enough for the neighborhood, with some flowers in between :)
Vegetables are beautiful and so are vegetable gardens. You said it more eloquently than I could. Great post.
Carol said…
You all are the best. Thanks for all the wonderful and kind comments. I hope to go back to Monticello sometime, maybe in the spring or fall when it isn't so hot. And I want to visit Mount Vernon, too. Wouldn't a visit to both gardens make for a nice vacation!

Carol, May Dreams Gardens