While balcony container gardeners enjoy their small-space urban gardens, sometimes a few container plants on an apartment balcony above a busy street just isn’t peaceful enough. Balcony gardeners might not be able to have a peaceful, large garden, but there are public gardens and arboretums near every major city. Don’t just fawn over pictures of luxurious gardens, get out there and enjoy a day at a public garden! You may even bring some gardening inspiration home to your own balcony container garden.
If you live in or are visiting the Charlottesville, Va., area, why not visit the gardens at Thomas Jefferson’s Monticello estate?
- Monticello is Thomas Jefferson’s primary plantation (originally 5,000 acres tended to by 150 slaves) that he inherited in 1757. He began to build his 11,000 square foot home at 26.
- Thomas Jefferson left detailed accounts of his constantly changing gardens in his Garden Book. He included exact dates when seeds were planted, when leaves appeared and when flowers bloomed. He experimented with growing tropical fruits and exotic vegetables in his Virginia climate. Throughout his life he tried to make wine at his Monticello estate but failed to grow grapes. Jefferson also had difficulty providing water for the plants at his estate, so he had four cisterns built in 1808 to collect water that ran off the roofs of his buildings. Also pay close attention to his unique fences that kept out deer and other animals that would damage his gardens.
- Jefferson had 20 oval flowerbeds at the corners of the house, an 8-acre Fruit Garden and 400-tree orchard, and 2-acre vegetable garden he called the “hanging garden.” Jefferson loved plants and collected exotic plants and seeds during his travels (as well as plants brought back by Lewis and Clark).
- Jefferson maintained the garden for more than 40 years for many reasons, a source of food, a piece of garden artwork and an experimental laboratory for exotic plants. During Jefferson’s presidency from 1801 to 1809, he had his overseer Edmund Bacon cared for his plants.
- After falling into disrepair after Jefferson’s death, the Thomas Jefferson Memorial Fund (called the Thomas Jefferson Foundation today) purchased a large part of the estate in 1923. The foundation restored the home and gardens and opened the estate to the public.
- The Thomas Jefferson Center for Historic Plants collects, preserves and distributes historic plants, as well as Thomas Jefferson’s horticultural history.
- Make sure to walk or cycle the 2-mile Saunders-Monticello trail and see the Thomas Jefferson Parkway Arboretum to see more than 130 tree and shrub species.
- The two-hour guided tour of Thomas Jefferson’s vegetable and fruit garden. Visitors participate in seasonal gardening activities while on the tour, including planting, harvesting and sampling crops from the garden. The Revolutionary Garden Tour ticket ($42) includes the house tour and other tours.
- Take part in the tasting events at the Saturdays in the Gardens series so you can try some of Thomas Jefferson’s vegetables, herbs and fruit.
- Check the website for special events, which often include garden workshops and classes. Also use the website to see what is currently in bloom at the gardens.
Thomas Jefferson’s Monticello Quick Info
931 Thomas Jefferson Pkwy Charlottesville, VA 22902
Prices vary depending on the type of ticket:
Monticello Day Pass and House Tour is $24 adults, $16 children 12 to 18, $8 children 6 to 11
Thomas Jefferson’s Revolutionary Garden Tour at Monticello is $42
Open daily. Check the website for hours.