Friday, October 22, 2021

Another use for corn from the Fields

 

Man Feeding a Bear an Ear of Corn; PA c. 1840; American Folk Art Museum

Wednesday, October 20, 2021

From Garden to Table at Mount Vernon - George's usual Meals with Family & Guests

 Washington Greeting Lafayette at Mount Vernon by Jennie Augusta Brownscombe (1850-1936) 

For President George Washington, retirement did not mean the end of his life as a public figure. As in the years after the Revolutionary War, guests flocked to Mount Vernon hoping to pay their respects to & share space—however briefly—with the former president. 

George Washington's Return to Mount Vernon

In 1798, according to Mount Vernon’s official records, George & Martha Washington hosted guests for dinner on 203 of the 310 days for which records exist. 

George Washington and Marquis De Lafayette at Mount Vernon by Edward Percy Morgan 1862-1935 

Overnight guests stayed from supper to breakfast at Mount Vernon on 183 of those 310 days.
Martha Washington (1731-1802) - Managed food preparation for family & guests from the Garden to the Table. While George Washington oversaw most aspects of organizing & supervising Mount Vernon's  pleasure gardens & grounds, Martha Washington oversaw the Kitchen Garden (The Lower Garden), allowing her to keep fruits and vegetables on the table year round.

The Kitchen Garden at Mount Vernon

“…impress it on the gardener to have every thing in his garden that will be necessary in the House keeping way — as vegetable is the best part of our living in the country.” – Martha Washington, 1792

Inside the Kitchen at Mount Vernon

Outside The Kitchen at Mount Vernon

Mount Vernon tells us that in the matter of eating & drinking George Washington was usually temperate. 

For breakfast he ordinarily had tea & Indian cakes with butter & perhaps honey, of which he was very fond. 

His supper was equally light, consisting of perhaps tea & toast, with wine, & he usually retired at nine o'clock. 

Dinner was the main meal of the day at Mount Vernon, & usually was served at two o'clock. One such meal is thus described by a guest:  "He thanked us, desired us to be seated, & to excuse him a few moments.... The President came & desired us to walk in to dinner & directed  us where to sit, (no grace was said).... The dinner was very good, a small roasted pigg, boiled leg of lamb, roasted fowls, beef, peas, lettice, cucumbers, artichokes, etc., puddings, tarts, etc. etc."   

The General ordinarily confined himself to a few courses & if offered anything very rich, he would protest, "That is too good for me." 

He often drank beer with the meal, with one or two glasses of wine & perhaps as many more afterward, often eating nuts, another delicacy with him, as he sipped the wine.

Additional research plus images & much more are available from the Mount Vernon website, MountVernon.org. 

Colonial Era Cookbooks

1615, New Booke of Cookerie, John Murrell (London) 

1798, American Cookery, Amelia Simmons (Hartford, CT)

1803, Frugal Housewife, Susannah Carter (New York, NY)

1807, A New System of Domestic Cookery, Maria Eliza Rundell (Boston, MA)

1808, New England Cookery, Lucy Emerson (Montpelier, VT)

Helpful Secondary Sources

America's Founding Food: The Story of New England Cooking/Keith Stavely and Kathleen Fitzgerald Chapel Hill : University of North Carolina Press, 2004.

Colonial Kitchens, Their Furnishings, and Their Gardens/Frances Phipps Hawthorn; 1972

Early American Beverages/John Hull Brown   Rutland, Vt., C. E. Tuttle Co 1996 

Early American Herb Recipes/Alice Cooke Brown  ABC-CLIO  Westport, United States

Food in Colonial and Federal America/Sandra L. Oliver

Home Life in Colonial Days/Alice Morse Earle (Chapter VII: Meat and Drink) New York : Macmillan Co., ©1926.

A Revolution in Eating: How the Quest for Food Shaped America/James E. McWilliams New York : Columbia University Press, 2005.

Monday, October 18, 2021

History Blooms at Monticello - Fall's Connecticut Field Pumpkin

Connecticut Field Pumpkin (Cucurbita pepo)

New World field pumpkins like this 19th century variety were grown in Thomas Jefferson's fields both for the Monticello table as well as for feeding the workhorses, cattle, sheep, and pigs in late summer. Connecticut Field Pumpkin is a traditional pumpkin good for pies, with yellow flesh and soft skin.

For more information & the possible availability for purchase

Saturday, October 16, 2021

From Garden to Table at Mount Vernon - Veal Olives with Herbs & Vegetables

Martha Washington (1731-1802) - From the Garden to the Table 

While George Washington oversaw most aspects of managing Mount Vernon's  pleasure gardens & grounds, Martha Washington oversaw the Kitchen Garden (The Lower Garden), allowing her to keep fruits and vegetables on the table year round.

The Kitchen Garden at Mount Vernon

“…impress it on the gardener to have every thing in his garden that will be nece]ssary in the House keeping way — as vegetable is the best part of our living in the country.” – Martha Washington, 1792

Inside the Kitchen at Mount Vernon

Outside The Kitchen at Mount Vernon

Veal Olives

Veal olives are “a seventeenth-century variant of the so-called beef or mutton olives” that were stuffed, rolled up, and tied with string to be roasted on a spit or gridiron. Hannah Glasse suggested a lemon garnish for this recipe, which likely could have been a side dish or corner dish for a first or second course.

One of the most valuable tools in the Mount Vernon kitchen was Martha Washington's copy of The Art of Cookery, Made Plain and Easy...By a Lady.  Martha's copy is in the Library at Mount Vernon. Hannah Glasse's (1708–1770) The Art of Cookery...was first published in 1747. It was a bestseller for a century after its first publication, dominating the English-speaking market. It was published in America from 1805.

Mrs. Washington may have owned a number of cookbooks, but her 1765 edition of Hannah Glasse's The Art of Cookery and a manuscript cookbook (now at the Historical Society of Pennsylvania) are the only ones known to survive. The manuscript book  (under the title Martha Washington's Booke of Cookery) is a very early compilation of 16th and 17th century receipts and came into Martha's possession at the time of her marriage to Daniel Parke Custis who died in 1757.

This recipe is a modern adaptation of the 18th-century original. It was created by culinary historian Nancy Carter Crump for the book Dining with the Washingtons.

Ingredients

2 pounds veal scaloppini

1/2 recipe Mrs. Glasse’s Force-Meat Balls

1 cup fresh breadcrumbs

1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper

1 large egg, lightly beaten

4 tablespoons unsalted butter, plus more as needed

8 ounces white button mushrooms, sliced

2 to 3 cups chicken stock (preferably homemade)

Browned bacon strips for serving

Lemon slices for garnish

Directions

1. Spread each piece of veal with about 2 tablespoons of Mrs. Glasse's Force-Meat Balls. Roll the slices, beginning at the long sides, and tie firmly with kitchen string, making “olives.”

2. Combine the breadcrumbs with the nutmeg, salt, and pepper.

3. Coat the veal olives on all sides with the beaten egg, then roll in the breadcrumbs, coating them well.

4. Melt the butter over medium heat. Sauté the veal olives on all sides until well browned, adding more butter, if necessary.

5. Stir in the mushrooms, and then pour in 2 cups of the chicken stock, stirring to blend with the butter in the pan. Cover and simmer for 20 to 30 minutes, turning the olives occasionally, until the veal is fully cooked.

6. To serve, place the veal olives on a platter, and spoon the sauce over the top. Break the bacon strips into pieces, sprinkle over the veal, and garnish with lemon slices.

Research & images & much more are available from the Mount Vernon website, MountVernon.org.

Colonial Era Cookbooks

1615, New Booke of Cookerie, John Murrell (London) 

1798, American Cookery, Amelia Simmons (Hartford, CT)

1803, Frugal Housewife, Susannah Carter (New York, NY)

1807, A New System of Domestic Cookery, Maria Eliza Rundell (Boston, MA)

1808, New England Cookery, Lucy Emerson (Montpelier, VT)

Helpful Secondary Sources

America's Founding Food: The Story of New England Cooking/Keith Stavely and Kathleen Fitzgerald Chapel Hill : University of North Carolina Press, 2004.

Colonial Kitchens, Their Furnishings, and Their Gardens/Frances Phipps Hawthorn; 1972

Early American Beverages/John Hull Brown   Rutland, Vt., C. E. Tuttle Co 1996 

Early American Herb Recipes/Alice Cooke Brown  ABC-CLIO  Westport, United States

Food in Colonial and Federal America/Sandra L. Oliver

Home Life in Colonial Days/Alice Morse Earle (Chapter VII: Meat and Drink) New York : Macmillan Co., ©1926.

A Revolution in Eating: How the Quest for Food Shaped America/James E. McWilliams New York : Columbia University Press, 2005.

Thursday, October 14, 2021

History Blooms at Monticello - Oil from Sesame & a few "Potatoe-Pumpkins"

Note from Monticello's Peggy Cornett

Peggy tells us today that "The Upper Ground Sweet Potato Winter Squash and Sesame seed pods are maturing and ripening at the foot of the Monticello vegetable garden pavilion.

In 1790 Thomas Jefferson described a winter squash that resembled a pumpkin and tasting like the sweet potato, calling it "potatoe-pumpkin." Sesame, which Jefferson called “benne,” was cultivated at Monticello for many years and pressed for oil. Jefferson wrote in 1811, “I did not believe there existed so perfect a substitute for olive oil.”

For more information & the possible availability for purchase

Colonial Era Cookbooks

1615, New Booke of Cookerie, John Murrell (London) 

1798, American Cookery, Amelia Simmons (Hartford, CT)

1803, Frugal Housewife, Susannah Carter (New York, NY)

1807, A New System of Domestic Cookery, Maria Eliza Rundell (Boston, MA)

1808, New England Cookery, Lucy Emerson (Montpelier, VT)

Helpful Secondary Sources

America's Founding Food: The Story of New England Cooking/Keith Stavely and Kathleen Fitzgerald Chapel Hill : University of North Carolina Press, 2004.

Colonial Kitchens, Their Furnishings, and Their Gardens/Frances Phipps Hawthorn; 1972

Early American Beverages/John Hull Brown   Rutland, Vt., C. E. Tuttle Co 1996 

Early American Herb Recipes/Alice Cooke Brown  ABC-CLIO  Westport, United States

Food in Colonial and Federal America/Sandra L. Oliver

Home Life in Colonial Days/Alice Morse Earle (Chapter VII: Meat and Drink) New York : Macmillan Co., ©1926.

A Revolution in Eating: How the Quest for Food Shaped America/James E. McWilliams New York : Columbia University Press, 2005.

Tuesday, October 12, 2021

Plants to decorate with in Early American Gardens - Sea Lavender was Dried in the Fall

Sea Lavender (Statice) (Limonium latifolium)

Limonium latifolium bears clouds of delicate, lavender-blue flowers that are perfect for arrangements, both fresh and dried, and also blend beautifully in rock gardens, coastal gardens, and other well-draining sites. In The English Flower Garden, first published in 1883, William Robinson called this larger species of Sea Lavender “the finest of all.” 

Long admired as a cut flower, Statice was included in the Garden Notes of 1793 by Lady Jean Skipwith of Virginia, who noted “dried - it retains its colour which renders it ornamental for a Mantel-piece in Winter.”

For more information & the possible availability for purchase

Sunday, October 10, 2021

Gardening Books & the Landscape of Virginia's Lady Jean Skipwith 1748-1826


Lady Jean Skipwith (1748-1826) was born Jane Miller; her father Hugh Miller was a Scottish tobacco merchant who lived in Virginia from 1746 to 1760, and her mother Jane was a member of the well-known Bolling family. Following his wife's death, Hugh Miller returned to Glasgow with his 5 young children; he died there in 1762. Jean (she had changed her name) lived in Scotland until around 1786, then moved briefly to Liverpool before returning to the Elm Hill plantation in Virginia, which she inherited from her father. 

Prestwould, Clarksville, Virginia.  In 1788, Jean married English-born Sir Peyton Skipwith (1740-1805) of Mecklenburg County, VA. Skipwith, one of the wealthiest men in Virginia, had previously been married to Jean's sister Anne (1742/3-1779). Lady Jean gave birth to 4 children in 5 years (all after the age of 40). By 1797 she moved her family from Elm Hill to her husband's new plantation, Prestwould, which still stands. Detailed records of household purchases and garden notes (not to mention her library records) reveal Lady Jean's varied interests. Following her husband's death in 1805, Lady Jean remained at Prestwould until she died in 1826, aged 78.
Sitting high above the merger of the Dan and Stanton Rivers in Virginia, is the family house of Sir Peyton Skipwith  Built by slave labor in 1794, in a Georgian style, Prestwould Plantation remains one of the most complete gentry homes in Virginia. When the house was built, the countryside surrounding it was still a frontier. Stone walls and metal gates surround the lawn. Some original outbuildings and Lady Jean's Garden remain. An original two-family slave house still stands on the property.
Lady Jean not only ran the plantation after her husband's death, but also maintained extensive records of her gardening activities -- what she grew in her gardens, as well as local native plants found on the property. She had a large garden that was based on the traditional English design, but she placed it to the East of the entrance to the house, so that it had a position of prominence and announced to visitors that the gardens were important at Prestwould. She designed terraced garden beds falling toward the family cemetery. 
Lady Jean's gardening records indicate that she found & used numerous Native American plants, such as columbines, bloodroot, Solomon's seal, fire pinks, blue eyed grass, monk's hood, butterflyweed, spring beauty, and Virginia bluebells in her gardens. She also planted Helleborus foetidus, candy tuft, rose of sharon, lantana, mock orange, lilacs, French marigolds, and Lady Banks roses. French marigolds were all the rage in 1791, when they were featured in William Curtis' Botanical Magazine, and Lady Jean accurately described them as "Striped French Marigold" in her records.
Lady Jean's Garden House.  In an 1805 letter to St. George Tucker, Lady Jean's daughter described her mother's gardens: "A spacious, fine garden, to the cultivation of which she is totally devoted -- if you are fond of gardening of flowers and shrubs, as well as fine vegetables, you would delight to see her garden..."
Jean Skipwith's library is one of the very few known southern women's libraries from the colonial period, and is certainly the largest collection assembled by a Virginia woman. Although little is known of Jean Skipwith's education, her passion for gardens and books is obvious. Numerous invoices, lists and inventories, most contained in the Skipwith Family Papers in the library of the College of William and Mary, have allowed the library to be outlined in great detail. 

A bibliography of the collection can be found in Mildred K. Abraham, "The Library of Lady Jean Skipwith: A Book Collection from the Age of Jefferson." The Virginia Magazine of History and Biography 91:3 (July, 1983), pp. 296-347. The records included here are those from that bibliography, which have been updated where possible and necessary. Abraham identified three major phases of book collecting: from 1781 - 1788, mostly in Liverpool and Scotland before her return to Virginia; from 1788 - 1805, the years of her married life; and from 1806 - 1826, her busiest collecting period. 

During her years in Virginia, Skipwith continued to buy books from London, but also ordered widely from dealers in Petersburg, Richmond, Raleigh, Philadelphia, and elsewhere. At her death, Skipwith bequeathed several books to certain individuals, while willing her two daughters and daughter-in-law "two hundred volumes each to be selected alternately out of the books I died possessed of." 

Her books included...

Traveling memorandums, made in a tour upon the continent of Europe, in the years 1786, 87, & 88 by Lord Francis Garden Gardenstone

The gardeners dictionary containing the best and newest methods of cultivating and improving the kitchen, fruit, flower garden, and nursery; ... The eighth edition, revised and altered according to the latest system of botany by Philip Miller

Artaxerxes: An English opera : as it is performed at...Covent-Garden by Thomas Augustine Arne

The experienced English house-keeper : for the use and ease of ladies, house-keepers, cooks, &c. : wrote purely from practice and dedicated to the Hon. Lady Elizabeth Warburton ... : consisting of near 800 original receipts, most of which never appeared in print by Elizabeth Raffald

For more Legacy Libraries go to Library Thing. 

Friday, October 8, 2021

Natural Style Gardens & Grounds in 18C British America

A Natural Garden in the English Taste. An etching depicting a view of the lake & island in the gardens of Kew Palace, showing various temples & the orangerie, with both English & French inscription. Hand colored. This view of a more natural landscape contains a view of the Lake & Island, with the Orangerie, the Temples of Eolus & Bellona, & the House of Confucius c 1763. This view was engraved for William Chambers’s Plans, Elevations, Sections & Perspective Views of the Gardens & Buildings at Kew, published in 1763. 

Most early American pleasure gardening gentry intentionally adopted classic, practical, geometric, ornamental gardens for their properties.  Their landscape designs did often include avenues of trees leading to the plantation house, like rows of soldiers standing at attention.  

The new "English taste" garden design of the first decades of the 18th-century with its intentional serpentine walks & flowing lines in imitation of Nature was not particularly attractive to early Americans, who were busy carving an obvious order out of the "howling wilderness" that surrounded them.

Scotsman William Murray wrote to his cousin Dr John Murray near Charleston in 1753, advising him to adopt the English Taste for his new landscape plans.  Redesigning their landscape to imitate Nature seemed a little impractical to many American gentry.

In 1789, Jedidiah Morse (1761-1826), noted clergyman & geographer, wrote of one country seat, “Its fine situation. . .the arrangement and variety of forest-trees - the gardens...discover a refined and judicious taste. Ornament and utility are happily united. It is, indeed, a seat worthy of a Republican Patriot.”

Generally, American gardeners shared John Adam’s (1735-1826) negative attitude towards the excesses of the English natural grounds movement. During his 1784 tour of English gardens with Thomas Jefferson, he announced, "It will be long, I hope, before ridings, parks, pleasure grounds, gardens, and ornamented farms grow so much in fashion in America."

In the same year, George Washington (1732-1799) wrote to the wife of Marquise de Lafayette (1757-1834) encouraging her to accompany her husband on a return visit to the new American republic. "You will see the plain manner in which we live; and meet the rustic civility, and you shall taste the simplicity of rural life."

In 1783, Johann David Schoff traveled to Pennsylvania and wrote, "The taste for gardening is, at Philadelphia as well as throughout America, still in its infancy. There are not yet to be found many orderly and interesting gardens. Mr. Hamilton's near the city is the only one deserving special mention. Such neglect is all the more astonishing, because so many people of means spend the most part of their time in the country. Gardens as at present managed are purely utilitarian—pleasure-gardens have not yet come in, and if perspectives are wanted one must be content with those offered by the landscape, not very various, what with the still immense forests."

In the early Republic, many gardeners strove for a balance of useful plants & trees & genteel design. On both town & country plots, most gentry, merchants, shopkeepers, & artisans planned gardens that were both practical & ornamental in geometric patterns.

Some gentry who gardened were aware of the new English natural style & sometimes added serpentine entry roads & paths that meandered through the wooded edges of their grounds, but they overwhelmingly designed their gardens with traditional rectangular beds & approaching straight avenues of trees.

Why were early American gardeners slow to adopt the English natural grounds movement? During the first decades of the 18th-century, English gardeners had begun to rebel against strict geometric gardens with rigidly trimmed topiary trees, and in favor of more natural garden layouts.  The emergence of an informal garden style based on irregular rather than straight lines was influenced, in part, by travel books on the Far East, illustrating the winding paths & random rock formations in Asian gardens.  

English gardeners added Chinese structures to the garden, such as the 1760 pagoda at Kew Gardens. The chinoiserie persisted as books on the concept were published, notably William Chambers’s 1772 Dissertation on Oriental Gardening.  

The reading of classic landscape literature also encouraged the more natural, informal garden-park espoused by Virgil plus the idyllic images of the Roman campagna depicted by the 17-century French landscape painters Claude Lorrain & Nicolas Poussin.

In mother England the landscape garden had become established as the new taste by 1750.  The master of the English landscape garden was Lancelot "Capability" Brown (1716–1783), who transformed English landscapes into Elysian fields, at Blenheim, Stowe, & Claremont. Concentrating on sweeping undulating lines; serpentine lakes & walks; & the play of light & shade by rearranging hills & wooded areas, Brown created a series of picturesque scenes dotted with Palladian temples, classical monuments, & bridges. Brown's principles were expanded by Humphry Repton (1752–1818), whose successful career depended in part on his Red Books, illustrating his clients' estates before & after suggested landscape improvements. Repton introduced more picturesque sensibilities as well as glasshouses full of exotic specimens.

Early American gardeners were engulfed in untamed surroundings & their interest in ancient precedents prodded them toward designing the orderly gardens, that they planted around their dwellings. Early in his 1806 garden book The American Gardener, Philadelphian Bernard M’Mahon (1775-1816), described “ancient gardens,” by which he meant the gardens common a hundred years earlier in Britain & Ireland.

Ironically, just as the English were rebelling against their “ancient” geometric garden designs, M’Mahon found America’s new citizens clinging to the formality of the classical past. Perhaps the young nationals were looking for the security of precedents to reinforce their present unsteady situation. The ordered & hierarchical implications of classical terraced gardens probably appealed to the gentry, who were losing their privilege of rank through association with the British & groping to maintain that privilege through natural, & therefore inevitable, order instead of through historical precedent.

Americans found the enlightened ideas & orderly, geometric gardens of the Italian Renaissance particularly attractive during the early national era. Thomas Jefferson once boasted, “Ours are the farmers who can read Homer.” 

Southern gentlelady, Eliza Lucas Pinckney, recounted in 1742, “I have got no further than the first volume of Virgil…to find myself instructed in agriculture as well as entertained by his charming pen.” 

More than 70 years later, Jefferson’s bother-in-law Henry Skipwith wrote to a friend who was planning an orchard, “Virgil’s Georgics would have given you a full idea of his Quincunx.”  

Library records indicate that America’s literate gardeners were also reading Richard Bradley’s 1725 Survey of the Ancient Husbandry & Gardening, & Adam Dickson’s 1778 Husbandry of the Ancients, published in 1788, and the original writings of Columella, Virgil, Cato, & Pliny, whom they saw as providing models of day-to-day estate & garden management, including food production.

One British visitor to the Chesapeake observed, “Frenchmen...appear to me to be the best judges of gardening in America, perhaps because their own climate & soil are more nearly similar to those of America, than either the English or Scotch.” 

Even Thomas Jefferson, touted by many as a promoter of the English natural grounds movement, claimed to admire the controlled, geometric French gardening above all others.

Benjamin Henry Latrobe, upon his initial tour of America between 1795 & 1798, condescendingly noted the classical influence prevalent in the Chesapeake. He wrote that the gardens at Mount Vernon were “laid out in squares, & boxed with great precision…for the first time again since I left Germany, I saw here a parterre, chipped & trimmed with infinite care into the form of a richly flourished Fleur de Lis: The expiring groans I hope of our Grandfather’s pedantry.” Americans were clinging to European gardening traditions rather than adopting the natural grounds movement.

M’Mahon had come from the British Isles when English landscape architects were abandoning Western traditions of formal garden design & embracing more natural forms, which were applied to the larger expanses they called pleasure grounds. The extreme formality of French & the fussiness of the miniature Dutch flower gardens helped spark this British movement against geometry & artificiality in the garden.

Influenced by writers such as Joseph Addison & Alexander Pope (whom Charles Carroll of Carrollton claimed was his favorite poet), & by the romantic landscape paintings of the French artists Claude Lorraine & Nicolas Poussin, English landscape architects rejected centuries of traditional Western garden design. English garden design reformers, such as Lancelot “Capability” Brown, & their followers favored peaceful landscapes featuring created & controlled green lawns for grazing deer & livestock, stands of needed trees, & serpentine rivers that would invite fowl & animals.

The English landscape itself was to become the ultimate garden. Intricately planned serpentine rivers & lakes reflected “natural” hills planted with carefully chosen trees & shrubs. M’Mahon’s gardening treatise reviewed the use of the popular English ha-ha, a wall or ditch sunk below the level of garden, which was intended to make the gentleman’s lawn appear to flow into the surrounding countryside. In England, where laws kept all but the rich from hunting deer & small game, these ha-has kept the hunting preserve of the gentry secure.

Ha-has were used occasionally in the 18th-century Chesapeake, but they usually surrounded grounds still dominated by formal geometric gardens. The ha-ha was not just an invisible barrier to keep intruders out of the garden & grounds. It was simply the area that divided the stage upon which patricians exercised paternalism safely separated from their hopefully awe-filled audience, all of their lesser neighbors. The ha-ha was a device to make the gentry seem at one with their personal external environment, in which they could place themselves on top but within the safe confines of an invisible wall.

Eighteenth-century English pleasure grounds were never truly natural. As M’Mahon explained, they were planned to look natural & were then decorated, often with classical Roman ruins or oriental ornaments. Chinese garden concepts excited the European gentry, when first reports of them reached Europe in the 18th century; but Western attempts to emulate Oriental design usually resulted only in copies of their architectural features.

Chinese architecture directly influenced some 18th-century American homes & garden structures. Pagodas, garden houses with upswept eaves, & Chinese style bridges decorated a few American garden grounds, but the garden spaces themselves were still divided into geometric partitions, often on terraced falls.

Until fairly recently, garden historians generally agreed that by the end of the 18th century, very few formal gardens, with traditional geometric bed designs, remained in Britain. This may not be the case, but apparently, the British had reached a level of sophistication that allowed them the freedom to resist their highly structured civilization & their hedged landscapes. This change, combined with the need to conserve dwindling supplies of timber & game, led to the natural grounds movement in England. The movement did not spread quickly in America.

Notes on the image: The park buildings depicted were all located at the southern end of the Kew estate - including the Pagoda (1761-2) with the Alhambra (1758) to its left & the Mosque (1761) in the right distance. While the Pagoda has survived, with a few of Chambers’s smaller park buildings (the Orangery & Temples of Aeolus & Beltona), the Alhambra & Mosque have not. The site now lies within the grounds of the Royal Botanic Gardens. From the late 1740s there are references to the development of a botanic garden on a 9-acre plot to the south of the Orangery close to the House. 

Kew was the country home of the Prince & Princess of Wales, the parents of George III.  On the death of the widowed Princess in February 1772, the King & Queen resolved to move their summer residence from Richmond Lodge to Kew. Writer Fanny Burney (Frances Burney d'Arblay 1752-1840) wrote " The Royal Family are here always in so very retired a way that they live as the simplest country gentlefolks." (Well, not exactly...) 
See:  George III & Queen Charlotte: Patronage, Collecting & Court Taste, London, 2004

Wednesday, October 6, 2021

History Blooms at Monticello - Upper Ground Sweet Potato Squash

Upper Ground Sweet Potato Squash (Cucurbita moschata cv.)

This rare heirloom is a rugged variety that is tolerant of hot, dry weather, rendering it especially well-suited to the South. The vines are vigorous, with large, dark, metallic green-striped leaves, and it produces an abundance of medium-large, round-to-bell-shaped, tan-skinned fruit and moist orange flesh that resembles that of the sweet potato, hence the name. 

In 1790, Jefferson sent to Samuel Vaughan Jr. seed of a melon species resembling a pumpkin and tasting like the sweet potato, calling it “potateo-pumpkin.” The Upper Ground Sweet Potato Winter Squash can weigh up to 20 pounds when ripe.

For more information & the possible availability for purchase

Colonial Era Cookbooks

1615, New Booke of Cookerie, John Murrell (London) 

1798, American Cookery, Amelia Simmons (Hartford, CT)

1803, Frugal Housewife, Susannah Carter (New York, NY)

1807, A New System of Domestic Cookery, Maria Eliza Rundell (Boston, MA)

1808, New England Cookery, Lucy Emerson (Montpelier, VT)

Helpful Secondary Sources

America's Founding Food: The Story of New England Cooking/Keith Stavely and Kathleen Fitzgerald Chapel Hill : University of North Carolina Press, 2004.

Colonial Kitchens, Their Furnishings, and Their Gardens/Frances Phipps Hawthorn; 1972

Early American Beverages/John Hull Brown   Rutland, Vt., C. E. Tuttle Co 1996 

Early American Herb Recipes/Alice Cooke Brown  ABC-CLIO  Westport, United States

Food in Colonial and Federal America/Sandra L. Oliver

Home Life in Colonial Days/Alice Morse Earle (Chapter VII: Meat and Drink) New York : Macmillan Co., ©1926.

A Revolution in Eating: How the Quest for Food Shaped America/James E. McWilliams New York : Columbia University Press, 2005.

Monday, October 4, 2021

Gardening Books owned by Tho Jefferson (1743-1824)

Thomas Jefferson by Tadeusz Andrzej Bonawentura Kosciuszko (1746 - 1817) 

Thomas Jefferson (1743-1826), Virginia lawyer, diplomat, & statesman. Author of the Declaration of American Independence; of the Statute of Virginia for Religious Freedom; & Father of the University of Virginia. First American Secretary of State, & 3rd president of the United States.

Thomas Jefferson was a lifelong, insatiable collector of books. From his book lists & correspondence, scholars know that he had the following book collections. Of these, only the books sold to Congress (section d below) are currently represented in this listing of landscape, garden, & farming books.

Shadwell Library (1757 to 1770)
Jefferson inherited his first library from his father, Peter Jefferson, when the latter died in 1757. On 1 February 1770, a fire destroyed almost all of the books in Jefferson’s home at Shadwell. 

Monticello Library Eventually Sold to Congress in 1815
(circa 1770s to 1815)
Jefferson’s second library & his largest is the book collection he began at Monticello following the fire at Shadwell.  Following the Shadwell fire on 1 February 1770, Jefferson wasted no time in replacing the library he lost.  In his letter to Robert Skipwith dated 3 August 1771, Jefferson invites Skipwith to the “new Rowanty,” evidently a reference to Monticello, his own "mountain of the world," or "Rowandiz, the Accadian Olympos," & to his library there.   Within this 2nd library collection, scholars identify the following sub-collections:

March 1783 Library Reconstructed (circa 1770s to 6 March 1783)
By 4 August 1773, Jefferson notes in his Memorandum Books a count of 1,256 volumes in his library at Monticello. In 1784 as he left America to take up his appointment by Congress as minister plenipotentiary to France, he may have had with him a catalog of the books he owned, along with titles he wished to acquire abroad. Earlier the previous year in Philadelphia, he had noted on page 5 of this catalog a count of 2,640 volumes as of 6 March 1783. He also states that he had placed a checkmark before each title he owned, & that unmarked titles indicate books that he hoped to acquire. Using this specific notation recorded by Jefferson himself in his 1783 Catalog, scholar Thomas Baughn has reconstructed a list of books that Jefferson owned as of this date. A list of this March 1783 Library Reconstructed library is available online.

Books Acquired While in Europe (1784 to 1789)
During his appointment as minister plenipotentiary & later minister to France from 1784 to 1789, Jefferson purchased some 2,000 volumes. Before he returned to America in 1789, he compiled a separate list of the books he acquired while abroad. This 1789 Catalog is a 50-page unbound manuscript in Jefferson’s own hand & is today at the Massachusetts Historical Society. The manuscript pages have been digitized by the Society & are available online. A transcription of this manuscript made by Thomas Baughn is available online.

1783 Catalog (circa 1770s to 1812)
The 1783 Catalog manuscript, a 246-page bound manuscript in Jefferson’s hand, is believed to be a record of his library following the Shadwell fire in 1770. In 1812, when this catalogue became crammed with interlineations, erasures, & marginal insertions, Jefferson made a fair copy of this catalogue, that he probably maintained for his offer to sell his library to Congress in 1814. The 1783 Catalog is today at the Massachusetts Historical Society, available online. A transcription of this manuscript made by Thomas Baughn is available online.

Books Sold to Congress (1815)
When the invading British army burned the congressional library in Washington, D.C. in 1814, an outraged Jefferson promptly offered his own library of 6,700 volumes to Congress to replace the one that was lost.  A 5-volume work, The Catalogue of the Library of Thomas Jefferson, was published between 1952 & 1959. This is available online online through the Library of Congress; a transcribed electronic version of Sowerby's catalogue is available online.  There is a 2nd manuscript associated with the books Jefferson sold to Congress. In 1823 Jefferson commissioned Nicholas Philip Trist, the young man who would eventually become Jefferson’s private secretary & his grandson-in-law, to recreate a list of the books sold to Congress. This 113-page Trist Catalogue manuscript was rediscovered at the Library of Congress, available online.

Retirement Library (1815 to 1826)
Following the 1815 sale of the bulk of his library to Congress, Jefferson continued to acquire books. The Retirement Library Catalogue in Jefferson’s own hand constituted his 3rd & final library at Monticello. The 83-page bound manuscript is at the Library of Congress, & is available online. After Jefferson died in 1826, his library at Monticello was sold at auction through auctioneer, Nathaniel P. Poor, in 1829 in Washington, D.C. The printed Poor Catalogue is available online.

Poplar Forest Library (1811 to 1826)
After Jefferson’s retirement from public office in 1809, he also maintained a library at his Poplar Forest retreat in Bedford County from around 1811. At his death, his books were inherited by his grandson, Francis Eppes, who offered them up for sale in 1873. There is no separate sale catalogue for this library, except for the portion that was listed in the 1873 auction catalogue of George A. Leavitt, published in New York City. The Leavitt Catalogue was transcribed by John R. Barden in 1999, & edited by Thomas Baughn.
Thomas Jefferson by John Trumbull (1756-1843). Thomas Jefferson Foundation, Inc., Monticello, Virginia.

For more information, go to the Thomas Jefferson's Libraries website at Monticello. See also the Library of Congress' interactive exhibit, Thomas Jefferson's Library.

Jefferson's Books on Landscape, Garden, & Farm

Abercrombie, John Every man his own gardener Being a new, and much more complete, gardener's kalendar than any one hitherto published 1767

Abercrombie, John The gardener's pocket dictionary ; or, a systematic arrangement of trees, shrubs, herbs, flowers and fruits 1786

Agricola, Georg Andreas The experimental husbandman and gardener: containing a new method of improving estates and gardens 1726
 
Ambler, Jacquelin A treatise on the culture of lucerne 1800
  
Baird, Thomas General view of the agriculture of the County of Middlesex 1793
  
Bakewell, Robert Observations on the influence of soil and climate upon wool 1808

Baildon, Joseph The laurel. a new collection of English songs and cantatas : sung by Mr. Lowe and Miss Falkner at Vaux-Hall and Marybon-Gardens / Book II

Belsches, R. General view of the agriculture of the county of Stirling 1796
  
Billingsley, John General view of the agriculture in the county of Somerset 1794
   
Binns, John Alexander A treatise on practical farming; embracing particularly the following subjects, viz. the use of plaister of Paris 1803
 
Bordley, John Beale Sketches on rotations of crops, and other rural matters, To which are annexed Intimations on manufactures 1797
   
Bordley, John Beale Essays and notes on husbandry and rural affairs 1799
  
Bordley, John Beale Sketches on rotations of crops, and other rural matters
   
Bordley, John Beale Outlines of a plan, for establishing a state society of agriculture in Pennsylvania 1794
 
Bordley, John Beale Country habitations 1798
   
Bordley, John Beale Husbandry, dependant on Live Stock 1799

Bordley, John Beale Hemp 1799

Bradley, Richard New improvements of planting and gardening : both philosophical and practical 1726   

Bradley, Richard A General treatise of husbandry and gardening 1724
 
Bradley, Richard Ten practical discourses concerning the four elements, as they relate to the growth of plants 1733 

Richard Bradley Dictionarium botanicum: or, A botanical dictionary for the use of the curious in husbandry and gardening 

Chambers, Sir William Plans, elevations, sections, and perspective views of the gardens and buildings at Kew, in Surry 1763

Chambers, Sir William Designs of Chinese buildings, furniture, dresses, machines and utensils, engraved by the best hands, from the originals drawn in China 

Cointeraux, François  École d'architecture rurale 
    
Custis, George Washington Parke An address to the people of the United States, on the importance of encouraging agriculture & domestic manufactures 1808 

Darwin, Erasmus  The botanic garden : a poem, in two parts. With philosophical notes.

Daubenton, Louis Jean Marie Advice to shepherds and owners of flocks on the care and management of sheep 1810   

Dezallier d'Argentville, Antoine Joseph The theory and practice of gardening 1728   

Dickson, Adam The husbandry of the ancients 1788
 
Donaldson, James General view of the agriculture of the county of Northampton 1794
 
Erskine, John Francis General view of the agriculture of the county of Clackmannan 1795

Errard, Charles Parallele de l'architecture antique avec la moderne, suivant les dix principaux auteurs qui ont écrit des cinq ordres
   
Evelyn, John Terra: a philosophical discourse of earth 1787
 
Evelyn, John Sylva, or, A discourse of forest-trees, and the propagation of timber in His Majesties dominions 1664
  
Fordyce, George Elements of agriculture and vegetation 1771
   
Forsyth, William A treatise on the culture and management of fruit-trees 1802    

Gardiner, John The American gardener: containing ample directions for working a kitchen garden, every month in the year 1804

Gentil, François Le jardinier solitaire, ou, Dialogues entre un 
curieux & un jardinier solitaire

Haines, Charles Considerations on the great western canal, from the Hudson to Lake Erie : with a view of its expence, advantages, and progress. Re-published by order of the New-York Corresponding Association, for the promotion of internal improvements
  
Hale, Thomas A compleat body of husbandry 1758
  
Hales, Stephen Statical essays; containing Vegetable Staticks 1738
 
Heely, Joseph Letters on the beauties of Hagley, Envil, and the Leasowes 1777

Heron, Henry A collection of songs. sung at Marybone Gardens by Miss Thomas / Book V and A collection of songs. sung at Marybone Gardens by Mr. Rennoldson / Book IV
 
Hepburn, Sir George Buchan General view of the agriculture and rural economy of East Lothian 1794

Home, Francis The principles of agriculture and vegetation 1762
   
Home, Lord Kames, Henry The gentleman farmer 1779
  
Jacob, Giles The country gentleman's vade mecum 1717
   
Kirwan, Richard The manures most advantageously applicable to the various sorts of soils, and the causes of their beneficial effect 1796
   
Langley, Batty Pomona: or, the Fruit-Garden Illustrated 1729

Langley, Batty Practical geometry applied to the useful arts of building surveying, gardening, and mensuration

Lastri, Marco Antonio Corso di agricoltura di un accademico georgofilo autore della Biblioteca georgica
    
Livingston, Robert R. Essay on sheep; their varieties--account of the merinoes of Spain, France &c 1809

Logan, George Fourteen agricultural experiments, to ascertain the best rotation of crops 1797

Logan, George A letter to the citizens of Pennsylvania, on the necessity of promoting agriculture, manufactures & the useful arts 1800
 
M'Mahon, Bernard The American gardener's calendar; adapted to the climates and seasons of the United States 1806   

Main, Thomas Directions for the transplantation and management of young thorn or other hedge plants 1807
 
Miller, Philip The gardeners kalendar ; directing what works are necessary to be performed every month 1765

Miller, Philip The gardener's dictionary : containing the best and newest methods of cultivating 1768

Miller, Philip Dictionnaire des jardiniers, contenant les méthodes les plus sûres et les plus modernes pour cultiver et améliorer les jardins potagers, à fruits, à fleurs et les pépinières, ainsi que pour réformer les anciennes pratiques d'agriculture; avec des moyens nouveaux de faire et conserver le vin, suivant les procédés actuellement en usage parmi les vignerons les plus instruits de plusieurs pays de l'Europe...
   
Moore, Thomas The great error of American agriculture exposed : and hints for improvement suggested 1801
  
Mortimer, John The whole art of husbandry: or, The way of managing and improving of land 1721
   
Naismith, John Observations on the different breeds of sheep and the state of sheep farming, in the southern districts of Scotland 1795
   
Parkinson, Richard The experienced farmer 1799

Parry, R. Particulars of the breeding stock, late the property of Mr. Robert Fowler, of Little Rollright 1791

Pearce, William General view of the agriculture in Berkshire 1794

Pelloutier, Simon Histoire des Celtes : et particulierment des Gaulois et des Germains, depuis les tems fabuleux, jusqu'à la prise de Rome par les Gaulois 
  
Peters, Richard Agricultural enquiries on plaister of Paris, also, facts, observations, and conjectures on that substance 1797

Pitt, William General view of the agriculture of the county of Stafford 1794
  
Randolph, John A treatise on gardening 1793 

Reed, Joseph  Lyric harmony : consisting of eighteen entire new ballads with Colin and Phaebe, in score : as perform'd at Vaux Hall Gardens by Mrs. Arne and Mr. Lowe : opera quarta by Thomas Augustine Arne Madrigal and Trulletta. A mock-tragedy. Acted (under the direction of Mr. Cibber) at the Theatre-Royal in Covent-Garden. With notes by the author, and Dr. Humbug, critick and censor-general 

Roscoe, William  An address delivered before the proprietors of the botanic garden in Liverpool previous to opening the garden, May

Seeley, Benton Stowe : a description of the magnificent house and gardens of the Right Honourable Richard Grenville Temple 1783
     
Spurrier, John The practical farmer: being a new and compendious system of husbandry 1793 
 
Stone, Thomas General view of the agriculture of the county of Huntingdon 1793
  
Strickland, Sir William Observations on the agriculture of the United States of America 1801

Taylor, John Arator; being a series of agricultural essays 1813

Trinci, Cosimo L'agricoltore sperimentato, ovvero, Regole generali sopra l'agricoltura 
    
Ure, David General view of the agriculture of the County of Kinross 1797    

Vancouver, Charles General view of the agriculture in the county of Essex 1795
Whately, Thomas Observations on modern gardening 1770

Young, Arthur Rural oeconomy, or, Essays on the practical parts of husbandry 1773
Young, Arthur Proceedings of His Majesty's most honourable Privy council, and information received, respecting an insect 1789

Young, Arthur The farmer's guide in hiring and stocking farms 1771

Young, Arthur Travels during the years 1787, 1788 and 1789 1793 

The Anglo-Saxon version, from the historian Orosius / by Ælfred the Great ; together with an English translation from the Anglo-Saxon by Paulus Orosius

The general history of Polybius / translated from the Greek by Mr. Hampton by Polybius

For more Legacy Libraries go to Library Thing.

Saturday, October 2, 2021

History Blooms at Monticello - Virginia Sweetspire

Virginia Sweetspire (Itea virginica)

This handsome North American species is native from New Jersey south to Florida and Louisiana. It was introduced into cultivation in 1744 and was listed in Philadelphia nurseryman John Bartram’s catalogue of 1783. 

Three years later, Jefferson, who was living in Paris at the time, requested Itea from both John Bartram, Jr. and Richard Cary of Virginia. Jefferson also included Itea virginica in his book, Notes on the State of Virginia. Its outstanding fall color is its greatest attribute, and a cultivar, ‘Henry’s Garnet’, received the Pennsylvania Horticultural Society’s award of merit.

For more information & the possible availability for purchase

Saturday, March 13, 2021

From Garden to Table at Mount Vernon - Mrs. Fitzhugh’s Buns

 

Martha Washington (1731-1802) - From the Garden to the Table 

While George Washington oversaw most aspects of managing Mount Vernon's  pleasure gardens & grounds, Martha Washington oversaw the Kitchen Garden (The Lower Garden), allowing her to keep fruits and vegetables on the table year round.

The Kitchen Garden at Mount Vernon

“…impress it on the gardener to have every thing in his garden that will be nece]ssary in the House keeping way — as vegetable is the best part of our living in the country.” – Martha Washington, 1792

Inside the Kitchen at Mount Vernon

Outside The Kitchen at Mount Vernon

In the matter of eating & drinking George Washington was temperate. For breakfast he ordinarily had tea & Indian cakes with butter & perhaps honey, of which he was very fond. His supper was equally light, consisting of perhaps tea & toast, with wine, & he usually retired at nine o'clock. Dinner was the main meal of the day at Mount Vernon, & usually was served at two o'clock. One such meal is thus described by a guest:  "He thanked us, desired us to be seated, & to excuse him a few moments.... The President came & desired us to walk in to dinner & directed  us where to sit, (no grace was said).... The dinner was very good, a small roasted pigg, boiled leg of lamb, roasted fowls, beef, peas, lettice, cucumbers, artichokes, etc., puddings, tarts, etc. etc."   The General ordinarily confined himself to a few courses & if offered anything very rich, he would protest, "That is too good for me." He often drank beer with the meal, with one or two glasses of wine & perhaps as many more afterward, often eating nuts, another delicacy with him, as he sipped the wine.

Mrs. Fitzhugh’s Buns

This recipe for these slightly sweet and spicy buns is adapted from one in a small group of manuscripts in the Mary Custis Lee Papers at the Virginia Historical Society, Richmond. Forgotten for more than a century, these papers were found in 2002 in two wooden trunks at the Burke and Herbert Bank and Trust Company in Alexandria, Virginia. Included are letters, legal papers, journals, and other significant documents, all collected by Mary Custis Lee, eldest daughter of Confederate general Robert E. Lee. 

The recipe likely came from Ann Bolling Randolph Fitzhugh (1747-1805) mother-in-law of George Washington Parke Custis (1781-1857). Martha Washington’s grandson, George Washington Parke Custis was raised by Martha and George Washington after his father died.

This recipe is a modern adaptation of the 18th-century original. It was created by culinary historian Nancy Carter Crump for the book Dining with the Washingtons.

Ingredients

2 teaspoons active dry yeast

1/2 cup lukewarm water, divided

1/2 cup plus 1 tablespoon sugar, divided

2 3/4 cups sifted all-purpose flour

1/2 teaspoon ground mace

1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg

1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1/4 teaspoon ground coriander

1/4 teaspoon salt

2 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened

1 large egg

1/4 cup lukewarm milk

Directions

1. Sprinkle the yeast over 1/4 cup of the water, add 1 teaspoon of the sugar, and set aside to proof until bubbly—about 5 minutes.

2. Sift the flour, mace, nutmeg, cinnamon, coriander, and salt together into a large mixing bowl.

3. Stir together 1/4 cup of the remaining sugar with the butter. Add to the spiced flour, mixing with your fingers until crumbly.

4. Whisk the egg together with the remaining 1/4 cup plus 2 teaspoons of sugar. Make a well in the center of the flour mixture, and pour in the egg and sugar, proofed yeast, and milk. Stir until well mixed, adding enough of the remaining water to make a soft dough. Put the dough in a buttered bowl, turning to coat with butter. Cover with plastic wrap and a towel, and set aside in a warm place to rise for 1 1/2 to 2 hours, until doubled.

5. Grease a 12-cup muffin pan with vegetable shortening. Push down the dough with a wooden spoon. Divide into 12 pieces, shape into balls, and place in the prepared pan. Cover with a towel, and set aside to rise for about 45 minutes, until doubled.

6. Preheat the oven to 375°F. Position the rack in the upper third of the oven.

7. Bake for 12 to 15 minutes, or until the buns are lightly browned. Watch carefully, as they can easily burn. Immediately remove the buns from the pan, and place on a wire rack to cool.

Research plus images & much more are available from the Mount Vernon website, MountVernon.org. 

Colonial Era Cookbooks

1615, New Booke of Cookerie, John Murrell (London) 

1798, American Cookery, Amelia Simmons (Hartford, CT)

1803, Frugal Housewife, Susannah Carter (New York, NY)

1807, A New System of Domestic Cookery, Maria Eliza Rundell (Boston, MA)

1808, New England Cookery, Lucy Emerson (Montpelier, VT)

Helpful Secondary Sources

America's Founding Food: The Story of New England Cooking/Keith Stavely and Kathleen Fitzgerald Chapel Hill : University of North Carolina Press, 2004.

Colonial Kitchens, Their Furnishings, and Their Gardens/Frances Phipps Hawthorn; 1972

Early American Beverages/John Hull Brown   Rutland, Vt., C. E. Tuttle Co 1996 

Early American Herb Recipes/Alice Cooke Brown  ABC-CLIO  Westport, United States

Food in Colonial and Federal America/Sandra L. Oliver

Home Life in Colonial Days/Alice Morse Earle (Chapter VII: Meat and Drink) New York : Macmillan Co., ©1926.

A Revolution in Eating: How the Quest for Food Shaped America/James E. McWilliams New York : Columbia University Press, 2005.

Sunday, March 7, 2021

Jefferson's (1743-1824) "Belles of the Day" at Monticello - Bulbs in the Garden


Thomas Jefferson by Tadeusz Andrzej Bonawentura Kosciuszko (1746-1817)

Thomas Jefferson's "Belles of the Day" at Monticello

". . . the flowers come forth like the belles of the day, have their short reign of beauty and splendour, and retire, like them, to the more interesting office of reproducing their like. The Hyacinths and Tulips are off the stage, the Irises are giving place to the Belladonnas, as these will to the Tuberoses, etc. ...  - Jefferson to Anne Cary Bankhead. Monticello. May 26, 1811

Thomas Jefferson wrote this often-quoted passage to his granddaughter as a means of instructing her on the ephemeral nature of beauty, the normal transitions in life, and the inevitable passage of time. That he used flowering bulbs as his metaphor is fitting. Jefferson often looked to the natural world for descriptive inspiration, and bulbs by comparison, through their unfolding transformations, compress the stages of a human lifetime into a single season.

Bulbs -- often called bulbous or flowering roots in the 18th century -- were common in American gardens by Jefferson's day. Their light-weight, easy portability during dormancy, as well as their ability to be shipped dry, were key factors in their dissemination. Because they could be layered into boxes, wrapped in pouches, stuffed in satchels, and tucked in pockets, they were ideally suited for the vagaries of transcontinental and transatlantic voyages. They were, undoubtedly, flowers that caught Jefferson's attention early on. The very first entry in his Garden Book, a diary of gardening activities kept for nearly sixty years, reads: "Purple hyacinth begins to bloom." This observation -- made on March 30th, 1766 -- was followed a week later with "Narcissus and Puckoon open." By the next year Jefferson, ever the scientist, began charting the regularity of their blooming periods, noting that both the hyacinth and narcissus were flowering on March 23rd, a full week earlier. Bulbs were the primary focus in his "Calendar of the bloom of flowers in 1782," where he, in a sense, graphically portrays the passage he later wrote to his granddaughter by showing the overlapping sequence of blossoms from the narcissus, jonquils, and hyacinths of March and April to the anemones, ranunculus, and tulips of May and on to the lilies of June.

Jefferson rarely specified beyond the genus of his bulbs, offering few clues as to the dozens of varieties or cultivars he might have grown. Yet, there is evidence of the sophistication of his taste and the tastes of the times. For example, Jefferson often sought the more highly developed florist types of flowers. He consistently ordered the double forms of anemones, Persian Ranunculus, and tuberose and, while in Paris in 1786, he sent double tulip bulbs to Francis Eppes at Monticello. He listed double hyacinths in separate colors of pink, yellow, white, blue, and red, and, in 1812, he received from Philadelphia nurseryman Bernard McMahon "3 Double blue Hyacinths, named Alamode by the Dutch, remarkably early & proper for forcing." Today, double hyacinths are rare commercially and very expensive. Likewise, his "1 Root silver striped Crown Imperial,"(Fritillaria imperialis) is now virtually a museum piece nurtured in Dutch botanical gardens.

If frequency is an indicator of preference, then the tulip, which is mentioned more than any other flower in the Garden Book, should be considered Jefferson's all time favorite. Jefferson was not unique in this, even in America. In the 1730s Williamsburg's John Custis received "Double Tulips" and "early tulips" from his mentor Peter Collinson of London, and a portrait of Custis clearly shows him holding a well-worn book with the words "of the Tulip" legible on its spine and a streaked tulip blossom beside it. Tulipomanea, a 17th-century European tulip "fever" where fortunes could be made or lost through the purchase of a single bulb, had long subsided from its peak in the 1630s. Yet, tulips retained universal appeal and remained the intense focus of florists well into the 19th century. Again, thanks to the discriminating Bernard McMahon, Jefferson was receiving some choice forms by 1806, when a shipment included such classics as: Bizarre (mustard yellow flowers marked red or brownish-black), Bybloemen (white ground marked deep rich purple), and Rose (white feathered with red or rose markings). Also in the package were the Baguet Rigauts and Primo Baguets, which had rosy-purple or brownish-red markings on a white ground with pure white bases. According to Anna Pavord, in The Tulip: The Story of a Flower that has Made Men Mad, the Baguets, a Flemish specialty, were amongst the most sought-after tulips of the late 17th and early 18th centuries. They were wide-cupped, round-petalled flowers, said to be capable of holding "a pint of wine" in their blossoms. While we can be impressed with Jefferson's florist tulips, the major caveat of these types was that they were not really meant for the garden. Pavord stresses that they were aristocrats, meant to be cosseted, covered, and protected from harm. Better suited for the garden were the "2 Roots Parrot Tulips ... red, green and yellow mixed" sent by McMahon in 1812.

When Jefferson divided his winding flower walk on the West Lawn into 10-foot compartments in 1812, bulbs were a major consideration in the planting scheme. Each of the 87 beds (43 on the North side and 44 on the South) were numbered such that: "the odd compartments are for bulbs requird. taking up the even ones for seeds & permanent bulbs." Thus, Jefferson tried to insure that each type of bulb would be cared for appropriately, and obvious perennials like daffodils would be left undisturbed. Bulbs were precious things then. Unlike today, they could not be replaced readily, and they required proper storage and cultural attention in order to multiply. An exchange between Jefferson and his daughter Martha in 1816 clearly reveals this arduous process. Jefferson, writing from his occasional retreat, Poplar Forest, on November 10th, asked that his faithful gardener, Wormley, bring "some of the hardy bulbous roots" divided from the Monticello collection: "... daffodils, jonquils, Narcissuses, flags & lillies of different kinds, refuse hyacinths &c. ...." Ten days later Martha responded that it was already too late to send all that he listed because the roots were actively growing, but she sent instead "... a number of offsets of tulips and hyacinths ... the smaller ones are not blooming roots yet, but will be in a year or 2. the tulips & hyacinths are mixed but Cornelia knows them all ...." The waiting was always part of the experience.

This leads to the natural question: what did beds of flowering bulbs really look like in early American gardens? Of all modern-day attempts to recreate 18th- and 19th-century flower plantings, the ubiquitous bulb display, featuring thousands of uniformly spaced blossoms, is probably the most misleading. Jefferson's modest planting of 50 ranunculus, 24 anemones, 27 hyacinths, and 20 tulips in 1807, for example, would seem starkly weak in comparison, especially when considering Ann Cary Randolph's appraisal of the borders in March of the following year. She reported to her grandfather, who was still serving as President, that all the bulbs were "coming up very well particularly the tulips of which he [Burwell] counted at least forty flourishing ones." By April 15th, 1808, she further observed that "neither the hyacinths nor Tulips grow as regularly this spring as they did the last. Wormley in taking them up left some small roots in the ground which have come up about in the bed & not in the rows with the other."

Jefferson's interest in bulbs extended to native sorts, as well. Like his contemporary, Jean Skipwith of Prestwould Plantation in south central Virginia, Jefferson grew the spectacular American Turk's Cap or Spotted Canada Martagon (Lilium superbum), received from McMahon in 1812. Because Jefferson pre-dated the great wave of Japanese introductions by about fifty years, nursery lists such as McMahon's offered a combination of North American and European species. Thus, the "various sorts of lillies" he ordered included not only the European Turk's Cap (L. martagon) but also possibly any number of native species, such as the Canada Martagon (L. canadense). The White Lily (L. candidum) of Europe, which became known as the Madonna Lily later in the Victorian period, was likewise at Monticello and Prestwould. More unusual were the Atamasco Lily (Zephyranthes atamasco), a southeastern U.S. species of Rain Lily similar to the Z. candida, and the "Columbia Lily." The latter is believed to be a western species of Fritillaria (Fritillaria pudica) collected during the Lewis and Clark Expedition and planted at Monticello in 1807 as: "Lilly. the yellow of the Columbia. it's root a food of the natives." While this diminutive, yellow bell-like flower is prolific throughout the Northwest, it has proven impossible to grow in central Virginia.

It is always intriguing to speculate if any bulb colonies have survived. Although some species, such as Narcissus, are extremely long lived, there appear to be no ancient stands of daffodils remaining from Jefferson's time. One unusual species, however, still thrives in the Monticello landscape. The southern European Tassel Hyacinth, Muscari comosum, has spread so abundantly that it has naturalized in the flower gardens, down the slope to the kitchen garden, and throughout the fruit garden. Jefferson's 1782 reference to Feather Hyacinth blooming from mid May to mid June and the "6 Feathered Hyacinth roots, Hyacinthus monstrosus L." sent by McMahon in 1812 technically implies the Tassel Hyacinth's more showy cousin, Muscari comosum 'Plumosum', whose blossom has turned the purple-blue tassel or topknot into a feathery plume. Whether the common names were confused or the bulbs were mixed or both forms were planted is not clear, but the longevity of the naturalized colonies is certain.

For the most part, Jefferson's "belles of the day" were indeed temporary beauties during a fleeting chapter of his life. In a touching remembrance made by his granddaughter Ellen Randolph Coolidge, she describes the magical moments of her childhood when new beds were prepared for his flowers. "I remember the planting of the first hyacinths and tulips, and their subsequent growth .... There was Marcus Aurelius, and the King of the Gold Mine, the Roman Empress, and the Queen of the Amazons ...." Their winter-long anticipation was answered when one of the grandchildren would "discover the tender green breaking through the mould, and run to granpapa to announce, that we really believed Marcus Aurelius was coming up, or the Queen of the Amazons was above ground!" The entire family was in ecstacy "over the rich purple and crimson, or pure white, or delicate lilac, or pale yellow of the blossoms," and Jefferson would sympathize in their admiration and discuss new groupings, combinations, and contrasts. She concludes, "Oh, these were happy moments for us and for him!"

This joyful scene dissolved relatively quickly when, after Jefferson's death in 1826, curiosity and souvenir seekers came in droves for mementoes of the great Sage of Monticello. In 1827 Virginia Randolph Trist reported to her sister Ellen Coolidge that, sadly, "Mama's choicest flower roots have been carried off ... and everything and any thing that they fancied." In this, the conclusion of Jefferson's 1811 "belles of the day" letter to Anne Cary Bankhead seems all the more poignant as he himself accepts the inevitable: "... as your mamma has done to you, my dear Anne, as you will do to the sisters of little John, and as I shall soon and cheerfully do to you all in wishing you a long, long goodnight."

From The Twinleaf Journal by Peggy Cornett, Tho Jefferson Center for Historic Plants, January 2001

Research & images & much more are directly available from the Monticello.org website.