George Washington’s Mount Vernon was the location of The Horticultural Consortium of the Greater Washington Area’s volunteer appreciation day last week. I was invited based on my volunteering at Brookside Gardens. After over 1.5 hours on the road to get there during the morning rush hour, it was a wonderful day. The weather was perfect for a day in the gardens….congenial conversations with other volunteers…informative lecture and tours.
We started out at the Fred W. Smith National Library for the Study of George Washington with a talk from the Mount Version Horticulturist. The library is for research and only open otherwise for events. It was a comfortable space for a lecture….and then lunch later.
There were tours with a ‘historical horticulture’ them for 4 areas. The first two were the Upper Garden and Bowling Green. The Upper Garen features a reconstructed greenhouse (close to what it would have looked like when George Washington died in 1799) with wide paths and some formal beds closest to it.
The contents of other beds are less structured with flowering plants that would have been available in Washington’s day and often with vegetables like okra growing in the center. There is even an area for grapes!
We walked a short distance to the Bowling Green. The house was not on our tour but the scaffolding for the renovation of the façade was evident; the side facing the Bowling Green was in most need of repair and is being completed first…then the work on the river side will commence.
The view of the Bowling Green and the mansion from the Bowling Green Gate is dramatic. This would be where carriages could stop to view the house before continuing to the road that lead to the paddock, stable and carriage house. In the opposite direction is the view of the gatehouse (zoomed a little) that would have been where carriages would have entered the property.
Some of the trees that were planted by George Washington have died since we moved to the area in 1983. One that is still around is a tulip poplar that he planted in 1785.
Over time other trees were planted – like this American Holly that was planted in 1812…maybe the oldest holly I’ve seen.
There is detailed evidence (from his journals) of the trees that Washington planned for the walks on either side of the Bowling Green and a diagram produced for a magazine article from the early 1800s. As the horticulturalists continue their work, the walk will have more and more of the trees that were there in 1799.
I’ll post about 2 more Mount Vernon garden tours tomorrow.