Mount Vernon – Part II

Continuing yesterday’s post about my experience at George Washington’s Mount Vernon

The garden tours continued with a short walk along the serpentine walk to the Lower Garden. This was the main kitchen garden (fruits, vegetables, herbs) and under the direction of Martha Washington during her tenure at Mount Vernon. There is considerable documentation about the plants that were grown in the garden; one bit of trivia: Martha Washington liked artichokes! The lavender that grew around one bed seemed to be doing particularly well this year.

The garden was reconstructed in 1938….in a Colonial Revival style. Prior to that time the focus has been on the mansion rather than the grounds.

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Our group exited the Lower Garden toward the East Lawn of the mansion. We got a closer view of the scaffolding for the façade renovation project….and the walked far enough away to see the whole of the mansion.

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But the theme of the conversation was about the view….pointing out the minor changes but also the success that buying and conserving the land on the Maryland side has had on preserving the view shed of Mount Vernon. This is the view down river.

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We walked to the chairs on the river-side porch of the mansion and I took a picture upriver too. During Washington’s time the river would have been deeper (a lot of silting has happened since the 1700s) and there was a lot of boat traffic; It was also full of fish….actively harvested. Washington grew hemp to make rope for nets!

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Then it was time for a late lunch (most of us ate our box lunch outside on the library grounds – at tables on the porch or park benches). Then it was time to pick up a ‘goodie bag’ – plants and seeds! This year the plants included: chocolate mint, blackberry lily, spearmint, cardinal flower, pink turtlehead, and obedient plant. The seeds were larkspur, Purple columbine and spider flower. I have the plants on some shelves in a south facing window….will have to buy some pots to keep them happy through the winter. Then I’ll be putting them outside in the spring. The seeds will be planted next spring…and I hope they survive our deer population! There was a bar of bayberry scented soap which I unwrapped and have in my office….a pleasant scent to enjoy through fall and winter.

Overall – this was a fabulous volunteer appreciation event.

Mount Vernon – Part I

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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.