PHYLLIS ODESSEY

The Pursuit of Happiness

“A Rich Spot of Earth”
Thomas Jefferson;s Revolutionary Garden
at Monticello

1,000-foot long garden terrace, 80 ft.wide

Two-acre garden divided into twenty-four squares
12-ft tall “paling” fence three quarters of a mile long
170 varieties of fruit
400 trees in the orchard


Peter J. Hatch
NYBG/ Sothebys – October 16, 2012
During this election season, I feel my pursuit of happiness might be endangered.  Thomas Jefferson had no such worries.  After he penned the inalienable rights, he moved on to Tennis-Ball Lettuce, Marrowfat Peas and Breast of Venus Peach.

Peter Hatch, Retired Director of Gardens and Grounds at Monticello, gave gardeners and socialites alike, a talk that rested on Jefferson’s belief that “the failure of one thing is repaired by the success of another.”    As a gardener, I am well acquainted with false steps and less so with achievement.  After spending 35 years at Monticello, Peter Hatch had plenty to say about both.

From the age of 67-82, Jefferson devoted himself to growing vegetables.  His was a garden of retirement.  “But though an old man, I am but a young gardener”.  Hatch categorized Jefferson’s garden as particularly American in scope and scale.  It was BIG and EXPERIMENTAL. Unlike the potagers of Europe, Jefferson took chances. He planted vegetables that were unknown and untried in Virginia.  Hatch described his table as the  “new American cuisine” and Jefferson as the “first foodie”.

Thomas Jefferson died on July 4, 1826.  What date could be more fitting for the author of the Declaration of Independence?  During the talk, Eunyoung Sebazco, Horticulture Manager of Randall’s Island, whispered in my ear.  “Let’s make a Thomas Jefferson Vegetable Garden.”  “Ok” I said,  “one thing let’s not make it a 1,000 ft. long”.



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