Wednesday, April 22, 2009

George Washington's Spring Garden


Everything looks cheerful, except for the pre-teen sitting n the bench, not happy about having to stand in line an hour to tour the mansion. In the background is Washington's greenhouse.

Daffodils, tulips, hyacinths and the occasional impressive Crown Imperial Fritillaria–classic spring bulbs for a classic American garden. Shown is the Upper Garden, mostly flowers and some vegetables, restored to the bed sizes from Washington's day.

Bulbs beneath espaliers. There were espaliers all over the place - probably a couple dozen. That's something George and I have in common. That and a hot wife. Martha was a babe in her younger years.

We went to visit Mount Vernon last week and caught what might be the peak of color in the spring bulb gardens there. I have no idea if these were anything close to what the first president had originally intended, but it certainly was colorful.

Great lookin' Crown Imperials. I've not had much luck with those here on my estate.

Hey, did you know that at the time George Washington was inaugurated as the first president, he only had one tooth? We saw his dentures. They're not made of wood. They're made of lead, and human & animal teeth. Gross.

I'll get to posting about his other gardens at Mount Vernon in the future–Washington's farm(s) and fishing of the Potomac, made Mount Vernon one of the first large agribusinesses, and the source of his wealth (one would argue, the source of his wealth was the 200-some slaves he owned–316 at the time of his death). He was among the top 2% of the richest Americans at the time.

4 comments:

  1. Ha!!! You're quite right, Martha was a hot babe in her youth, hardly the stout, dowdy mob-capped matron of most later portraits. She was also the initial source of much of George's wealth, along with his brother Lawrence's bequest of Mount Vernon. Unlike almost all other planters of his day, Washington recognized the evils of slavery and not only freed his slaves at his death but spent a fair amount of time freeing himself from the financial bonds of slavery. His shrewd pruchases of land in what was then the "wild West" and his diversification of crops at Mount Vernon to eradicate labor-intensive crops like tobacco and cotton meant that, at his death, he was one of the few Virginia planters who left his heirs better off than he'd been when he inherited. Good old George! Thanks for sharing these great photos and letting us vicariously tag along.

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  2. So beautiful! I've not made it up there this spring, but may go in another month or so. My husband has a family connection to Mount Vernon (I wrote about "Where Have the Frobel Flowers Gone").

    Cameron
    (countdown to Giverny is less than 2 weeks)

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  3. Our Friend Ben,
    Wow. You know your Washington history! The image we have of Martha Washington is more akin to Barbara Bush, whereas she was quite babe-a-licious in her younger years. As I'm sure Barbara Bush was. I'm guessing.

    Cameron,
    I remember reading about your husband's "relation" to Mt. Vernon. I'm excited for you to get to Giverny. I've only ever been there in the Fall, so a Spring visit will be a totally different experience. I look forward to your posts abut the trip.

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  4. I am glad you visited some of my neighbors while in the hood. Georgie also developed another profitable venture on his land - making booze. Did you stumble down to his still about a mile away? I am not aware of any gardens there:-(

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