What Is So Special About the Gardens at Mount Vernon? I Mean, Really?

I know gardens may seem totally, totally boring!!  And unless you're a lover of eating the freshest food ever, you probably see gardens as not very important. Farms maybe, but not gardens!  But you're really missing something totally interesting, if you accept this!! You can learn a lot about people and periods in history from studying gardens. 

The way a garden is organized depends on many things - what geography will allow, the local weather, the reason for the garden, the wealth of the owner, resources available to tend the garden, the skill of the gardener, current trends and, of course, personal preference. 

Take Mount Vernon, for instance. It was the home of George Washington, first president of the United States and his wife, Martha Dandridge Custis Washington. Here's a bit of inforamtion about the gardens on their estate. See what this inforamtion tells you about the Washingtons and their period in history:

 Image from Mount Vernon Estate and Gardens

Image from Mount Vernon Estate and Gardens

* On the Mount Vernon estate there were very prominent plantings of vegetables and fruit trees for household use. Hmm! Sounding tasty!

* The Washingtons had gardens of flowering plants, good for after-dinner strolling with friends. Do you think they liked to entertain? Or maybe having in-home dinners was socially expected?

* Mount Vernon garden experts tell us that George Washington highlighted America’s revolutionary alliance with the French by planting a boxwood parterre “clipped and trimmed with infinite care into the form of a richly flourishing Fleur de Lis.”   Oh, yes! The French did help us, didn't they!

* General Washington also planted espalier trees --- fruit trees specially pruned to grow flat against the wall. Wow! Not an easy thing to accomplish!! Must have taken resources and money to make these happen!

* Washington even had a garden for experimenting with new plant varieties.  Now, how did he have time to do this?

 Image from Mount Vernon Estate and Gardens

Image from Mount Vernon Estate and Gardens

For the first hundred years of American gardening most gardens were cottage gardens, located close to houses and containing mainly food for the owner plus a few favorite flowers. There were no great gardens of an elegant scope. Mount Vernon was one of the few colonial gardens which came close to the formal, geometric, well balanced garden of popular imagination. And even it was not, in any sense, an elaborate “estate,” but was a very simple country home. Tens of thousands of citizens today own homes and gardens that are larger, more elaborate or artistically better. Yet Mount Vernon was one of the best estates and gardens of its time. 

Do visit and have a look for yourself!

Don't Forget The Mansion

The mansion at Mount Vernon is also VERY interesting!

It is based on the Palladian style of architecture, sharing some of the characteristics of the temples of Athens and Rome, but it was constructed in a piecemeal fashion.

George Washington wanted the mansion to be symmetrical. But, is it?  Take a look at the two images below and see what you think. Then, check it out, real time, when you visit.

Also, check out the exterior of the mansion.  It looks like one thing but it may be something else. Interesting!

 Image from Mount Vernon Estate and Gardens

Image from Mount Vernon Estate and Gardens

 Images from Mount Vernon Estate and Gardens

Images from Mount Vernon Estate and Gardens