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What’s Blooming in the Garden This Week?

Rather than highlighting the fantastic flora present in the popular Upper and Lower Gardens, this week’s blog concerns a lesser-known cultivation area on George Washington’s estate: the Fruit Garden and Nursery. Washington referred to this area as the “Vineyard Inclosure,” and its original purpose–as can be extrapolated from this title–was as an experimental vineyard. Unfortunately, Washington’s foray into grape growing proved unsuccessful, and by the 1780s, this area was transformed into an experimental nursery.

This transformation can be elucidated from a letter Washington wrote to his farm manager, Anthony Whitting, in October of 1792. In this letter, Washington specifically requests for “the Vineyard Inclosure” to be “cleansed of all the trash that is in it” and put “in perfect order for fruit trees–Kitchen vegitables [sic] of various kinds–experimental grasses– for other purposes.” This list of produce and foliage provides insight into what George Washington might have grown in this very special garden.

Of the 4-acres dedicated to the Fruit Garden and Nursery, approximately two-thirds of this area was reserved for an orchard, where Washington cultivated apples, cherries, peaches, and plums. The first image above is a close up of one of the many plum trees present in the Fruit Garden and Nursery.

One of the “Kitchen vegitables” Washington mentions could have been artichokes, as French or Globe artichokes were commonly grown at Mount Vernon during Washington’s lifetime. In fact, this particular type of artichoke was one of Martha Washington’s personal favorites, and she even included a recipe for “Hartichoak Pie” in her Booke of Cookery.

The weeping willows pictured are an example of one of the “other purposes” Washington reserved this cultivation area for. In a separate letter to Whitting, Washington states that his Vineyard Inclosure was also a space for “seed which required still greater Space before they were adopted upon a large scale.” As the image above shows, weeping willows require a decent amount of space in order to grow. Washington reserved an area of his experimental garden specifically for willow cuttings, so would have a reserve of the trees to plant wherever he wished once they matured.

Certain winter annuals are also blooming in the Fruit Garden and Nursery this week. The Boston Marrow squash and Green Hubbard are both heirloom plants Washington specifically wrote about in his many diary entries and letters.

So be sure to tear yourself away from the splendor of the Upper and Lower Gardens on your next visit to George Washington’s estate. Otherwise, you’ll miss a very special garden where Washington really allowed his creativity and initiative to shine!

Brittany Higgs

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4 Responses to “What’s Blooming in the Garden This Week?”

  1. see Says:

    Need to correct your spelling of vegetables from vegitables. Like your description of Washington’s insight into gardening & farming; he contributed a lot to future American farmers.

  2. Mount Vernon Contributor Says:

    Hi,
    Thank you for your comment, and it’s always great to know that people are reading the George Washington Wired Blog!

    Spelling in the eighteenth century was not regularized and many people, including George Washington, spelled phonetically or at least without regard to the strict rules that we follow today. Mount Vernon is committed to accuracy in all aspects of their operation and we therefore adhere to George Washington’s spelling when using quotations. We will be better about applying the term “sic” to instances where it is difficult to discern if the spelling is authentic or a typo.

    For your information, the complete quote is: “I would have what is called the Vineyard Inclosure cleansed of all the trash that is in it, and got in perfect order for fruit trees — Kitchen vegitables of various kinds, experimental grasses — & for other purposes.” George Washington wrote this to his plantation manager, Anthony Whiting on October 14, 1792. You can search The Papers of George Washington, and find many instances of George Washington’s passion for farming, from our research database page http://www.mountvernon.org/educational-resources/research/databases.

  3. Kathy Says:

    I was extremely interested in your comment, “The Boston Marrow squash and Green Hubbard are both heirloom plants Washington specifically wrote about in his many diary entries and letters,” and I would love to see those references. In researching these squashes, I am finding that they were not generally or commercially well known until the 1800s, so any/all earlier references to them would be particularly valuable—could you help?
    Thanks!

  4. pet apparel Says:

    Hi there, all is going sound here and ofcourse every one is
    sharing information, that’s in fact excellent, keep up writing.

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Kids holding George Washington Portrait

Mount Vernon recently invited K-12 schools nationwide to request framed portraits of George Washington to display in a respectful, prominent place.

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