Now let’s tour Jefferson’s Monticello Flower Walk

Flower Walk at Monticello

Thomas Jefferson built a grand manor which he named Monticello which means hillock or little mountain in Italian. It was the mountain of his youth and he had inherited it from his father. There is a larger mountain, Montalto or high mountain,just beyond and above the estate.

Joseph's Coat and Heliotrope at Monticello

Jefferson had ornamental and useful plants. We’ll talk about his vegetable garden and orchards in another post. His flower beds lined the perimeter of his front lawn. He had visited English gardens in the late 1700’s and was inspired by their nonconforming appearance. He liked the winding paths and flowing nature which invited you to continue on exploring the blooms in season.

Flower Walk at Monticello

He used his flower beds as a botanical lab to try new varieties that would be useful in Virginia. He and his groundskeeper kept meticulous notes. The flower beds were almost solely attended to by his daughter and grand daughters. Jefferson traveled a great deal and once wrote home to tell them how a new garden was to be planted. He said the present gardens would not hold the vast amount of varieties they wished to plant. So they created the winding flower walk and several oval beds between the walk and the external perimeter of the lawn.

Heliotrope at Monticello

Earlier pictures of Monticello do not show a manicured lawn as is the case today. It was a natural lawn and at times very overgrown. It is suspected that it was cut with long knives about twice a summer. So I pictured it as more of a meadow like scene with flowers of all sorts and varieties growing around the edges.

Ageratum, Love Lies Bleeding, Joseph's Coat at Monticello

The gardens were also used a seasonal calendar. The children would run out daily in the Spring so they could be the first to report the bulbs pushing out of the soil. Each season had a display of beautiful flowers and textures. You always knew what season it was by glancing at the garden. This was important to Jefferson. He concentrated on always knowing what time it was and encouraged something productive going on at all times.

Love Lies Bleeding

Flower Walk Monticello

Pink Spikes Celosia

Pink Spikes Celosia

He did not believe in idle minds or bodies. He also had a clock on his front portico and it would loudly chime out the time of day so the workers knew where they needed to be at that particular hour.

Gomphrena Monticello

Gomphrena at Monticello

So it was in the summer of 1808, the garden walk began. Several times throughout that year, parcels would arrive which contained interesting and exotic plants. Jefferson’s daughters and grandchildren would anxiously open the packages and wonder at the foreign names and descriptions.

Prince's Feather Polygonum orientale

Prince's Feather Polygonum orientale

Jefferson kept detailed written observations of bloom times and fruit and flowering seasons. He wrote about pests and fertilization methods. He was a very accomplished man. From the website

(Born April 13, 1743, at Shadwell, Virginia; died July 4, 1826, Monticello) Thomas Jefferson — author of the Declaration of Independence and the Statute of Virginia for Religious Freedom, third president of the United States, and founder of the University of Virginia — voiced the aspirations of a new America as no other individual of his era. As public official, historian, philosopher, and plantation owner, he served his country for over five decades. Notice that he died on July 4th!

Monarch Caterpillar at Monticello

Bloodflower Asclepias curassavica

Jefferson was such a visionary personality and we owe much to his purchase of the Louisiana Purchase which acquired the land between Virginia and Colorado! Jefferson was a voracious reader and sold his books to the government which started The Library of Congress. His last great service to his country was the establishment of The University of Virginia. He believed that everyone should be allowed to learn and develop their goals in life.

Flower Walk Monticello

He did not manage his money well and upon his death at age 83, he died almost penniless. He had acquired huge debts.

Monticello Gardens

The gardens were restored and donated in 1940 to Monticello by the Garden Club of Virginia. You can purchase seeds from the gardens at the Monticello online Shop.

Enlarge the photos for better viewing and quality. If you hover over a picture with your mouse, it will give the name of the plant. You are free to use my photos but if you return often and use them for multiple projects, then please consider a donation at

14 Comments Add yours

  1. Betty Eshenou says:

    We visited there when our kids were little. I recognized gomphrena, lantana, but what are the tall pink spikes(lupine?)the fuschia colored plant that has blooms that hang down, (chenile plant?)There’s also an unusual plant that looks like an multi-colored poinsettia plant. Maybe you can go through and name some of them. My kids noticed how short Jefferon’s bed was. He must have been a short man yet he always looks tall in photos of the signing of the Declaration of Independence. (Hope I’ve got my history right!)Did you see the Statler Brothers in Staunton while you were there? That looks like a town we’d like to visit sometime. Any good restaurants? Do the streets roll up early? LOL! The architecture of some of those buildings are fantastic and everything looked like it was maintained so well and with a lot of pride. Thanks for sharing all with us.
    I’ve got family visiting for weekend and will come back and answer you in more detail soon. You can hover your mouse over the pictures and the name of the plant will show–hope that helps.

    Ok, I’m back. I don’t know about the night life. We are not wild folks and Mr D goes to bed with the chickens. I did see a lot of good restaurants in town but we ate close to my son’s place cause we were on the go. We had Chili’s good food and then a steak place one night that I don’t remember the name. But downtown has a lot of quaint places.

    We did drive by the Statler brother’s house/museum but didn’t have time to stop. See, there is so much to do in that town that it takes more than one visit. Take a look at the link for the Staunton folks who chimed in here. They have some informative links to their sites. I enjoyed Marney Gibbs link and her Staunton Guided Tours site. Check it out.


  2. For any who haven’t visited Monticello, YOU MUST GO! I finally visited this year on June 29th, which was a PERFECT day weather-wise for mid-summer in the south – moderate temps AND low humidity. Since I’ve returned, all I did for awhile was eat/sleep/drink Thomas Jefferson! I cannot EVEN begin to embrace this man – the multi-faceted dreamer/thinker/doer this man was! Upon a visit, you will learn that Monticello wasn’t Jefferson’s only ‘farm’…he actually ran several (via horseback) that were nearby in the surrounding area. My next to-do is to visit Poplar Forest which is do-able for me, as I live (fairly nearby) in Washington County, Maryland (about 3 hours away).

    Go! Make it a must-see on your list! Plan to linger and spend the day. It’s absolutely wonderful!



  3. Great photo essay as they say.

    That Amaranthus looks lovely as does the Polygonum


  4. teresa says:

    Very informative post. I really enjoyed reading it. The love lies bleeding was a plant my mother in law had and just loved because it was so different. Thomas Jefferson sounds like quite a visionary. It is nice knowing that gardens were a priority for him. It is very cool that you can get those seeds. Thanks for a fun post to read.


  5. Hi Flowergardengirl! Thank you for visiting me tonight. I cannot believe you started a Rhododendron from a cutting! I’ve never done that – didn’t know you could. Hmmmm. Say, I understand from your comment that you are, with this cutting?, beginning memories in your garden. Good job! 🙂


  6. Janet says:

    You have really made the ‘want to go’ to Monticello greater!


  7. jgh says:

    How interesting that Jefferson didn’t have a lawn – it makes me wonder when lawns became “fashionable” or if he was ahead of his time. I’d love to have a look at those notes he took – I wonder if they are any fun? Looks like you picked a gorgeous day to be there. Thanks for sharing!


  8. Anna, thank you for taking me to Monticello with you, I have always wanted to visit. I found it very interesting how Jefferson used his garden as a seasonal calendar. I personally, think that it is very important to enjoy the seasons as they are. I just wrote a post about that very thing. Proven Winners has released a reblooming lilac “Bloomerang”, I am sure that Thomas Jefferson would be very confused (and probably horrified) by it.


  9. bangchik says:

    Such a nice tour and a post to share and remember. Something we cant possibly have, the most is one or two of each… with the constraint of space, but a tour like this will definitely stimulate the enthusiasm and love towards plants and flowers. Thanks for sharing… ~bangchik


  10. Les says:

    I am glad you got to see one of the pillars of Va. history, I love going there. Mr. Jefferson’s vegetable garden makes me forget I ever saw a flower. I love your shot of the Celosia with the house in the background.


  11. nancybond says:

    Oh my, what a wonderful property. And that mansion. Makes one sigh. 🙂 Very enjoyable post, Anna, as always.


  12. fairegarden says:

    Just lovely Anna! Monticello is such a treasure and TJ was an amazing individual. We owe him much. Those celosias caught my eye too when we visited, many years ago. Buying seeds from there is an inexpensive and exciting way to have a little bit of history in our gardens.


  13. Fantastic! What a beautiful and educational post. Gorgeous gardens. Gotta love that Jefferson. He was an American hero. A true Renaissance man, after the Renaissance, contributing so much to our national point of view.


  14. Jules says:

    Very interesting post. Hopefully I will get to visit one day. I never thought about how different things must of looked before lawn mowers. Hmmm….


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