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Jefferson planted this brilliant summer-blooming wildflower in an oval bed in 1807. Although the seed came from Bernard McMahon in Philadelphia, the Cardinal Flower grows along the streams on the lower parts of Monticello Mountain. It was in McMahon's book that American gardeners were first urged to search the local woodlands and fields for "the various beautiful ornaments with which nature has profusely decorated them." Wildflowers are particularly suited for the mid and late summer when American gardens "are almost destitute of bloom" while the nearby meadow can be a waving tapestry of color. "Is it because they are indigenous that we should reject them?" asked McMahon. "What can be more beautiful than our Lobelias, Orchis, Asclepia, and Asters . . ."
From Thomas Jefferson's Flower Garden at Monticello by Edward M. Betts.