After the particularly challenging winter of 2009-10, which forced Monticello to close for nearly a week in February, we are looking forward to a busy, exciting year ahead at the CHP. The new seedlings are germinating rapidly in the greenhouse, promising a fresh and varied selection of historic plants for our spring and fall mail orders as well as our new year-round garden shop at the Thomas Jefferson Visitor Center and Smith Education Center. One plant that we are featuring is Blue False Indigo, Baptisia australis, also listed as the plant of the year by the Perennial Plant Association. A native North American plant, it was grown in early American gardens as a blue dye substitute for the expensive true indigo.
While frustrating, yet beautiful, the snow has provided protection for our collection of noisette, China, and musk roses in the Léonie Bell Garden. Although not in any of those classes of roses, the single moss rose, Rosa centifolia var.muscosa -€˜Simplex', is planted in this garden. A gift from Dawn Anderson in North Carolina, I feel that Mrs. Bell would be proud to preserve such a rare rose amongst some of the special roses she rescued from eminent extinction.
Another garden of historic plants, the German or bearded iris, is celebrating its fifteenth year here at Tufton. Anner Whitehead from Richmond, Virginia is one of this country's noted authorities on the genus Iris, and has been instrumental in cataloguing and curating this impressive collection of cultivars, as well as donating many of the rhizomes and even planting and weeding them. Anner will be a featured speaker at this year's Annual Open House at Tufton Farm on Saturday, May 22. Reverend Douglas Seidel from Emmaus, Pennsylvania, will return to present an illustrated -lecture on the history and influence of the China rose, as well as preside over our traditional "Antique Rose Show," where we attempt to identify any "found" roses you may bring. We will have a selection of roses, irises and other historic plants for sale. The day will conclude with something new, a wine tasting in the garden, where our guests can stay and enjoy the wine and roses in the cool of the evening.
This year we plan to build stone walls for a raised garden for our Dianthus collection. Over the years we have lost many varieties to our resident rabbit population. We hope to alleviate the problem by constructing this new garden. Meanwhile, we are searching for sources to replace many lost cultivars. Anyone wishing to contribute, monetarily, to any of the special projects at the Thomas Jefferson Center for Historic Plants, may do so by designating your gift as such.
Throughout the year a number of the ever-popular Saturdays in the Garden lectures and workshops will be held at the CHP. A new SIG offering this year will be a workshop on herbaceous plant propagation by assistant nursery manager, Brian Hartsock, who recently joined the CHP staff. Check online at www.monticello.org for listings. Also, on Friday, September 10, we will host our seventh biennial Historic Plants Symposium here at the Tufton nursery and CHP headquarters. This year's theme will be, "Come to Table&—Historic Plants in the Kitchen." This seminar will focus on the garden's harvest essential in early American recipes from a regional perspective. Speakers include New England food historian Sandy Oliver; heirloom vegetable collector and author William Woys Weaver; and John Martin "Hoppin' John" Taylor, author and connoisseur on Charleston foodways and Lowcountry cuisine. Also on the program will be Monticello's African-American Research Historian, Dr. Leni Sorensen, who will discuss and demonstrate African-American cooking, and Peter Hatch, Director of Gardens and Grounds, with an in-depth look at Thomas Jefferson's vegetable garden and kitchen.
This event will be followed on Saturday, September 11 by the third Annual Heritage Harvest Festival, to be held this year for the first time on the grounds at Monticello. The new venue will enable Monticello to showcase Thomas Jefferson's gardens more vividly, and to feature the wealth of our interpretation programs in not just gardening, but natural history, foodways, and the plantation community. It highlights the efforts of nonprofit organizations promoting organic gardening, the preservation of traditional agriculture, and regional food; and provides an array of food vendors and free samples. The festival also includes tastings, informative workshops, and talks by authorities such as William Woys Weaver, Tom Burford, Barbara Pleasants, Barbara Melera, and Jeanine Davis. New speakers this year include George DeVault with the Seed Savers Exchange in Iowa, and Sharon Astyk, author of the Jefferson inspired, A Nation of Farmers.
We look forward to seeing you at any or all of these events, and deeply appreciate your support and interest in helping preserve and disseminate historic plants.
Thomas Jefferson Center for Historic Plants