The Thomas Jefferson Parkway Arboretum was designed to showcase trees and shrubs native to Albemarle County, Virginia. Over the course of his lifetime, Thomas Jefferson was an enthusiastic proponent of America's native flora, and he documented planting many indigenous species at Monticello. Though the Parkway Arboretum is not based specifically on any of Jefferson's landscape plans, it is inspired by Jefferson's curiosity for his native surroundings, which he so carefully observed and enthusiastically shared with fellow naturalists.

Over 130 species of trees and shrubs grow in a wide range of habitats in Albemarle County, which stretches from the peaks of the Blue Ridge Mountains in the west to the rolling Piedmont in the east. The species are grouped into distinct areas, or "rooms", according to aesthetic, environmental or natural qualities, rather than by scientific classification. For instance, trees and shrubs that exhibit exceptional fall color have been planted together. Another area has been dedicated to species that display conspicuous flowers in spring. Trees and shrubs that yield edible or useful byproducts, such as fruits and nuts, have also been collected in their own room. In addition to these (and other) rooms, plans have been laid for a small amphitheater that will serve as an outdoor classroom, and for a children's garden.