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tv   Gardening at Monticello  CSPAN  April 29, 2021 9:06am-9:31am EDT

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watch american history tv this weekend on c-span3. next thomas jefferson portrayed by bill barker discusses his love of gardening from the west lawn of monticello. he talks about his planting methods, experiments and slave people who tended and maintained his gardens. the video is courtesy of thomas jefferson's monticello. >> well, good afternoon, my friends and my fellow citizens. what a pleasure to greet you once more here on our mountain here at monticello. what a pleasure to be held outdoors amongst the wonders of nature, particularly that we can stand together underneath this live oak, one of my favorite places next to the fish pond to welcome the bloom of the snowball that is the tree behind
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me. the purple iris and, of course, the pansies and the foxglove about to bloom. what a pleasant occasion. and particularly to welcome our friend, mr. steve light, to be with us again to welcome your questions forward. so, without any further comment, i have a few moments before i continue my walk through the garden and i think gardens is a most subject to attend to today. i asked for the first question, mr. light, if you will. >> yes, thank you president jefferson. we have a number of questions for you today relating to the theme of gardening. the first question is, however always loved gardening? >> oh, you ask me if i have always loved gardening? well, i can assure you, you cannot be born in the wilderness without an early, early love of all of nature's wonders. the great abundance that our creator has provided us and to
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realize that we merely have to cut out what pleases us and to plant accordingly. do you know i served 40 years in public service and yet i've often thought if heaven had given me a position to my great delight, it would have been upon a small spot of ground well waterered and near a good market for the produce. gardening is one of my greatest delights and the cultivation of the soil, i think the most noble vocation of man. your next question, mr. light? >> we've been told that you keep some detailed records about your gardening adventures. >> you know about some of my jottings, yes, i do have a number of journals and diaries in a garden book, a farm book, my weather accounts and the account of rainfall. i was looking at some of them the other day and i realized
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that i commenced these jottings when i was only 23 years of age. i was not yet living here on our mountain. i was living about 2 1/2 miles to the northeast. and then 17 and 66 i first recorded at the end of march the bloom, if you will, of the purple tree. a short time later, the first few weeks of april, near to my birthday, the bloom of the narsisis. so beautiful. yes, i continue to do so and i continue to take the observations of weather to provide for the temperature at least three times a day. i take the temperatures first at the coolest time of day. that is just before sunrise. then i take the temperature a
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the sun's height and usually at the warmest time of day. some consider it 3:00, others consider 4. i asked them why and they tell me, well, it's because of a daylight savings. i have no idea what they are referring to. but either 3:00 or 4:00 is about the warmest time of the day. a few moments ago, i recorded the temperature at 54 degrees on the farenheit scale early this morning before sunrise, it was 41. so i shall wait until later in the afternoon to see where the day will lead us. your next question, mr. light? >> we had a question from benjamin asking, what your favorite plant was. >> my favorite plant. oh. you ask me, benjamin, something that i don't think i can give you an immediate or ready answer so much of nature's wonders are my favorite. my favorite plants and flowers.
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i continue to enjoy the holly hock. i enjoy the snowball bush that you see behind me. the foxglove. it may be used medicinally to slow down rapid heartbeats. benjamin, i wish i had known that during my younger years when i was first courting. your next question. >> we have a question from lin asking if there's anything that you tried to grow at monticello but couldn't because of the climate. >> lynn, you're asking me of my many failures in the garden. i say yes, many, but, lynn, know this. i always try to plant an overabundance, a great variety of flowers and plants and the reason is because i know there will be a failure. but then rest assured, we'll
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always have successes. i'm afraid i have failed, if you will, with the pear. i've failed with the plum. failed with almonds, with apricots. i have never been successful cultivating olive trees and then, of course, there is wine. now, i speak of the foreign vines. that has remained a great failure. but we need not pursue that any further. your next question. >> we've had some people wondering about your attempts to make wine. >> i said we need not pursue my attempts at cultivating wine. mr. light, if you ask me about my efforts, i can assure you this, i continue to cultivate wine. it is the foreign vines that have been the failure. our native vines, they continue to flourish as they have from
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time, they are the ones i refer to as the musket grapes. i was introduced to foreign wine at one of our formal governors in willamsburg and are i went five delightful years in france. but my effort began in 1774. i met an italian nobleman. matsay. his real name is mazzi. he had come to the colony of virginia with letters of introduction from dr. benjamin franklin. he was accompanied by ten of his own countrymen. they refer to themselves as the wine company, to sell shares for
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the cultivation of pinot noir, but i went further, i invited him to visit here in the realms and as my daughter says, we started out before sunrise that i might introduce him to the terrain. and by the time we returned near sunset, she said that the two of us had great smiles on our face. she was certain that a deal had been made and it was. i gifted him with about 150 acres nearby which he proceeded to refer to as colly farm which means small hill. is that rather quaint next to monticello, the small mountain. that's where he began to cultivate the foreign vines. but unfortunately, my fellow citizens, they never rooted
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properly. there appears to be something in the soil here that prohibits their rooting. and that's a lament because i think the composition of our soil, the degree of our climate here, the altitude, precipitation is just as good as anything you can find throughout the kingdoms of europe to cultivate wine. but until wine becomes a necessity here in our nation, i doubt it will ever be successful. here in virginia, the labor, the efforts of productivity and cultivation must be put to three particular foremost cash crops. you know what they are, tobacco, tobacco, tobacco, in that order. so until we relieve ourselves from that, i doubt we will ever be successful in wine culture. mr. light, your next question, if you will. >> president jefferson, angela asks us, what plants lewis and
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clark sent you back during their great expedition. >> oh, my. angela, i have given instructions to them not only to recall the confluences of waterways into the great missouri, not only to be make friends with the many natives that we had not known of before, but also to make jottings of the composition of the soil, the degree of climate and as well that the flora and fauna that they encountered. they encountered well over 150 variety of flora. 175 variety of animal life as well. and they sent me some great wonders. i delighted in receiving the elk horn flower which i sent to a horticulturist in germantown. he almost immediately put it to sale.
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i also received wild salsafy. i like the sweet scented cranberries that were sent and also as well the prairie flower. the prairie flower, if you will, i sent up to mr. mcmahon and he quickly referred to it as clarksia named on behalf of my good friend and cocommander of that expedition, william clark. these are a few of the many, many plants. mind you, lewis and clark also sent me many, many dried plants that they had sewn into pages and books and i immediately sent those plants and seeds accordingly to professor smith
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barton at the university of pennsylvania. captain lewis studied with him before embarking on that expedition. they became useful for further study. i always believed that botany is foremost amongst the sciences. your next question, mr. light? >> well, mr. jefferson, it's clear that you have extensive gardens here. body asks, how many plants do you have in the garden? >> i would reckon to say, if you're speaking of flowers, upwards of 330 varieties. of vegetables, much near the same. my vegetables i cultivate long 1,000 foot of garden divided into 24 sections in which i cultivate various vegetables.
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to state them precisely, i dare say we will be here at the same spot through next week. next question. >> with such extensive flower and vegetable gardens, who maintains and creates the gardens here? >> you ask me who maintains all of this beauty that surrounds us. well, i know distinctly and properly. my people, the enslaved. all of what you see could not have been accomplished without that i shall attentions, without their aid, without their artistry. i may have come up with some ideas and many of them, of course, i came to mind when i was in france and went through england and visited gardens. but, no, to be able to plant them and to manifest them has been accomplished by my fond gardeners such as gardener john,
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veteran aides such as george granger and his son, george granger the younger, and warmly hughes. george granger came to me when i was younger. i purchased him that he might thereby to my wife's liking provide a family with ursula, a part of my wife's property. and so it was that the grangers had several children that became artisans. in fact, isaac became a tinsmith here. they were a great help for 25 years in preparing our gardens at monticello. but george, his wife ursula, and his son, george the younger, all three passed away in 1799. i referred to wormly hughes. he was the grandson of elizabeth hemmings. he was born just before the
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british came to catch me here at monticello. he grew up to mary a granddaughter of the grangers i just referred to. and it was -- it was the grangers as well, the hughes that provided not only my gardens here but the vegetable gardens below. and mr. hughes came up to washington city, along with his wife ursula. ursula, if you will, was a cook at the president's house. and it was there that wormly and his wife began their family. do you know they had 13 children. and the very first of their children, a young boy, was born in the president's house during my first administration. the first child born in the president's house was a hughes.
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wormly and ursula's child. oh, i depend on wormly hughes. he's the most trustful, i believe, of my servants. thank you for bringing them to mind. i do not know what i would do without them. your next question. >> president jefferson, we have a question from sarah asking if you brought seeds back from europe. >> did i bring seeds back from europe? i certainly did. i brought many seeds that i thought would be useful here, particularly of the seed kale. i became acquainted with the seed kale there along the shores of the ocean in great britain. it is a most tasty leaf and vegetable. i brought seeds back that i could send to mr. mcmahon. i made reference to him earlier, bernard mcmahon, mr. william
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prince, our horticulturalist in new york to be distributed to the agricultural society in south carolina. i think of one particular seed and that is the rice. i became very familiar with the desire of the agricultural society in south carolina to pursue acquiring a rice. they had heard about this as being a great product of the milan. during my five years as administer to france, i found an opportunity to venture into the italys. i went down to the riviera, the south of france, i traveled across eastwood and then took three days on a borough to travel across the alps. i traveled up and finally to milan and there i discovered the
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rice that was of interest to south carolina was the -- well, the great product of that area. i also understood that contracts for purchase and further negotiations would be necessary before we could procure it. i was our ambassador to france and so i realized of necessity to satisfy south carolina that i would have to resort to walking into the rice fields and grabbing handfuls of that opulent rice and sewing it up into my coattails. i sailed back to france and finally sent that rice to south
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carolina. do you know if i had been found for smuggling that rice, the sentence would have been death by hanging. so i apologize to share that story with you, but i will go to any end to satisfy our country with a new plant. i think it's the most important thing anyone can do for their nation is to introduce a new plant. half an hour next question, mr. light? >> president jefferson, we had a number of questions about things that you like to eat. in fact, we had a question about whether or not it was all vegetables on your plate and other questions asking if you liked tomatoes. would you care to comment on what you serve for dinner? >> you ask me amongst all things in the gardens what are my favorite vegetables, what do i delight to provide of the table, whether i'm found of tomatoes. i like to say that i'm very much
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in favor of fruits and roots and leaves. of the fruits, i do consider the tomatoes. and beans. and, yes, i enjoy the tomatoes to be prepared in the garden. that's a course that i serve at the table here at monticello. i understand it's called a salad course. when i was growing up, we knew nothing of a salad course. it was in france that i became acquainted with it. i've enjoyed ever since i have returned here to provide stuffs of the garden as a course in the meal. and tomatoes are used extensively. of the roots i enjoy carrots and beets and of the leaves, i enjoy lettuce and cabbages. i purchase most of my cabbages from the enslaved families here upon my farms. they enjoy to cultivate it in their own gardens and i enjoy to procure it from them for a
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price. your next question. >> one last question, president jefferson. this one comes from robin who asks if you ever have contests about growing vegetables with your neighbors? >> oh, robin, you ask if i have contests amongst my neighbors who might grow one vegetable before the other or to introduce one to another and like in return. it's become well known in the vicinity of charlottesville that mr. george of farming ton and i have contests as to who may cultivate the first batch of peas. do you know that they often may rise at the end of february, let alone during the first weeks of march. and whoever is the most successful, lets it known throughout the community that they have the first batch of peas to provide at the table and everyone is welcome to come enjoy those peas at that
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particular home. so we over several years have been one the more successful than the other and enjoyed a meal. this year, i was happen to see the very first peas rise up at the end of february. this has been a most magnificent spring. and i was about to let it be known until my daughter informed me, well, mr. george divers of farmington said he had just witnessed the first patch of peas to sprout. and i thought for a moment and decided, no, i will not make any statement publicly. because we can rest assured of having a very delicious meal at farmington. well, i thank you, mr. light. i thank all of you for this opportunity. it was short that we could gather together again here upon our mountain. i think i will continue on my walk and i look forward and all
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of you may accompany me and all of us may be together i hope rightfully soon. i will tell you this, as i wrote to mr. charles wilson peel in philadelphia, i continue to grow older. yes, an older man. but i know i'll ever remain a young gardener. what a great pleasure and a great hope that is to better the better acquainted with the beauty and the rhythms of nature. until next time we meet, perhaps next week at this very same time, i remain your humble and obedient servant, thomas jefferson. god speed. american history tv on c-span3. exploring the people and events that tell the american story. every weekend. saturday at 8:00 a.m. eastern, american history tv and washington journal host a live study session for high school
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students preparing to take the u.s. advance placement history exam with jason stacey and matthew ellington co-authors of fabric of a nation. and live sunday at 9:00 a.m. on american history tv and washington journal, we'll look back 50 years on the spring of 1971 when tens of thousands of anti-vietnam war protestors converged on washington, d.c., with investigate journalist, lawrence roberts, author of "may day 1971." exploring the american story. watch american history tv this weekend on c-span3. on this thursday morning, intelligence agency leaders are testifying on current global threats. we'll show you as much of the senate armed services committee hearing as we can until they go into closed session. that should be in less than an hour or so. live coverage here on c-span3.

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