It’s summer. I’m standing in George Washington’s garden. It’s at his house in Virginia. It’s a place called Mount Vernon. The garden today is like it was when he lived here. Researchers restored it.
They learned about the past by studying primary sources. These are things that were created at the time they are studying. In this case, nature was their primary source.
The General’s Garden
Writing can tell us a lot about the past, but not everything. Washington’s garden diary is a good artifact to start with. From the diary we know that there were four gardens.
The upper garden was filled with flowers and trees. Washington entertained his guests here.
Washington added vegetables to each planting bed in the upper garden.
Boxwood bushes were cut into fancy shapes in the upper garden.
The lower garden was just for food. Only fruits and vegetables grew here.
Another garden was a laboratory. Washington tested different plants there. He wanted to see how well they could grow in Virginia’s soil.
The fourth garden was a fruit garden. He wanted to have a vineyard. But grapes did not grow well on his land.
Washington did not tend to these gardens alone. Enslaved people tended the land for him. They were able to read and write. They kept lists and made drawings of what was planted. Today, researchers look at these sources. They also look at the soil itself.
Food crops grew in the lower garden.
In a letter from 1798, a friend sent Washington a few scarlet alpine strawberry seeds.