Well the fluffy one was, regretfully in D.C. again this last week. But I noticed still had time left on my two year membership to Mount Vernon so decided to amble over and have a stroll through the grounds. Of course my favorite area is the lower garden. I am fascinated by the hollowed out old overgrown stepover espaliers.
That aside, I was wondering is anyone every took the time to actually measure the distance between the scaffolds on the espaliers on the east wall of the lower garden? Here is a photo. I tried to guess based in the number of bricks between the scaffolds but I figured one of you may actually know.
Cool, I wonder how old those stopovers are? They are not growing so much per year so they could be very old. I didn’t know there were any fruit trees there or I would have dragged my crew down there a long time ago … its only an hour away from me.
To answer the questions you posed, the lower garden is the one I Referenced with the photos and is not actually Washington’s garden as much as it is a Colonial Revival garden and dates circa 1938 (see footnote #1). when it was created by the Mount Vernon Ladies’ Association(see footnote #2). Hence it is not historically accurate but is a romanticized version of a kitchen garden that likely never was. So the hollowed out stepovers date circa 1938. Several new ones are being planted as many are succumbing to the ravages of time.
I should point out there are 4 distinct gardens at Mount Vernon. The upper garden was changed in purpose during Washington’s lifetime from a full production garden to combination pleasure and production garden (see footnote #3). It has been made over a couple of times, the latest restoration is accurate in terms of physical layout due to the vast amount of archeological work that was done on the site (see footnote #4). The plants in use are attempts to be accurate, but things like the box hedges are modern varieties with appropriate disease resistance.
The Fruit Garden and Nursery and Botanical Garden are likely very similar to what was there in Washington’s time(see footnote #5).
In regard to the new trees that are being planted, that is a reference to the orchard area, in which they are attempting to replace the trees with ones that are more historically accurate.
So in short, if you visit Mount Vernon, you will find the Upper Garden, Fruit Garden and Nursery, and Botanical Garden akin to stepping back into Washington’s time, but the very interesting Lower Garden to be a fanciful invention of a thing that never existed.
#2 The Mount Vernon Ladies’ Association was formed by a group of women who came together and arranged the funding to purchase and preserve Mount Vernon for future generations. For the female power movement types they represent a fascinating group of women to study. Founded in 1853 by Ann Pamela Cunningham, The Mount Vernon Ladies’ Association is the oldest national historic preservation organization in our nation.
#3 Washington was very insistent that even his pleasure grounds were practical to a great extent. So production was achieved by simply bordering the crops with flowers.
#4 During archeological excavation they were able to uncover the remnants of the walks beds and were surprised to find they were much larger than they originally presume. They restored them to their original form.
#5 Fruit Garden and Nursery originally began as a vineyard which ultimately failed. Hence it represents the area’s cultivation post vineyard.