Designing the Thomas Jefferson Demonstration Garden

Chelsea DeWitt and Erica Thatcher here! Over the course of this semester, we (two graduate students in the landscape architecture program at the UVa School of Architecture), have been working with Lily Fox-Bruguiere, Rachael Dealy Salisbury, and Professor Nancy Takahashi to create the design for the Thomas Jefferson Demonstration Garden.

Conceptually, the Thomas Jefferson Demonstration Garden is both an education garden as well as a place of gathering, interaction and delight. It is a place of learning for students, faculty and community members, and will be a garden of evolving beauty and form. The garden will actively change with the seasons, expressing the stages of growth of the plants living within and the cycles of management required, and historically practiced, for continued growth and yield.

The design for the Thomas Jefferson Demonstration Garden went through numerous iterations before arriving at the final bed and planting plan that is shown here.

A list of appropriately useful and historic plants was provided to us by Lily, as a result of her research and thesis work, An Uncultivated Legacy: Jefferson’s Botanical Garden at the University of Virginia. We then researched the plants and determined which would be incorporated into the design and how. The final design was informed by traditional 17th, 18th, and 19th century gardens, as well as current botanic gardens, particularly those that look to highlight specific plant collections through the construction of garden rooms. The context of the garden site, located at the western edge of Hereford Residential College also influenced and shaped the design.

The location and orientation of the existing greenhouse and the irregular shape of the parcel provided the organizing axes that both structured the beds and organized the experiential rooms located within the garden. Two particular rooms that we are very excited about are the ‘Peanut Gallery’ and the ‘Marshmallow Alcove’, which will provide full immersion and engagement with these useful and beautiful plants.

Marshmallow (Althaea officinalis)

In addition to the creation of distinct interior garden rooms, we also wanted the garden as a whole to feel like a distinct space. To distinguish the garden from its surroundings, we decided to enclose the garden in a hedge of cotton plants. The form, texture, and
particularly tactile boll will both define the edges of the space and provide a unique, educational experience for visitors.

Cotton (Gossypian hisutum)
Photo by Chelsea Dewitt

The collection of plants in the first season of the TJ Demo Garden will include both familiar and lesser known vegetables, field and cover crops, wild herbs, garden herbs, flowers, and shrubs. Wherever possible, plants of the same family or genus will be planted adjacent to one another in order to encourage visitors to compare shared and differing botanical features that exist within specific plant families or genera.

Another integral component of the design are the seating and gathering spaces that have been incorporated into the design in a variety of ways. The entrance path, partially defined by both a bench and educational signage, creates a space for larger groups to gather while a more intimate seating area is created within the Marshmallow Alcove, providing a more individual experience. Finally, a sheltered summer retreat is located northeast of the greenhouse and could potentially accommodate a small group. Each of these gathering or seating spaces was designed to provide variety and choice within the garden, allowing visitors to occupy different areas according to their interests, needs, and conditions created by different times of year.

We are excited to see how the garden takes shape over the course of the year!

Chelsea DeWitt, Master of Landscape Architecture & Master of Urban & Environmental Planning candidate, ’13

Erica Thatcher, Master of Landscape Architecture candidate, ’11

This entry was posted in Plans and Assessments, Uncategorized, Workshops and Classes. Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to Designing the Thomas Jefferson Demonstration Garden

  1. Pingback: Garden Journal: Week of 8/1 | Thomas Jefferson Demonstration Garden

  2. Bee says:

    Very, very lovely! Thank you for sharing this beautiful garden plan.

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