Happy Birthday, Mr. Jefferson!

We’ve got a SPRING in our step, because…it’s our birthday, too! That’s right–a full year has passed since our groundbreaking at Hereford Residential College. What’s more, this June marks the two-year anniversary of the start of our efforts to establish a botanical garden on the grounds of the University of Virginia. We couldn’t be prouder of the collaborations, projects, friendships, and experiences that have grown from an idea to fulfill Thomas Jefferson’s vision for his University.

In the beginning, there was dirt. TJ Demo Garden, April 30, 2011.

And yet, the start of the spring season feels a bit like starting from square one. While we’ve plotted and planned, we can never be sure of what the season will hold. Thus, we must harness all that we have learned and approach the garden with optimism and renewed curiosity. Remnants of last year’s garden have been removed, enterprising plants that have spread beyond their bounds will soon be addressed, and a revamped planting plan will give new shape to the garden. Additions to this year’s palette includehops and wheat, and other extant specimens will be rotated throughout the beds.

Three new interns, Sharon, Yong, and Marissa, have joined us this semester. Fall interns Lily C. and Emily decided to stick around in order to experience the seasons. Our graduate student intern and co-designer of the TJDG, Chelsea, has taken on additional responsibilities as our garden coordinator. Over the winter, our team has been busily researching the plants in our collection so that we can assemble the first edition of our onsite guidebook. In other intern news, Emily wrote an article about the TJDG that was published in the second-ever issue of the student-run online magazine, College & Cook. We are proud of her work, and delighted to know that the University of Virginia is now among 21 other colleges and universities contributing to this new publication.

Our nascent partnership with the Thomas Jefferson Center for Historic Plants at Monticello, where Lily now serves as garden and outreach coordinator, has generated new opportunities for our students to interact with an extensive and important collection of plants. In February, we visited the CHP for a winter tour and to sow the first seeds of the year, calendula and onion. March brought us back to the CHP to check on the seedlings’ progress, sow additional seeds, and observe the changes that had occurred in a few short weeks. Unseasonably warm weather incited early blooms from the Jeffersonia plant, so-named to honor TJ’s knowledge in botany, zoology, and the sciences, and well-loved for its propensity to bloom on Jefferson’s birthday. We will return to the CHP on April 28th as participants in an open house celebrating heirloom vegetables and spring ornamentals. Be sure to stop by and say hello.

Looking for other opportunities to hang out with us? We are now hosting garden workdays on Saturdays from 10am-noon; gloves and tools will be provided. We are also seeking student interns for the summer season. Click here for more information about this opportunity and the application process.

Wishing you a productive growing season,

Rachael & Lily

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