The Thomas Jefferson Demonstration Garden, located at the University of Virginia’s Hereford Residential College, is a teaching garden made up of Jefferson-documented “useful” plants, including varieties used for the production of food, medicine, textiles, dyes, and other materials that sustain and enhance life. Our mission is to teach people about the continued importance of plants.
Before his death in 1826, Jefferson wrote of his intentions to build a botanical garden on the edge of his Academical Village and downslope from the Anatomical Theatre (demolished in 1939). The educational garden would have been a compelling addition to Jefferson’s liberal arts campus and curriculum, providing professors and students with a forum for learning how to become self-sustaining—an important component in the foundation of an independent nation. We aim to realize Jefferson’s vision by providing a plant collection for botanical study on University grounds, beginning with a pilot project that demonstrates how a botanical garden can enrich the student experience here at UVa.
Locating the Thomas Jefferson Demonstration Garden at Hereford, a community that is home to both students and faculty, gives new life to Jefferson’s shared-learning approach and revitalizes the connection between Hereford and the Academical Village. The garden allows for hands-on teacher/student collaboration that encourages intellectual growth and enhances the physical characteristics of Hereford Residential College, all the while adhering to Hereford’s initiative to explore what it means to live responsibly as a sustainably-minded community.
Education is a top priority of the TJ Demo Garden, and several opportunities for learning have already taken shape in the garden. The garden’s design was conceived by two graduate students in the School of Architecture, and our first seeds were sown by students participating in a Hereford short course, “Gardening in Winter.” An internship program allows students to explore gardening, garden interpretation, and stewardship, and student writing fills the pages of this blog. Our goal is to continue to develop garden-based courses, workshops, and programs that emphasize the importance of plants and their benefit to the University and the greater Charlottesville community.