Monday seemed to come and go this week with little recognition that we celebrated the past leaders of our country. Yes, many folks had the day off and a few advertisements commemorated this holiday with special sales, but where was the history of these men and what transpired during their respective terms? My passion for gardening wondered what, if anything, did they contribute to nature and gardening?
The history of who they were as gardeners intrigued me and it begged for further study. It seems the list of presidents exposed to getting their hands dirty due to ranch life extends to well over 16 men! Some of these presidents were born into this type of life. They learned how to tend to gardens at an early age. Others came to appreciate all types of nature at a later time in their lives.
History may have distorted some truths about our president’s past. We have since erroneously learned that our first president did not chop down a cherry tree, but did you know George Washington implemented crop rotation long before it was used as a means as good garden practices to eliminate soil nutrient depletion?
Years ago in my landscape architect classes, I learned that our third president of the United States, Thomas Jefferson was instrumental for recording his knowledge in landscape design. He is also recognized as a horticulturist, scientist, farmer and architect. His garden estate at Monticello is a living tribute to his life- long passion of gardening. It would be difficult for any of us to compete with his recorded plantings of 330 varieties of vegetables and 170 varieties of fruits thriving at this location!
My investigation found more lurking within the backgrounds of other past presidents that contributed to the world of gardening. John Quincy Adams, our sixth president also played a huge role in developing the White House gardens that were destroyed in the War of 1812. The gardens laid fallow until he took office in 1827. Drainage and grading were existing issues that he soon addressed and rectified before developing the gardens. Though he was raised to be a statesman, botany became his passion. He was frequently found exploring nearby woods in search of acorns of specimen oak trees. He would then cultivate and plant the saplings within the White House gardens. He was influential in establishing and promoting the Smithsonian Institute with an emphasis on silviculture (the growing and cultivation of trees). He continued to collect over 700 species of trees from around the world during his presidential stay. His love of gardening didn’t end there as he continued to develop and grow a beautiful landscape estate at his home in Quincy, MA. that remains to this day.
John Quincy Adam’s passion for nature was not lost to Theodore Roosevelt some 70 plus years later. Teddy signed legislation establishing five parks as well as bird sanctuaries. game refuge areas, nationals monuments and millions of acres of national forest areas.
He is the president responsible for attaining the protection of national forests and the development of good forest management practices. None of his passion was lost to his cousin. As a child, FDR rode horses though Hyde Park with his older cousin Teddy where he learned to appreciate the beauty of nature at an early age. As 32nd president, he also worked to further the good of nature.
I would be remiss if I failed to mention that Abraham Lincoln grew up on several farms, split rails and as our 16th President founded the Department of Agriculture, established Land Grants as well as the Homestead Act. As a tribute, there is a beautiful red hybrid tea rose named Mr. Lincoln that many of us may have in our gardens today!
This blog cannot go into all the details about these men. Many passed down legacies that we embrace as gardeners and appreciators of our natural surroundings. To those presidents past, I am thankful for the beautiful gifts they established in nature as well as the garden practices that many continue to follow to this date.
Have a great weekend.