Monticello Expert Peter Hatch Speaks at Wesleyan
Director of Gardens and Grounds of Monticello Peter Hatch spoke at the University this past Wednesday in Shanklin 107. Hatch, who has worked at Monticello since 1977, spoke about the estate, which was home to, and designed by, Thomas Jefferson. He also discussed “A Rich Spot of Earth,” the book he released last April about the vegetable garden at Monticello. Hatch also discussed the integral role he played in the restoration of the 2400 acre landscape at Monticello, as well as his new position as advisor to First Lady Michelle Obama for her White House kitchen garden.
Throughout the lecture, he informed the audience, which included both students and Middletown residents, of Jefferson’s horticultural passion. For instance, according to Hatch, Jefferson kept a garden diary which he called his Garden Book. The rest of the presentation contained detailed images of unique vegetables, of Jefferson’s journal, of Isaac (a slave on Jefferson’s plantation), as well as of an artisan at Monticello.
“Jefferson was an obsessive record keeper,” Hatch said. “[He found a balance between] wild nature on one hand [and] the cultivated garden on the other.”
Hatch also discussed other tidbits about Jefferson’s personal life, particularly about his time in Monticello. He talked about how Jefferson ate mostly vegetables, almost all of which were grown in his personal garden. According to Hatch, Jefferson grew 330 varieties of 99 species in the garden.
“Jefferson loved English peas like [Ronald] Reagan liked jelly beans,” Hatch said. “Sea kale grows wild on the beaches of Great Britain and also in Jefferson’s garden.”
Under Hatch’s supervision, the garden at Monticello has been restored to how it might have looked when Jefferson was alive. Hatch’s understanding of how the garden originally looked was based on Jeffersons’ own records.
Students said they were inspired by the lecture.
“I can see myself gardening in the near future,” said Crystal Rogers ’16. “I think it would be a really nice stress reliever.”