Skip to Content

The Plants

Eighteenth Century Flowers

The Pavilion Gardens include many of the flowers and shrubs that Jefferson grew in his gardens at Monticello as well as those recommended by eighteenth-century gardeners and writers. Many of the flowers and shrubs cultivated by Jefferson were commonly grown in Europe, including the Madonna lily, while others were native plants, such as Virginia bluebells, that Jefferson promoted for use in America. The nurseryman, Bernard McMahon, sold numerous plants including carnations, crown imperial lilies, and dwarf Persian irises. Snapdragons, double hyacinths, peonies, and African and French marigolds bloomed in the flower beds. Tulips were wildly popular including parrot and striped varieties. While some of these flowers appear little altered over the years, some such as marigolds, ageratums, and zinnias were later developed during the Victorian era into compact plants with larger flowers reflecting the interest in "bedding out."

"I rank [botany] with the most valuable sciences... it's subjects as... delicious varieties for our tables, refreshments from our orchards, the adornments of our flowerborders, shade and perfume of our groves ..."

Thomas Jefferson, 18141   


Eighteenth-century flowers found in the Pavilion Gardens today include:

Herbaceous Flowers
Aquilegia vulgaris (Columbine)
Campanula medium (Bellflower)
Celosia cristata (Cockscomb)
Consolida orientalis (Larkspur)
Convallaria majalis (Lily-of-the-valley)
Dianthus chinensis (Pinks)
Gomphrena globosa (Globe amaranth)
Heliotrope arborescens (Heliotrope)
Iris persica (Persian iris)
Jeffersonia diphylla (Twinleaf)
Lobelia cardinalis (Cardinal flower)
Mertensia virginica (Virginia bluebells)
Nigella sativa (Love-in-the-mist)
Papaver rhoeas (Corn poppy)
Tagetes patula (French marigold)
Shrubs and Vines
Callicarpa americana (Beauty-berry)
Calycanthus floridus (Sweet shrub)
Clethra alnifolia (Sweet pepper bush)
Hibiscus syriacus (Rose of Sharon)
Ilex opaca (American holly)
Kalmia latifolia (Mountain laurel)
Philadelphus coronarius (Mock orange)
Rhododendron maximum (Rosebay rhododendron)
Symphoricarpus albus (Snowberry)
Syringa persica (Persian lilac)
Viburnum trilobum (Bush cranberry)
Vitex agnus-castus (Chaste tree)
Wisteria frutescens (Wisteria)

Jefferson's Trees

Thomas Jefferson's love of trees extended to the Grounds of the University of Virginia. He envisioned the landscape of the academical village as an expanse of "lawn and trees."

Today, native and exotic trees beautify the restored Pavilion Gardens throughout the seasons, from the spring dogwood and redbud blossoms to the green shade of summer; from the autumn color of maples to the winter presence of hollies and hemlocks. Fruit trees near the Hotels recall their role as a resource for the University's first dining halls. The Pavilion Gardens include a young American sweetgum in the garden of Pavilion I; the native tulip tree, Jefferson's "Juno of the Forest" below Pavilion Garden IV; and the spreading mimosa in Garden VI. Ash trees—in place of the black locust trees Jefferson probably specified for the Lawn—grow in graceful counterpoint to the architecture of the pavilions.

Following are a few of the trees that Jefferson once grew and that now flourish in the Pavilion Gardens:

Albizia julibrissin (Mimosa)
Catalpa bignoiniodes (Southern catalpa)
Chionanthus virginicus (Fringe tree)
Gleditsia triacanthos (Honeylocust)
Halesia carolina (Silverbell)
Juglans nigra (Black walnut)
Koelreuteria paniculata (Goldenrain tree)

Liquidambar styraciflua (American sweetgum)
Liriodendron tulipifera (Tulip tree)
Magnolia virginiana (Sweetbay magnolia)
Magnolia grandiflora (Southern magnolia)
Malus "Albemarle Pippin" (Apple)
Morus rubra (Red mulberry)
Robinia pseudoacacia (Black locust)

Trees of Honor

In the spirit in which Jefferson wrote of planting trees for posterity, "to yield their shade and ornament half a century hence," the University preserves and plants trees in honor of members of its community. The large Pratt Gingko tree, near the University chapel, is named in honor of the superintendent of grounds responsible for many trees planted on-Grounds during the 1860s. Landmarks such as this are joined each year by young trees that will grow to honor their namesakes for future generations.