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 Cover of Tenant from Hell
The Tenant from Hell
Book 1 in the Realtor Mystery Series
Casey Clark, property manager, is just trying to evict a bad tenant. Instead she is over her head in murder and mayhem

 Cover of Double Duplicity
Double Duplicity
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Trouble  follows Casey like a raging fire.

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Last Step
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Kudzu shows you a different part of the South, past and present. Mystery with a touch of romance and a smidgen of paranormal.

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Wild about Florida: Central FL
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Wild About Florida: North FL
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Color Saint Augustine
This is a way to virtually visit Saint Augustine. It's a coloring book for grown ups (but kids will love it too.)  with an actual photo of the attractions in Saint Augustine. The opposite page is the same photo converted into a black and white line image for you to to color. It's 64 pages with 30 photos and 30 pages for you to color. On each photo and each color page there is a little about the story of the image . 

The Gardens and Grounds at Monticello

Story by Tom Straka

Photographs by Pat Straka


About a year ago we spent the better part of a day at Monticello, the home of Thomas Jefferson. The details are in an earlier article in this digital magazine. While Monticello is recognized as one of America’s most famous homes, the grounds surrounding Monticello are almost as interesting as the house. They were attractive enough to bring us back for a second visit, centered on the restored vegetable and flower gardens, orchards, Jefferson’s favorite trees, and a bunch of fascinating outbuildings. They were well worth a second better part of a day. Tours at Monticello have various options, mainly the house tour and the gardens and grounds tour. The highlight of our earlier house tour was Thomas Jefferson interpreter Bill Barker, who gives a presentation as Thomas Jefferson and answer questions afterwards. That presentation is out-of-doors and can be part of the grounds tour. 

Vegetable Garden

Thomas Jefferson’s vegetable garden was an essential part of his plantation, providing fruits and vegetables as farm produce to feed the large plantation population. While the garden was fundamentally a functional enterprise, he included ornamental features in the garden scheme. Jefferson was also a scientist who managed the garden as a scientific experiment. He kept a Garden Book which served as his “research notes.” Part of the book was a “Garden Kalendar” where he noted the dates of garden events (like which plants could handle an early frost or the productivity of various row widths). Just like his mansion, the visitor notices all kinds of special features that make the gardens more than long rows of plants. He experimented with plants from around the world and even species like beans and salsify collected by the Lewis and Clark Expedition. 

Due to erosion, parts of the garden were terraced in the early 1800s, making this a sort of garden plateau, hacked from the side of a hill by slave labor and underpinned by a mammoth stone wall standing over 12 feet high at its highest. At the middle of the garden is a garden pavilion, overlooking an orchard, vineyard, and berry squares. Jefferson used the pavilion as a peaceful retreat for reading in the evening. The garden provides a awesome view of the undulating Piedmont landscape. The two-acre garden is divided into 24 “squares,” or growing plots. Jefferson divided these by which part of the vegetable was being harvested (fruits, like tomatoes and beans; roots, like beets and carrots; or leaves, like lettuce and cabbage). The garden has many examples of 19th century vegetables and cultivation techniques.  


The vegetable garden today has been restored to its appearance in Jefferson’s time, including his horticultural experiments, plateau landscaping, and site for his 19th century vegetable varieties. It does get modern maintenance, but 19th century cultivation techniques are displayed where possible. Many of the perennials are in the exact location specified by Jefferson. The produce from the garden ends up in the Monticello Farm Table café.     


vegatable garden at montichello

 A level view of the vegetable garden, with Jefferson’s garden pavilion in the background. Two acres is a huge garden; the pavilion is at the middle, so a whole other part of the garden extends beyond it. The pavilion has double-sash windows, Chinese railing, and a pyramidal roof.    

long range view of montechello vegatable garden

The view of the vegetable garden from above the terrace provides a better perspective of the garden squares, its massive size, and the huge diversity and variety of plants that make it an edible laboratory. A sign at the garden notes, “Jefferson’s garden was unusual, however, for its large size, ambitious planting schemes, and strategic location that promoted longer growing seasons.”


The plateau terrace and some outbuildings also give a perspective of how the vegetable garden is laid out. The garden is very long, with numerous diversions at the top of the terrace to explore.

 Hyacinth Bean arbor

 There are all kinds of unusual plants to discover in the vegetable garden. This is the Hyacinth Bean arbor. The species is native to tropical Africa. It was first planted at Monticello in 1804.

Mulberry Row

Just above the vegetable garden is Mulberry Row, the dynamic manufacturing area of Jefferson’s 5,000 acre agricultural operation. It is a long plantation street that served as the center of work for dozens of craftsmen. It had more than 20 dwellings, workshops and storehouses. Today, it is mostly foundations with signs explaining the crafts involved: textile workshop, joining and woodworking, nailmaking, tinsmithing, and blacksmithing. There was also a sawmill operation, gristmill, canal operations, and a charcoal burning operation to make fuel. The charcoal sheds were on the west end of Mulberry Row. There are many signs along the row describing the archaeological work involved in locating building foundations and the artifacts unearthed.   

Mulberry Row

Mulberry Row is a long plantation street above and parallel to the vegetable garden (seen downhill in the photograph). It is mostly foundations, but a few restored buildings are under the mulberry trees. 

Joiner’s Shop

 The Jointer’s Shop on Mulberry Row is typical of the foundations along the street. The chimney and foundation are all that remains. A joiner was a woodworker who made doors, windows, and decorative finish work. Jefferson employed highly-skilled joiners. 


 Forge and Quarters A few restored buildings are on Mulberry Row, like the forge and quarters.
Isaac Granger Jefferson worked the forge in the original building on this site, which housed a
"storehouse for iron" in 1796, a short-lived tinsmithing operation, a small nail-making shop,
and also served as quarters for enslaved people.


 Mulberry Row even has a gravesite from a former owner following Jefferson’s death.  

Monticello's Slavery History

The grounds include lots of interesting buildings. Slavery is not hidden at Monticello and slave housing is part of the outbuildings and is part of a special tour. Most of the outbuildings supported the agricultural enterprise, like the stables.  A plantation would need ice in the summer and interesting structures like the ice house can be found by wandering the grounds.

Slave Quarters  

One of four cabins that stood at this spot that provided slave housing. During the colonial era enslaved laborers lived together in large multi-family dwellings; by the 1790s, many slaves, who pressed for
housing for their families, lived in single-family quarters.

Plantation Buildings


 Eagle, Peacemaker, Tecumseh, Bremo, Wellington, and Diomede were the six carriage
and saddle horses, plus one mule, who were stabled here in 1821.
The plantation had as many as 30 riding and carriage horses, workhorses, and mules.    

Ice House 

In the winter ice would be harvested from the nearby Rivanna River and transported to the icehouse
 for storage. It took 62 wagon loads of ice to fill it. The cylinder extends 16 feet underground
and six feet aboveground.

Flower Gardens

The flower garden was next on our tour, but was harder to find than the vegetable garden. While the vegetable garden was highly organized and two-acres in size, the flower garden is not in one place. It turned out to be hiding in plain sight, along the roads and paths. It is a very nontraditional flower garden, not a room outside, but an exposed retreat. There are flowers bordering the West Lawn, for example, and when you approach the mansion, the portico of Monticello catches your eye and you tend to overlook the flowers, looking at Monticello in awe. Once you look closer, you realize the border of the West Lawn is a winding flower garden.

The West Lawn features the “Nickel View of Monticello,” making it an icon of American landscapes. The winding walk delineates the border of the West Lawn and that border is one of the main flower gardens. Between the West Lawn and the house are more flower beds and one side of the lawn has a fish pond. Jefferson planned and sketched the winding flower border. He actually laid the beds out in ten-foot sections, each compartment labeled and planted with a different flower. The flower gardens are planted as many as three times a year, early-, mid-, and late-summer. There are also fruit gardens: two  orchards, two small neighboring vineyards, and  berry “squares.”

 West Lawn 

Along the winding flower beds, with Monticello across the West Lawn. It is easy to see how the building is a distraction from the flower beds, at least when you first enter the West Lawn.

winding flower beds 

The winding border of the West Lawn is a massive flower garden.


 Flowers Closeup 

One example of flowers along the winding border.  Notice the hand-written label on the wooden stake used to identify the plant. Some have “TJ” along with a year written on top. That denotes a plant grown at Monticello during Thomas Jefferson’s lifetime.


t Flowers Near Building 

 Not all the flowers are on the winding border. These are at the front of Monticello.

 Snow on the Mountain.

Snow on the Mountain. A flower on the winding path with a history.
You have to look at the hand-written label to figure out the history.           


Snow on the Mountain.from Lewis and Clark Expidition

 Label for Snow on the Mountain. The code on top of the wooden stake denotes this plant came from the Lewis and Clark Expedition, with the year. The flower garden has lots of interesting history hidden in it. 


Trees were ranked at the top of Jefferson’s hierarchical chart of favorite plants of Monticello. Any tour of the grounds given by Jefferson would include the highlight of his “pet trees.” He had 160 tree species on the plantation. Native and exotic trees were planted in groves. Ornamental trees grew near the house in “clumps.” There were “allées” of mulberry and honey locust within his road network and plantations of sugar maple and pecan. There was even a living peach tree fence. Eighteen acres on the northwestern side of the plantation were designated as the “grove,” intended to be an ornamental forests with the underbrush removed and the trees turned and thinned.

Southern Catalpa  

 A southern catalpa along the winding border, one of the oldest trees at Monticello.
It was a favorite of Thomas Jefferson.

Thomas Jeffersom Grove  

Thomas Jefferson Grove today; as Jefferson intended, it is almost parklike,
with a wide variety of unusual ornamental trees.

Jefferson Family Cemetery

The Jefferson family cemetery is on the grounds, downhill from the mansion. It is a stately cemetery. Jefferson’s gravesite is visible from outside the fenced exterior. Jefferson left explicit directions on the shape of the obelisk that would mark his grave and the inscription that was to be on the grave marker (and not a word more). You usually have expectations of how something will look; in the case of Thomas Jefferson’s gravesite the expectation is ornate. In this case the expectation was met.

Jefferson Grave  

The obelisk which marks Thomas Jefferson’s grave. 

Jefferson Gravestone  

Thomas Jefferson’s gravestone obelisk inscription, what he considered his greatest accomplishments.

 Inhabitants Graveyard  

The list of individuals that share this cemetery with Thomas Jefferson is quite interesting.

Author/Photographer. Tom Straka is an emeritus professor of forestry at Clemson University. He has an interest in history, forestry and natural resources, natural history, and the American West.
Pat Straka is a consulting forester and the photographer on most of their travel articles. They reside in South Carolina, but have also lived in Mississippi and Virginia.