Gardening as politics: Digging the Founding Gardeners

As America’s gardeners dig, plant, weed and grow lettuce, beans and tomatoes in their vegetable plots this summer, they are part of a tradition that harks back to the beginnings of the United States. Just by working on a compost pile this weekend, garden historian Andrea Wulf says you’ll be in good historical company. And, you’ll be making a powerful political statement at the same time.

In her Sunday Opinion piece in the Los Angeles Times, Wulf says, “Over the years, the founders have been invoked by almost every politician and every political movement across a wide spectrum. Now it’s time for the gardeners and environmentalists, who are already following in the footsteps of the Founding Gardeners, to claim their stake in the ideals and the heroes that formed the nation.”

Her new book “Founding Gardeners — The Revolutionary Generation, Nature and the Shaping of the American Nation” is published by Knopf.

Available from

Gardening as politics: Digging the Founding Gardeners

Courtesy: Mt. Vernon Ladies Association

The formal flower garden or “upper garden” has been restored to reflect George Washington’s design and features varieties of heritage flowers mentioned by visitors and by Washington’s gardeners in their weekly work reports. Flowers in the garden include larkspur, foxglove, crown imperial, cardinal flower, jasmine and guelder roses.

The Lower Garden or kitchen garden, likely managed by Martha Washington, yielded most of the fresh vegetables and herbs used by the Mount Vernon household. The plan for the restored lower garden was derived from the same books on gardening that were owned and studied by Washington. In Washington’s own words, “tell the gardener I shall expect everything that a Garden ought to produce, in the most ample manner.” 

Read more about Mt. Vernon and touring other remarkable gardens throughout the world at Garden Visit.

Published by Kate Campbell

Writer, editor, photographer, novelist, short story writer, poet.

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