Thomas Jefferson's Green Example at Monticello

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Our nation's third president likely was enamored with grass around his Virginia estate because he didn't have to mow it.

Even if he had, Jefferson wouldn't have been cramming clippings into plastic bags destined for a landfill.

Jefferson was "green" well before the term was popular. Today, his 5,000-acre estate in Charlottesville, Va., remains eco-friendly.

Healthy soil, proper plant selection and preservation of natural resources were just as important to Jefferson as, say, authoring the Declaration of Independence.

Legions of gardeners have declared their independence from chemical warfare, indirectly taking a page from Jefferson's more than 200-year-old playbook.

Among them is Rick Vuyst, president and CEO of Fruit Basket Flowerland, who recently visited Jefferson's beloved homestead, Monticello.

In addition to green gardening, Jefferson was on the cutting edge in design; he was willing to work with informal lines in the landscape.

"At the time, the straight formal lines of European influence were the norm," Vuyst said. "Jefferson understood both the practical and aesthetic benefits of diversity in the landscape."

Vuyst, a great fan of American history, is downright giddy about the upcoming visit to Grand Rapids by Peter J. Hatch, author of "The Gardens of Thomas Jefferson's Monticello," published by the Thomas Jefferson Memorial Foundation. Vuyst will be master of ceremonies for Hatch's appearance Thursday at Frederik Meijer Gardens & Sculpture Park.

Jefferson's gardening philosophy, ranging from plant selection to garden design, are back in vogue as more people return to gardening with an emphasis on organic...

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