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Former Monticello gardens director visits MU

Tuesday, August 26, 2014 | 10:01 p.m. CDT; updated 10:36 p.m. CDT, Tuesday, August 26, 2014
Peter Hatch, who was the director of gardens and grounds at Monticello for 35 years, visited MU as part of the Mizzou Botanic Garden's Jacquelyn K. Jones Lectureship and a celebration of the garden's 15th anniversary.

COLUMBIA — Peter Hatch admires Thomas Jefferson's handyman tendencies, especially his love of gardening, which Jefferson vigorously practiced at his Virginia home, Monticello. Hatch thinks how Jefferson cultivated his gardens is a good parallel to how a community is built.

"You seem to have adopted him as a native son," Hatch, who was the director of gardens and grounds at Monticello for 35 years, said at MU on Tuesday. He visited MU as part of the Mizzou Botanic Garden's Jacquelyn K. Jones Lectureship and a celebration of the garden's 15th anniversary.

"It's pretty interesting to see how you're looking at the campus as a botanic garden," Hatch said.

Peter Hatch speaks about Thomas Jefferson's passion for gardening at MU's Jesse Wrench Auditorium on Tuesday. (PHOTO: Sarah Kloepple/Missourian)

The entire Mizzou campus is considered the Mizzou Botanic Garden. It contains thematic and special collection gardens, including one dedicated to Thomas Jefferson that includes many of the flowers familiar to Monticello, according to the Mizzou Botanic Garden website. The garden is located alongside his monument near the chancellor's Residence on the Quad.

"At the University of Virginia, they do the same, but it's not quite as organized or as methodically maintained as you all do here, so I salute the efforts that are being done," he said.

The day's events included the Kindness Tree Dedication ceremony at the Sinclair School of Nursing. It memorialized the 2012 shooting incident at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Connecticut.

As director of gardens and grounds at Monticello for 35 years, Hatch was responsible for the maintenance and restoration of 2,400 acres, according to his website.  His most recent book, published in 2012, is "A Rich Spot of Earth: Thomas Jefferson's Revolutionary Garden at Monticello."

In his afternoon lecture, Hatch said Jefferson's penchant for gardening reflects the ways in which communities are built — through components such as humility, science, experimentation, patriotism, design, labor and sociability, all of which Jefferson practiced on his home terrain.

"There is a real union of gardening and sociability," Hatch said. "'We're all brothers and sisters of the spade' is a wonderful theme that is captured in the work of Thomas Jefferson."

Jefferson suggested that the planting of sugar maple trees and their easy cultivation could replace the reliance on sugar cane and slaves in the fields, Hatch said.

"Jefferson looked at plants as a way of transforming the culture and the economy of the young American public," he said.

MU was the first state university founded in the territory of Jefferson's Louisiana Purchase. The university was awarded his tombstone, originally held in Monticello, in 1885.

Supervising editor is Elizabeth Brixey.


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