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Tufton Center for Historic Plants endangered

14 years ago

Doug Seidel, who is not comfortable with the internet, asked me to post this and his letter to the board at Monticello:

Dear Plant Friends on the Internet:

As the robot on Lost in Space would often say: "Danger, Danger." One of the most valuable collections of Historic Plants is in danger of eclipse. Monticellos Center for Historic Plants has fallen victim to restructuring and financial pressures. The CHP located adjacent to Monticello at Tufton Plantation has been home to the Historic Iris SocietyÂs collection, a vast assortment of antique bulbs and perennials important to gardens in the Upper South and Middle Atlantic States, and a generic collection of Old Roses important in historic gardens. CHP has been the home since 1998 to the Leonie Bell Memorial Noisette Garden where forty old-style Noisettes- mostly pre-1840- grow very happily. For more than twenty years the CHP has housed, propagated and distributed these plant treasures which represent the most vaulable collection of historic plants in the U.S. If you love historic plants or Old Roses, wonÂt you take the time to write, (not e mail), to Leslie Bowman, Ann Taylor, Peter Hatch, and especially MonticelloÂs Board of Directors c/o Monticello, Box 316, Charlottesville, VA 22902. The symposia, the educational programs, and the effots to preserve what is endangered are Too Important to the Gardening World.

Doug Seidel

Dear Monticello Board Members,

I am writing out of concern over recent decisions regarding the Center for Historic Plants. First,

however, permit me a word of explanation. I have collected historic plants since the 1960Âs and write

about them for several publications. In 1988 friends in Charlottesville invited me for VirginiaÂs Garden

Week. This was my first visit to Monticello and my introduction to the work of the Thomas Jefferson Center for Historic Plants. Peter HatchÂs talk on MonticelloÂs efforts to collect and preserve the plants of

The past was positively inspiring. The Book Store operated by Tufton offered selections that were the cutting edge in the field. The plants made available were incredible: an 18th century Sweet Pea, several

19th century violets, a double primrose, and the then rare ÂChampneyÂs Pink Cluster - 19th century AmericaÂs great contribution to the Rose World. I must also mention the Figs available, including

JeffersonÂs ÂMarseillesÂ. Needless to say, I spent a small fortune! I also made a point of returning anytime

I was traveling in the vicinity to check out new offerings. In the early 1990Âs I was able to supply John

Fitzpatrick with Old Roses and Pennsylvania Dutch heirloom plants he sought for TuftonÂs collections.

Since the mid 90Âs I have been a regular speaker at MonticelloÂs Saturday Mornings in the Gardens, TuftonÂs Historic Plant Symposia, and I have been a supplier of ideas and plants for the Leonie Bell Noisette Garden.

Twenty years of regular interaction with the Thomas Jefferson Center for Historic Plants have convinced me in the deepest way of the importance of its work. In Great Briton the government subsidizes and maintains historic plant collections. Germany has its massive collection of historic roses at Sangerhausen, supported by private contributers. On this side of the Atlantic we have a few nurseries that come and go, but then there has been Tufton. Under Peggy CornettÂs leadership I have seen the grounds swarming with visitors at an Open House or the Harvest Festival. At "The Antiques Rose Show" folks bring roses for identification from as far away as Ohio and Tennessee. Almost everyone takes home a plant or two along with an information sheet on the plantÂs history and cultivation.

The Historic Plant Symposia, coordinated by Peggy Cornett since 1997, have brought together collectors, experts, and nursey men from all over the country. The exchange of information and the interaction of plant people have been instrumental in the formation of a national movement of Historic Plant Preservation. This would seem to be the very essence of what Monticello should be about.

Under Peggy CornettÂs leadership a number of important plants on the edge of extinction have been preserved for posterity. The most important finding to date has been the Musk Rose at Bremo Plantion. Research at the University of Virginia Library indicates this specimen was ordered from the Prince Nursery on Long Island and planted in the fall of 1815. The Tufton nursery has propagated and distributed this important clone to a number of historic gardens, including Colonial Williamsburg and Historic Charleston. The Tufton greenhouse holds many Victorian geranium varieties, very popular with the public, yet increasingly difficult to find. If ANYTHING, THIS KIND OF WORK NEEDS TO BE INCREASED AND NOT DIMINISHED.

In conclusion, I urge the powers that be to reconsider cut-backs at Tufton. With some refocusing and adjustment the Center for Historic Plants could become one of MonticelloÂs most profitable enterprises. May I also say that I have worked with Dennis Whetzel since 1997. His knowledge of history and plants, his familiarity with TuftonÂs collections can only logically commend him for advancement with your organization.

Written with deep concern,

Rev. Douglass T. SeidelDear Plant Friends on the Internet:

As the robot on Lost in Space would often say: "Danger, Danger." One of the most valuable collections of Historic Plants is in danger of eclipse. MonticelloÂs Center for Historic Plants has fallen victim to restructuring and financial pressures. The CHP located adjacent to Monticello at Tufton Plantation has been home to the Historic Iris SocietyÂs collection, a vast assortment of antique bulbs and perennials important to gardens in the Upper South and Middle Atlantic States, and a generic collection of Old Roses important in historic gardens. CHP has been the home since 1998 to the Leonie Bell Memorial Noisette Garden where forty old-style Noisettes- mostly pre-1840- grow very happily. For more than twenty years the CHP has housed, propagated and distributed these plant treasures which represent the most vaulable collection of historic plants in the U.S. If you love historic plants or Old Roses, wonÂt you take the time to write, (not e mail), to Leslie Bowman, Ann Taylor, Peter Hatch, and especially MonticelloÂs Board of Directors c/o Monticello, Box 316, Charlottesville, VA 22902. The symposia, the educational programs, and the effots to preserve what is endangered are Too Important to the Gardening World.

Doug Seidel

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