Your Letters: Thomas Jefferson's Gardens

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Our visit to Thomas Jefferson's gardens at his Monticello estate brought in a number of responses from you. Host Liane Hansen interviewed Keith Thomson, author of Passion for Nature: Thomas Jefferson and Natural History.


Now, to your letters.

My visit to Thomas Jefferson's gardens at his Monticello estate brought in a number of responses from you. I interviewed Keith Thomson, author of "Passion for Nature: Thomas Jefferson and Natural History," who was puzzled about why Jefferson's efforts to establish a winery failed, since Virginia now successfully produces grapes for wine.

John Keegan(ph) of Oxford, Ohio wrote in with the answer. The reason that Jefferson was unable to grow the European wine grape was phylloxera, a tiny insect that infects mainly the roots of the grape. Phylloxera is native to America, but not found in Europe. It was accidently imported to Europe in the 1860s and wreaked havoc on the wine industry, until they realized that they had to graft the European grape on to American roots, that is how the modern industry exists today in Virginia.

Some of you thought that the story did not adequately address the source of much of the labor that went into the gardens.

I listened in vain for a discussion of the role of slaves in creating, maintaining and executing Jefferson's designs in his gardens, wrote Sara Trambanus(ph) of Newark, Delaware.

The correspondent did make a brief mention of the slaves - one sentence, but devoted little time to the implications of their labor, in creating the beauty that the piece showcased. Considering the content of the preceding story on post-racial America, the absence of a sustained examination of slaves at Monticello was striking and disappointing.

We welcome your letters and comments. Go to and click on the Contact Us link. Please remember to tell us where you live and how to pronounce your name. You can also send notes to me on Twitter. My username is nprlianehansen, that's all one word, L-I-A-N-E-H-A-N-S-E-N, so is nprweekend, that's the username for our editors and producers.

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