Annie duPont Garden

Mansion & Grounds
 

From Madison Vegetables to duPont Flowers

In the early 19th century, President James Madison enjoyed a garden of nearly four acres, including the site of the present two-acre formal garden. Following the fashion of the era, the Madison garden contained a mixture of vegetables, fruit trees, flowers, and ornamental shrubs.

Evidence suggests that the Madison’s formal garden was designed by a French gardener, Bizet. A number of President Madison's enslaved African Americans were trained as assistant gardeners. One of the slaves eventually took over as head gardener when Bizet returned home to France.

Mary Cutts, Dolley Madison's niece, left a description of the Madison garden in a mid-19th century memoir (original spellings retained):

"At some distance from the house was the garden laid off in the shape of a horseshoe by an experienced French gardener, who lived many years on the place; his name was Beazee [Bizet]; he and his wife came to Virginia at the time of the French Revolution and left Mr. Madison shortly before his death to return to "La belle France." They were great favorites with the negroes, some of whom they taught to speak French. Madame contrived a hat to shade Mrs. Madison's eyes; it was hideous, but she liked it and when she took her morning rambles always called for her "Beazee bonet."

The choicest fruits, especially pears, were raised in abundance, figs bore their two crops every summer, which Mr. Madison liked to gather himself arbors of grapes, over which he exercised the same authority. It was a paradise of roses and other flowers, to say nothing of the strawberries, and vegetables; every rare plant and fruit was sent to him by his admiring friends, who knew his taste, and they were carefully studied and reared by the gardener and his black aids."

Mary Cutts Memoirs, Mary Cutts Collection, Library of Congress

After William duPont's purchase of Montpelier in 1901, wife Annie duPont launched a project to transform the space into an early 20th-century formal garden. The profiles of the terraces were restored; flower beds, shrubs, and trees were planted; and the brick garden walls, statuary, and ornamental iron gates were added. Later, Annie's daughter, Marion duPont Scott, commissioned noted landscape architect Charles Gillette to design several perennial beds. Mrs. Scott also introduced a number of unusual plants to the garden.

Following Montpelier's acquisition by the National Trust for Historic Preservation in 1984, the plantings of the Annie duPont Formal Garden were carefully identified and cataloged. Restoration of the garden began in October 1990, and was funded by The Garden Club of Virginia. The flower beds incorporate many of the perennials in the early duPont garden—many varieties of bearded and Japanese iris, Day Lilies, and Peonies—along with other plant materials common to the period.

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Annie duPont Garden

Entrance to Annie duPont Formal Garden