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 Madisons’ formal garden was designed by a French gardener, Charles Bizet, about 1810. Several enslaved laborers worked as assistant gardeners. After Bizet returned to France, Archibald Blair (a native of Scotland) served as head gardener from 1818 to 1824. Three enslaved gardeners took over Blair’s duties after his departure, and Dolley Madison wrote “we hope to have from them as many good things as usual.”
Mary Cutts, Dolley Madison’s niece, left a description of the Madison garden in a mid-19th century memoir (original spellings retained):