Thomas Jefferson's landscape design of house and mounds may have been influenced by Renaissance architect Andrea Palladio's five-part plan for a villa (left) — pavilion, hyphen, main block, hyphen, pavilion.
In his innovative design, Jefferson substituted a double row of trees for the hyphens and earthen mounds for the pavilions. Slaves created the mounds with soil from the house foundation and lawn.
Jefferson directed that each mound be covered with Weeping Willows, Golden Willows and Aspens. Five years later he asked that flowering shrubs be planted, suggesting that the original trees may not have survived.
Archaeologists have found a planting hole relating to Jefferson's design on each mound. Future work will attempt to locate additional holes in order to understand the pattern of plantings and verify which plants were actually used.
Digging of the house basement
Digging of the south lawn
Feb. 27, 1811
"plant on each mound
4. weeping willows on the top in a square 20 f. apart
Golden Willows in a circle round the middle. 15 f. apart
Aspens in a circle round the foot. 15 f. apart"
May, 12. 1812
"soon as the green swerd (grass) seed is ripe, have [some] gathered by the negro children and sowed on all the naked parts [of the] mound..."
"plant a double row of paper mulberries from stairways to the Mounds"
Dec. 5, 1812
"planted Monto. Aspens...viz
12 round the Eastern mound & 4. round West do [ditto]...
planted also 2 European mulberries...as part of the double row from the Western mound towards the house."
Nov. 1, 1816
"Althaeas, Gelder roses, lilacs, calycanthus, in both mounds."