While in Virginia recently, Marty Ross, Rob Cardillo, and I spent a delightful afternoon catching up with our friends at River Farm, headquarters of the American Horticultural Society in Alexandria. David Ellis, editor of The American Gardener, and associate editor Viveka Neveln showed us around the André Bluemel Meadow (that’s David, me, Viveka, and Rob, above). The last time I visited, the meadow was a vast expanse of lawn overlooking the Potomac River. Between 2004 and 2008, however, the site was transformed into a meadow filled with more than 100,000 native plants. This beautiful and sustainable alternative to the traditional lawn has quickly become a haven for wildlife and a popular attraction for visitors to River Farm, the northernmost of George Washington’s five farms. I especially enjoyed visiting the oldest tree standing on River farm: the largest Osage orange tree in the country. Located in the shade garden to the north of the main house, it is believed to have been a gift from Thomas Jefferson to the Washington family. It is known that Jefferson received seedlings of Osage orange from the Lewis and Clark expedition of 1804-06. So the next time you’re in the D.C. area, leave some time to visit with this impressive champion tree in Alexandria.
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