George Washington delighted in all the flowers and plants that grew in his gardens. Take a look at some of the remarkable plants and flowers in bloom here this spring at Mount Vernon.

Apple scented rose

Roses

Roses were present in early colonial gardens. Native roses were also reported by early travelers and naturalists. In 1670, Daniel Denton, American colonist and explorer, recorded scented wild roses in woods and fields of what is currently New York. The European roses always remained popular. Old Blush rose, Apple scented rose, and Damask rose are a few these sweet scented, old roses found in the flower beds of the Upper Garden.

The Washingtons commonly used rose petals and hips for eating, garnishing food and making rosewater. Roses were also included in recipes for paste, candy, and tarts in one of Martha Washington’s cookbooks.

Apricot tree warms itself against the hot bricks

Fruit Trees

The fruit trees are blooming in the Upper and Lower Gardens and in the Fruit Orchard. They include varieties of apple, pear, peach, apricot, plum, and cherry trees. Apples and pears line the paths between the beds in the Lower Garden. As they are hardier trees than the fruit trees on the walls, they are hand pruned and espaliered in the shape of a living fence.

George Washington’s records contained many details about his fruit trees, including notes about their planting, pruning, and harvesting. Peaches, apricots, and cherries were espaliered against the walls in the Upper and Lower Garden, as they preferred the warmth of the brick walls during the winter. Apricot trees were used as an ornamental in this area and were enjoyed for their flowers and foliage.

 

Keizerskroon Tulips

Tulips

Tulips came to Europe from Turkey in the mid-1500s and gained popularity during the Dutch “Tulipomania” of the 1630s. Heirloom tulips are blooming throughout the spring in the Upper Garden. The Silver standard tulip blooms in early spring. It’s a Rembrandt type tulip and dates back to 1760. The Keizerskroon tulip blooms early to mid-spring. Its name means “Emperor’s Crown" and dates back to 1750.

The Absalon tulip blooms in late spring. It has dark chocolate petals that are brushed with gold highlights. This is a true broken tulip that has survived since the 1780s.

Butter and Eggs Daffodil

Swans-neck Daffodil

Daffodils

Native mainly to the Mediterranean, daffodils were grown by the Egyptians and Greeks and were brought to England by the 1200s. Like the tulips, heirloom daffodils bloom through the spring in the Upper Garden.

Butter and eggs are double daffodils that bloom very early in the spring. The flowers of this daffodil have yellow petals that are interspersed with shorter, orange ones. They are dated pre-1777, and are an old cottage garden favorite.

Van Sion daffodils are another double daffodil blooming early to mid-spring. Its golden blooms are often mixed with hints of green. It dates back to the 1620s and is often found in old home gardens.

Swans-neck daffodils bloom in early spring with creamy-colored, drooping flowers. Also known as the white daffodil, they have been growing in Britain since the early 17th century.

Crown Imperial fritillaria

Snake's head fritillaria

Fritillarias

The Crown Imperial lily was brought to Europe from the Middle East in the late 1500’s. Washington mentions the planting of only two types of bulbs in his writings: the tulip and the crown imperial.

Persian lilies also date back to the 1500’s. Their up-right stems may have 7 to 30 bell-shaped flowers that appear in mid-spring.

The Snake's Head fritillary is a European native. The bell-shaped flowers are varying shades of checkered maroon. It dates back to the mid-1600s when it was described by John Gerard, a botanist and herbalist in London.

Carolina allspice

Carolina Allspice

This deciduous shrub is native to southeastern United States. It grows 6 to 10 feet tall and wide. Its spring fragrance is emitted not only by its flowers but also by the foliage and bark.

George Washington first received six of these plants from Col. Washington, of Charleston, SC, and planted them in the shrubberies “east of the garden gates.” More of these shrubs were also sent to Mount Vernon by Gen. William Moultrie and Mr. Jefferson. Currently, this sweet scented shrub can be found in the Upper Garden and throughout the estate.

Plant Finder

Our integrated plant finder service allows you to better identify the names and details behind the amazing array of flowers, plants, shrubs, vegetables, and trees that you will find at Mount Vernon.

Download the Mount Vernon App

Cabbage

Brassica oleracea

Cabbage is believed to have been brought to Europe from Asia around 600BC by the Celts. The name cabbage comes from the French word caboche meaning head. French navigator, Jacques Cartier, is credited for bringing cabbage to the Americas in the mid-1540s.

In 1766, cabbage seeds are in the list of items George Washington ordered from London. Care of the cabbage plants also appears in gardeners’ reports. The variety Washington grew was more of a loose-leaf form. This spring, four types of loose-leaf, historically appropriate cabbages are growing in the gardens at Mount Vernon.

Peas

Peas have been agricultural crops for a very long time. They are believed to have originated somewhere in central Asia, moving west and then north into Europe. Records show them in England after the Norman Conquest in 1066.

Peas are among the first crops planted in the spring. Most varieties of peas require trellising to keep them off the ground and to facilitate harvest. Records show George Washington received seeds and planted peas by the mid 1780’s. Gardeners’ reports show peas sown as early as mid-February and as late as June, and staked and harvested from spring to summer.

The photo shows the blue-podded Capucijner pea. The beautiful, bi-colored flowers are lilac-pink and wine-red. The plants produce pods that are deep maroon or blue when mature. This centuries old heirloom pea was first grown by the Franciscan Capuchin monks in Holland and Germany during the early 1600’s.

Strawberries

Strawberries are perennial plants that are evergreen through the winter. After flowering in the spring, they produce strawberries that have a rich, aromatic flavor. Prior to the mid-1700’s, strawberries were not cultivated in European gardens but instead collected from the wild.

At Mount Vernon, gardeners’ reports record planting and weeding of the strawberries through the summer.

In 1790, French jurist and linguist Peter Stephen Duponceau visited Mount Vernon. He later wrote that he was delighted to see, “for the first time preserved strawberries. Those were large and beautiful, and I indulged in eating a few of them. I have been fond of them ever since.”

The Gardens & Landscapes of George Washington's Mount Vernon

Learn More
Buy Tickets Donate Membership Calendar Shop Restaurant
Estate Hours

Open today from 9:00 am – 5:00 pm

iconDirections & Parking
buy tickets online & save