Pears, four different kinds. Photo by Kelly S. Kurt
Thomas Jefferson grafted the orchard of his dreams, buoyed by the fruits of travel and memory and acquaintances, asexually fixed—grafted instead of seeded—to avoid rogue genetics and new varieties. He fought borers, rot, mildew, rust, vandals, blight, drought, frost and fungus, among other enemies. Monticello was T.J.’s old dominion, his church, his imperfect love. Jefferson fought pears like he fought tyranny, tooth and nail. Jeff’s writings suggest an interest that waned through the years. When he arrived at Monticello in 1767, a tart youth of 25, he stormed the mount with vast plans and ill-fated pursuits. Almonds, grapes and pears were among his heartbreak. Planting ceased in 1815, when the 73-yeard-old statesman threw in the towel.