Washington Crossing Park Historical Horticulturalist, Anna Davis, was recently named a Harrison Fellow of the Historic Landscape Institute after attending a weeklong immersive learning program in Charlottesville, VA.
The program was presented by the Historic Landscape Institute at Monticello and the University of Virginia, two sites where Thomas Jefferson used his knowledge and love of gardening to create culturally and historically relevant landscapes. Both sites are also on the elite UNESCO World Heritage List.
“The program was a combination of lectures, workshops, and hands-on experiences where we learned how the landscapes were used, how they changed over time and how Thomas Jefferson orchestrated their appearance,” says Davis. “We discussed historic landscape preservation and evolution.”
“It was a special honor for me to meet Peggy Cornett who organized the program and was the lead presenter at Monticello,” continues Davis. “Her passion for plants and landscapes was evident throughout the program, and she is a lovely, sweet person. It was a privilege to be so closely involved with her and get to know her as an individual. On a broader level, the program itself added an invaluable piece to my own understanding of historic landscapes. I love working at Washington Crossing Historic Park partly because they invest in my education and further my learning. I want to take everything I can from this program and incorporate it at the park.”
In addition to the on-site programming, the group took a day-long field trip to Poplar Forest, the retreat home of Jefferson, and the home and garden of poet, civil rights activist, teacher, librarian and gardener, Anne Spencer.
“Poplar Forest allowed us to see the culmination of Jefferson’s learning and processes as it was the last landscape he created,” says Davis. “Visiting Anne Spencer’s home was an added treat. It offered a glimpse into how individuals – anyone with a love and passion for the land and gardening – can create historic landscapes worthy of preserving.”
Now back at the park, Davis’ goal is to create a historic landscape plan of areas around the park.
“I’d like to preserve our landscapes through a survey that outlines what the lands look like now, in 2022, so anyone in the future can evaluate what I did and why I did it,” explains Davis. “Landscapes change naturally over time and certain choices are made in preserving and recreating historical landscapes. A historic landscape plan will help inform future generations about the reasoning behind those choices, allow them to understand and even recreate the landscapes we have here today.”