Lorton in Fairfax County, Virginia — The American South (Mid-Atlantic)
Mason's son John described this “extensive garden touching the house [as] … a perfect level platform” of ground neatly smoothed by Mason's enslaved workforce. This “flatte” extended one acre. Side and cross paths intersected the wide, central promenade leading from the porch towards the river. Small boxwood shrubs bordered gravel walkways. A variety of fruit trees, vegetables, flowers, and grasses flourished in each of the four quadrants, or garden rooms. At the end opposite the house, John noted “a spacious walk” and “some falls on the brow of the hill looking towards the river.” Mason's enslaved workers further sculpted the rugged terrain into three gently sloping terraces, a popular design in 18th-century Chesapeake gardens.
Gardeners valued their hardy branches, strong roots, long life, and the ease by which boxwood can be grown and pruned. These ornamental plants required regular, seasonal care by Mason and his knowledgeable enslaved gardeners. Some of the Masons' boxwood survived more than 250 years. The botanist Philip Miller recommended that small boxwood shrubs be planted “for bordering Flower-beds … for which Purpose it far exceeds any other Plant.” His Gardener's Dictionary (1735) became a valuable and standard reference for many. Following the boxwood's natural decline, we re-planted the garden with new, healthy boxwood in the manner Mason most likely used. This practice of using boxwood, Miller explained, kept “the Borders from washing into the Gravel-walks more effectively than any Plant whatever.”
Precision In All Things
George Mason's design for the garden helps us learn about his way of thinking.
Mason must have been a man who liked order. Every dimension in the garden fits with mathematical precision into his plan for the area around the mansion. For example, the main pathway of the garden is 12 feet wide. It aligns perfectly with the 12 foot wide central hallway of the mansion and the 12 foot wide lane that continues on the
He used 60 foot square grids as the basis for his arrangement of the garden, kitchen yard, schoolhouse, and mansion. Mason's careful attention to detail demonstrated to his visitors his good taste and fine education.
Topics. This historical marker is listed in these topic lists: Agriculture • Colonial Era.
Location. 38° 39.834′ N, 77° 9.6′ W. Marker is in Lorton, Virginia, in Fairfax County. This marker is at the east front of Gunston Hall. Touch for map. Marker is in this post office area: Lorton VA 22079, United States of America. Touch for directions.
Other nearby markers. At least 8 other markers are within 2 miles of this marker, measured as the crow flies. A “Considerable Force” (within shouting distance of this marker); “Resources within Themselves” (within shouting distance of this marker); What Lies Beneath (about 600 feet away, measured in a direct line); Shiloh Baptist Church (approx. 0.6 miles away); Fort Belvoir Military Railroad Historic Corridor (approx. 1.9 miles away); ‘Thermo-Con’ House (approx. 1.9 miles away); Belvoir Grounds and Potomac View Trail (approx. 1.9 miles away); The Birth of a River (approx. 1.9 miles away). Touch for a list and map of all markers in Lorton.
Credits. This page was last revised on May 29, 2019. It was originally submitted on May 28, 2019, by Allen C. Browne of Silver Spring, Maryland. This page has been viewed 107 times since then and 21 times this year. Photos: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6. submitted on May 28, 2019, by Allen C. Browne of Silver Spring, Maryland. 7. submitted on May 29, 2019, by Allen C. Browne of Silver Spring, Maryland. • Andrew Ruppenstein was the editor who published this page.