Thomas Jefferson used elements of French kitchen gardens — such as the gardens at Villandry, a chateau in the Loire Valley of France pictured here — at Monticello, his masterpiece estate. (Provided by Ellen Peffley)

Yesterday we celebrated America’s Independence Day with deep gratitude for the legacy left us by the founding fathers.

Thomas Jefferson was the principle author of the Declaration of Independence in 1776 and the third President of the United States in 1801. Before Jefferson became president he spent several years in Paris, France as the U.S. Minister to France. The French influence inspired his love for horticulture.

While an extraordinary statesman Jefferson has also been called “American’s first horticulturist”. He is often quoted but one salient to this gardening column is his: “The greatest service which can be rendered any country is to add an useful plant to its culture.”

Jefferson ranked the introduction of the olive tree and upland rice into the U.S. as important as his authorship of the Declaration of Independence.

He incorporated elements of French and Italian gardens in his masterpiece Virginia estate Monticello. Monticello is designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site and is featured in the National Park Service Journey Through Hollowed Ground Travel Itinerary.

Records of his stewardship are contained in his correspondence. Jefferson’s daughter, Martha, wrote to him while he was serving as Secretary of State in Philadelphia and complained to him about the insect-riddled plants in Monticello’s vegetable garden. His solution was the next winter to…