George Mason was a man of ideas who employed his education in ways that demonstrated his refinement and taste. Mason carefully designed views of and from the mansion. People approaching from the land walked or rode along a lane that dipped and rose in order to reveal the mansion in a dramatic fashion. Four rows of cherry trees planted at an angle funneled visitors’ eyes directly to the house, making it the most important element in the landscape. As visitors approached from the river, they caught and lost views of the mansion, until it finally rose into full view.
Employing precise geometry, Mason laid out the landscape features around the mansion on a 60′ grid. The garden fit into this overall scheme. Surrounded by a high fence, the garden was a private place the Mason family reserved for themselves and their guests. Each of the four garden squares provided beauty and function, as flowers surrounded vegetables.
For the enslaved people who tended the garden, the space represented an enormous amount of work. Creating the garden was a project as massive as building the mansion itself. Enslaved workers leveled the ground, laid out paths, built the fence, dug the planting beds, planted and trained espaliered trees, created and tended flower borders, and cultivated produce.