Category Archives: Summer Field Trips

Mount Cuba’s Native Garden Wonderland

The Class of 2016 visited Mt. Cuba Center in Hockessin, Delaware on August 4th. Entering through the house, we were briefed in the beautifully proportioned Colonial Revival style former residence by the senior staff, and were quickly made aware of the scope of Mt. Cuba’s work.

Yet another photo opportunity!

Yet another photo opportunity!

However, the briefing did not prepare us for the horticultural impact of the gardens once we stepped outside. Our garden tour with Eileen Boyle, Mt. Cuba Center’s Director of Education, probably took twice as long as projected, with the Fellows stopping every few yards to photograph the abundant butterflies, flowers, and insects, and exclaiming over each new plant discovery!

Mt. Cuba Center was formerly the home of Mr. and Mrs. Lammot du Pont Copeland. The du Pont Copelands were at the vanguard of encouraging the use of native Eastern North American plants to create ecologically vibrant and beautiful horticultural displays. Mrs. du Pont Copeland was a forward-thinking conservationist, advocating the use of native American plants in gardens. The extraordinary garden was designed in stages by three landscape architects, beginning with the gardens and terraces closest to the house in the mid-1930s. The woodland gardens were completed in the 1960s by landscape designer Seth Kelsey. Dr Richard Lighty, the first Director of The Longwood Graduate Program, was appointed Director of Horticulture at Mt. Cuba in 1983.

The garden is quite formal near the house, playful sculptures  and carefully selected native perennial borders inviting the visitor to explore further.

The garden is quite formal near the house. Playful sculptures and carefully selected native perennial borders invite the visitor to explore further.

The 583 acre estate features 50 acres of display gardens and managed landscapes, the remainder of the estate being primarily natural lands featuring a variety of the landforms and habitats of the Appalachian Piedmont.

Mt Cuba is an important habitat for bees and other insects

Mt. Cuba is an important habitat for bees and other insects.

The gardens contain a diverse range of native Eastern North American plants arranged in displays reflecting various habitats ranging from perennial borders to meadows, woodlands, and ponds. The result is a harmonious series of gardens that are exquisite works of beauty as well as functioning ecosystems alive with butterflies, beneficial insects, and birds. Achieving this natural look is deceptively complex and requires an eye for shape, form, and color.

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The chain of ponds featuring moisture-loving plants of eastern USA

Mt. Cuba is slowly unfurling its public garden identity, taking careful and considered steps towards increasing the audience for its remarkable landscapes and living collections.  ‘Gardening on a Higher Level’ is the recently adopted tagline for Mt Cuba. The line is reflected in its educational offerings, including Mt. Cuba Center’s Ecological Gardening Certificate course, with units including “Sustainable Landscape Techniques” and “Inviting Wildlife Into the Garden”. Other offerings include gardening, art, and photography. Seven summer internships are also offered each year. An internship typically involves four days per week working in the garden with the other day spent on projects, field trips and classroom activities.

Mt. Cuba Center undertakes plant trials of native American plant species. Evaluations thus far include Coreopsis, Echinacea, and North American Asters. Currently 53 cultivars and selections from 14 different species of Baptisia – false indigo – are undergoing evaluation to assess their horticultural potential. Over fifteen cultivars and selections have been introduced to American gardens by Mt. Cuba including the Golden Fleece goldenrod (Solidago sphacelata ‘Golden Fleece’), and Trillium grandiflorum ‘Quicksilver’.

Owen Cass explaining insect monitoring techniques. He's using a fine screen over a garden vacuum to collect insects in the trial area

Owen Cass explaining insect monitoring techniques. He’s using a fine screen over a garden vacuum to collect insects in the trial area. Eileen Boyle, Director of Education, is in the right foreground.

A research collaboration between Mt. Cuba Center and the University of Delaware is comparing the ecological value of native plants with their corresponding cultivars and improved varieties. Owen Cass, Mt. Cuba Fellow and University of Delaware Masters candidate explained that the research is aimed at determining whether plant cultivars, which may differ from their ‘wild’ cousins in terms of flower size, color, or shape, offer the same or similar ecological services as their wild counterparts.

This remarkable garden is open to the public. For details on visiting take a look at the Mt. Cuba Center website.

Class of 2016’s First Field Trip- Bowman’s Hill Wildflower Preserve

With a mission to engage visitors, inspire action and change social behaviour, the staff members of Bowman’s Hill Wildflower Preserve (BHWP) adroitly steward 100-plus acres of rich forest and diverse meadows in the heart of historic Bucks County, Pennsylvania. Near to the site of General George Washington’s crossing of the Delaware River, the preserve houses over 800 species of wildflowers and other plants, creating healthy, abundant habitat for a plethora of bird and invertebrate species. BHWP is also home to over 80 rare and endangered plant species making it an area of conservation concern for the citizens of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania.

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Meadow on a stunning day!

We were treated to gorgeous weather during our visit to Bowman’s Hill Wildflower Preserve. In a casual stroll of the gardens and meadow we encountered at least 50 plant species, many in bloom, with 8 different species of moths, butterflies and skippers. Particularly noteworthy were the swallowtails feeding on the nectar of Monarda fistulosa (wild bergamot or lavender bee balm)

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Swallowtail on wild bergamot (Monarda fistulosa)

Other Lepidoptera species observed included: sleeping orange, cloudless sulphur, red-banded hairstreak, juniper hairstreak and snowberry clear-winged moths.

In the morning we met with Miles Arnott, Director of the BHWP Association, whose organization administers programs targeting school groups and teachers, landscape professionals, homeowners, and members of the general public. Under Miles’s guidance, BHWPA has more than doubled its membership to 1,800 by focusing on educating people both “inside the fence and outside the fence.” This fence is actually a massive deer exclosure which encompasses nearly the entirety of the property, preventing plants from overgrazing by overly abundant ungulates. By excluding deer, the plants are able to grow and reproduce freely, resulting in a healthy multi-storied vegetation layer which approximates a balanced Eastern U.S. forest with large and small trees, shrubs, perennials, and groundcovers. This vertical stratification in turn supports quality habitat for many bird species, including harder-to-spot avians like the Louisiana water thrush, rose-breasted grosbeak and scarlet tanagers.

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Senna hebecarpa- wild senna

Miles also described the work that BHWPA is doing on developing its fee-for-service Plant Stewardship Index (PSI). The PSI is a metric which gives a conservation score of 0-10 based on habitat suitability in a given landscape. The PSI factors among other things: presence of rare species, hard to propagate species and specialist species requiring particular conditions for growth and reproduction to determine a score value for justifying protecting lands. Based on these criteria, Bowman’s Hill Wildflower Preserve is clearly worthy of continued preservation and support to encourage others to experience the beauty and serenity of this magical place, a touchstone of Pennsylvania’s natural heritage.

For more information visit: www.bhwp.org

Longwood Graduate Program class of 2016 group shot with Gary Shanks class of 2015. Plus Mary Ann Borge- BHWP’s wonderful docent naturalist

The Scott Arboretum at Swarthmore College

(Photographs by Sara Helm Wallace)

Our last excursion for the summer was to the Scott Arboretum on the grounds of Swarthmore College in Media, PA. Umbrellas in hand, we were warmly greeted by Claire Sawyers, the Arboretum’s Director. While admiring the spectacular tropical container plantings and garden beds, Claire gave us the run down on operations at the campus.

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This could be achieved in your home garden

Established in 1921, Arthur Scott wanted the Arboretum to set an example to local home gardeners and professionals in the horticulture industry. It was the first college campus arboretum with an outreach function in the community. The Director, John Wister, set out the plant collections in a phylogenetic placement, starting with primitive plants laid out along the railwayline, and higher plants gracing the courtyards around campus.  Today the Arboretum prides itself onbeing free and open to the public but maintains the core purpose of setting an example to outside entities.  This is achieved through the use of themed gardens all expertly designed and maintained to the highest degree.

As we left the leafy tropical foliage, Claire paused at a great, yet ailing copper beech (Fagus sylvatica Purpurea Group) tree. With a concerned expression on her face, Claire told us the story of this tree and its projected demise. She explained that Scott Arboretum keeps these giants alive for as long as possible, and that rash decisions in terms of removal are often discouraged. Careful pruning is usually administered, but if a tree has to be removed, then the wood is recycled or used as an art installation in another part of the garden.

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Grasses soften the hard lines of the building beyond in The Nason Garden

Moving on, we entered a space effectively dubbed by students as ‘’the wildlife garden’’ and you certainly do feel that wild animals could approach you at every turn. This, The Nason Garden, is attractively landscaped with grasses, conifers and meadow-like flowers, leading to a lot of contrast and continued seasonal interest. Flagstone is combined with asphalt for some cost savings and toshowcase an innovative and attractive pathway that meanders perfectly through the garden.

As we continued on, Claire highlighted the importance of blending the stark architecture of the buildings with the grace and beauty of the Arboretum and native forest. There are several examples where the forest is brought into the campus through native plantings and where large ground floor windows are used to connect outside areas with inside foyers and passages. In relation to this, excess rainwater is managed through rain gardens and roof installations that collect water in giant cisterns. This water is then used for irrigation or is released intermittently into nearby Crum Creek. This minimizes the effects of flooding and erosion, which was a problem in previous years.

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LGP Director Dr. Robert Lyons, Swarthmore Arboretum Director Claire Sawyers and some of the Longwood Fellows relax in the Pollinator Garden

After exploring a Pollinator Garden, we made our way to the front area of campus known as Parrish Beach. Here we were greeted by a whole group of naked ladies, more tastefully known as Lycoris squamigera. This bulbous species from South America flowers abruptly in late July, without warning and without leaves.

Lycoris squamigera on Parrish Beach

Naked ladies! Lycoris squamigera on Parrish Beach

After lunch we were given a tour of the new greenhouses and the green roofs.  The latter are highly functional and an important part of every environmentally conscious organization. We had some time to wander in the Arboretum, thinking how wonderful it would be if every college campus could take a piece of Swarthmore and make it their own.

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Above: One of the green roofs at Alice Hall. Right: A Sempervivum inflorescence brightens up the roof

 

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From Summer Home to Central Park

(Photos by Bryan Thompson-Nowak)

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Believe it or not, the tranquil, wooded grounds of Morris Arboretum are within the city limits of booming Philadelphia. In fact, it is just 12 miles from the University of Pennsylvania campus and 9 miles from King of Prussia. This gem, paired with gorgeous autumn-like weather, made for a memorable field trip for the first-year Fellows.

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Upon arrival, Morris Arboretum’s Director, Paul Meyer, greeted us and shared a bit of Morris’s history. The Arboretum recently celebrated its 125th anniversary: a brother and sister pair, John and Lydia Morris, founded it in 1887 as their summer home. The Arboretum officially opened to the public in 1933, but it wasn’t until 1977 when former director Bill Klein spearheaded a master planning process that made Morris Arboretum into the destination that it is today. Affectionately known these days as the “Central Park of southeastern Pennsylvania,” Morris is looking ahead to the future and working on plans to renovate the front area of the George D. Widener Education and Visitor Center as well as several other improvement projects.

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Paul led us on an intimate tour of the grounds, sharing both facts and stories that most guests will never have the opportunity to hear! As we passed a modest Chinese hemlock (Tsuga chinensis) specimen, Paul paused and pointed out the lack of hemlock woolly adelgid damage. Canadian hemlocks have recently succumbed to this pest on quite a large scale, but its Chinese cousins were observed to be resistant. Paul told us that Morris Arboretum led expeditions to China to collect more specimens of the hemlock and introduce it more widely in the United States.

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The Chinese hemlock is only one example of the impact that Morris has had in collecting and distributing significant new plant species in the US. Another interesting discovery from a Chinese expedition trip came from a surprising species: seeds of the oft-used Liriope muscari, collected from a specimen in China. It provided for some interesting genetic diversity when Morris grew the seeds out. With uniquely wide foliage, as well as a tall, spindly inflorescence, this variation will definitely make visitors to the Arboretum do a double take!

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Our trip to Morris would not be complete without a group photo with the wildly popular “Big Bugs,” which will be on display until the end of August. These giant bug sculptures, created by David Rogers, have been an amazing asset for Morris this year. With their arrival on April 1, the “bugs” helped Morris have their biggest attendance month ever in its history! The local media loved the exhibit, and Morris experienced incredible exposure in the greater Philadelphia area. It has been a win-win all around!

We had a fantastic visit with Paul and his staff, enjoyed amazing weather in a beautiful setting, and learned exciting “insider info” about some of Morris’s plant collections. For more information about planning a visit for yourself, just check out the Arboretum’s web site!

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100 Years as an Estate…. 20 Years as a Public Garden!

 (Photographs by Gary Shanks)

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The new first-year graduate students got a chance to visit one of the more intimate gardens in the greater Philadelphia area. Since Chanticleer has been written about in a previous LGP blog, let’s just dive right in to the details.

Our tour with Bill Thomas, Chanticleer’s Director, began in the Teacup Garden. Exotic plants are mixed creatively with natives, and because it is directly behind the main house, it feels like one’s own private courtyard.

IMG_1668On the way to the Tennis Court Garden, there is a stately hybrid oak (Quercus alba x Quercus montana) that keeps one humble due to its enormous size. Not until one is faced with a giant tree like this does one realize one’s own small stature. The Tennis Court Garden is full of flowers that fascinate, and sitting on the staff-made wooden glider under the shady arbor is a great vantage point to appreciate the vibrancy of this garden.

Down the slope is a 120-foot “hedge” of asparagus. That’s right, asparagus hedge. The frilly fronds wave in the wind, enticing the visitor to investigate what is behind it… a charming cut-flower and vegetable garden. Tended by a graduate of the Longwood Professional Gardener Program, flowers from this garden are used in the flower arrangements in the house.

Here we stopped, and Bill pointed out what appeared to be an ordinary patch of land. He explained that water from the parking lot flows underground, down the hill to this site, where there is a 10,000-gallon pipe full of holes. This allows the water to come out through the holes and diffuse throughout this patch of land instead of running off and causing flooding. Brilliant!

IMG_1678Our tour continued into the Woodland Garden where one of the staff horticulturists (who doubles as a metal- and wood-worker in the winter) created a giant, partially-enclosed bridge over Darby Creek to resemble a fallen log.

 

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The path on the bridge and into the Woodland Garden is made of recycled tires, shreddedand dyed to look like wood chips. There is a binder added to the tire pieces to prevent leaching of the rubber products into the soil. It also provides a soft and comfortable base for pedestrians, as well as being wheelchair and stroller accessible!

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From the mysterious Lady of the Pond to the frog gravity fountain; from bubbling rocks to the stepping-stones through the moss garden, it is a charming stroll through the Woodland Garden. The path leads to the Asian Woodland Garden where most of the herbaceous plants, shrubs, and small trees originate from China, Japan, and Korea.IMG_1723

Chanticleer’s charms continue on. You will have to go visit yourself to find out about the Pond Garden, Serpentine Garden, Terrace Garden, Ruin Garden, and the countless hidden treasures waiting for discovery as you wander the grounds.

Nemours: “To Love and To Know”

(Photographs by Felicia Chua)

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As our inaugural field trip for the Summer 2014 season, the first-year fellows toured the mansion and grounds of Nemours, the former home of gunpowder magnate A.I. duPont. Located in Wilmington, Delaware, the palatial estate, modeled after Versailles in a formal French style, was draped in the heat and humidity of a true Mid-Atlantic July.

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We were greeted at the Visitors Center by Public Relations Manager, Steve Maurer, who escorted us by vehicle up to the center drive of the mansion, catching glimpses of the gardens and fountains through the allee of thickly planted oak, chestnut, and cryptomeria.

Our second host, the Head of Horticulture at Nemours, Richard Larkin joined us at the front entrance of the mansion where our view was no longer obscured by the allee. Although hesitant to wander the grounds in the heat, Richard and Steve expertly guided us through the shade to view the estate’s gardens. 

2014-07-19 10.31.52The extensive boxwood designs, gravel paths, and gold leaf details were balanced by the charming wildness of a rural historic site. The trees led our gaze down one-third of a mile of intensely manicured formal gardens, highlighting architectural features that included fountains, ponds, a sunken garden, Greco-Roman temples, and statues and stonework of old gods.

 

2013-07-19 10.07.21Currently sitting on three hundred acres, the site for the house and garden was chosen by A.I. duPont to honor a memory of his father, anecdotally relayed to us by Steve Maurer, “While on a walk in the woods with his father, E.I. duPont, a young A.I. was brought to a spot surrounded by tulip poplars. His father told him that he would like to build a house there so he could spend his days reading and eating ice cream.” There were five original tulip poplars on the property of which only one remains. It is very badly in decay and currently being held upright by a concrete slab, preserved as an historic and emotional connection to the past.

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A Lord & Burnham greenhouse sat unused, derelict, and beautifully invaded by flowering butterfly bush. It stood in sharp contrast to the meticulously restored and maintained house and gardens, both a testament to the skill of the staff, as well as a reminder of the effects of time and nature unchecked.

The house itself was stunning, and the taste and style of their personal esoterica may be unmatched. It was to great disappointment that we were not allowed to take photographs inside of the mansion, but understandable. The duPonts of Nemours surrounded themselves with objects of personal appeal. Amassing a collection based purely on personal preference, the house was filled with paintings, rugs, furniture, and objets d’art unified by a strong aesthetic taste. Some personal highlights included a locked refrigerator in the lower level of the house where A.I. duPont kept his ice cream, and a basket of vegetable and fruit shaped ice cream molds (alarmingly made of lead)!

2014-07-19 10.08.46The functional design of the house was equally impressive. Being an MIT trained engineer, A.I. DuPont spared no expense or craftsmanship in Nemours’ mechanical systems. Early ammonia based refrigerators, ergonomically conscious cork flooring, and redundant generators were all installed, and remain as a testament to innovation and classic industrial design.

Nemours follows faithfully in the family motto “To Love and To Know.” Built for his second wife, and honoring the memories of his father, Nemours is a revelation in that which A.I. duPont both knew, and loved.

Mt. Cuba Center

August 17, 2012 – Mt. Cuba Center, Hockessin, DE
(written by Lindsey K. Kerr, photographs by Chunying Ling)

Bright and early, the First Year Fellows and Dr. Lyons left Townsend Hall for Mt. Cuba Center in Hockessin, Delaware. Mt. Cuba Center was founded by Mrs. Lammot du Pont Copeland at the site of her home. In 1935, Mr. and Mrs. Copeland built a stately house they named “Mt. Cuba” and soon afterwards began developing the original agricultural landscape into a series of garden spaces.

The Copelands took a particular interest in plants native to the Piedmont, which was typical of their home site. From the time they moved in until Mrs. Copeland’s death in 2001, the gardens grew in both number of individual plants and diversity of appropriate species. Today, the Copeland’s house and gardens are maintained by Mt. Cuba Center staff and the organization itself has become a non-profit dedicated to native plants of the the Appalachian Piedmont Region.

Upon our arrival, we were warmly greeted in the parking lot by Longwood Graduate Program alumna Julia Lo-Ehrhardt. She escorted us to the Main House and introduced us to the senior staff. We spent the rest of the morning with Interim Executive Director Steve Martinenza and his senior team learning about Mt. Cuba’s strategic plan and management practices. The different managers introduced us to the history of Mt. Cuba, the founding family, and how Mt. Cuba continues to evolve and grow to fulfill the vision of its founder. We learned about Mt. Cuba’s research and educational programs as well as its commitment to improving the visitor experience and making stronger connections with the public. Mt. Cuba staff discussed their respect for Mrs. Copeland’s ideas and aesthetics and their challenge to embrace the future. They want to enhance native plant accessibility for the average homeowner and encourage their greater use in garden design.

Later in the afternoon we headed outside for a tour of the grounds. First stop was the new Trial Gardens, which were two years in the making and initially planted in spring 2012. Gardener George Coombs explained the goals of the trial garden as we admired the set-up and the plants. The trial gardens aren’t just focused on the latest introductions—they are also trialing tried-and-true cultivars to find out which ones are really the best for gardeners in the region.

Horticulturalist Marcy Weigelt then gave us a quick walking tour of the West Slope Path, the ponds, and the meadow garden, soon pausing in the meadow garden to admire the large number of pollinators and several exotic praying mantises. We finished up our field trip with a visit to the greenhouses where staff grow approximately 10,000 plants every year. In the future, they plan to start collecting more seeds locally for propagation as part of Mt. Cuba’s commitment to native plants of the Piedmont region.

Visiting Mt. Cuba Center was a wonderful experience and a great way for First Year Fellows to finish up their summer field trip series of DuPont legacy gardens!

Hagley Museum and Library

August 10, 2012 – Hagley Museum and Library, DE
(written by Laurie Metzger, photographs by Lindsey K. Kerr)

It was a rainy morning as we prepared to visit the Hagley Museum and Library. Being a 253 acre museum, with extensive grounds, gardens and mills, we were a bit nervous that the rain would put a damper on our visit. Nevertheless, we made our way through the Delaware countryside to Wilmington.

Upon arrival, Geoff Halfpenny, Executive Director, and Mike Wilson, Interpreter, greeted us cheerfully. Fortunately, the rain lessened and we began our journey back in time to the birthplace of the du Pont fortune and legacy.

Hagley was originally the home of E.I. du Pont. Having mastered the French techniques for manufacturing black powder before he immigrated to America, E.I. chose to settle on the banks of the Brandywine Creek, where he could take advantage of the power afforded by the Creek’s fast running currents.

The first stop on our tour was the restored 1870’s machine shop. Here we observed a demonstration by Stephen DeVeber. This was a wonderfully rare opportunity to see 100 year-old machines still accurately cutting steel. While Steve demonstrated this art, he spoke to us about the Dupont company and what powder mill life was like. We learned that a machinist was the highest paid worker at the mill and made between 10 and 20 cents per hour, working six days per week. Mill workers received two paid holidays (Independence Day and Christmas Day).

Back outside we were rejoined by Steve and introduced to Richard Larkin, the staff horticulturist. Both men toured us through the magnificent gardens as they discussed the recent renovation and restoration that have occurred over the past decade. Since reopening in 2008 the garden only welcomes about 12,000 guests a year since tours are given only three times a day and have a maximum of 48 people each. This allows guests to have a much more intimate experience while touring around the gardens, at times feeling the gardens are their own.

Avoiding puddles, we made our way to the mills along the Creek’s edge. The milling apparatus is made of cast iron, weighs 20 tons and is powered by the harnessed force of the Brandywine. Tom Stack showed us the explosive nature of the powder, warning us about the danger of a mill job. Sadly, if a worker was standing on the mill deck when an explosion occurred, the Dupont company was forced to tell the family that their relative had “gone across the creek” (and never to return).

As great proponents of education, du Pont built a school on the Hagley property for the workers and their families. The phrase “Sunday School” refers the fact that the people worked six days a week and went to school on Sunday. The schoolhouse has been restored to its original purpose. Angela Williamson, Volunteer Coordinator and a former Longwood Fellow, toured us through the vegetable garden and the school while discussing Hagley’s volunteer needs and challenges.

In the afternoon, the rain finally tapered off and the sun came out. We were introduced to the Horticulture staff and taken inside the mansion, the estate garden, and the greenhouses. We learned about Hagley’s tree collection and inventory, whereby the most exciting was the Osage Orange tree, co-champion on the National Register of Big Trees.

Hagley is a wonderfully intriguing place. We could not have been more impressed with the staff or its history. We are looking forward to going back to learn more about this important American family’s legacy.

Nemours Mansion and Garden

July 27, 2012 – Nemours Mansion and Garden, DE
(written by Joshua Darfler, photographs by Laurie Metzger)

Nemours Mansion and Garden was the second stop of this summer’s du Pont family garden tour. Originally the home of Alfred I. du Pont – cousin to Pierre du Pont – and Alfred’s third wife Jessie Dew Ball, Nemours Mansion and Garden is now a breath-taking public garden surrounding a five-story, 47,000 square feet, seventy-seven-room mansion completed in 1907.

The house, originally built to impress A.I. du Pont’s second wife, is located on the family’s land in Wilmington, Delaware nearby the original black powder factory. The house was designed by Carrere and Hastings and modeled after 18th century French architecture style. The garden is situated around the house to provide incredible vistas from therein, but also to provide quite, secluded areas to stroll and play. Both the house and the garden complement each other in beauty and in boldness.

The visitor experience is nothing less then extraordinary, and steeped in the traditions of A.I. du Pont and Jessie Dew Ball’s hospitality. The First Year Longwood Graduate Fellows, along with several Second Year Fellows, were greeted by Steve Maurer, Public Relations Manager, and ushered into the modern reception center (built 2007) to watch a brief movie about the life and times of A.I. du Pont, after which we boarded a small bus to be driven to the mansion.

As the bus drove up the road the only hint of the grandeur of the garden is a beautiful historic stonewall, which surrounds and hides the garden. As the bus turned down the main entrance, and the historic iron gates opened, all on board were able to behold the beauty of Nemours for the first time. The bus drove to the main house on a road through a maple allée, hedged by boxwoods, and surrounded by beautiful mature tree specimens as far as the eye can see. We were dropped off at the mansion where we were formally welcomed and handed a carnation. Then the fellows were given a brief tour of the first floor, which was still in the style that Jessie Dew Ball left it after her death in 1970 – full of rare paintings, valuable furniture, and exquisite rugs.

Back outside we were rejoined by Steve and introduced to Richard Larkin, the staff horticulturist. Both men toured us through the magnificent gardens as they discussed the recent renovation and restoration that have occurred over the past decade. Since reopening in 2008 the garden only welcomes about 12,000 guests a year since tours are given only three times a day and have a maximum of 48 people each. This allows guests to have a much more intimate experience while touring around the gardens, at times feeling the gardens are their own.

The garden is arranged on the major axis of the house so as you stand on the porch you look straight down to the main reflecting pool, the archways, and beyond.  As we strolled through the promenades and vistas, the saying “A picture is worth a sounds word” came to mind, and in this case it may be worth even more.

Winterthur Museum, Garden & Library

July 20, 2012 – Winterthur, DE
(written by Chunying Ling, photographs by Josh Darfler)

Breathing with the fresh air after early morning rain, the Longwood Graduate Program first-year Fellows, with their Director, headed to another garden of the duPont family—Winterthur. Winterthur is Swiss, pronounced ‘Wina-tour’ and is located in Wilmington, Delaware and was founded by Henry Francis du Pont.

We felt so warmly welcomed at the visitor center by our special tour guides Chris Strand and Linda Eirhart. Chris, the Director of gardens and estate, has worked here for six years and Linda, the curator of plants, has worked there for 25 years. Standing at the patio of the visitor center, which is also the garden pavilion, Chris pointed at the meadow and field far away and told us that no buildings were built in that area, so visitors still can enjoy the wide and open views. From their brief introduction, we learned that Winterthur is the premier museum of American decorative arts, reflecting both early America and the du Pont family’s life there.

The garden tour started with an old greenhouse that was under construction.  Classes and workshops will be held in the spacious classroom, especially for people who love flowers and flower arranging. On the opposite side was the vegetable garden, which produces many greens and other vegetables, like tomatoes and beans. They are family gardens for both parents and children to learn how to grow vegetables. Winterthur believes that children need to experience working and harvesting and sometimes failure is good teacher through the progress of growing up.

Passing by the vegetable garden, Linda stopped by the peony garden and told us these flowers were used for cut flower production in spring. A wide selection of different colors and varieties of flower shapes in more than 600 cultivars were displayed both in the upper and lower peony garden.  Tree peonies, native to China, were a candidate for China’s National Flower, competing with Chinese plum. What is the American national flower, we asked ourselves? We started a discussion of state flowers, trees and birds. Peach blossom is the state flower of Delaware and the state tree is American holly. “Rose is the U.S. national flower,” Laurie finally got the answer from her smart phone.

Enjoying the bright greens, we walked through the Azalea Woods. The flowers were gone with spring but I still have some views with great showy colorful flowers in my mind. Azalea Woods, which looks so natural, was one of my and many other visitors’ favorite parts of Winterthur.  It is hard to believe it’s a “man-made” woods and definitely a highlight of spring must-sees. ‘’You guys should come back next spring,” Linda invited, to which we replied “We will!” Can’t wait for next spring to see them and the March Bank covered with millions of bulbs, such as winter aconites, glory-of-snows, snow-drops, changing color every week.

Turning right to Enchanted Woods, we entered another world, the Children’s  Garden, which was designed with many adorable elements, such as the mushroom mist and the bird nest that the fairy folk created as a magical landscape for children of all ages! Canopied by majestic oak trees, the Enchanted Woods has been taken over by the woodland fairies who live here.  It is transformed into a place of enchantment, mystery, and discovery. From the Tulip Tree House to the Faerie Cottage, children will find a new world to explore. Here we experienced and recalled childhood stories again as “big” children.

Moving onto to the Dove tree (Davidia involucrata), which is located near the Dorrance Gallery and the Reflecting Pool garden, is another highlight of Winterthur. It is more than 108 years old, with five main branches starting at the same stem. “Probably, it was the first one blooming in North America after being introduced here from China,” Chris told us. The white bracts surrounding the flowers create a fantastic experience to stand underneath this tree and look up into its dove or handkerchief-like flowers.

Our field trip ended with the museum tour after lunch.  During the 45 minute tour, we only saw 18 out of the total 300 rooms.  Many silver and china pieces are displayed in the living room and the kitchen.  Such fantastic wallpaper illustrated the way Henry Francis du Pont and his family used to live. More stories about their family and Winterthur will be told through the great museum seasonal tours in the future.

Winterthur, we will come back!