By Steve Boehme
Regular readers of this column already know about our Philadelphia Garden Tours, and most people have heard of Longwood Gardens and the Brandywine Museum. Fewer gardeners have been to the nearby Winterthur Museum and Gardens in Wilmington, Delaware. Like Longwood, this fantastic estate was built by the DuPont family a century ago, but Winterthur couldn’t be more different from Longwood in its garden style.
It is the spectacular gardens at Winterthur that impress us the most. Longwood Gardens is very formal and symmetrical, but Winterthur was landscaped informally to highlight the rolling countryside and the effect is subtle but dramatic. Plants are arranged to appear as if they grew spontaneously, planted in large drifts and grouped with other plants that harmonize in color and form. Paths are curving rather than straight, following the contours of the land, passing around trees, drawing walkers into the 60-acre garden surrounded by 1000 acres of farmland.
My favorite part of Winterthur is the Enchanted Woods, sheltered by a grove of huge oaks. These historic trees have been lovingly maintained, professionally pruned all their lives so that each one is perfectly formed, with no defects or dead limbs. Beneath the trees is a carpet of perennial begonias, ferns, and Hostas. Designed to entertain children, this 3-acre garden features a cutaway “Faerie Cottage” made of stone, with a thatched roof and miniature furniture, and a huge bird’s nest made of sticks and vines. An old gate plays a tune as you open it, and huge toadstools emit clouds of vapor for an eerie effect.
We first visited Winterthur to see its world-renowned collection of period furniture. The DuPont mansion is 175 rooms, each one uniquely decorated and filled with an amazing array of furnishings from around the world. DuPont was an avid collector of early American furniture and silverware, including pieces by Paul Revere. More recently, the Campbell’s Soup Company’s collection of historic soup tureens was moved to Winterthur from Campbell’s headquarters in Camden, New Jersey. This unforgettable collection includes a wide range of tureens and soup-related objects made in Europe, Asia, and America from 1720 to modern times.
You are invited to tour this and other Philadelphia area attractions with us this September, on our first Philadelphia Garden Tour. We’re visiting Longwood Gardens, Winterthur, and the Wyeth museum at Brandywine, and enjoying fine dining along the way. We’ll depart GoodSeed Farm on September 13th for four days and three nights of terrific food, great gardens and museums. Get the details on the “Bus Tours” page of our website, or you can call or e-mail for details.
Steve Boehme is the owner of GoodSeed Nursery & Landscape, located at 9736 Tri-County Highway, near Winchester, Ohio. To e-mail your landscaping questions click “Contact Us” from their website at www.goodseedfarm.com or call (937) 587-7021.