Tuesday, May 2, 2017

Gardens at Winterthur

For a little vacation back on the school's Easter break, we went to southeastern Pennsylvania for a long weekend. We visited the du Pont mansion Winterthur (which is actually in Delaware), which is known for its gardens. The grounds were bought back in 1810 by Eleuthere Irenee du Pont, a gun-powder manufacturer. The first house (twelve rooms) was built in 1837 by E. I. du Pont's daughter and son-in-law and named "Winterthur" (pronounced winter-tour) after the husband's ancestral Swiss home. It wasn't until the 1900s that the buildings became a sprawling mansion complex and the gardens were developed by Henry Francis du Pont (1880-1969). His interests as a collector are seen today in the house and museum; as a horticulturalist in the naturalistic gardens that take up 60 acres of the 1000-acre estate. We began our visit with a tour of the gardens.

An open-air tram takes visitors on a narrated tour of the various gardens. The tour starts at the visitor center. I should note that we rode the tram twice on two separate days, one of which was much sunnier than the other. Readers may notice in the pictures, which are all blended together.

Winterthur Visitor Center

The tram first drives through the Azalea Woods, which were not in bloom yet (our visit was in mid-April). The ground cover was just showing some purple flowers, but not enough for a properly impressive picture.

Azalea woods

Hardly visible purple

Some of the older trees have a lot of twisty, interesting character to them.

Japanese Maple tree

Old, twisty cherry tree

More of the cherry tree

On the far edge of the gardens are some open fields. In the distance visitors can see sand traps from the nine-hole golf course that du Pont built for himself and his guests. It is now a private course.

Gentle slopes

Sand traps in the distance

Sycamore Hill

Sunnier and treeier

One tree the tram driver pointed out was the Dawn Redwood Dinosaur tree. The tree was thought to be extinct but was discovered in the early 1900s. Being a collector, du Pont secured a sample for his garden.

Dawn Redwood

Another magnificent tree

Across from Sycamore Hill is the Sundial Garden, which naturally has a sundial in the center. From the tram, the dial is hardly visible, but on foot my son and I came much closer on the second day.

Sundial Garden seen from the tram

In the garden the second day

A close view of the sundial

Neighboring the Sundial Garden is the Pinetum, a large and varied collection of conifer or cone-bearing trees that provide an evergreen section for the gardens.

Another awesome tree by the Pinetum

Walking path into the Pinetum

Lots of conifers

Maybe a bonzai tree?

The back of the Pinetum leads onto the March Bank, another area that has plenty of colors throughout the spring, though we were too early experience them.

The March Bank

Down the bank is a glade with a small pool. The other side of the pool has the hill where the home sits.

A small pool

Closer to the house is the pool which Henry Francis du Pont had built when he substantially expanded the estate in the late 1920s. The pool has two bath houses, one for the guys and another for the gals. Now that the family doesn't live there, it has been turned into a reflecting pool.

Stairs from the pool to the house

Another sundial

The pool and its two bath houses

View from the bath houses

Back up the hill (and away from the house) is the favorite part of the gardens for my children--the Enchanted Woods.

Path into the Enchanted Woods

Mushroom ring

Another cool twisty tree

 It was built specifically for children and will get its own post next!

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