If you’re a garden lover and you live in New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Maryland, or Delaware, you’ve surely heard of Longwood Gardens.
But have you heard of Winterthur Museum, Garden & Library? I hadn’t until about 2 years ago.
Longwood, while beautiful, is a little surreal for my taste—an estate dedicated to fantastically manicured gardens and an enormous all-glass solarium. When I began dating my husband, he mentioned the possibility of visiting another du Pont estate that might be more up my alley—Winterthur—which features a more natural approach to its gardens.
Intrigued, we decided to visit a few weeks later…and I was hooked.
Without a doubt, Winterthur Museum in Wilmington, Delaware is one of the most beautiful combinations of outdoor-and-indoor spaces I have ever been to on the East Coast.
60 acres of gardens entirely open for exploration (with admission), Winterthur encases the 9-story, 175-room mansion of the famous horticulturist Henry Francis du Pont. His childhood home was a gift from himself to the public for the purpose of both enjoyment and scholarship: the grounds are extensive cultivated works of art made to look like they’re naturally occurring, while the mansion holds over 90,000 everyday and not-so-everyday objects from the mid-1600s to the late-1800s.
Author’s Note: Though this post focuses specifically on the outdoor spaces of Winterthur, I’ll be blogging soon about my top historic sites to visit in the tri-state region—including Winterthur Museum. Stay tuned in the next couple of weeks as I travel back to Delaware!
Four Spots to Tour on Winterthur’s Grounds
The gardens steal the show in spring, foreshadowing the beauty of summer with a magnificent variety of azaleas, daffodils, roses, peonies, and more. Surprisingly—as I found out a few years back on Mother’s Day—stormy May whether can actually enhance the experience. Don’t let the weather keep you from going unless it’s absolutely pouring!
Location: The entire grounds. And as you can see from the gallery below, the experience was downright breathtaking.
This is one portion of Winterthur (pronounced ‘winter-tour’, in case you were wondering) that I can’t help recommending to every single person that I talk to about visiting this place: the Reflecting Pool mirrors absolutely everything around it with near-flawless perfection.
Location: It’s located in a kind of basin below the main mansion, beneath a set of stone steps that contain a natural arbor of plant life.
If you take a peek at the photo above, we had a few curious onlookers. 😉
If you’re like me, you love the woods…because they’re woods. There isn’t much else you think you need for them to be incredibly fulfilling and peaceful.
You’d be wrong on that point.
Location: This particular vantage point above is only reachable by hiking along the main path through the woods, crossing the stone bridge above, and then finding a tiny walkway nestled in the woods to the right of the main path.
You’ll hear what sounds like a small waterfall or a quick-moving creek. Follow it down an overgrown flight of stone steps, and you’ll see a series of stone pathways that you can follow to reach this point (which winds around both sides of the tree in the photo). It’s worth it to see the wildflowers spreading out in front of you.
The Koi Pond
Kids (and the adults, too) love this area because—although you aren’t allowed to touch the fish in the pond—you can get within a few inches for a gorgeous shot. The koi are very curious and hungry, too, and they’ll come right up to the edge to see what you’re about. Above, I was crouching at the very edge of the pond while they looked for a treat!
Location: The Koi Pond can be found near the area of the Reflecting Pool, closer to the right hand side of the main mansion (if you’re looking at it). Tip: There’s a multi-level waterfall near the back you can walk up the side of—this will take you to the back of the estate, which has a large glass solarium (only accessible inside), the original entrance to the entire estate. It’s been converted into a gorgeous sunroom.
If you’ve never been, I highly suggest taking a peek at Winterthur’s website: they even have a helpful section on visiting the Winterthur gardens in the spring!
Been to Winterthur? Write your experience below!