Consult the genius of the place in all;
That tells the waters or to rise, or fall;
Or helps th’ ambitious hill the heav’ns to scale,
Or scoops in circling theatres the vale;
Calls in the country, catches opening glades,
Joins willing woods, and varies shades from shades;
Now breaks, or now directs, th’ intending lines;
Paints as you plant, and, as you work, designs.
Alexander Pope (1688 – 1744)
One of my most delightful experiences this fall was a visit to Winterthur (winter-TUR) Museum and Country Estate in Delaware. I was there speaking at the annual GardenFair, a mix of workshops, lectures and shopping for plants, art and antiques.
Winterthur Museum and Country Estate is the creation of Henry Francis du Pont (1880 – 1969). It had been the family home for close 100 years when H.F. du Pont took over managing the estate at the beginning of the 20th century. By the time of his death in 1969, he had transformed the place into a public museum showcasing his extensive collection of early American decorative arts and 60 acres of naturalistic garden.
What I love about Winterthur is the spirit. It is a garden that looks outward, embracing the hills, streams and forests of the surrounding Brandywine Valley. Mr. du Pont’s love of plants and the surrounding woodlands is apparent in the careful choreography of flowers and foliage and how they are placed in the landscape. Specimen plants are positioned to show off their beauty in the most natural arrangements, as if they just popped up on their own.
While I was there a large drift of autumn crocus (Colchicum autumnale) were in bloom under the canopy of a sour gum (Nyssa sylvatica). The tree’s scarlet leaves had just started to fall to the ground, landing among the delicate, lavender crocus blooms. The combination of color and texture was subtle, yet superb. A wonderful example of Mr. du Pont’s understanding of horticulture, garden design and honoring the "genius of the place."
To learn more about Winterthur visit their website at www.winterthur.org.