Winterthur Part 1: Late Winter 2013

Carolyn’s Shade Gardens is a retail nursery located in Bryn Mawr, PA, specializing in showy, colorful, and unusual plants for shade.  The only plants that we ship are snowdrops and miniature hostas.  For catalogues and announcements of events, please send your full name, location, and phone number (for back up use only) to  Click here to get to the home page of our website for catalogues and information about our nursery and to subscribe to our blog.

Crocus tomasinianus In early March, the courtyard behind the house at Winterthur is completely filled with snow crocus, C. tomasinianus. It is worth visiting in late winter just to see this sight.


Each year I choose an outstanding Philadelphia (Pennsylvania, US) area garden to profile through out the seasons. There are so many amazing gardens in the Delaware Valley that I will never run out of choices. It is more a case of which wonderful garden to choose. In 2011 to 2012, I visited the enchanting pleasure gardens at Chanticleer. To see those posts, click here. In 2012 to 2013, I focused on the diverse and magnificent gardens and conservatories at Longwood. To see those posts, click here. For 2013 to 2014, I have chosen the elegant former estate of collector and horticulturalist Henry Francis du Pont located in Delaware just over the Pennsylvania line and called Winterthur.


WinterthurThe Winterthur house holds the premier collection of American decorative art. For scale, look at the two people on the right side of the photo just beyond the path.

Henry Francis du Pont (1880 to 1969) was a voracious collector of American decorative art for his home and of plants from all over the world for his garden. He had a lot of space to work with as the house has 175 rooms and the garden is 1,000 acres, 60 of which he landscaped with naturalistic plantings. About 60 years ago du Pont opened the house and gardens to the public, fulfilling his wish that:

the Museum will be a continuing source of inspiration and education for all time, and that the gardens and grounds will of themselves be a country place museum where visitors may enjoy as I have, not only the flowers, trees and shrubs, but also the sunlit meadows, shady wood paths, and the peace and great calm of a country place which has been loved and taken care of for three generations.


WinterthurThe paths leading from the visitor’s center to the house and gardens meander through the magnificent trees.


The “peace and great calm of a country place” is what draws me to Winterthur again and again for the garden is not a botanical collection or a display garden in the usual sense. But rather, as the website states, “an artistic composition that captures a significant period in the history of American horticulture.” It is carefully maintained and preserved to allow visitor’s to enjoy the landscaped gardens as Henry du Pont designed them as well as the peaceful vistas that he carefully incorporated into his designs. Yet it does so with none of the rigidity and dated feeling of many historic gardens. The experience is as fresh and enjoyable as if du Pont himself were giving you a tour of his own backyard, albeit a very large one!


DSCN9477Another view of the house in winter.


This post shows photos from my visit to Winterthur for their annual snowdrop event, this year on March 9 (for more information on that event, click here). I apologize for the delay, but I have been so busy with my nursery that I just found time to sort through these images. I also thought that pictures of snowdrops and other winter bulbs might really stand out right now when other blogs aren’t posting them anymore. Most of the plants shown are in the area of the March Bank at Winterthur, which contains the premier collection of naturalized snowdrops and other winter interest bulbs in the U.S.


Galanthus at Winterthurnaturalized snowdrops


It is very difficult to give readers an idea of the massive amounts of snowdrops, aconite, crocus, glory-of-the-snow, snowflakes, adonis, and other winter bulbs at Winterthur. The plants are so small that once you back up to show a large area, they disappear into the leaf litter (at least using my camera, which is much better for macro shots). You will just have to take my word for it that in person the sweeps of bulbs are breath-taking and unparalleled.


Eranthis hyemalisWinter aconite with snowdrops in the background.


Winterthuraconites, snowdrops, and crocus


Adonis amurensisAmur adonis


Leucojum vernumspring snowdflake


Winterthuraconite, snowdrops, and snowflakes


Galanthus and Eranthissnowdrops and aconite


Winterthursnowflakes and aconite


WinterthurMarch Bank


Galanthus elwesiiMost of the naturalized snowdrops are the giant snowdrop, G. elwesii.


Galanthus elwesiiA particularly lovely clump of giant snowdrops with many more (plus a photographer) on the March Bank.


Galanthus nivalis 'Vidirapice'green-tipped snowdrops


Crocus tommasinianusSnow crocus growing in the grass courtyard behind the house.


Crocus tommasianusIt is much easier to photograph the snow crocus set off by the grass. However, all the bulbs in this post appear through out Winterthur in the same massive quantities and are just as awe-inspiring as the crocus portrayed here.


I hope you enjoyed Part 1 of my year of Winterthur posts, out-of-season though it may be. If you are local, mark your calendars for March 1, 2014, so you can see this wondrous display for yourself. In the meantime, it is finally summer and my nursery is closed. I will be posting on the blog but less frequently. On Thursday I am off to San Francisco for the 2013 Garden Blogger’s Fling. Enjoy your summer.



Carolyn’s Shade Gardens is a retail nursery located in Bryn Mawr, Pennsylvania, U.S., zone 6b. The only plants that we mail order are snowdrops and miniature hostas and only within the US.

If you are within visiting distance and would like to receive catalogues and information about customer events, please send your full name and phone number to Subscribing to my blog does not sign you up to receive this information.

Nursery Happenings: The nursery is closed and will reopen in the fall around September 15. Have a great summer.

Facebook: Carolyn’s Shade Gardens has a Facebook Page where I post single photos, garden tips, and other information that doesn’t fit into a blog post. You can look at my Facebook page here or click the Like button on my right sidebar here.

Notes: Every word that appears in orange on my blog is a link that you can click for more information. If you want to return to my blog’s homepage to access the sidebar information (catalogues, previous articles, etc.) or to subscribe to my blog, just click here.

38 Responses to “Winterthur Part 1: Late Winter 2013”

  1. That is a pretty impressive display. It has to be a beautiful set of gardens all year round.

  2. What fantastic drifts of spring bulbs Carolyn, certainly different to see photos of them in June! The crocus are wonderful in such a drift, You certainly need lots of space to grow them like that.

    • Pauline, Actually you just need a lawn area to grow the crocus in masses like this. I imagine that Winterthur hold off from mowing until the fliage has cured. Winter bulb photos in June—-I know it’s odd. I am way behind in my posts!!!! Carolyn

  3. Hello Carolyn,
    What fabulous naturalised plantings. Crocus tommasinianus is my favourite Crocus, but I don’t think I’ve ever seen so many growing in one place before. Spectacular. And I’ve just finished harvesting seed capsules and seed from our C. tommasinianus . Like the flowers they seem to emerge in waves, and if you’re not quick all the seed fall to the ground and get lost in the litter (or grass). Why bother? Well partly because I love growing things from seed, also its cheaper and less hard work than planting more corms if you want massed displays, but in addition, if you have issues with squirrels, etc. digging up newly planted corms, this seems to avoid it – even if you do have to wait a few years to get the first flowers!
    Enjoy your conference and summer,
    best wishes

    • Julian, So nice to hear from you. I wonder if you could just sprinkle the crocus seed on your grass. Snow crocus are seeding into my lawn without my help as are many other plants including snowdrops, pulmonaria, and Japanese painted fern. Of course if you plant and grow the seed you will have a much higher rate of success. Happy summer, Carolyn

      • Hello Carolyn,
        I’m sure just sprinkling on grass would work – perhaps not as well as sowing, but a big percentage would come up, and apparently ants move them around a bit anyway because of a sugary attachment to the seed coating. I’m planning to put this year’s seeds all over the garden in areas where they’re not currently growing, since they’re so lovely, and also the best Crocus for early bees with all that orange pollen,
        Best wishes

      • That will be lovely. They have done that by themselves in my garden and I enjoy finding new locations every spring.

  4. Hi Carolyn… Winterthur has long been on my wish list to see… not only for the gardens but the collections as well… this promises to be a most enjoyable series! Larry

  5. Great article Carolyn, I have seen the March bank in all of its glory and was definitely worth the visit. Was unaware of the Crocus tommasianus on the other side!! Will plan a visit for March and check it all out.

  6. Great display of the snow crocus but the Winter aconite bed caught my attention.

  7. It must be wonderful to be so close to so many fabulous gardens. Love all the snowdrops, and oh! the crocus! What an amazing lawn!

  8. Carolyn I love this idea of visiting a wonderful garden through the seasons and I really enjoyed seeing early spring again…it made me smile…have fun at the fling and perhaps I will be able to visit one of these gardens through the seasons. Of course your garden is first.

  9. It does look very beautiful there! I can only imagine the beauty of all those spring bulbs en masse like that! Someday I’ll make a trip up that way.

  10. Darlene Long Says:

    I was at Winterthur that day for the snowdrop ‘festival’ and went on the tour after Alan Street’s lecture. As we came up the steps to the courtyard everyone gasped at the sight of the carpet of ‘tommies’. Winterthur is one of my favorite places. For me gardens are meditative and Winterthur supplies me with peace and serenity. Thanks for the rerun of spring.

  11. A lovely walk through the gardens… the crocus are divine!

  12. I have heard of Winterthur and can only imagine how gorgeous those woodlands and naturalized areas must be in person! I would love to tour the house as well.

  13. Judith Spruance Says:

    Thanks, Carolyn. Winterthur is so wonderful even in the winter with the great peaceful trees and especially in the spring with the drifts of naturalized bulbs. Your pictures inspire and guide me in my bulb orders for this coming fall – a drift or two of naturalized bulbs is a plan!

  14. Those crocus shots are gorgeous. Even in winter this property shines with awesome beauty. Thank you for sharing it with us.

  15. I enthuse seeing the sheer abandon of the post winter blooms pictured in your post. What is it that brings a natural order here?


  16. That house!! wow. it is incredible. and surrounded by what feels like a traditional park space, what a great spot for a walk.

  17. delightful!! those crocus’ are amazing!

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