Winterthur Part 2B: Late Spring 2013, The Quarry Garden

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.

Winterthur quarrry A close up of the inside of the Quarry Garden with the signature candelabra style Japanese primroses meandering along the stream.

Winterthur in Delaware is the outstanding Philadelphia (Pennsylvania, US) area garden that I am profiling this year. For links to gardens profiled in previous years and background on Winterthur itself, read my first post on Winterthur in late winter by clicking here.  My visit in late May yielded so much material that I have broken the posts into three parts.  To read the first, which profiles the Peony Garden, click here.  This post focuses on the Quarry Garden, which I think was the highlight of the tour for me.


Winterthur quarry gardenLooking down on the Quarry Garden from the hill behind it, the fence is along the edge of the quarry.

In 1956, after gardening at Winterthur for 70 years, Henry Francis du Pont (1880 to 1969) received the Garden Club of America’s Medal of Honor.  The award stated that du Pont was “one of the best, even the best, gardener this country has ever produced.”  Almost 60 years later, Winterthur remains one of the premier gardens in the U.S. and has been lovingly maintained to showcase du Pont’s amazing achievement.


Winterthur quarry gardenThe view of the Quarry Garden from the walkway that surrounds three sides.

In 1962, at the age of 82, Henry Francis du Pont decided to apply his considerable gardening talents to transform an old stone quarry on the Winterthur property.  Du Pont was a master of the natural garden design popular at the beginning of the 20th century and most notably advocated by the famous British horticulturalist William Robinson in his book The Wild Garden.  [If you haven’t read this book, I highly recommend it.  You will discover that many ‘”new and sustainable” garden ideas were well established in 1870 and have simply been forgotten.]  A guiding principle of du Pont’s designs was that the plants “should fit in so well with the natural landscape that one should hardly be conscious that it has been accomplished.”  He also believed that color is one of the most important elements of a garden design.


Winterthur quarryA view from above of the naturalized primroses backed by a wall of shade plants.

To incorporate these principles, du Pont planted shade-loving ferns, perennials, and striking shrubs among the huge stone outcroppings lining the quarry walls.  He also incorporated showy bog-loving plants along the stream on the quarry floor formed by the seepage of natural springs.  The signature plant in late May is the colorful candelabra primroses naturalized in the wet area.  I remember seeing this planting years ago and rushing home to plant Primula japonica in the only moist area on my property.  Here are more views of this gorgeous and creative garden:


Primula japonica WinterthurJapanese primroses in full bloom.  Be aware that this primrose can spread aggressively in wet areas and is sometimes talked about as being invasive.

Winterthur quarry


Winterthur quarryThe quarry wall is intensively planted.

Winterthur quarry.

Winterthur quarryA view of the stream and the rock path from above.

Winterthur quarry.

Winterthur quarry


Wintethur quarryThe previous photos were all taken from above, but you can walk down into the quarry on the path at the start of the bridge.

Winterthur quarry.

Winterthur quarry.

Winterthur quarry

I hope you enjoyed Part 2B of my year of Winterthur posts even though it is slightly out-of-season.  The final installment will be on the Azalea Woods filled with rhododendrons, azaleas, and beautiful spring wildflowers.



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.

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21 Responses to “Winterthur Part 2B: Late Spring 2013, The Quarry Garden”

  1. nwphillygardner Says:

    Wow! You’ve definitely added Winterthur to my agenda next spring. I didn’t realize what I was missing!

  2. […] Winterthur Part 2B: Late Spring 2013, TheQuarry Garden ( […]

  3. These Winterthur posts are so lovely–and you’ve convinced me that I need to visit there someday…

  4. I love those primroses and use them in many designs. Hope to see this garden one day!

  5. I have to say it was my favorite garden at Winterthur. Along with the peonies and azalea, late Spring is such a great time to visit.

  6. Such a wonderful garden. I love the woodland setting with water and flowers against all the greenery.

  7. Hi Carolyn. Just dropping you a note that I gave in and bought some Hellebores at the local nursery today.



    On Fri, Aug 16, 2013 at 9:46 AM, CAROLYN’S SHADE GARDENS wrote:

    > ** > Carolyn @ Carolyns Shade Gardens posted: ” A close up of the inside of > the Quarry Garden with the signature candelabra style Japanese primroses > meandering along the stream. Winterthur in Delaware is the outstanding > Philadelphia (Pennsylvania, US) area garden that I am profiling this year. > For l”

  8. I always love your guided walk through a garden. The photos are really wonderful.

  9. What a charming post, Carolyn. We grew such primroses in our garden in Sydney but that was 35 years ago. It was such a thrill to see this post but can only imagine what an endorphin rush I would receive if I were to be as lucky as you to experience it in person.

    Golf claps to you, honey.

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