Fall at Brandywine Cottage

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 carolyn@carolynsshadegardens.com.  Click here to get to the home page of our website for catalogues and information about our nursery and to subscribe to our blog.

David Culp's Garden Fall 2013-013.

I recently had the privilege of visiting Brandywine Cottage, the house and gardens of horticulturalist and author David Culp.  I have toured these extraordinary gardens many times over the last 20 years, but always in the winter and spring as David and I share a passion for (or should I say obsession with) snowdrops and hellebores.  The arrival of a special shipment of snowdrops from England gave me an excuse to make the trip and experience Brandywine Cottage in October.


David Culp's Garden Fall 2013Looking down on the gardens from the driveway.


Among his other accomplishments, David Culp is the author of The Layered Garden: Design Lessons for Year-Round Beauty from Brandywine Cottage (Timber Press 2012).  The Layered Garden recently received the 2013 Gold Award from the Garden Writers Association for Best Overall Book.  For more information on this wonderful book detailing David’s approach to garden design, his passion for plants, and the development of Brandywine Cottage over the last 20 years, click here.


David Culp's Garden Fall 2013-001the front entrance


Fall is a difficult time to view a garden in southeastern Pennsylvania.  The leaves are falling off all the huge trees, obscuring the beds and detracting from the perfection we can achieve in spring.  The wonderful plants that might provide some lovely close up shots are eaten by insects, browned by drought, and beaten down by torrential rain.  However, a well-designed garden like Brandywine Cottage highlights the subtle beauty of fall.  It  was still a pleasure to visit even on an overcast and dreary day with more heavy rains threatening.  I hope you enjoy your virtual trip through this special place.


David Culp's Garden Fall 2013-002A courtyard by the front entrance is shaded by a giant Norway spruce whose roots make an interesting pattern in the gravel.


David Culp's Garden Fall 2013-003.

Edgeeworthia chrysanthaDavid has several edgeworthias thriving in full shade.


David Culp's Garden Fall 2013-005.

David Culp's Garden Fall 2013-006.

David Culp's Garden Fall 2013-007.

David Culp's Garden Fall 2013-008.

David Culp's Garden Fall 2013-009The vegetable garden with its white picket fence is on the left and the largest perennial border is on the right.


David Culp's Garden Fall 2013-010large perennial border


David Culp's Garden Fall 2013-011vegetable garden


David Culp's Garden Fall 2013-012.

David Culp's Garden Fall 2013-014.

David Culp's Garden Fall 2013-015.

David Culp's Garden Fall 2013-019Narrow paths crisscross the hillside above the house which is filled with shade plants, including hundreds of hellebores.


David Culp's Garden Fall 2013-017An opening through the trees allows a view from the hillside towards the gardens below.




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 carolynsshadegardens@verizon.net. Subscribing to my blog does not sign you up to receive this information.

Nursery Happenings: Carolyn’s Shade Gardens is closed for the winter.  Look for the 2014 Snowdrop Catalogue in early January.

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.

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41 Responses to “Fall at Brandywine Cottage”

  1. This is such a wonderful place and so inviting. Thank you for sharing these beautiful gardens. I will have to put this one on the list to visit!

  2. Wonderful and lucky you…. I have Mr. Culp’s book and enjoy referring to it every so often as I try to settle on a direction for my own gardens to take. Thanks for sharing these photos Carolyn… Larry

  3. Carolyn another must see garden to visit once I finally get down to visit. Any garden so lovely in fall must be visited in other seasons.


    I too have had the chance to see David’s magical garden but in the early summer. As a fellow snowdrop addict, I envy your trip there in winter/spring. I am also afflicted with zone envy. Edgeworthia and huge mahonia!!!!

  5. His garden looks great in fall, especially all the path views. I am taken with his house. It looks like a great old historic PA home.

  6. Wonderful! Just wonderful!

  7. It’s funny but in spring I am at pains to remove every dead leaf and stray branch yet in autumn those fallen leaves become part of the tapestry – at least until they turn brown and mushy! The gardens look stunning

    • Karen, There is not a chance of removing all the dead leaves of my 15 huge London plane trees which start dropping in August. They don’t add to the look of the garden but I have to reconcile myself to their arrival. They do make great mulch that breaks down to compost though. Carolyn

  8. Beautiful Carolyn, thanks for sharing this special place.

  9. Joan Biddle Says:

    Thanks Carolyn. I have only been there in the spring too and would love to get back. Its quite special! Joan Biddle

  10. Great Photos and a good read! I love that Edgeworthia in full shade!!

  11. This is a beautiful garden, I’ve got the book, but it was nice to see it in autumn too, thank you Carolyn

  12. These photos really give a great sense of place for this special woodland garden. And I love the rustic looking armchair and bench. I wonder if they were made locally? Thanks for posting these Carolyn, and have fun planting the snowdrops!
    Best wishes, Julian

    • Julian, I’m glad you thought the photos did a good job of showing the unique place that David Culp has created. I always second guess myself and think the photos aren’t good enough to use. I don’t know where the garden furniture was made but it is likely local. The snowdrops were planted the day after I got them. It is a rare event for an American galanthophile to get a wide range of new snowdrops so I am still celebrating. Carolyn

  13. Lovely post on Brandywine Cottage, Carolyn! I purchase David’s book this past spring (at Winterthur actually) and have hoped that maybe a could glimpse more of his garden someday. Their woods must be stunning in March/April.

    Hope you are enjoying a bit of a break from your busy nursery schedule this season. Happy October to you!

    • Julie, Wow, it seems that a lot of my fellow bloggers all over the US and beyond have read The Layered Garden. I wonder how many of my nursery customers have read it. The selling part of the nursery season is just about ending but there is still a lot to do this fall. The schedule can be a little more relaxed though. Happy Fall, Carolyn

  14. You do visit some terrific gardens Carolyn. Keep a look out for a little thumbs up to yourself on Gardeners World. Mind you it took a full day to film what will be a four minute clip and as I mumbled and stumbled over some of it I am not sure what will be used. Broadcasting on BBC2 on Friday 8th Nov.

    • Alistair, I really want to see the segment especially now with this tantalizing comment. I am not sure how or when BBC is broadcast here in the US because I don’t watch TV. Also I may need cable to get it which I don’t have. Couldn’t you post a video clip on your blog of the segment? I am sure all our fellow bloggers will want to see it. BBC could probably give you the clip. You are going to be a celebrity! Carolyn

  15. nwphillygardner Says:

    While I’m sure it must be well documented photographically in David’s book, a visit to the gardens at Brandywine Cottage really taught me that hellebores seem perfectly sited on a hillside, where their nodding flowers can be appreciated without bending down.

  16. This is a beautiful garden, even with the fallen leaves. I like the roots in the gravel path.

  17. Looking at the photos (which are great) I see a yellow theme going. I thought I would see some orange and red colours for fall but the foliage on the bushes and trees is all yellow. Do you think this planned?

  18. I am just getting to this post coincidentally after attending the Perennial Plant conference at Scott Arboretum yesterday. David closed the conference but opened up imaginations. He was so inspiring one wants to go home and start all over. It was the second time I had heard him speak and it was still as magical as his garden.

  19. what a great tour. So beautiful. I love how the foliage is the big star and the flowers simply accent the garden.

  20. Yes, it is hard to take close-ups of my bug eaten, droopy leafed plants! But I enjoyed the autumn overviews of this lovely garden. I was struck by the roots in the gravel path!

  21. I love how the roots of the Norway maple make art in the gravel…although it’s been a long time since I had anything nice to say about a Norway maple! I will look forward to your spring visit and photos of hellebores, a plant I am increasingly intrigued with and always looking for interesting additions.

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