Winterthur Part 3: A Walk in the Woods

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 Fall 2013-028 Paved paths meander through Winterthur’s majestic woods.

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.  Posts about my visit in late May profiled the Peony Garden, click here, and the Quarry Garden, click here.  


Winterthur Fall 2013-005The Winterthur house, which is now a museum of  American decorative art, is framed on all sides by huge trees.

The gardens at Winterthur are bursting with flowers starting with snowdrops and other early bloomers in February and continuing through spring and summer.  By the time Michael and I visited at the very end of October, the focus had shifted to the magnificent woods.  We thoroughly enjoyed our peaceful walk during which we had the garden pretty much to ourselves.  My only regret is that we were about a week too early for fall color.  The trees turned so late this year that I was convinced that fall color was never coming.  Despite my pessimism it did arrive as you will see in an upcoming post.


Winterthur Fall 2013-003.

Enjoy your virtual stroll through the Winterthur gardens, but don’t skip the end where I highlight two unusual sights.


Winterthur Fall 2013-010


Winterthur Fall 2013-006.

Winterthur Fall 2013-018.

Winterthur Fall 2013-004.

Winterthur Fall 2013-007.

Winterthur Fall 2013-013Whenever you head out of the woods, you find gorgeous views of the surrounding countryside, much of it part of the Winterthur property.


Winterthur Fall 2013-014The Quarry Garden in fall.


Winterthur Fall 2013-015Approaching the house from the other side.


Winterthur Fall 2013-020.

Winterthur Fall 2013-023.

Winterthur Fall 2013-024.

Winterthur Fall 2013-026.

Winterthur Fall 2013-025.

Metasequoia glyptostroboidesMichael standing next to a very large dawn redwood, Metasequoia glyptostroboides.


As we walked through the gardens, we happened upon the dawn redwood pictured above.  It is a very large specimen planted in 1951, but dawn redwoods are quite common in public gardens in our area—there is even one at Carolyn’s Shade Gardens.  What drew me to it was the sprays of male cones, which covered the whole tree and were quite beautiful.  I have never seen a dawn redwood “in bloom”.  Dawn redwoods are deciduous conifers with male and female cones on the same plant (monoecious).  Technically they don’t have flowers although many sources mistakenly refer to the cones as flowers.


Metasequoia glyptostroboides.

Metasequoia glyptostroboides.

liriodendron tulipiferaMichael standing next to one of the many very large tulip poplars, Lirodendron tulipifera, at Winterthur.


Tulip poplars are one of the most common native trees in our area and like all the trees around here they grow to be quite large in our fertile, deep soil.  Winterthur has dozens if not hundreds of large tulip trees.  However, when we visit we always make an effort to hike out to the “William Penn Poplar”, which is not in the official garden but instead on a trail that leads off the parking lot into Chandler Woods.  According to the Winterthur arborist, it is likely that this tree was in existence when William Penn first visited his lands here in 1682.  No matter how large I remember this tree being, it always amazes me how big it actually is.  Just compare the final photo with the picture above.  The actual measurements are 152′ tall and 209″ in circumference.


Liriodendron tulipifera.

Liriodendron tulipifera.

If Chanticleer is the most creative garden in our area, and Longwood is the most diverse and entertaining, in my opinion, Winterthur is the most purely beautiful garden and well worth a visit any time of year.



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.

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

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36 Responses to “Winterthur Part 3: A Walk in the Woods”

  1. Beautiful are your photos!
    Greetings, RW & SK

  2. Hi Carolyn… as much as I would like to see the gardens and woodlands of Winterthur, it’s the house and furniture collections that really interest me… have you been through it? Larry

  3. Beautiful, thank you

  4. I have visited Winterthur a few times at different times of the year, and it always inspires me to try to recreate a small part of it in my gardens. Thanks for the tour!

  5. Enjoyed this Winterthur feature Carolyn. I visited there once in mid-July and would love to see it in other seasons. It is where I first learned about Dawn Redwoods and since then have seen them growing here in NC. The Tulip poplar is amazing. susie

  6. That was a lovely stroll Carolyn. Metasequoia in flower -big flowers. What a treat.

  7. It’s gorgeous. It seems so tranquil and serene. Just the way I picture the world before all the humans. Love that pond. It looks like you pictured sourwood. I adore mine since I now have some. A lovely tree. And of course the tulip poplars probably grow close by. Tulip poplars are such wonderful trees but not for small properties I think. Winterthur reminds me a lot of Biltmore. One day I do plan to visit.

    • Tina, Winterthur is somewhat like the Biltmore only inside the house you have the foremost museum of American decorative arts, a truly one-of-a-kind museum, and outside the gardens are less “gardened”. Henry Francis DuPont was a champion of the natural garden. Carolyn

  8. Such a lovely tour. I loved this place.

  9. I think it important to walk a garden in winter to get a sense of its shape and bones. And then walk it again in every season.

  10. Carolyn, I do buy plants from you and love what you have, but your blogs of special plants, trips and beautiful gardens are a source of wonderful pleasure for me. I am 85 years old and used to be able to visit places like Longwood and Winterthur and sail the coast of Maine. Now your blogs take me back and give me enjoyment all over again. Thank you. Pat

  11. Such lovely trees, so tall and straight and some so old by the thickness of their trunks. I do so love woodland, always have, even when I was small. You are lucky to have such a wonderful garden near to you.

  12. Those trees are certainly impressive! The Dawn Redwood in bloom is fascinating. How wonderful that you were there when it was blooming. If I’m ever out that way, I’ll make sure to spend some time at Winterthur.

  13. I have long wanted to visit this garden….it seems to look stunning in every season! You are so lucky to live so close by.

  14. Hi Carolyn
    I am starting to feel acquainted with Winterthur. It all looks very magnificent and I didn’t skip a bit of it.

  15. Hello Carolyn, Interesting to hear about the late arrival of autumn colour with you – its the same over here, with a few exceptions – the Larch are only just turning, and at this rate we’ll still have leaves around in late November. But also what spectacular trees in this garden. I was particularly impressed by the Tulip tree and Metasequoia. I’ve never seen one with flowers on. And I wonder how old it must be, being that size? We’ve grown a few from seed and they’ll obviously see us off…
    Best wishes

    • Julian, Now I am wondering how old the Metasequoia is. I will ask the Curator of Plants and get back to you if I find out. Carolyn

      • Thanks for that Carolyn, it would be interesting to know it’s age. BTW you might be interested/amused? by the latest comments on my last post about a proposed wind turbine nearby us. I’m wondering what I might have got into with this issue…
        Best wishes

      • Linda Eirhart, the Curator of Plants at Winterthur, tells me that the dawn redwood was planted in 1951. She also pointed out that they don’t technically flower because they are conifers and produce cones. I have corrected that reference in the post. When I did background research to write the post, several sources used the word flowers. I was surprised but thought maybe that was the right term. Just goes to show that you can’t always trust the internet.

  16. Lovely photos Carolyn! Some amazing trees, and I loved the different views and areas around the house. It has been very late autumn colours in London too, only just begun, and many trees are still green. Thanks for the tour!

  17. wonderful place..cant believe there is a redwood there..lovely shots

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