Delaware and the DuPont Gardens
Wednesday May 5—Saturday May 8th
Leader: Bob Kuchta
Travelers: Mary Anderson, Mary Hughes, Cheryl and Mike Amadeo
Wednesday May 5:
We made 3 pickups: Essex, New Haven, and Fairfield and got stuck in some traffic on the Merritt Parkway. We always get some traffic on the Merritt these days. There was a 4 car pile up on our way northbound on our return trip too, which added about an hour of travel time.
We arrived at the Hagley Museum for our picnic lunch at the picnic tables near the visitor center. The sun shone on us, and the temps were 75 degrees. We signed up for the house and garden tour right away and by 1:30 we were touring the DuPont ancestral home in the Brandywine River Valley. The home has been lived in by various generations of Duponts, during the development of the gunpowder business, until the mid 1900′s. The home was restored and gardens created by Louise DuPont Crowninshield, sister of the Winterthur museum’s Henry Francis Du-Pont.
We toured the elegantly decorated home and the French style vegetable and flower gardens, the DuPont office and the estates large barn. On the grounds was an enormous Osage Orange tree, approximately 350 years old. A pleasant tour of the powder mills and a demonstration of blowing up black powder by a docent completed our tour by the Brandywine River of the Hagley.
A return to the Doubletree Hotel, for a dinner at the hotel’s restaurant (Palette) and then retired for the night.
Thursday May 6:
Thursday began with a walk along the Brandywine River, near the Brandywine Creek State Park. Mary Anderson joined me for a 7:30 am walk, and the first remarkable bird we spotted was a mature bald eagle flying along the river. We could quit birding for the rest of the day after that start. We took a gentle wide trail through the woods and back through a meadow for about an hour and returned to have breakfast at the hotel.
The rest of the group joined together for breakfast and then headed off to the Winterthur Museum and gardens for the day’s visit.
First thing we took in was the museum tour of the fifth and sixth floors of the museum. A guided tour by an excellent Winterthur docent. We visited the gallery, which had a display of the “Lost gardens of the Brandywine”. This was a great segue to our theme for the trip: Dupont Gardens.
After a lunch at the cafe conveniently located next to the museum, we strolled through the gardens and spent time visiting and photographing the enchanted woods and quarry garden replete with candelabra primroses. Completing our visit, we took in some review of the great books and gifts in the bookstore.
Before our dinner, we briefly previewed the Dupont Environmental Education Center on the Christina River, and then dined at the fabulous riverside Iron Hill Brewery. Stuffed ourselves with seafood, and then the restaurant manager offered us a quick tour of the brewery, where they create fresh beers and ales.
After dinner, we took a 2 mile walk along the Riverwalk, along the Christina River. Enchanting city environment. On our way back to the hotel, we took in some of the notable buildings in downtown Wilmington: the cemetery, Little Italy, the DuPont hotel, the historic Wilmington Opera house and Blue Ball Barn.
Friday May 7:
Friday was a full day at Longwood Gardens. We arrived, after having a morning swim in the hotel pool, and a delicious hot breakfast, to sunny comfortable weather at the best garden on the east coast of the United States. We explored the extensive conservatories first, taking in the orchids, perennial gardens, desert and tropical gardens and water gardens. After nearly 2 hours just getting the feel for the conservatory, we headed off to the Longwood cafe for a delicious meal al fresco.
The afternoon was for exploring the 3 tree houses, Italian water garden, the catfish pond, the topiary garden, the eye of water and the idea garden.
Lastly was the great bookstore and gift area. The staff nearly had to kick us out, having stayed to the very last minute enjoying every second of our visit.
Dinner at Bertucci’s was relaxing and completed our day’s activities. Everyone was tired and retired soon after arriving at the hotel. No swimming tonight.
Saturday May 8:
Saturday morning. We packed our bags and headed out towards the Delaware Center for Horticulture. The center’s gardens are a stone’s throw from the Brandywine Park in downtown Wilmington. Lots of unusual plants, some we have never seen before in a compact city garden. Gibraltar and Goodstay gardens were next. These are smaller Dupont gardens, but here again, they are still Dupont quality gardens. Well maintained.
Our last site to visit was the Dupont Environmental Education Center, set on the banks of the Christina River. A brand new center, just opened in October, has a long boardwalk sited next to the rivers marshes and newly created wetland/pond habitat.
We grabbed a take out lunch at Joe’s Crab Shack and piled into the van for the trip home.