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Garden Insider: What’s a Folly?

Wednesday, June 21, 2017 – 11:30 am – Rotunda*

In 2018 the Winterthur Garden will be hosting its first outdoor exhibition, entitled “Follies: Architectural Whimsy in the Garden.” Not sure just what that will look like? Join Carol Long, Curator of the Garden, to find out more.

Latimeria Summerhouse at Winterthur

“Garden Insider” is a new name for a longstanding Winterthur tradition (“Wednesdays at Winterthur”). Join us for this unique series of walks, talks, and demonstrations that introduce you every week to a specialist from among the staff, volunteers, and other professionals affiliated with the Winterthur Garden. Presentations explore all aspects of the Winterthur Garden and Estate – their history, design, and plants – as well as current topics of interest in horticulture, agriculture, and environmental studies. *This week’s presentation will take place in the Rotunda. About 1 hour. Free to Members and included with admission.

Garden Insider: The Art of Beekeeping—Winterthur Style!

Wednesday, June 7, 2017 – 11:30 am – Brown Horticulture Learning Center

Join beekeeper Chris Biondi for a behind-the-scenes look at managing honeybees and honey production on the Winterthur Estate. Following the 30-minute presentation, guests are invited to take a hayride out to the hives to see beekeeping in action!

About the speaker: Chris Biondi is an experienced beekeeper and former Treasurer of the Chester County Beekeepers Association. He currently maintains approximately 40 colonies for honey production, in addition to running a successful queen rearing operation.

Chris Biondi among the beehives

“Garden Insider” is a new name for a longstanding Winterthur tradition (“Wednesdays at Winterthur”). Join us for this unique series of walks, talks, and demonstrations which introduce you every week to a specialist from among the staff, volunteers, and other professionals affiliated with the Winterthur Garden. Presentations explore all aspects of the Winterthur Garden and Estate – their history, design, and plants – as well as current topics of interest in horticulture, agriculture, and environmental studies. All presentations start at 11:30 am at the Brown Horticulture Learning Center. About 1 hour. Free to Members and included with admission.

 

As the garden quietly edges toward summer, the white arrows that lead guests to the flowering highlights have been removed and stored away until next year. There is always something to see in the Winterthur Garden but the “sensory overload” of the spring is now replaced with lush greens and a more discerning eye to some of the subtler beauties of the garden.

White arrows with Umbrella Seat in the background

As I was removing the arrows, I noticed what a good martagon lily year it is and how they thread their way throughout the garden. I thought that I would treat you to a visual tour of that display to perhaps encourage you to come out and see them on your own!

When entering the garden from the Visitors Center Patio, the first greeting by a martagon lily occurs before you enter the stone underpass.

Martagon lily with Rhododendron in background

Probably our largest grouping of martagon lilies is in Azalea Woods. There is a horseshoe path that runs parallel to Garden Lane that contains later-flowering rhododendron.  Tucked beneath these towering shrubs are these pagoda-like, towering lilies.  The main cultivar in this grouping is Mrs. R.O. Backhouse whose flower color resemble the variable shades of sherbet or pez candies.  One usually has to crouch down to see the under markings of the lilies.

Mrs. R.O.Backhouse

…but the view from above is not bad either.

Looking down on martagon flowers

A straight-on look shows off the full presence of these statuesque lilies; whorled tiers of leaves, capped with magnificent flower clusters.

Pagoda-like stature

 

Massing of martagons in Azalea Woods

Some other colors, sprinkled throughout Azalea Woods:

Soft yellow

Burnt orange

Creamy white with no speckles

The next grouping of martagons occurs in the woodland up from the Quarry.  Though the quantity is fewer, this smaller woodland hosts many colors:

Russet-red with tulip poplar backdrop

Vibrant orange

Rich maroon

Warm mauve

 

We interrupt this martagon lily tour for a brief announcement:

 

The nearby Enchanted Woods has a massing of martagons near the Faerie Cottage and the Birds Nest, mostly orange and “sherbet colored”.

“Fairy flowers” in the fairy garden

The tour ends with one of the prettiest flower colors–in my opinion–found tucked away in Icewell Terrace. I think that it may be prettier viewed from above.

White with paint-brushed, purple streaks

 

…and from the underside

 

For your viewing pleasure; most of the martagon lilies are in flower but some are still yet to open for you to come back and visit.

Delayed gratification

Although the white arrows are entering their seasonal slumber, please continue to meander the summer garden and consider broadening your perspective by venturing to places you have not yet explored, going the opposite direction from your normal route, or visiting at a different time of day.

If you feel more comfortable being directed through the garden, yellow arrows mark trails through meadows and woodlands, exploring the wider estate and highlighting more of our natural areas.  At nearly 1,ooo acres, there is a lot to observe.

Packed up for the year.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Garden Insider: Discover Winterthur’s Past in Enchanted Woods

Wednesday, May 31, 2017 – 11:30 am – Brown Horticulture Learning Center

Remnants of Winterthur’s past, including architectural fragments, columns, and gates, are found throughout Enchanted Woods.  Join horticulturist Suzanne French to discover how these elements were masterfully used in the creation of one of this country’s most magical and unique children’s gardens.

Bench swing on the Gathering Green in Enchanted Woods

“Garden Insider” is a new name for a longstanding Winterthur tradition (“Wednesdays at Winterthur”). Join us for this unique series of walks, talks, and demonstrations which introduce you every week to a specialist from among the staff, volunteers, and other professionals affiliated with the Winterthur Garden. Presentations explore all aspects of the Winterthur Garden and Estate – their history, design, and plants – as well as current topics of interest in horticulture, agriculture, and environmental studies. All presentations start at 11:30 am at the Brown Horticulture Learning Center. About 1 hour. Free to Members and included with admission.

Garden Insider: Plants from China – A Living Museum

Wednesday, May 24, 2017 – 11:30 am – Brown Horticulture Learning Center

From Winterthur’s famous dove tree, among the first of its kind to bloom in this country, to the often overlooked beauty, seven-son-flower, Chinese plants abound in the Winterthur Garden. On this walk with Winterthur Garden Guide Fair Bauernschmidt, see examples of plants that – akin to the porcelain and other Chinese objet d’art on display in the Museum – represent a priceless collection!

Dove-tree or handkerchief-tree (Davidia involucrata)

“Garden Insider” is a new name for a longstanding Winterthur tradition (“Wednesdays at Winterthur”). Join us for this unique series of walks, talks, and demonstrations which introduce you every week to a specialist from among the staff, volunteers, and other professionals affiliated with the Winterthur Garden. Presentations explore all aspects of the Winterthur Garden and Estate – their history, design, and plants – as well as current topics of interest in horticulture, agriculture, and environmental studies. All presentations start at 11:30 am at the Brown Horticulture Learning Center. About 1 hour. Free to Members and included with admission.

Garden Insider: Destination—Quarry Garden

Wednesday, May 17, 2017 – 11:30 am – Brown Horticulture Learning Center

H.F. du Pont found a creative way to re-purpose a once active rock quarry on the Estate into one of Winterthur’s most unique garden areas. Join horticulturist Jim Pirhalla for a walk to the Quarry Garden, where you will discover a rich history and gain new appreciation for a garden conceived in the 1960s during Mr. du Pont’s twilight years.

Quarry Garden awash with color

“Garden Insider” is a new name for a longstanding Winterthur tradition (“Wednesdays at Winterthur”). Join us for this unique series of walks, talks, and demonstrations which introduce you every week to a specialist from among the staff, volunteers, and other professionals affiliated with the Winterthur Garden. Presentations explore all aspects of the Winterthur Garden and Estate – their history, design, and plants – as well as current topics of interest in horticulture, agriculture, and environmental studies. All presentations start at 11:30 am at the Brown Horticulture Learning Center. About 1 hour. Free to Members and included with admission.

The following account was written by Natural Lands Intern Madeline Banks. 


First things first

Any kind of prescribed burning has a lot of thought and careful planning behind it. Everything from safety to environmental impact need to be considered to ensure that a burn is beneficial, not detrimental.  

Keeping this in mind, here is the story of two prescribed field burns that we had right here at Winterthur on April 5th! The fields we chose to burn were Armour Farm Meadow and our Route 100 field.


But why burn at all?  

Armour Farm Meadow is an old agricultural plot that was previously maintained for hay production, but more recently it has been maintained as a meadow. Since it is out of agricultural production, wouldn’t it be better to leave it alone to let nature run its course? Well, not necessarily.

We chose to burn this field mainly because there are two wood lots on either side of the field (Chandler Woods and Armour Farm Woods). The field was still full of grasses and thatch materials, like broom sedge, from its days as a hay field. Our hope is that we can redefine the line of the field in order to join the two wood lots. There is already a strip of young woods at the west end of the field which barely connects the wood lots, so the redefinition of the field will extend that strip a bit into the northwest corner of the field.

We’re hoping that the fire will provide good conditions for native tree seeds, like birch, tulip poplar, flowering dogwood, and oak, to come out of dormancy and essentially begin to regenerate the forest that has been separated by the field. Fire can help seeds come out of dormancy through several mechanisms – whether it’s changing the temperature and moisture levels of the seed itself, or reducing competition for light, nutrients, and water by burning away invasive or aggressive plants.

As to the Route 100 field, our main reason for burning was to help with the control of invasive species. At the time of the burn, our native plants hadn’t started leafing out yet, whereas the invasives, like multiflora rose, had. The fire kills the leafing part of the invasives and sets back their growth schedule. So, when the plant sends up new, young growth, it will be easier to treat with herbicide. When we can suppress invasives, it gives our beneficial native plants a better chance to obtain resources and thrive.


The burn process

For brevity’s sake, I’ll only recount our burn of Armour Farm Meadow. In preparation for the burn, we mowed firebreaks around our fields to ensure that the fire would not escape the burn unit into wooded areas. Furthermore, we obtained a burn permit from the Delaware Division of Natural Resources and Environmental Control (DNREC) Division of Air Quality to make sure our burn would have minimal environmental impact. We also met with the Winterthur fire chief to ensure public safety, as well as the safety of our burn crew.  

On the morning of the burn, we were up bright and early to prepare for the day! We got out our small fire engine to stage on top of the field, and the Winterthur fire department was staged at the bottom of the field with a 750-gallon fire engine. Both trucks were filled with water and ready to go. We also made sure to contact local fire stations to let them know when we were burning. We didn’t want them unnecessarily sending out firefighters to our burn!

Throughout the day our Natural Lands team as well as staff from Mt. Cuba Center and Longwood Gardens were all there to help with the burn. We assembled gear, suited up, and made a game plan. We decided to divide into two teams so that we could establish a black line around the perimeter of the field. We established the black line by lighting the edges of the field so that any burning that happened would not escape the burn unit. We started this by lighting a test fire.

Each team slowly began lighting in opposite directions around the field, both keeping in radio contact with one another to make sure they were working at an even pace. Members of each team were spaced out to make sure that the fire was completely out before moving up. Both teams met up at the bottom of the field and joined to two fire lines.


Something unexpected

By this point, the wind was strongly moving east, so it carried the fire into the center of the field on its own. This ended up being advantageous because no one had to walk into the center and light. Even though the fire was moving on its own because of the wind, it was safe owing to our established black line that surrounded the field. The fire would not go beyond it.

Still, this was a bit nerve-wracking…  

The fire burned so hot and so fast that the whole area was consumed in smoke. It was impossible to get any good pictures of this moment. I almost felt trapped, being positioned with the trees of the young forest strip behind me and fire and smoke in front of me.  

In that moment I could see how it could have gone so wrong if we had stopped paying attention to the wind – or if we had lost contact with the team on the other side.   


Extinguished

But just like that, after all the commotion, it was finished!

It sounds a little anticlimactic – but it kind of was, in a way. One moment, Armour Farm Meadow was a blazing inferno. The next, it was just over. All the prep work, careful planning, and strategic lighting left us with the exact result we desired – a blackened field!  

The physical fire was gone, but excitement still hung in the air. Even for a few days following the burn, I just could not believe what we had done!  

I am monitoring the field on a weekly basis now, watching it spring to life once again. Hopefully all the hard work will yield interesting results!


Special thanks to Linda Bailey, Winterthur Natural Lands Technician, for taking all the wonderful pictures. Also thanks to Nathan Shampine, Aaron, and Lou from Mt. Cuba Center and Erik Stefferud and Jordan Foreman from Longwood Gardens for helping make this project happen!  

This Saturday is going to be our annual Azaleas & Bluebells event, a celebration of the spectacular display of azaleas in Azalea Woods. Unfortunately, the weather – both the early spring and the rain forecast – has made it nearly impossible to celebrate. Nevertheless, if you are stalwart, intrepid, and dare-I-say daring, you will come to Winterthur this Saturday to enjoy the garden and to get access to some rarely available plants.

Tomorrow, we will have azaleas for sale that have been propagated from our Winterthur plants in Azalea Woods. The brief history is as follows.

As early as 1907, Cottage Gardens Company of Long Island began importing plants directly from the Yokohama Nursery Company in Japan. Cottage Gardens was one of HF du Pont’s favorites. On one visit to the nursery, he spied 17 compact azaleas covered with small glossy leaves but no flowers. Cottage Gardens had purchased them after Yokohama had won a gold medal for showing 52 varieties at the Panama-Pacific Exposition in San Francisco in 1915. They were called Kurume hybrid azaleas after the city on the Japanese island of Kyushu, where the azaleas were originally bred. HF purchased all 17 plants. These are the plants that HF du Pont propagated and planted in Azalea Woods starting in 1917.

Because many of these azaleas were unnamed HF du Pont chose to simply number them, so when you see them for sale tomorrow most of the plants will just have numbers. I have put together a photographic guide to the varieties that will be on hand tomorrow.

For me, these azaleas are special not just because of their history at Winterthur but also because they were some of the first Kurume azaleas available in America. The horticultural connections to Cottage Gardens and the Yokohama Nursery Company, as well as the Panama Pacific Exposition, make them living bookmarks from an important chapter of American garden history.

The azaleas will be for sale Saturday and Sunday at our Museum Store. Hope to see you there – I will be the one in a raincoat!

Saturday’s Schedule

Azalea Sale 10:00-5:00 (Museum Store)

Garden Tour 11:00-noon (Starting at Visitor Center)

Garden Tour 1:00-2:00 (Starting at Visitor Center)

 

 

Garden Insider: Amazing Azaleas—Getting to Know the Kurume Hybrids

Wednesday, May 10, 2017 – 11:30 am – Brown Horticulture Learning Center

Join horticulturist Susan Sibley for an easy stroll through Azalea Woods to examine the many beautiful examples of Kurume hybrid azaleas. Learn all about their history and see up-close the special color combinations that make Azalea Woods such an amazing destination in spring.

Kurume hybrid azalea (Rhododendron #10)

“Garden Insider” is a new name for a longstanding Winterthur tradition (“Wednesdays at Winterthur”). Join us for this unique series of walks, talks, and demonstrations which introduce you every week to a specialist from among the staff, volunteers, and other professionals affiliated with the Winterthur Garden. Presentations explore all aspects of the Winterthur Garden and Estate – their history, design, and plants – as well as current topics of interest in horticulture, agriculture, and environmental studies. All presentations start at 11:30 am at the Brown Horticulture Learning Center. About 1 hour. Free to Members and included with admission.

Postcard from the 1960s

For those of us who love and admire this well-known pair of statues in the Winterthur Garden, it is a delight to see how they inspire others beyond Winterthur and even beyond the garden realm. Check out the recent musings of an assistant editor from The Washington Papers at the University of Virginia: http://gwpapers.virginia.edu/the-washingtons-at-winterthur. You may never look at these two figures the same again! 

This article was written for The Washington Papers’ blog, Washington’s Quill.