I enjoy garden projects – as opposed to chores. To me a project is something that will improve or add lasting value to your garden. Raking leaves, for example, is a chore. Naturalizing bulbs, on the other hand, is a project because a sweep of naturalized bulbs will add years of low maintenance beauty to a garden.

The following is a list of some simple projects to consider. A couple are “quick hits” that will add some interest to your garden right away; others will take a little longer to yield their results.

Winter Sowing
Fall is a good time to order or gather seed for winter sowing. If you have never raised plants from seed in the winter, it is a far cry from the chore of raising seedlings in the spring. Winter sowing seems almost too easy. The process can be as simple as broadcasting a few handfuls of seed over a garden bed – a technique frequently used here in the Winterthur garden – or it can involve sowing seeds into pots that you leave outside through the winter. Either way, you won’t need to do much with your winter-sown seeds until spring. This technique works best with native plants, perennials, and hardy annuals. For more information about winter sowing there is a winter sowing website and a forum on houzz.

lily of the valley at Winterthur

lily-of-the-valley fruit with seed ready to be harvested

Hardwood Cuttings
Some plants are easy to propagate by cuttings, especially hardwood cuttings. Hardwood cuttings are taken in late fall through winter from woody plants such as forsythia, willow, and dogwood. The pencil-thick cuttings should be taken from last season’s growth and should include two sets of buds. Insert the cuttings directly into a nursery bed or plant them in pots that are heeled-in somewhere in your garden where you won’t forget them. The Royal Horticultural Society website explains the process clearly. Your cuttings should begin leafing out the following growing season and yield plants ready for transplanting by next fall.

Plan and Fine Tune Plantings
One of my favorite activities in fall is walking through the garden with a cup of coffee and several rolls of flagging tape. Enough of the garden is left from the growing season for me to remember what was successful and what failed, making it easy to tie flags around the plants that need to be removed, divided, or moved. I also like to put stakes and flags as placeholders in the ground for plants I want to add, which helps me make up my shopping list for next spring. The flags I use are color coded: white for removals (white = trash), green and white striped for divisions (2 colors = divisions), and red for additions and relocations. Fall can be a great time to shift plants to new locations. Most plants look bedraggled and sad in the fall anyway and will recover, for the most part, by the next growing season.

Buy Discount Bulbs and Plants
Fall is an excellent time to find bargains at local nurseries and on-line retailers. Just as the plants in my garden already look bedraggled, but will transplant fine, so too do many of the plants at my local nursery. On-line bulb retailers will often offer deals on overstocks of bulbs; sometimes discounting them up to 50%. This is the time of year I find myself purchasing plants and bulbs for trial purposes. For example, I have often contemplated adding a variety of the poet’s daffodil named ‘Actaea’ to one of my borders and routinely find it on sale, on-line, for half the regular price. I’m going to purchase a few dozen more just to see what the drift will look like in the border next year. If they are successful I’ll order more and add to the drift; if they don’t work I’ll pass them on to a friend or compost them.

DelaWILD Is Almost Here!

Saturday, September 14, 2019, 10:00 am to 3:00 pm

Join us and celebrate nature at this family-friendly event!

The day’ activities will include talks, walks, family fun, and demonstrations for nature-lovers of all ages. The event will feature a presentation by Charlie Engelman, an Emmy-nominated filmmaker and television host for National Geographic and former Winterthur garden intern. His television work, including the television show Weird but True currently in production of its’ second season, has taken him on many adventures but it all started at Winterthur when he filmed his first video about the frogs in Enchanted Woods.

Learn about our bluebird and kestrel programs at Winterthur with our natural lands team, how to create a garden for butterflies with Delaware Master Gardeners, and discover the watershed conservation and restoration work on the property on a walk with the Academy of Natural Sciences. Bring the kids to go on a vegetable garden discovery walk and test their veggie IQ with Healthy Foods for Healthy Kids, learn about the Jack A. Markell Trail and other trail projects with Delaware Greenways, and enjoy unique specimens and activities with the Delaware Museum of Natural History. Be sure to meet the Winterthur goats to learn how they help us with invasive control on the estate and read your way through the pages of Planting the Wild Garden and Over in the Meadow as you embark on two different Storybook Trails.

Click here (winterthur.org/delawild) for more information about DelaWILD.

The evening was a great success with a delightful tour by Jeff Groff. The food was creative and the drinks were refreshing – our compliments to our restaurant staff. Thanks to all who attended and especially to Jeff for his insights on estate history.

 Tailgate Tour set up at the Ottoman Tent Folly by the Quarry Garden
Waiting for our guests to arrive…

The Garden staff have come up with a new way to encourage our members and visitors to enjoy the garden – Tailgate Tours. Join us for an even walk through the garden and midway through the tour we will stop and have some refreshments and a little time for socializing. Last month we invited Carol Long, Curator of the Follies exhibition, to walk guests through the garden and to take a break at the Ottoman Tent Folly.

On July 10th, Jeff Groff our Estate Historian, will take visitors on a walk to the Armor Farm with a pleasant break at the reservoir. We hope this new program will encourage our guests to explore and will help them learn more about this wonderful estate. Details below…

Tailgate Tours – Exploring the Winterthur Estate
Join our staff for adventures in the Winterthur Garden and wider Estate. Learn about Winterthur’s history, design, and plants on these leisurely strolls through the estate then stop for some refreshments in picturesque locations to enjoy hors d’oeuvres along with curated selections of hard and soft beverages. Be sure to dress for the weather and wear walking shoes. In case of inclement weather, an update message will be left at 302.888.4915 approximately 3 hours before cancellation.

Wednesday, July 10, 5:30-7:00 – starts at Visitor Center
An American Place: Winterthur History with Estate Historian, Jeff Groff

Tuesday, August 13, 5:30-7:00 – starts at Visitor Center
Hydrangeas in Summer with Interpretive Horticulturist, Suzanne French

$30 members, $35 non-members, preregistration required; Tailgate Tours involve moderate walking. Proceeds from Garden & Estate Programs benefit Enchanted Woods.

To register for any Winterthur Garden programs, please call 800.448.3883 or 302.888.4600.

After the spring ephemerals in the woodlands fade, I like to turn my attention to the meadows for native seasonal blooms.  While the striking goldenrod and lush warm-season grasses won’t bolt and bloom until late summer, delicate flowers litter the cool-season grass sea.  The wet areas are especially colorful this time of year.  Time to put my botany degree to work!

The Pale-Spiked Lobelia (Lobelia spicata) forms spike-like racemes of petite, pale blue flowers.  The specific name, spicata, refers to the unbranched “spike” that rises from the ground.


Foxglove Beardtongue (Penstemon digitalis) bears white flowers tinged with hints of lavender near its base.  This flower displays a resemblance to the popular garden Foxglove flower, hence the specific name of this plant (digitalis) is the same as the generic name of garden Foxglove.  Both genera, Penstemon and Digitalis, are in the Plantain family (Plataginaceae).



Contrary to its common name, Meadow Evening Primrose (Oenothera pilosella) is a day-flowering species of evening primrose.  Its specific name, pilosella, refers to the downy hair that covers the stem and leaves.








Blue-eyed grass (Sisyrinchium spp.) is a cute perennial which is scattered throughout wet meadows and wetlands.  While not a true grass, it is in the iris family (Iridaceae).

Common Milkweed (Asclepias syriaca), as many people know, is a wonderful host plant for the monarch butterfly caterpillar, and also is a wonderful pollinator plant.


Fringed Loosestrife (Lysimachia ciliata) presents bowed flowers which bloom from the axils of the plant.  This lower growing plant only reaches about a foot or two, so keep your eyes peeled in the tall grass!


Winterthur boasts almost 900 acres of natural areas including several hundred acres of meadow.  If you feel up to a light hike, be sure to follow the yellow arrows through natural meadow, woodland, and wetland habitat!


Acres of Azaleas

In 1917, H.F. du Pont bought a few kurume azaleas, flowers unseen, from Cottage Gardens on Long Island. He had his staff propagate them and now hundreds of azlaeas are coloring the garden in whites, pinks, reds, and lavenders.

Exploring Stowe

We are very excited to be hosting a lecture on Saturday, April 20, on the famous English garden, Stowe. Matt Rader, Executive Director of the Pennsylvania Horticultural Society will present, “Learning to See and Explore at Stowe” from 1:00–2:00 pm in the Copeland Lecture Hall. Matt will discuss his experiences learning to see the landscape as a young man at Stowe, the Capability Brown-designed landscape garden in Buckinghamshire, England. The lecture is $10 per Member. $20 per nonmember. Free for Winterthur Garden and Landscape Society and Garden Associate Members. Purchase tickets online or call 800.448.3883.

Join us on Saturday, April 13, and celebrate the beauty of the daffodil while enjoying Winterthur’s amazing daffodil display!

Henry Francis du Pont used his collector’s eye in assembling his collection of hundreds of heirloom daffodil bulbs arranged in cloud-like drifts on Sycamore Hill. The day’s events will include tours, kids’ crafts, and a children’s daffodil show. Members free. Included with general admission.

The Day’s Schedule

10:00-11:00 Children’s Daffodil Show
Entries meet at the Brown Center with their daffodils – judging starts at 11:00

10:00-2:00 Daffodil Kids Activity at Brown Center

11:000  Follies Tour starts at Brown Center

1:00 & 3:00 Special Daffodil Tours start at the Visitor Center Patio

In addition, a self-guided Daffodil Tour starting at the Visitor Center, the Spring Tour through the house, the Costuming the Crown exhibit, and the self-guided Follies exhibit are available throughout the day. 


I learned a new word… kokedama is a Japanese word meaning ‘moss ball’ and is a creative way of growing specimen bulbs and other plants. Our Floral Coordinator, Heidi Militana, is going to show us all how to make one of these unique little bundles of plants in her new series on flower arranging called Garden to Vase. I am putting a link here to the signup and class information. The series of demonstrations kicks off this Wednesday with kokedama, and continues the first Wednesday of each month (from 5:30–8:30 pm) with a different flower arranging topic.

March Bank has the Blues

Today was overcast but the brilliant blue of the March Bank and daffodils brightened the day. Join us this weekend or coming week to enjoy the blues.

Saturday, March 9 – Lecture: 11:00 am, Copeland Lecture Hall (1 hour); Garden Tour: 1:00 pm, begin at Visitor Center Patio (90 minutes); Self-guided Tour of March Bank: all day, begin at Visitor Center Patio

Savill Gardens in December

Join us as the snow begins to melt and celebrate the early bulb display of the March Bank at Winterthur with a lecture, garden tours, and the spectacle of the March Bank in bloom. This year’s featured speaker John Anderson, Keeper of the Gardens at Windsor Great Park, will talk about his role as Keeper of the iconic Savill and Valley Gardens. Mr. Anderson will take us through the seasons, highlighting the remarkable plant collections and historical garden features, including the much-in-the-news garden at Frogmore. To purchase tickets, please call (800) 448- 3883. $10 members, $20 non-members, free for Winterthur Garden and Landscape Society and Garden Associate Members.

The Punch Bowl at Savill Gardens in the spring