February 29, 2024

At the Philadelphia Area Fling last September (click here for my posts about it), attendees were given a copy of new book Du Pont Gardens of the Brandywine Valley. The good folks at Longwood Gardens handed the books out as we boarded the buses after a lovely dinner with live music followed by prime seats at the Longwood fountain show. Yes, we were treated like royalty!

When I got home, I set the book on my towering to-read stack and turned back to writing my own new book. (It’s about Texas gardens across the state, coming out next year.) And there it sat until last week, when I finally had time to crack it open.


Du Pont Gardens is a heavy hardback of handsome photos and historical info about five grand gardens created by the wealthy Du Pont family over a 100-year period, from the early 1800s to the early 1900s, in the Brandywine Valley, a congenial gardening region between Philadelphia and Wilmington, Delaware.


The early Du Ponts immigrated from France in 1800 and made their fortune in gunpowder manufacturing. Eventually the family expanded into the chemical and automotive industries. They were not only good at making money. They were good at making gardens. A surprising number of the Du Pont descendants put their fortunes to use in building extravagant country homes and gardens, and then they ensured that, after their deaths, the gardens would live on as public spaces. Today, we’re the beneficiaries of their horticultural and philanthropic designs.


The five estates featured in this book are Longwood Gardens, Nemours Estate, Winterthur, Hagley, and Mt. Cuba Center. Of these, I’ve visited Longwood and Winterthur multiple times (find my photo tours in Must-See Gardens under Delaware and Pennsylvania), and I’ve been wanting to see Mt. Cuba. The other two I wasn’t aware of, but I’d like to see them now.


Larry Lederman produced the lovely photos for this book, which show the Du Pont gardens across the growing season. Marta McDowell, who teaches landscape history and horticulture at New York Botanical Garden, provides the historical context for each garden. I enjoyed learning how each garden came into being, and how that particular region and era gave birth to so many grand gardens.

Mt. Cuba

If you’ve toured the Brandywine Valley’s gardens or hope to, or if you want a keepsake from your visit to Longwood or other Du Pont gardens, I think you’ll enjoy this book too.

All photos are by Larry Lederman from Du Pont Gardens of the Brandywine Valley, courtesy of Monacelli Press.

Disclosure: Longwood Gardens gave me a copy of Du Pont Gardens of the Brandywine Valley, and I reviewed it at my own discretion and without any compensation. This post, as with everything at Digging, is my personal opinion.

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Digging Deeper

March 16: Attend the third annual Budding Out Plant Sale & Festival on 3/16 at the John Fairey Garden in Hempstead. Rare and distinctive plants from the garden’s nursery and from select plant vendors will be for sale. Additional offerings include art, ceramics, jewelry, food, music, and presentations. Admission: $5 for members, $10 for non-members, children under 12 free. Hours: 10 am to 4 pm; members get early admission at 9 am (memberships available on day of event).

March 30-31: Come see the Austin Cactus & Succulent Society Show at Zilker Botanical Garden on 3/30 and 3/31, from 10 am to 5 pm. Includes a plant show with specimen cacti and succulents, handcrafted pottery, daily silent auction and hourly plant raffles, and expert advice. Admission is included with paid admission to Zilker Garden, $5 to $8 for adults, $3 to $4 for children (under 2 free).

April 6: Come out to Austin’s Mayfield Park on 4/6 for the Mayfield Park Gardening Symposium & Fundraiser, 8:30 to 11 am. This annual benefit for the park includes a raffle, plant sale, and garden speakers.

May 4: Explore “brilliant backyards, perfect pools and pergolas, and outdoor rooms and gardens” on the ATX Outdoor Living Tour on 5/4, 10 am to 3 pm. Landscape architects, designers, and builders will be on hand to answer questions. Tickets are $33.85 for adults, $17.85 for kids age 10-17.

May 11: Save the date for Austin Home’s Great Outdoors Tour on 5/11.

June 1-2: Take a self-guided, 2-day tour of ponds and gardens in and around Austin on the annual Austin Pond and Garden Tour, held 6/1 and 6/2, 9 am to 5 pm. Tickets are $20 to $25.

Come learn about gardening and design at Garden Spark! I organize in-person talks by inspiring designers, landscape architects, authors, and gardeners a few times a year in Austin. These are limited-attendance events that sell out quickly, so join the Garden Spark email list to be notified in advance; simply click this link and ask to be added. Season 8 kicks off in fall 2024. Stay tuned for more info!

All material © 2024 by Pam Penick for Digging. Unauthorized reproduction prohibited.

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Du Pont Gardens features five grand gardens created by the wealthy Du Pont family in the Brandywine Valley of Pennsylvania and Delaware.… Read More
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