History of the Garden

garden history


Henry Francis du Pont had three life-long passions: gardening, breeding cattle and collecting American antiques. Gardening was his first love. Even after he turned his former home into a museum in 1951, he kept his garden in private ownership until his death in 1969. He said that while after 1951 he was only a visitor to the museum, he was still Winterthur’s head gardener.

Three generations of the du Pont family gardened at Winterthur. In 1839, Evelina du Pont and her husband moved here and named it after the Bidermann ancestral town of Winterthur, Switzerland. Before they named the estate, built the house or even sited the well, Evelina du Pont and her husband, Antoine Bidermann, the first generation of du Ponts to live at Winterthur, considered flowers. While in France in 1838, Evelina wrote her sister in Delaware: "Antoine . . . is getting a plan here for our House in which he has not forgotten the little Greenhouse, if such may be termed a little room for flowers."

Evelina had more than a budding interest in flowers: they were her passion. The same can be said about all the subsequent owners of Winterthur, gardeners and flower arrangers all. Each generation built on the previous generation’s work, and all preferred a garden that made the most of the natural landscape. The garden at Winterthur wraps around the house. The most formally landscaped and gardened areas are those closest to the house. As one moves farther away from the house, the tame, cultivated garden gives way to the freer Wild Garden style.

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