Colorful flowers have always been a vital part of Winterthur, both inside and out. Throughout the year, flowers are collected from across the estate to be artfully arranged and displayed in the interiors of Henry Francis du Pont’s former home. Before the flowers wilt, members of the Floral Design team collect them and prepare them to be dried. Once preserved, the still-vibrant blooms are destined to decorate the Dried-Flower Tree, a holiday tradition at Winterthur since 1986.
“The tree looks different every year, depending on which flowers we used in arrangements,” explains Heidi Militana, supervisor of Floral Design. In 2019, for instance, when Winterthur presented the exhibition Costuming THE CROWN, the tree was filled with roses, the flower spotlighted in the show as well as in arrangements within the du Pont house.
Most of the flowers are air-dried in a basement of a building on the estate, though some of the more delicate specimens are dried using silica gel. It takes the designers about 70 hours to decorate the tree, which boasts hundreds of daffodils and dogwood flowers, Queen Anne’s lace and lace-cap hydrangeas, peonies, zinnias, silver-dollar seed pods, and so many more.
An article about the tree that appeared in the November 2021 edition of Victoria magazine declared: “Undoubtedly, the biggest draw is the Dried Flower Tree, which holds sway in the capacious Conservatory. This focal point is a design masterpiece, to be sure, but it is also an ingenious way to give dual duty to the floral arrangements that adorn key rooms of the residence throughout the year. As a passionate gardener, the late Mr. du Pont once replenished these displays daily, but staff now allow each bouquet to shine for a week before retiring the stems to the cellar to dry. . . . These perfectly preserved flowers of spring and summer reprise their roles as natural beauties to the delight of Winterthur’s spellbound visitors.”
We hope you’ll visit soon to experience the special beauty of the Dried-Flower Tree this holiday season.