My Trip to Mount Cuba Center

Mount Cuba Center, in Hockessin, Delaware (near Wilmington), has long been on my garden visit bucket list.  It is a paradise of native Piedmont plants, and an inspiration for all of us living in “suburban woodlands” here in the mid-Atlantic.

What I learned: the key to a great Woodland Garden is open shade.  They had almost all of their big shade trees limbed way up, plus there were a lot of tulip poplars, which don’t have low limbs anyway.  There was plenty of bright filtered light for the wildflowers to bloom in abundance.

Enjoy the photos!


You wish the woods in your neighborhood looked like this, instead of being smothered in invasive vines.



Redbud, Fothergilla, Tulip Tree



Golden Alexanders (Zizia aurea), Red Buckeye (Aesculus pavia)



a native herbaceous clematis with adorable little nodding white flowers



Amethyst Shooting Stars (Dodecatheon amethystinum) with Quaker Ladies (Houstonia caerulea)



Allegheny Pachysandra (Pachysandra procumbens)



Dwarf Iris



A patch of dwarf Iris in blue — so cute



Flame Azalea bloom about to open.


Unfurling fern


Ferns emerging from Purple Phacelia (Phacelia bipinnatifida) plus some Wood Poppies and Bottlebrush Buckeye in the back.


They also had fauna.



Great combo! Golden Alexanders and Woodland Phlox (I think Phlox divaricata)


I overheard a very intelligent looking lady say this was Interrupted Fern



They have a lilac allee there, left over from the orginial duPont garden plan. Here is my sister taking a whiff. Mmmmm.



I love these raspberry colored primroses by the stream.



A view toward the meadow with Quaker Ladies in the foreground. I want to come back in the late summer to see the meadow in its glory.



Sculpture of a maple samara that actually moves in the wind — neat!



I believe this is a Southern Red Trillium (Trillium sulcatum) floating over a sea of Rue Anenome (Thalictrum thalictroides?)



Trillium grandiflorum Double Loop form



Trillium grandiflorum



Underwood’s Trillium (Trillium underwoodii)



Twisted Trillium (Trillium stamineum)



Trillium grandiflorum – pink form



A patch of trillium, I can’t remember which kind.


The circular formal garden (another remnant from the original duPont house) was planted out with electric blue delphiniums and the most fabulous array of peach, pink, and yellow tulips of different heights. Awesome!


Looking down at the tulips

Looking down at the tulips


Yellow Mandarin (Disporum lanuginosum). A unique perennial with delicate little yellowish flowers that hang down….hard to see with the green background.


Phlox stolonifera with Yellow Lady’s Slipper orchids



Woodland path with Purple Pharecia



Ferns, woodland phlox, trillium



Viola walteri ‘Silver Gem’ — a Mt. Cuba introduction



Virginia Bluebells, Wood Poppies, unfurling ferns



Dogwood path

Garden Designers’ Roundtable: Entropy

“Just as the constant increase in entropy is the basic law of the universe, so it is the basic law of life to be ever more highly structured and to struggle against entropy. “ – Vaclav Havel

I think this photo of my side yard illustrates Havel’s point pretty well:


After I smothered the turf from my side yard (on the right) and began planting a slightly messy mix of shrubs, perennials and groundcovers, my neighbor promptly planted a soldier-straight row of crape myrtles and Japanese holly, butted right up against my plantings. Between the hollies there is a layer of mulch about ten inches thick, which he refreshes and fluffs regularly. [Read more…]

This is What Happens To Your Garden When You Discover Quilting


But I’ll be back eventually.

Garden Designers’ Roundtable: Two Maintenance Ideas

"That a-hole designer said these would be low-maintenance."  (Nick Daley/DigitalVision/Getty Images)

“That a-hole designer said these would be low-maintenance.” (Nick Daley/DigitalVision/Getty Images)

True story: last week, while waiting to get a haircut, I flipped through a local home and garden magazine and stumbled upon an article about garden maintenance. Mostly I skimmed it, but then my eye caught a quote from a landscape designer based at a local nursery. He said, “If a landscape is designed right, there should be NO maintenance. None at all. That’s what a designer is for.”My jaw dropped. No maintenance at all! See, if you hire the right designer, you’ll never have to so much as pluck a leaf off of your zero-input lawn! Apparently this guy can even design it so all the leaves from your trees blow into your neighbor’s yard, too!

I almost wanted to stand up right there in the hair salon and be, “ya’ll won’t BELIEVE what I just read here in this magazine, ladies!” but they probably would’ve thought it was some juicy sex tip from Cosmo and been disappointed when it turned out to be faulty landscaping advice — shocking though it was!

[Read more…]


peony3Things have been rough at work lately.  Test scores have plummetted, students are troubled, many teachers are talking mutiny or early retirement.  Morale is generally in the toilet.

On the drive home from work, I find that stopping for a large chocolate chip cookie and a Frappuchino from Starbucks is often just the pick-me-up I need to transition from work to home, where I will be greeted by a gregarious old yellow lab and a still-very-wiggly seven-year-old boy, both of whom will be requesting play and attention.  (The martini, slippers, and newspaper are nowhere in sight!)

[Read more…]

The Optimism of Tiny Trees


I have a vivid memory of eating a Red Delicious apple when I was seven years old and, afterward, regarding the dark seeds embedded in the core. [Read more…]

I Gotta Git Me One o’ These Outdoor TVs

While reading the latest issue of Better Homes and Gardens, I stumbled upon a new (to me) trend in outdoor living:

Outdoor Televisions!

Phew!  It’s about time.  I was getting so bored and fidgety just sitting out on my patio with, like, no electronic devices whatsoever, wasting lazy summer evenings in quiet conversation with family or watching the birds and butterflies.

[Read more…]

Garden Designers’ Roundtable: Transitions

One of Beatrix Ferrand’s most famous projects is the garden at Dumbarton Oaks in Washington DC, which is known for its lavish garden rooms and magnificent attention to detail.   As you can see in the map below, each garden “room” has its own name — Rose Garden, Urn Terrace, Pebble Garden, etc. — and each room is masterfully designed and delightful to experience. [Read more…]


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