The Meadow Garden, Mt. Cuba, Hockessin, Delaware
To see a World in a Grain of Sand, And Heaven in a Wild Flower, Hold Infinity in the palm of your hand, And Eternity in an hour.
William Blake, 1757-1827, English, from Auguries of Innocence, published 1863
A sloping meadow garden was planted by the proprietor of Mt. Cuba, Pamela Lammot du Pont Copeland (1906-2001, American) in Hockessin, Delaware in a rectangular field of about two acres, beginning in the late 1970s.
100,000 follicles of eight kinds of grass were sown; and 30 varieties of wildflowers. The grasses predominate.
An oak tree and a dogwood were left to grow in the meadow garden from which all other trees were cleared. Dogwoods and several other kinds of trees surround the meadow garden.
The dogwood in the garden meadow viewed from the shade of a sour gum (Nyssa sylvatica) tree in September 2018
A path edges the meadow garden on three sides. The fourth side is guarded by a stand of witch’s brooms.
The meadow beyond a witch’s broom in October 2016
The meadow garden is maintained as is any other garden. It is weeded. Invasives are removed.
You can walk through this meadow (you don’t, you wouldn’t) when you could not through an untended meadow for the massed thickets an untended meadow becomes.
Hawks wheel and float overhead looking for small mammals living in the meadow garden; of whom the vole is said to be the most heavily predated on the continent.
The changes of colour and appearance in the meadow garden and its immediate surroundings throughout the year are astounding.
Starting with the unremarkable pale yellow cream of winter/spring stubble through the variegated greens of grass and leaf in summer and the colours of flowers, to the flux and haze of autumnal hues.
In autumn, many grasses stand taller than humans.
These photos were taken over four years, 2014-2018, between Mt. Cuba’s annual opening (to general public access) in April and closing in November. They reflect seasonal changes whose beginning, end and duration vary from one year to the next.
The meadow garden horticulturalist, who was instrumental in establishing this meadow garden and in maintaining it until his retirement in 2017, has written a monograph about this venture. This can be found on the website of Mt. Cuba (Mt. Cuba Center).
Mt. Cuba is a paradise of native plants (native to the Piedmont of the eastern US).
It has more than one heart. These are communities of plants:
bog and water-loving plants; trillium; mosses; a trial garden; witch’s brooms; the South Garden; and areas kept open where the Appalachian Piedmont is in full view.
Mt. Cuba’s Japanese primula form a heart of a particular kind because they are not native, are there because the founder loved them and because they connect Mt. Cuba to that prime heart place, the Quarry Garden at Winterthur, the last of Henry Francis du Pont’s (1880-1969, American) garden legacies.
These communities, of course, include the fauna they sustain.
A view of the Piedmont in early November beyond an honour guard of Virginia sweetspire (Itea virginica)
And in mid-November
These hearts are connected by pathways, arteries and allées of uncounted numbers of native trees, bushes, flowering plants and grasses of many kinds.
The meadow garden is one such heart: dazzling and multifaceted like a jewel throwing off light in every season.
The oak tree in the meadow garden seen across one of four bodies of water in Mt. Cuba on a day in June 2015
…………………And in November 2018
The greatest pleasure, for which I thank the staff of Mt. Cuba, a heart community also and of course.
By far and necessarily the first among equal hearts. As it were.
The poet has anticipated us and accompanies us:
To The Grass of Autumn, September 18, 1991
W.S. Merwin, 1927-2019, American
from Present Company (Copper Canyon Press, 2005)
You could never believe
it would come to this
one still morning
when before you noticed
the birds already
were all but gone
even though year upon year
the rehearsal of it
must have surprised
your speechless parents
and unknown antecedents
long ago gathered to dust
and though even the children
have been taught how to say
the word WITHERETH
no you were known to be
cool and countless
the bright vision on all
the green hills
rippling in unmeasured waves
through the days in flower
now you are as the fog
that sifts among you
gray in the chill daybreak
the voles scratch the dry earth
around your roots
hoping to find something
and when the white air stirs
you whisper to yourselves
or the need to know
The dogwood (Cornus florida) in the meadow garden
The oak tree in the meadow garden
The meadow garden horticulturalists in April 2016 in the meadow garden
The oak tree
Common milkweed (Asclepias syriaca) in mid-June 2018
The oak tree
Butterfly weed (Asclepias tuberosa)
Spike Gayfeather (Liatris spicata)
Bee Balm (Monarda)
A form of Monarda with a triple crown
The dogwood in flower
The oak tree
Early goldenrod (Solidago juncea)
Cardinal flowers (Lobelia cardinalis)
Black-eyed susan (Rudbeckia fulgida)
Blue dogbane (Amsonia tabarnaemontana) setting off black-eyed susans
Mohr’s Rosinweed (Silphium mohrii)
Staff and volunteers there to weed the meadow garden
The path at one side of the meadow garden with black-eyed susans
The dogwood tree with its feet in black-eyed susans among other plants
The oak tree
A variety of goldenrod
Hyssop leaf thoroughwart (Eupatorium hyssopifolium)
A variety of false indigo (Baptisia)
Showy goldenrod facing the dogwood tree
Clustered mountain mint (Pycanthemum muticum)
Obedient plant (Physostegia virginiana)
A variety of aster
A monarch feeding on hollow-stem Joe Pyeweed (Eutrochium fistulosum)
Hollow-stem Joe Pyeweed bowing to the grasses of the meadow garden
The meadow garden glimpsed through a stand of witch’s brooms which guards the meadow along one edge
Prarie dropseed (Sporobolis heterolepis), one of the meadow garden grasses
Visitors filing along one side of the meadow garden
The oak tree
White aster in the meadow
Hyssop Leaf Thoroughwort (Eupatorium hyssopifolium) shot from above
Slender goldentop (Euthamia caroliniana)
Swamp sunflower (Helianthus angustifolius)
Hairawn muhly (Muhlenbergia capillaris), one of the meadow garden grasses
The fruit of the buttonbush shrub (Cephalanthus occidentalis)
Mistflower (Conoclinium coelistinum)
A variety of goldenrod facing the meadow garden
The path along one side of the meadow garden
The path after the first snow in mid-November
The oak tree
The oaktree visible behind the dogwood in early November
The oak tree and the dogwood on a mid-November day after the first snow
The last hurrahs of the black-eyed susans
Yellow Indian grass (Sorghastrum nutrans), one of the meadow garden grasses
Love grass (Eragrostis spectabilis) ?, one of the meadow garden grasses
Prarie dropseed (Sporobolis heterolepis),in mid November after the first snow
After the first snow