The Supernal Beauty of a Meadow Cultivated as a Garden: Mt. Cuba, Delaware

The Meadow Garden, Mt. Cuba, Hockessin, Delaware.  A legacy of the Lammot du Pont Copelands.

 

 

Mt. Cuba is a reserve of plants native to the Piedmont of the eastern US.  The Piedmont stretches from Maine to Kentucky.  

 

 

 

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Farmland on one side of Mt. Cuba; large suburban houses on the other

 

The family home, now converted into offices

 

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A view of the Piedmont in early November 2018 beyond an honour guard of Virginia sweetspire (Itea virginica)

 

 

 

About 40 miles from Philadelphia,  Mt. Cuba is very close to the center of downtown Wilmington, Delaware.  500 acres recently doubled by an agreement to join it with neighbouring land.

 

 

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 Between the house and the meadow, a statue surrounded by hair-awn muhly, one of the meadow grasses

 

A little stream runs away from two ponds which were created on the grounds.

 

 

the meadow garden on the right above the larger pond, in Autumn

 

 

 

 

A garden has been set aside for experimental research in native plants. Along its side runs a lilac allee.  On its wire mesh wall, native clematis climb and also the native wisteria developed by Longwood Gardens.

 

 

 

the seed distribution mechanism of native clematis

 

A variety of native wisteria developed by Longwood Gardens, Pennsylvania, with Mt. Cuba, one of six legacy estates of the du Pont family

 

 

The only plant which is not a native is the Japanese primula of which the owner, having seen them in the Quarry Garden at Winterthur, was particularly fond.  Lilac is not strictly native, either, but it has been widely naturalized outside of its native area.

 

 

 

 

Japanese primula in high Summer

 

 

 

Among the singularities of these grounds is a meadow garden, sloping down towards the bigger pond.

 

It was planted by the proprietor of Mt. Cuba, Pamela Lammot du Pont Copeland (1906-2001, American) in the late 1970s.

 

 

 

The garden meadow in October, the oak to the left still green; and the dogwood on the right.

 

 

 

The meadow garden is a rectangular field of about two acres.  

 

 

 

 

The meadow garden in mid-October

 

 

100,000 follicles of eight kinds of grass were sown. 

The grasses are broom sedge,big and little blue stem, tufted hair grass, the pale pink hair-awn muhly, Indian and love grass, and dropseed.

 

 

Hair-awn muhly, thought to have died out in Pennsylvania and New Jersey and now in the process of restoration

 

 

 

 

30 varieties of wildflowers were also planted. 

Asters (Symphiotrichium) make up one category:  they bloom late and provide cololur through the end of October.

 

 

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Variety of asters in the meadow and bordering it

 

 

The grasses predominate.

 

A path edges the meadow garden on three sides and the meadow overlaps the path along one edge.

 

 

A path into the meadow garden in early October

 

 

 

The fourth side is guarded by a stand of witch’s brooms of white pine.  Their irregular boughs and dark, barren understory are a contrast to the light and fecundity of the garden meadow.

 

 

 

A colony of witch’s brooms of white pine front one side of the meadow garden

 

 

The witch’s brooms provide a dark backdrop to the seasonal colours of the garden meadow

 

 

The meadow garden is maintained as is any other garden.  It is weeded.  Invasives and aggressives are removed and thinned. It does not become an unsurpassable thicket.

 

 

 

 

Meadow gardeners working in October 2020

 

 

 

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. 

 

 

Below the meadow garden, the bigger of the two ponds can be seen except when the grasses are at their tallest.

 

 

 

the larger pond in Autumn

 

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

 

 

the large lake from the meadow garden in April

 

 

 

through the variegated greens of grass and leaf in summer; and the colours of flowers

 

 

 

The garden meadow with its dogwood tree in May

 

Whorled tickseed growing with hair-awn muhly in August

 

 

to the flux and haze of autumnal hues

 

 

 

 

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the garden meadow above and to the right of the lake in late Autumn

 

 

In autumn, many grasses stand taller than humans.

 

 

These photos were taken between 2014-2020, between Mt. Cuba’s annual opening to general public access in April and closing in late November.

They reflect seasonal changes whose beginning, end and duration vary from one year to the next.

 

 

A place of supernal beauty.

 

 

 

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Two trees were left in the meadow garden:  an oak tree and a dogwood (Cornus florida).

 

 

 

April

 

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The dogwood in the meadow garden in April

 

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The oak tree in April

 

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The meadow garden horticulturalists in April 2016 

 

 

 

May

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The dogwood in May

 

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The oak tree in May

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Common milkweed (Asclepias syriaca) 

 

 

 

July

 

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The dogwood in July

 

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The oak tree in July

 

 

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A variety of goldenrod in July

 

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Butterfly weed (Asclepias tuberosa)

 

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Spike Gayfeather (Liatris spicata)

 

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Bee Balm (Monarda)

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A form of Monarda with a triple crown

 

 

August

 

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The dogwood in flower in August

 

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The oak tree in August

 

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Early goldenrod (Solidago juncea)

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DSC00061Cardinal flowers (Lobelia cardinalis) 

 

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Black-eyed susan (Rudbeckia fulgida) 

 

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Blue dogbane (Amsonia tabarnaemontana) setting off black-eyed susans

 

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Mohr’s Rosinweed  (Silphium mohrii) 

 

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Staff and volunteers there to weed the meadow garden

 

 

 

September

 

 

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The dogwood tree, its feet in black-eyed susans among other plants, in September

 

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The oak tree in September

 

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A variety of goldenrod

 

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Hyssop leaf thoroughwart (Eupatorium hyssopifolium)

 

 

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White false indigo (Baptisia alba) in seed

 

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Showy goldenrod facing the dogwood tree

 

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Clustered mountain mint (Pycanthemum muticum)

 

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Obedient plant (Physostegia virginiana)

 

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A monarch feeding on hollow-stem Joe Pyeweed (Eutrochium fistulosum)

 

 

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Hollow-stem Joe Pyeweed bowing to the grasses of the meadow garden

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Visitors filing along one side of the meadow garden

 

Indian Pink (Spigelia marilandica) (pink for pinking shears)

 

 

 

 

 

October

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The dogwood in October

 

The dogwood in mid-October

 

 

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The oak tree in October

 

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White aster in the meadow

 

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Hair-awn muhly

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Hyssop Leaf Thoroughwort (Eupatorium hyssopifolium) 

 

 

 

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 Slender goldentop (Euthamia caroliniana)

 

 

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Swamp sunflower (Helianthus angustifolius)

 

 

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Hair-awn muhly (Muhlenbergia capillaris), one of the meadow garden grasses  

 

 

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The fruit of the buttonbush shrub (Cephalanthus occidentalis) facing the meadow garden

 

 

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A variety of goldenrod facing the meadow garden

 

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Hair-awn muhly with a variety of goldenrod

 

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Tall Ironweed (Vernonia angustifolia) in mid-October

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November

 

 

 

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The path along one side of the meadow garden

 

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The path after the first snow in mid-November

 

 

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The dogwood, denuded and barely visible, in November

 

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The oak tree in November

 

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The oak tree visible behind the dogwood in early November

 

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The oak tree and the dogwood on a mid-November day after the first snow

 

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The last hurrahs of the black-eyed susans

 

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One of the goldenrods in late November, 2019

 

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Yellow Indian grass (Sorghastrum nutrans), one of the meadow  garden grasses

 

 

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Blue stem

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Blue stem and broom sedge in late November 2019 

 

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Love grass (Eragrostis spectabilis), one of the meadow garden grasses

 

 

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Native milkweed which had still not released all its seeds in late November 2019 after an erratic Autumn

 

 

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Prarie dropseed (Sporobolis heterolepis),in mid November, 2018 after the first snow

 

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After the first snow, 2019

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

2 thoughts on “The Supernal Beauty of a Meadow Cultivated as a Garden: Mt. Cuba, Delaware

  1. What an amazing compendium of cyclical beauty. Thank you for sharing this collection of hard-won photographs.

    1. Mt. Cuba is a paradise, Susannah. It was not open to the public when you were still here. Thanks for visiting! Sarah

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