Just off busy Pennsylvania Avenue with the hustle of commuters, lies a hidden gem: I am speaking of Goodstay Gardens in Wilmington, Delaware. These gardens date back to the 1700’s and are amongst one of the oldest in the state. The structures that surround these gardens, whether stone walls, boxwood hedges or tall trees enclose the gardens in a sense of peace and tranquility. In 1854, Howard Pyle, an American illustrator and author and a native of Wilmington, grew up in the home and gardens. He recalls the gardens with old-fashioned roses and sweet shrubs that filled the air with fragrance when in bloom. He remembers the beauty, the air saturated with the odor of growing things and birds singing in the shady trees.
Goodstay Gardens was planned in the American Tudor style, with six partitioned “outdoor rooms” bordered by boxwood connected by gravel paths and colorful flower beds that bordered both sides of the main axis. The mansion and gardens were also part of the DuPont family legacy. Members of the DuPont family owned Goodstay Gardens from 1868 to 1968 and maintained the historic Tudor design. Ellen Coleman DuPont Meeds received Goodstay as a wedding gift from her father in 1923. It was she who further developed the house and gardens. In 1924, she hired Robert Wheelwright who designed and enhanced the gardens as what we know today. The two later married. The main attractions today are what they were in the Wheelwright’s time – a knot garden, rose, iris, lilacs, azaleas, peonies and the turkey rock garden, where turkeys used to roost. When Mrs. Wheelwright died in 1968, she bequeathed the property to the University of Delaware.
I am fortunate that these gardens are just a 10 minute walk from where I live. I volunteer in these gardens and I cannot tell you how much joy it brings me. I have a true commitment to these gardens, and look forward to working here each week. The garden is in its peak during the spring season. We typically start work in March after the garden has awakened from slumber. Winter can be harsh at times in these parts, so we start by taking a walk around to look for signs of survival and spring. There’s an air of excitement walking through the gravel paths, looking for bulbs poking their heads through the soil, taking note of what needs to be done, and generally surveying the gardens for damage and restoration. We have various assignments through the spring, which tends to be the busiest. It is the most wonderful feeling working here, listening to the birds chirp and being surrounded by nature. The gardens are also used as a backdrop for photographers, artists and is sometimes used by wedding parties. On a recent Sunday afternoon, we were invited to the premiere of a movie that was filmed in these very gardens, followed by a garden party later. For our latest project, we’ve been working on six raised vegetable beds; preparing the soil, adding nutrients, planting seeds and plants. I can hardly wait for harvest time. These beautiful evenings have also allowed us to take a picnic and stroll to the gardens to enjoy the scents, sounds and peacefulness that we’ve come to enjoy in this paradise close to home.
Enjoy the photos, click to enlarge.
I know I don’t have a recipe to share or food to get your taste buds salivating, but I thought some beautiful flowers for our FF #72 table would be appropriate? Thanks again Angie for letting us share, learn and forge such great friendships over food.