Hillside Garden

a walkway lined with green trees and shrubs
Meandering, Sunny & Shady, Unique Plants
Best Seasons to Visit
Spring, Summer, Autumn
6.1 Acres

Make time to visit the Hillside Garden, a plant lover’s paradise, where dappled sun flirts with open vistas and shady, intimate perspectives. Paths wind past beds planted with a who’s who of rare and unique plants from around the world, complemented by romantic views (and, often, the sounds) of the Chimes Tower. The ambient echo of the waterfall and stream add a dreamy quality to this quiet, yet stunning, garden on the hill. 

About This Garden

Many think of the Hillside Garden as a retreat—a place to escape and ponder the unusual perennials, shrubs, and trees that grow harmoniously in this tranquil, cultivated setting. The sunny slopes to the north dance with sinuous grasses and bursting blooms, while shadier paths to the south feature textural foliage patterns and quiet places to reflect. Our staff wax poetic when describing their favorite aspects of the garden, from the pastel sweeps of early spring hellebores (Helleborus × hybridus) to the fragrant, buttercup-yellow blooms of winter-hazel (Corylopsis glabrescens ‘Longwood Chimes’) that light up narrow pathways in February.  Much of the mature canopy that frames the garden and the Chimes Tower was planted by founder Pierre S. du Pont, including massive Canada hemlocks (Tsuga canadensis) and eastern white pines (Pinus strobus). Not to be missed: the intricate foliage of the monkey puzzle tree (Araucaria araucana) and a nationally accredited boxwood collection that helps to preserve the biodiversity of this classic species. 

As in so many of our gardens here at Longwood, water plays an important role in the sensory experience of the space. Emerging from the Eye of Water within Oak and Conifer Knoll, a steady stream meanders down the hillside, feeding the dramatic, 50-foot, man-made waterfall which plunges into the Pear-Shaped Basin below. It’s a sight to behold (and something to hear!), regardless of how you approach the Hillside Garden.

Please note: The water features of this garden can be enjoyed from mid-April until mid-October.

A Bit of History

A site of agricultural production through the early 1930s, this area came to life at Longwood in 1960 when our team began to develop a new approach to the hillside, building on the large hemlock trees planted around the Pear-Shaped Basin during the time of the Main Fountain Garden’s construction. The stonework and accompanying plantings conveyed warmth and beauty, and winding pathways traversed the slope—providing vistas for our guests and a chance to understand a refreshing approach to horticultural composition.

Two decades after its debut, in 2005, we redesigned the garden with an eye toward improving circulation and highlighting the majestic views. Its pathways, landings, and stairs were renovated, and this area was reopened in 2006 as the Hillside Garden.  Today, owing to the smaller scale of this space as well as varying light conditions, we continue to enhance this area with unusual plants from our ever-expanding research programs.