Oak and Conifer Knoll

A large red and yellow tree with twisting branches hangs over a small stream and wooden bridge
Style
Historic, Park-like, Sweeping
Best Seasons to Visit
Winter, Spring, Summer, Autumn
Scale
16.6 Acres

Towering, century-old trees and sun-dappled vistas await in Oak and Conifer Knoll, a gallery of champion specimens with four seasons of stunning highlights. Find yourself a hidden bench and spend some time absorbing the tranquil setting. Notable are the sweeps of early spring geophytes, which create a stunning tapestry of color that signals even more beauty to come.

About This Garden

While it is true that Oak and Conifer Knoll serves as a contrasting backdrop to the Main Fountain Garden, it plays far more than a supporting role. Early spring brings to life a seemingly endless expanse of geophytes, including Tommasini's crocus (Crocus tommasinianus), winter-aconite (Eranthis hyemalis), and tiny daffodils (Narcissus 'Tête-a-tête'). The petite beginnings of our bulbs are stunning, but our specimen trees provide drama 365 days a year. Two dawn redwoods (Metasequoia glyptostroboides), once thought to be extinct, reach for the sky in proximity to the state champions Atlas cedars (Cedrus atlantica) and momi firs (Abies firma). On the eastern side of the knoll where the oak trees live, don’t miss our Shumard oak (Quercus shumardii), an PA endangered species that is thriving at 70 feet. The open, park-like setting of this area gives the trees (and our guests) plenty of room to breathe and enjoy the view.

The crest of the knoll is punctuated by the Eye of Water, which sits above a 42,600-gallon reservoir. Built in 1968, the Eye of Water was inspired by the Ojo de Agua near San Jose, Costa Rica, and is tucked under a low-slung pavilion that was designed as a rain shelter for our guests. Water flows from the Eye down the hillside and drops 50 feet as a cascading waterfall into the Pear-Shaped Basin at the foot of the Chimes Tower. 

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

A Bit Of History

When construction on the Main Fountain Garden started, the slope south of the fountains was covered in cornfields—a less-than-worthy backdrop for founder Pierre S. du Pont’s (1870-1954) plans for future grandeur. With his vision for artful composition, he developed the agricultural slope into a verdant, contrasting backdrop for his water garden. 

To achieve the desired scale for his mise-en-scène without having to wait several decades, Pierre collaborated with landscape engineers Lewis & Valentine of Ardmore, Pennsylvania to source mature, world-class specimens from 14 different states. Many of the original trees and shrubs are still with us, and the spirit of Pierre’s intentions lives on. After almost a century of growth, the arboretum of Oak and Conifer Knoll stands tall, beckoning our guests to explore the living history of this area.